Updating a Tile Floor

Recently, I was lucky enough to help a friend with their tile floor update. They had some work done previously that didn’t turn out as expected, so they wanted something better looking and more like their original floor color. This would be easy, with tons of research, and would only require some sanding, painting, and waxing.

The previous work was performed on their existing tile without the correct preparations for the terracotta tile. Instead of stripping previous wax and sealant, the stain was applied directly to the existing surface. This led to a finished product that showed exactly how the stain was applied, and a color that wasn’t appealing to the eye.

We decided to go with a porch/basement paint that would be durable against foot traffic, but not too glossy as to prevent slips. The owners chose a pink colored paint that would brighten up the space along with returning the tile to the original color.

I started removing the top layer of stain and rough up the top layers of tile. This will allow the primer and paint to adhere to the tile. While the flooring was installed almost 30 years ago, the tile and grout were in great shape. I was more concerned about preserving the grout, than I was about time for the preparations. So, I decided to use some 60 and 80 grit sandpaper with a palm sander. This took more time than I would like, but I was able to sand around the grout and keep its integrity.

Preparations were completed within 8 hours, and priming the floor was relatively quick and easy. After waiting the required time to paint, I was applied 2 coats of paint and left the corners for later. This took about 8 hours due to the required 4 hours for dry time between coats.

I had to split the floor into 2 different sections since they couldn’t store the larger furniture outside with rain storms all week. Once furniture was rearranged, I was able to start over in the kitchen and dining room. This section took about 10 hours total.

Finally, the job was done… but there was too much pink in the space and the owner wanted to break up the color. I was able to convince them to go with a light brown color for the grout lines. This would be able to be applied in smaller areas while moving furniture, dry time on this paint was 1 hour. While the grout lines were relatively quick, I severely underestimated the amount of detail that went into painting the 800sf of lines. 8 hours later, I was finished and started the dry time before applying wax.

Total cost of materials was $200 in paint and primer, and $30 in materials. Total time for completion was around 28 hours. I would assume a $20 rate for labor and total a job at around $800.

I have included pictures below, along with a link to my YouTube video of the entire project. Leave a comment below if you have any questions or suggestions for future jobs!


Bathroom Remodel and Financials

Last week I posted a video blog on a full bathroom remodel. This time I want to cover a remodel like this with some estimating and go into some more details.

Tiling a bathroom like this is fun! I love doing jobs like this because it just completely transforms the space and looks amazing after. This was a great job to take on since I had some time between classes ending and finals.

10 days for this job, that’s all it took! I didn’t do any work on the weekends so I wouldn’t be in the way or distracting, plus I had plans and tons of beer to drink! 6 days of work with about 6-9 hours a day and you can have a nice bathroom like this.

While I usually go the economic and cheaper route for jobs like this, this one has some higher end fixtures and tile. The total cost on this bathroom was around $3,000, but you would easily pay around $10,000 if you hired out this job to a contractor.

I started with demo, and of course that was the best part! The existing shower and walls were removed, while keeping the existing bathtub. Moving next to removing the vanity and toilet. Lastly, I removed the existing linoleum floors.

Lesson Learned #1: Most track homes like this will install the vanity and bathtub before installing the flooring. That means that you will likely have an exposed concrete slab or sub-floor under the vanity when you remove it. This is totally normal, but I needed to plan for this height difference if I was to install laminate or wood. Option 1 is to remove all the linoleum and have a flat surface. Option 2 is to install plywood to level the height. I chose option 1 since I was tiling the floor.

Older homes like this usually have older isolation valves for the toilet and faucet water supplies. Because of this, I replaced the old valves since they were leaking anyways. Since the water supply to the house was already isolated, I installed the new shower fixtures and moved the piping to the new locations. Soldering this was quick and easy, with no leaks which means I get to continue my streak of leak-free soldering and plumbing!

Shifting to tiling the floor and the shower, I wanted to start on the floor first. Laying the cement boards was quick and easy so I did those on the floor and the shower. Then I started tiling the floor and was done with that in one day. I left all the cuts for the next day since I wanted to do cuts for the shower and floor at the same time.

The next day I was able to tile the shower and finish all cuts. This was a quick process and total tiling time was about 15 hours with cuts. Once dry for 24 hours, I grouted the shower first and then the floor as I backed out of the space. With the grout, I decided to use a sealant that is mixed with the grout instead of using water. Using this sealer was a huge time savings since I usually do a slow cure that takes 3 days and is more annoying than anything.

Next on the list was to patch some holes, texture, and paint the bathroom. This was done within one day and watching that paint dry is sooo boring! I was able to install the ceiling fan prior to painting the ceiling, which worked out great since I had to make a cut to fit the new fan. I was also able to paint the baseboards during this time, installing them after painting with my nail gun and caulking the joints.

Installing the toilet was quick and easy. The vanity was easier than I expected since the counter-top came separately. This allowed me to install the faucet and drain without crawling under the sink. Leveling the base and fixing it to beams in the wall supports the vanity and keeps it from moving.

Last on the list was to seal and caulk the shower and flooring around the tub. This wasn’t too bad since I had prepped most of the areas when I was painting. The final product is a bathroom that anyone would love to use!

Let me know what you think in the comments below! I have some cool design projects coming up, subscribe and check them out!

Bathroom Remodel

It’s been a couple weeks since I wrote a blog!! Finals were a little tougher than I planned… but I have a new job to talk about! So let’s get to it!

A few weeks ago I posted a blog on a complete bathroom remodel. This is a newer one to check out and I have created the video below. I like doing videos like this with my gopro, just set it up and take a picture every 5 mins for the duration of the project. Then I take those pics and compile with a video editor, and boom I get a start to finish job in 1-5 mins!

I spent 10 days doing this bathroom remodel. Everything had to be updated… 40sf of tile floor, 75sf of shower tile, paint, vanity, toilet, and mirror. Check out my video below. Leave a comment and tell me what you think.

Guest Bathroom Remodel for Under $600!!

I want to finish the week with some cheap DIY upgrades. Specifically, upgrading a guest bathroom to get a more modern, and simple look. This was done at one of my previous homes, shortly after finishing the kitchen upgrades and tiling the entire house.

Since the two previous projects practically wiped out my budget, I had to do a ton of research and shop for deals and discounted materials. The hardest part was narrowing down the exact design and layout for the bathroom. The shower and bathtub were in great shape, so they were able to be left with some small touch ups. The toilet, vanity, mirror, light fixture, and hardware all had to be replaced with some new paint to tie it all together.

Some materials were picked up through the Letgo app, which is what I use to find some good and slightly used fixtures and mirrors. Everything else was purchased through Home Depot with 10% off from a military discount.

Starting with the light fixture, I was able to swap it out and brighten up the space for the duration of the project. I removed the existing full-length mirror and vanity carefully, since I was planning on selling them on Letgo to recover some of my costs. The toilet was trashed, and so were the old valves that were installed for the sink faucet and toilet. I was able to replace the valves for relatively cheap since I did it myself, check out my previous blog on plumbing to see how I did that.

Once everything was out of the bathroom, I was able to start ripping up the old linoleum floor. The baseboards came off first, but I had to purchase some new sections since the existing didn’t extend behind the vanity.

Lesson Learned #1: Baseboards are a pain in the butt to remove. The first thing you want to do is cut the top of them at an angle to separate the caulking between the baseboards and wall. Once done, use a cats-paw to remove them gently. If you crank on it like a pry-bar, it will put holes in the drywall that will have to be repaired later. Also, use a sharpie or pen to label the backside of each baseboard and the portion of the wall that it covers. The last thing you want to do is waste hours on replacing them when you have no idea where they go!

Baseboards were pulled off and exposed the linoleum. Once everything was cleared from the removal, I noticed that there was a gap in the linoleum from where the vanity used to be. I had two options to level the floor for tile, one was to rip up the ¼” particle board between sub-floor and linoleum, or just fasten the cement boards over the linoleum with wood to fill the gap… The choice is easy, rip it all up so I don’t have to add a transitional piece when tying into the tile in the hallway.

Contractor Note: Most home contractors will install the cabinets and vanities before laying down the flooring for that space. Why does this matter? If you ever plan on removing cabinets or vanities, you should expect that the flooring ends at the base of the unit, meaning you will have to find a fill that void between the sub-floor and final flooring choice.

Once removed, I verified the sub-floor was structurally sound, and started working on painting the bathroom. Since I had everything removed, it is much faster and easier to paint a space like this since I don’t have to worry about spilling on things and taping everything. Painting like this was quick and done within an hour.

Next, I installed the tile floor, continuing from the existing tile and carrying into the bathroom. This is the safest way to lay tile without having to reset your pattern. I waited the 24-hour period for the tile to set, and grouted using the wet cure method, spraying the grout with water 2 times a day for 3 days. The slow cure method lets the grout strengthen more than just grouting and drying. Once set, I applied a sealant to finish the flooring portion.

Installing the new mirror and storage cabinet above the toilet were the next on my list. This was quick and easy, just need a few screws and a stud-finder. The toilet went in next with the new wax ring to adjust for the height difference with the new tile compared to the previous flooring. Once installed and tested, I worked my way out of the bathroom installing the new vanity and faucet, then the new drain pipe.

The new bathroom is completed for under $700 in materials. Tile cost was roughly $225, toilet came in at $100, vanity was $150, mirror was $50, lighting fixture was $50, and storage cabinet was $70, paint and supplies were $50, and the sink fixture was $60. Total cost of materials for this project was $615. In terms of labor, the tiling took most of the time since it the grout had to cure for 3 days. Total labor would cost about $675 for tiling at 3 times the cost of materials, plus the cost of installing the remaining features at about $200 for 10 hours at $20/hour.

I was able to sell the vanity and mirror on Letgo to offset some materials cost, making $100 from the sale. Total cost of the renovation would be in the area of $1500, but with labor savings with DIY mentality, I was able to complete this project for $515. This is a cheap, and much needed, bathroom face-lift to compliment the remainder of the home.

Leave a comment and tell me about some of your projects! If you have questions, leave them below and I will surely answer them in future blogs.

Kitchen Face-lift for Under $250

I wanted to spend some time talking about some cheap upgrade options that can really brighten up a room. One of my previous homes needed a face-lift after I upgraded the floors, counter-tops and a back-splash. My budget was destroyed with everything that I had done prior, so I needed a cheap way to pull it all together…

I started by researching different types of cabinet paints, stains, and techniques for applying. After hours, or maybe days, of YouTube videos I was able to narrow down my options. I decided that a gel-based stain would be the best option for my existing wood cabinets.

Here is the trade-off, this stain combined with the existing cabinet conditions would require LOTS of labor and dry time. On average, every video recommended at least 2 coats of stain, and 2 coats for a protective clear coat. This option, instead of using paint, would offer a much better look and bring out the wood grain on the cabinets.

Materials Note: There is a significant difference between staining and painting wood. The concept of staining uses a viscous solution to penetrate through the wood grains. Since it is typically more viscous than paint, it allows a can of stain to cover a larger area when applied to the same wood. Paint is designed to completely cover material with more a more viscous solution. When it comes to picking what you should use, check the material properties and think BIG. By thinking big, you can pull things together for the space you are working in.

I settled on using General Finishes gel-based stain. This stain is right in the middle between paint and stain in terms of viscosity and penetration. It will allow a smoother finish while also penetrating to bring out the grain. When it comes to application, this gel can be applied with a clothe or sponge brushes.

The easiest way to do these cabinets is to take the doors off, and then tape areas you don’t want stained. I kept the inside of the cabinets the original color, but anything you would see normally would be stained. I had already ordered new hardware and hinges, these lined up with the existing holes or would at least cover them. Double check the hardware hinge setup to ensure your doors will close properly.

Once doors are removed, I had to remove the clear protective coat on the doors and cabinets. This will allow the stain to be absorbed by the wood. This clear coat is thin, so I used Scotch Bright pads with some elbow grease. As I scrubbed the clear coat off, the green pads turn white, that’s why I bought a bunch of them! Every video warned about sanding the wood prior since you don’t want to ruin the finish, these pads won’t let that happen.

Once the doors and cabinets were ready and cleaned, I applied the first coat of the gel stain. With this gel stain, a little went a long way. The toughest part of the staining process was finding enough room to store them while drying. I originally stored them in the garage, but low temperatures were causing the dry times to skyrocket, so I had to get creative with storing inside. I applied 2 coats to everything, and some areas took an extra coat.

Once stained, I had to wait the recommended 24-hours to start applying the clear coat. I decided to use the same manufacturer for the clear coat, or top coat. Applying 3 coats to everything stained, really brought a brighter feel, even with the black stain.

Reinstalling everything took a lot longer than I expected… Applying the hinges to the doors first, then fastening to the cabinets is really a two-person job. I learned the hard way how much faster the installation can go if someone is there to hold the door up, while drilling and then fastening to the cabinet. Drilling holes is a must with this installation since it saved me from splitting wood in any of the cabinets and doors.

To compliment the darker feel of the kitchen cabinets, I decided to go with chrome hardware and hinges. These were purchased on Amazon for a relatively low price and were easy to install.

Total cost of this project was around $230 in materials with a majority of that going towards the gel stain. I used 3-pints of gel stain at $150, one can of top coat at $50, and finally $30 in brushes and tape. Labor costs would have been outrageous if you analyzed the amount of work that went into this project. I would estimate the labor time at 50 hours, simply because I performed this project over 2 weeks, after working my full-time job. Total labor cost would be an estimated $750 at $15/hour.

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Wiring a Sprinkler System

Last week, I received a phone call from a good friend of mine. He had been installing a sprinkler system in his backyard. He had recently purchased a new construction home with nothing in the backyard. He didn’t have any experience installing these systems, and electrical setup is never fun unless you know exactly what you’re doing. So obviously, I agreed to help in exchange for a case of beer and pics for this post!

Let’s start with the layout and ground conditions. In Nevada, desert conditions usually lead to a dry environment, so he must be picky with the type of plants and grass he wants to have. The biggest issue with a new construction home like this, is that the backyards are not finished with anything except maybe a concrete pad for a small patio. Further research into the area will show a small layer of sand and topsoil, followed by caliche which is a type of clay. This clay is tough to dig by hand, so power equipment will be required to save your back and time.

This clay will come into play with a later blog, but for now, he had already dug up trenches for his sprinkler system and mapped out zones. 4 zones were to be used to supply a grass area and two garden drip systems. Everything looked great based on my first walk-through with him. With this looking good, I moved on to inspect the manifold and controller.

The manifold looked nice and clean, and I was happy about that because it will let us know if anything is wrong during testing. The controller was a different story since he had a manual with instructions for wiring up to 12 stations, but only had 4 stations available. Turns out that the original contractor gave them the wrong manual, this comes in to play later.

Science note: Let’s talk about electrical fundamentals for a minute. Sprinkler valves are controlled by an electrical signal, Direct Current specifically, that cycles a solenoid valve that opens when energized. The valve opens, allowing water to flow at around 70-150psi depending on supply pressure and any reducers in the system. As the signal stops, the valve is spring closed shut. This is an important concept since you need to have the wiring exactly as shown in the diagrams to operate correctly.

Since the controller was only programmed and built for four zones, my buddy will have to make some decisions about his setup and materials. The controller was originally installed with one zone in the front yard, so that means he would have five zones. He could spend over $100 on a new controller, and then wire it and test it, or he can change his zoning. He decided to place the grass areas on two separate zones, then have both drip systems controlled in one zone. This is the cheapest solution to his controller and zone problem.

Wiring this controller to the valves is easy and takes 2-caps per zone and some 18-gauge wire, pictures are below. He already had a 12-zone wire routed to the manifold, so picking the colors to the zone is the hardest part. Walking the system to make sure my zones were correct, then wiring the positive and ground took about 5 minutes each. Labeling the wires to the zone is a good practice to start, sometimes you can remember the colors to the zones, but to be safe and consistent I label them.

Electrical Note: The more current and voltage that goes through a system, the larger diameter wire you want. Remember in my previous blog I talked about the bigger diameter, the smaller the gauge of the wire. In this case, the current and voltage are relatively small. Since the valves are commonly used, it’s a 24-volt, Direct Current (DC) system. The controller itself is powered by a typical 120-volt Alternating Current (AC), which is why you plug it into the closest outlet.

Once wired, we get to test everything. Start with the header supply to the manifold, which is the water main to the system. I wrote a blog a couple weeks ago about this process, check it out here. Check for the connections and for any leaks.

Since the manifold was good, we started checking individual zones. You want to turn it on manually and walk the system before back-filling the lines. Check sprinkler heads too, it’s much easier to fix without tools before they get buried. We ended up having to tighten a couple joints at the manifold, but nothing major.

Lesson Learned #1: Before testing the sprinkler system, adjust the sprayer to the direction of the lawn. You will be one wet pup when you jump and dodge water streams as you adjust the spray patterns.

Once each system is verified and tested, back-fill the trenches. Make sure to fill any voids under the pvc before filling the top. Add about 1-2” of extra soil on top of the trench since it will settle. As for compacting the soil, you can use a jumping jack which is super-efficient, or you can walk the trench since you exert a decent pressure on the trench to compact. You might want to compact the trench in multiple lifts, depending on the depth, this will help with long term settling of the soil.

That’s it, some easy wiring and his sprinkler system is running great. When it comes to materials, the most expensive part of the control system is the controller and wiring, which he already had. Connectors are relatively cheap at about $5. Labor for wiring took about 30 mins, which at an electrician rate would be about $50, using around $100 an hour. Lawn companies will give cheaper rates but they also might chart an initial show-up fee. Total cost for him was a case of beer and some wire and connectors, $30. Total savings for him was $20, plus he got a ton of manual labor in the form of shoveling and my back still hurts!

If you have questions or comments, leave them below! Subscribe to see more cool DIY projects coming up!

Major Flooring Renovation: Part 3, 1200sf of Tiling

My previous blogs have gone over the financials and preparations for this major tiling project. Now we get to focus on tiling large and small rooms throughout a house. Remember, this is a large project performed over 6 months, and completed in sections. All contractor estimates required a long period of time, with access to an empty house, and with 3 dogs that wasn’t an option.

With the preparations done, we are ready to tile! The tile chosen to use was 6”x24” wood look porcelain tile. Tools needed are the same preparation tools, but will also include one very expensive tool, both to rent or buy, and that is a wet tile saw. This saw is designed to provide smooth cuts for tiles while keeping the blade cool with water. Make sure the cutting blade can make clean cuts and be sure to cut from the top of the tile down, meaning that the tile slightly chips on the bottom, it will look much better…. Trust me on that one. If you don’t believe me, take a tile and cut it, then flip it over and cut it again. What looks better??

Lesson learned #1: This is a messy tool, and you will likely be wearing more tile dust and water than you collect in the base of the saw. A good idea is to have plenty of hand towels ready for drying tiles. Water needs to be supplied to the blade while cutting, so ensure the pump is fully submerged prior to operating. Safety glasses and ear plugs are highly recommended, along with daytime working hours or you will have some pissed off neighbors. Look at location setup for the saw, you will see a water stream start to form behind the saw blade, so position it away from nice things like your motorcycle, that one sucked. Also, make sure you use hand lotion at the end of each day, the tile dust and mortar will dry out your hands quickly.

Before you mix mortar, look at the entire room and find the correct starting point. I started in the center of the room, based on recommendations from my YouTube training. This was a large room, so to find the center, use a measuring tape and chalk snap line. This will ensure you have a straight line to start and that the room is squared properly before tiling. What do I mean by squared, look at my pics below? The 3-4-5 rule for right triangles will allow you to ensure that your center-point is truly the center. This is critical for starting in the center of the room with a straight line to lay tile on.

Lesson learned #2: Large rooms like this have the potential to deviate from a straight line based on framing and drywall. Why does this matter? In smaller rooms, like a bathroom, you can pick a straight wall and start laying tile to the wall. This large room had a deviating wall with a 3” difference. This difference can lead to a major shift in tile gaps as more tile is laid. If I would have picked that wall to start, I wouldn’t have been able to tile more than 4 rows without having to correct with cuts in the middle of the floor.

Once aligned and centered, start tiling. Different tiles and dimensions will allow you to do different designs, just follow the instructions on the tile box. When it comes to tiling in general, you will want to start small with mortar batches, and find what works for you. Gaps between tiles are easily maintained with tape and spacers, but make sure you clean out the joints before the mortar sets.

Lesson learned #3: Cleaning the joints in freshly laid tile should be one of your main priorities. These joints need to be clear of mortar prior to grouting for the grout to do its job! I didn’t realize this during my first living room. I knocked out about 600sf of tiling and didn’t clean up one joint… the lesson… clean the freaking joints because it took me over 5 hours over 3 days to clean these joints with a grout tool. On top of that, I have never been sorer in my life because it takes a lot of force to get that mortar broken up! I was sore in muscles that I didn’t even know I had.

As this tiling begins to expand, pick specific areas to do and plan out where you will be tiling next. There is nothing worse than backing yourself into a corner or forcing yourself to have to stop tiling early since you can’t access an area. Stick to what you are comfortable with and your limits for tiling in the time you have.

Lesson learned #4: Plan your tiling according to your room and requirements. If you have dogs that need to go outside, plan for that. I didn’t plan for that and had a pissed off lady, and some pissed on floors.

Make sure you plan for the next rooms and the transitions that will be required. This is a major part of the project since you must start in one area and continue into another. Once you start, you don’t want to gap any areas that could potentially join up with another section of tile. See pics for my example on this one.

Lesson learned #5: Start new tiling areas from existing tile, planning on the intersections as needed. In, other words, don’t start tiling an area without checking for proper gaps and intersections. I did the kitchen on one side but didn’t plan to intersect the other side… So, I had to get creative on joint gaps.

As this room is finished, you want to clean all the gaps and joints as needed for grout preparation. Make sure you keep the area clean and use a vacuum to get all the tile dust and mortar. Grouting is much faster and easier than I first thought. The hardest part is mixing the right amount of water or add-mix to get the right consistency. Too watery and you can’t get it out of the bucket, too dry and it won’t easily spread on the tile. Use your grout float at a 45 degree angle to force the grout into the joints. You want to avoid using the grout float parallel to joints, see my picture below. Make sure you wipe up all the residue from the tile to prevent a glazed look from appearing.

Lesson learned #6: Use buckets of water to clean the tile faces after grouting. You will see a glaze start to form as the grout dries and that is what you want to avoid. Change the water often in order to prevent the glaze from spreading over large areas. Multiple buckets will help speed this up. Also, don’t let the dogs on the tile for a couple days or you will be repairing nail holes later.

Now is where you have a choice to seal the tile. For showers and areas that won’t experience large stresses, I would have premixed the sealant with the grout to prevent water penetration. This is a one time mix and done solution, then retreat areas as needed. For flooring I like to use a wet-cure approach. I will apply grout avoid sealing it for 3 days. During that 3-day time period, I will use a spray bottle to wet the grout 2-times a day for 3 days. This will allow the grout to cure slower and have a stronger compression strength, which you want with people and dogs walking on it. After 3 days, I will apply sealant to the grout per instructions.

That’s it, you have just tiled one of your rooms. Repeat this process planning your rooms and intersections as needed. The final product will blow you away when it is all done and tied in with decorations and paint.