Bathroom Reno: Stage 5- The Tile!

So, it’s about time I show some photos of this tile, huh? Especially since it’s been done for…well, you don’t want to know. Let’s just say it’s been done for a while now!

I’m not going to do an entire instructional post on how to tile (Young House Love and Bower Power both have great posts already), but I am gonna throw out a few tips and tricks.

1. Get a good quality mortar. It’s worth it to spend a few extra bucks and not have to re-do the whole project when the mortar cracks/doesn’t stick well enough. (I’ve heard horror stories!)

2. Make sure if you number your tiles, you do it on the BOTTOM. If you number them on the top, the wax pencil marks bleed when it gets wet. And, even though you think you get it all cleaned up before you grout, you don’t, and then it gets all in your grout…I may or may not be speaking from experience. If you mark on the bottom, it never gets seen or dealt with again.

3. Get good spacers. Not the cheapo X ones that you have to peel out with a tool. No, go to Lowe’s and get Tavy tile spacers. They are easy to put in, don’t get shifted around, much easier to get out, and reusable!

4. Don’t freak out about the time limit on the mortar. We were trying so hard to stay in that 30 minute time window that we were making all kinds of mistakes at first. In the end, it took us over 3 hours to tile and the mortar was only starting to get thick at the end. You can always go back and mix up more, but it’s hard to correct mistakes after you lay the tile! So, just relax and get in a groove.

5. Make sure you get the right kind of mortar for the grout. White mortar works best with light color grout, and gray mortar with dark-colored grout. The mortar color can bleed through the grout and if you have a light-colored grout with gray mortar, it’ll darken and dull the color of the grout, and vice versa.

6. Be extremely consistent with how you lay and spread the mortar. I got to where i would do 3 scoops of mortar for each tile, and always spread the mortar with the trowel at a 45 degree angle. This made it a whole lot easier to get the tiles level once they were laid.

5. Don’t buy Home Depot grout. Ever. I love that store, don’t get me wrong, but the Custom Blend grout is no good. The color doesn’t hold and it either winds up blotchy or just a LOT lighter than it was supposed to be. Don’t believe me? Do a quick Google search. Then come back and thank me for warning you. ūüôā

8. Get all the grout haze off of the tile that you can with the water and sponge, but don’t freak out if there is still a little haze left (I think it’s impossible for there not to be!). Grab a roll of dry paper towels and go to town buffing the tile. The haze will come off like powder. Or magic. Powdery magic.

9. Don’t forget to read the directions on everything 10 times before you start! You might think you read it right, but go ahead and check. There’s no recovering from mixing too much water into the mortar or waiting 4 hours before you grout instead of 24, etc.

10. Seal that grout! You worked soooo hard to make your purdy new floor, don’t let it get stained! It’s amazing how things that would typically make permanent stains comes straight off the grout with a damp paper towel once the grout has been sealed.

So are we ready for some pictures? Yes?!

Here are some in-process photos.





Now let’s take a look at the old floor (this is the best photo I have of the vinyl…don’t get distracted by the messy cabinet!


And here’s the new tile with grout and moulding.



Hooray! So much better!

Anyone got any good tiling tips to add? We love us some DIY advice!

P.S. I am totally willing to share more information on tiling to any other novice tilers out there. Let me know any questions you have – first time tiling can be scary!


Bathroom Reno: Stage 4 – Prepping the Floor

Well, the last update about the bathroom…a long time ago…was about our painted toilet (which is still holding up fantastically, thank goodness!). The next step in the renovation was what we were dreading the most…the floor.

Neither of us had ever tiled before and we knew starting out with natural stone was going to be a challenge. I totally understand now why the labor costs so much to have someone professionally install tile. They earn every penny! Not that that makes us willing to hire out the work…no, we are suckers for punishment. Anyway, here’s how to take a floor from regular ol’ sheet vinyl to gorgeous marble tiles in 10 steps.

Sidenote: Our house is on a concrete slab. The prep work will be much different for a house on a crawlspace or basement!

1) Look long and hard at your current floor. Think of how much work it’s gonna be to take that up and tile it. Then think about how much you’re gonna love that new floor. Put on some tunes, it lessens the pain!

2) Start scraping the vinyl off the floor. This is the worst part in my opinion. That vinyl was clinging on to the slab for dear life! After trying numerous tools and vinyl adhesive remover, we settled on boiling water and a small metal hand scraper. About 8 hours and a veeeery sore hand later, most of it was up.



3) Fill any cracks in the concrete with concrete repair caulk.

4) Check to see if your concrete is level. Take the longest level or straight board you have, lay down on the floor, and see if there are any gaps bigger than 1/4 inch in the concrete. If so, you will have to level it before putting down tile. Very slow grades in the concrete are ok, its the more abrupt ones that will cause issues. Think about standing on a tile where one corner is not supported by the floor beneath it…major cracking…and the last thing you want after doing all that work is a broken tile from the uneven subfloor! If you do have some unlevel spots, then…

5) Prime the concrete in the unlevel areas. They sell latex primer that goes with the concrete leveler found in the flooring section of any hardware store. The latex primer assures that your concrete leveler will stick to the floor. It also helps the leveler not soak in to the porous concrete so that the leveler doesn’t wind up being an unlevel surface itself.

6) Level the concrete. Now you just mix the concrete leveler with water, pour some on to the unlevel areas, and spread it around with a trowel til it’s pretty evenly spread. It will do the rest of the work for you.




7) Lay out your tile. In such a small area, we knew we were going to have to do a lot of cutting for the edges. Plus, with marble, every tile is different, so you want to make sure you get to pick and choose which tiles you want to use where depending on their color and how they look next to each other. Make sure you use your tile spacers here so that your cuts are accurate.


8 ) As you are picking up your tile,  number the bottom of your tile with a sharpie or wax pencil and number the associated spot on the floor with the same number. This is a life saver down the road when you are putting them back in place.



9) Cut the tile. We bought a $80 wet tile saw from Home Depot that has worked great for us. Don’t settle for tile nippers or a tile scorer thinking that it will turn out looking professional. It’s worth it in time and¬†the finished product to get the¬†wet tile saw…or, even better, borrow one!

10) Sit back, pop a cold one, and call it good for the day (all the prep actually took us closer to 5 days with all the dry time in between the primer and leveler). Next up is the actual tiling!

Bathroom reno: Stage 3- A Painted Throne

Yes, I am finally updating again about the bathroom! The good news is we are able to use the master bathroom again. The bad news is that it still isn’t completely¬†done and probably won’t be for a little while. But we have made a lot of progress and I have quite a lot of updating to do!

That being said, let’s talk about the best seat in the house.

My advertising courses in college solidified in my head to never show pictures of toilets. Well, today, I’m blowing that out of the water! I feel like such¬†a rebel.

Here’s a pic of our bathroom when we first bought the house.


Of course, I immediately changed out the toilet seat, but it was still an ecru toilet…which blended right in with the walls, the shower, the countertop, the sink, the floor…but let’s not revisit the past, right? Moving on.

So, when we were gearing up for our bathroom reno, we knew something had to be done about the toilet to truly polish off the look of the bathroom. It seems like the only logical solution would be to replace the toilet. ¬†But then I got thinking….see, I’m a little bit of a paint-a-holic, or paint crazy, if you will. I have a reputation of painting…well, everything. And, frankly, a new toilet didn’t fit in our budget for the bathroom makeover. But surely I’m not crazy enough to paint a toilet, right?

Yep, we painted it. I did some research via my bff Google and found a bunch of this, this, and this. Kinda scary, and not exactly what I was going for. All in all, I wasn’t finding anything out there on painting your entire toilet a different color. Am I really the only person out there crazy enough to do this? Apparently so! Anyway, in all my research, I came across this:


Rustoleum Tub and Tile Refreshing Kit. Not exactly made for toilets, but it’s an epoxy glaze intended for use on porcelain, cast iron, etc. For the price of $30, I decided it was worth a shot. Best case scenario: I get a brand-new looking toilet with the same great functionality for $30. Worst case: I lose $30, several hours of time, and the opportunity cost of $30 that would have been spent on a new toilet. Oh yeah, and it would be hard to find someone else that would want to use a perfectly functional, but very strange-looking toilet, so there would most likely¬†be waste involved as well. We decided to go for it.



I’ll be honest, the process was not as easy as it sounded. The fumes were HORRIBLE-¬†much worse than I’ve ever experienced with any other refinishing product and it was difficult to get the glaze to go on smoothly. 5 hours and 3 coats later, we decided that we were done and we would wait to see how it turned out ( hoping the glaze would smooth out and look more even). It takes 3 days to fully cure, so we turned on the bathroom vent, closed the door to the master bedroom, and parked it in one of the guest rooms for a couple of nights. 3 days later,when¬†we went to check on it, we still weren’t sure. In fact, I was pretty certain that it was a failure and we would be buying a new toilet. But we chugged on with the bathroom makeover and decided to make the final¬†call when we were ready to re-install the toilet.

*Insert a lot bathroom reno progress here (to be posted shortly)*

I was so surprised and shocked when we put the toilet back in place and it looked good! The toilet seat didn’t fare so well with the re-glazing (there were parts not fully covered and obvious brush strokes all over), but a quick change to a new white one did the trick. There are still a few brush strokes on the tank,¬†but, due to the way the light hits the toilet, you can’t see them unless you really, really try. Here’s the finished product.



Would I recommend this for everyone? Not a chance. But I am super pleased with how it turned out and I would totally do it again.

Has anyone else ever painted anything that seemed un-paintable? I know I can’t be the only one out there….even though Google suggests that I am. Help me out here!

Bathroom reno: Stage 2


Wanna know how to get brand-new-looking cabinets for $12? Polystain! Another discovery from the lovely Katie Bower’s blog, Polystain¬†is exactly what I was looking for as a solution to my old, ugly, and water-damaged bathroom cabinet problem. Katie- I am officially on your Polystain Chain¬†Gang.¬†It’s a slightly time-consuming process, but, if you give yourself a week¬†and just do a few coats every night, it will definitely be worth it.

Here is a lovely “before” shot of the cabinets (excuse the mess, we were working on stage 1¬†when I took this).


See that water stain?


So that’s¬†what I had to work with. I grabbed some Cabot Polystain¬†in Dark Oak from Lowes, a sanding sponge, paper towels, and 3 foam brushes and got to work. Here’s a step-by-step guide to polystaining cabinets the Team Vincent way.

1. Remove cabinet doors and drawers¬†from cabinet box. Make sure to take off the door¬†hinges as well, you don’t want to get stain on those.

2. Lay the doors and drawers out so that you can get to all sides of them without them touching the floor. I took them to our guest room, spread out plastic sheeting (cause I’m messy), laid the doors out on folded up drying racks and laid the drawers across empty soda boxes so that the bottom lip didn’t touch the floor. Because you can only get to one side of the cabinet doors at a time, I just did all the coats on one side, then flipped it over when it was completely dry and did all the coats on the other side.

3. Clean the cabinets. I used a water/vinegar mix to get any dust, dirt, and grime off the cabinets. Make sure you clean both sides of the cabinet doors.

4. ¬†Lightly sand the cabinets. I used a sanding sponge to make sure I could get in all the crevices and rounded edges of the cabinet doors and drawers. I highly recommend this- it was much easier than sanding by hand with a piece of sandpaper, and, when the sponge starts to get full, you can just take it outside and¬†beat it and it’s ready to go again! Be sure to use a fine grain sandpaper/sponge so you don’t wind up with a scratchy finish on the cabinets. You want to sand enough so that the finish is no longer glossy- and sand a little extra on the water-damaged areas-¬†but don’t worry about getting all the past polyurethane off the cabinets.¬†That is¬†the beauty of Polystain!

¬†At this point, the cabinets are gonna look like poop. This is when you will¬†start to get nervous, but don’t!

5. Brush on¬†light, even coats of Polystain. I took Katie Bower’s advice and used foam brushes so that I would not have to spend extra time cleaning out my brush after each coat. The foam brushes worked like a charm- just make sure you don’t push down too hard or¬† you will wind up with bubbles that you have to smooth out. The drying process between each coat is 1-2 hours, so I did an additional coat every 90 minutes (always making sure that it didn’t feel tacky before I started the next coat). Squeeze¬†out your foam brush with a paper towel after each coat. I got through 10 or so coats using the same brush this way. Once the brush starts to get¬† hard, you’ll want to pitch it and grab a new one. To get from the natural cabinet color to the dark espresso color that I wanted, it took 17 coats. It sounds bad…but not nearly as bad as spending a couple hundred on a new vanity! Just plug in some tunes and think about all the money you’re saving while applying each coat.

6. Your cabinets are now stained and gorgeous! Now go pick out some new hardware for the doors to show off your beautiful work…and give yourself a pat on the back….you just DIY’ed yourself some brand-new-looking cabinets on the cheap!

Here’s the cabinet base after 5 coats…


After 10 coats…


And here’s a cabinet door with 17 coats of Polystain next to one with no polystain. It’s crazy the difference it makes!


And for all you “I-just-can’t-visualize-the-end-result-in-my-head” types, you’ll just have to wait…we still have a lot of work to do on the bathroom before the cabinets can be put back together!

Anyone else used Polystain in the past? Got any tips, tricks, or other ways you made your old, water-stained cabinets look brand new? Wanna join me and Katie in the Polystain Chain Gang?

Bathroom reno: Stage 1

And….we’re back! Life (and projects) got the better of me the past few weeks. Working on the bathroom, living room, visiting my new baby nephew (yay!) in MO, a Super Bowl party (boo hiss Saints!), parents in town, and a bout of pneumonia- followed by a lovely sinus infection- have kept me off my computer for a while. But have no fear, I’m back with an update on the first stage of our bathroom reno, which, by the way, has had even more hiccups than the usual DIY project in our house.

The first step in turning our beige heaven into something much nicer to see first thing in the morning (sidenote: Chris and I are both NOT morning people…I don’t think the bathroom was helping. Something much brighter and cheerier was definitely in order.) was knocking down the awkward and useless doorway between the sink and shower area.

Here’s a little reminder of what that looked like (you can see it in the reflection in the mirror).


The first thing we did was take off the door frame. Chris then carefully marked, scored, and removed the drywall from above the doorway and to the right side of it, which left it looking something like this.


We knew that this wall was not load-bearing, so Chris took down the wood beams.


Which just left the ones that were attached to the ceiling and wall studs. He wound up using a circular saw to cut those out, leaving inset beams on each side of the doorway.


We then cut pieces of greenboard (moisture-resistant drywall) to fit into the the inset space and screwed them in.


Then it was on to my least favorite part….mudding. And mud we did…and did….and did…and did…
But finally, after 5 or so coats (and a long wait time in between each coat), it was smooth.

But…it was too smooth. The other parts of a wall are slightly textured, called orange peel texture. Builders typically spray this texture on the walls after mudding to make the wall completely seamless in appearance. Unfortunately, we now had a really smooth area around the doorway that looked obviously out of place. So, we decided to try to emulate the look of the orange peel texture without having to spray it on.

We grabbed a paint edger pad, dipped it in slightly watered down mud, and got to stamping.


This is what the texture of the wall looked like post-stamping.


And this is what the texture of the rest of the wall looks like.


After a light sanding on the new texture, it should blend right in seamlessly with some paint. The ceiling texture is a different story. We have the starburst-looking texture called slapbrush on our ceiling. Following Katie Bower’s post on mudding, we thought we could easily stamp on the texture if we had the right brush. Not so! It must be some mythic form of art, cause, 2 brushes and multiple attempts later, we gave up and decided to use our old method that we used on other ceiling patches… finger mudding. Yes, we dip our fingers in a bucket of mud compound and then manually make starburst shapes with the mud. Not quite the professional way to do it but it doesn’t look half bad in the end…and a whole lot better than the weird mud squashes that came out with the slapbrushes!

So there’s the basics about stage 1 of the renovation. Coming up next…cabinet staining!

Bathroom reno: the plan

We started our master bath renovation over the weekend. Before I reveal what our plan for the bathroom is, here are a few “before” shots. Shield your eyes…




These pictures were taken when we closed on the house. But the after isn’t much better…


It’s like a beige heaven. Like all color was stripped from the world when you enter our bathroom. All we did was paint the trim, gave it a new neutral wall color, and replaced the wooden toilet seat (seriously?!). Yeah, still a lot to be done. But, it at least made it manageable for me to get ready in the morning without gagging.

Alas, the time has come for the big remodel! Ok, it’s really not that extensive, but it’ll make a huge difference (we hope!). Here’s the plan: Knock out strange doorway in between sink and showering area (you can see it in the first photo), re-stain the cabinets using Polystain (thanks Bower Power!), rip up the vinyl flooring, put down marble tiles, add cabinet hardware, make a frame for the mirror, replace the light fixture, replace the medicine cabinet with open shelving, paint, and make a new concrete countertop. Sounds like a lot, but thankfully most of it should go pretty quickly. The concrete countertop will be the most grueling part (and the biggest learning curve), and it has to wait until spring so we can grind and buff it outside.

Here are some photos I am using for inspiration:


This is the overall feel I am going for in the bathroom.


This is an example of the type of countertop/sink we are going to make. It will be one long, rectangular sink with two faucets. Our cabinet space is not that wide, so we will have to use single lever/single hole faucets instead of a 3 hole one.

And for those of you who are unsure what a concrete countertop would look like, here are a few examples.



Concrete is great because it is so versatile. You can stain it to pretty much any color, it wears well, doesn’t stain easily once you seal it, and can look AMAZING. Plus, it is the only type of countertop other than solid surface that you can use integrated sinks, because you can mold whatever shape you want out of it. Oh, and did I mention it’s cheap? Cause it’s CHEAP! Granted, if you pay a professional to do it, it will cost a pretty penny because it is a very time-consuming process to make, but to do it yourself the cost for materials is minimal. More on that later as we unpack the details of how we are going to make the countertop. On to the details…


This is the faucet that we are using. We scored two of them at Menards (our fav hardware store) last weekend on sale and wound up saving around $50 on each. WooHoo!

This is the marble tile we are laying. We got it on super sale at Lowe’s for $1.48/sq ft!


This is the new vanity light we bought to replace that ugly wood bath bar light.


It won’t look just like this, but this is an example of the concept for our shelving that we are adding above the toilet. There will be¬† more functional shelf space for storage (since we don’t have a linen closet), but it will follow the same sort of random, boxy design.


I am on the prowl for a few glass bathroom canisters like these for storage on the shelves.


And here are the canisters I bought at Goodwill last weekend for storing the not-really-openly-displayable toiletries.

So that’s the gist of it.¬† Let the transformation begin!