our bathroom splurge

Today I’m blogging about our big bathroom splurge! Was it marble tile? A heated floor? A solid gold toilet??

Nope, it was a Schluter Kerdi Shower Kit! The kit is, according to Schluter’s website, an all-inclusive system to create a maintenance-free, waterproof shower without a mortar bed.

So why exactly did we spend hundreds of dollars on something that you won’t even be able to see once the bathroom is finished? For a few reasons:

– The GC (and me, I suppose, by default) subscribes to the “Do it once, do it right” philosophy. Some people will say that cement board will suffice for tiled shower installations. I can’t really say it is or isn’t, especially with my limited experience. But we do trust the praise for Kerdi’s waterproofing abilities and durablility, and combine that with that all-in-one kit they sell, it was our first choice to make sure we do not encounter issues with water and mold down the line.

– The pre-built shower pan. We wanted to tile the shower floor, but really, really, really (REALLY) did not want to build a mortar bed. The kit comes with an already-made sloped pan. All you have to do is cut it to size and use thinset to glue it in. Easy!

So those were the top two items on our mind when we bought the shower kit. Installation was pretty straightforward. Measure and cut the Kerdi membranes:

Measuring Kerdi

Cutting Kerdi

Apply thinset:

Applying Thinset

Spread and smooth membrane over the thinset:

Applying Kerdi

Repeat this process with all the different bands and corners. There are a lot — in the end, every wall, seam and corner is covered and overlapped with Kerdi for maximum protection. We followed the order instructed by the Schluter Kerdi installation video.

Kerdi Final Product

After all was said and done, would we do it again? Probably, but we won’t be missing it when we use a pre-made shower stall in the basement bathroom. :-) We came away with a few thoughts and tips to share:

– Installation is nowhere near as easy as the Schluter video makes it seem (but is it ever?). When you have to apply thinset to such large areas, it can really be a race against the clock to keep the thinset from hardening before you apply the Kerdi. Apparently this is made even more difficult when you are applying the thinset on cement board, which I have read sucks the moisture out faster than drywall. With that in mind, it’s a good idea to both wet the cement board before applying thinset, and to also keep a spray bottle of water on hand to keep the thinset moist as you apply. In addition, Schluter recommends using unmodified thinset when applying the Kerdi, but we had bad luck with Custom Building non-modified thinset. VersaBond, a slightly modified thinset, was much more effective, and we have been loving Ditra-set, which is made specifically for Schulter Kerdi membrane.

– The “all-in-one” shower kit isn’t quite true. The kit (we bought the 48″x48″) included 33 feet of Kerdi strips, which are to be applied to all the corners and seams in the shower. This was not even close to being enough for us; in fact, we barely had enough to do all the corners of the shower walls. I thought it was ridiculous that Schluter felt anyone could complete an entire shower project, as they do in the video, with what they provided. Because we had spent hundreds of dollars on the kit, it was more than annoying to have to go out and purchase an additional roll of Kerdi band.

Other than that, the Kerdi did do exactly what we wanted it to: it provided an easy, pre-sloped shower bed that’s ready to tile and it kept the shower waterproof. After letting it dry for 24 hours, we plugged the shower drain and filled the floor with water. A day later:

Kerdi Water Test

Completely full and no water escaping! I would have loved to get started with tile right away, but the Kerdi will bring us peace of mind and (fingers crossed) avoid problems down the road.

bathroom renovation update

At my last bathroom renovation progress update, we had just put on the first layer of cement board in the shower and the new layer of drywall in the bathroom area (to replace the wall tile we demo-ed). The walls are finally up and running (save some more spackling), but here’s a look at how far we’ve come:

Early March:

Before Bathroom in March

Late May:

Bathroom Progress

Over the past month we’ve:

Added the second layer of cement board to the shower. To recap, the previous shower tile/mortar was so thick (nearly two inches) that after we demo’ed it, a single layer of cement board would not sit flush with the existing drywal. We had to double up the boards to even the surface. Installing the cement board is pretty basic, but can be time consuming because of the amount of boards and special cuts we needed (for example, the shower niche for storing shampoo and conditioner bottles).

Spackled the gaps between the new cement board (shower)/drywall (bathroom area) and the existing drywall. We demo’ed all the bathroom tile, which ran up the shower walls and up half the wall in the bathroom area (seen here), which took us down the studs. Once we put the walls back up, we had to spackle the gap. Spackling is another one of those basic tasks that can be time consuming because of the drying and sanding time.

Leveled the floor in the bathroom area. The bathroom floor was plywood topped with metal laithe topped with mortar topped with tile. We demo’ed it as best we could, but some of the mortar remained. Rather than replace a perfectly sound floor, we used LevelQuik. Just mix with water and pour over the floor. One bag didn’t quite cover our 5’x6′ area, but once we got bag number two, it worked like a charm. The previously unlevel, dirty, mortar-crumbling floor was perfectly smooth and level — not too mention super solid. I’m sure there’s some science behind how it just levels out all smooth, but, in the world of home renovations when many things don’t go as planned, I’m smart enough to not ask questions when you find a product that just WORKS like it’s supposed to.

Added a light over the shower. No more dark cave!

Added a bathroom fan. None of our bathrooms have fans, and because the windows are painted shut, it was an all-too-friendly environment for mold and mildew. It will be so nice to have some circulation in this one!

One other thing we’ve done behind the scenes? Order the sink!

American Standard Townsend Pedestal Sink

It’s from the American Standard Townsend line and I’m really happy with the look. While I would have loved a sink with a vanity, the size of this bathroom just doesn’t allow it. Plus, a pedestal sink is really going to help to make our tiny space look more open (i.e. bigger!). This sink just barely squeezes in to the space we have for it, but it does has some room around the edges to put toiletries, toothbrushes, etc.

We still have a lot left to do on the bathroom, including a ton of tiling, painting and installing fixtures, but I think we’ve finally turned a corner. Fingers crossed we’ll have a finished, functional bathroom by end of June!

hawaiian islands photo wall

While the GC has been busy working on all the bathroom renovations that I can’t help with, I’ve been focusing on what I do best: decorating and crafting!

I’ve been wanting to hang some artwork over the bed in the guest bedroom for a while now, but I couldn’t decide on what I was looking for.

A few weeks ago, when out running errands, I happened to spot one of those Hawaiian Islands decals on the back of a car and thought, “Hmm…perhaps that could be turned into artwork for a photo wall.” It would be the right size for the space above the bed, easy and quick to do and personal to the GC and me, because we went to Hawaii for our wonderful honeymoon last fall.

To start, I just found maps of the five largest Hawaiian Islands (Hawaii, Maui, Oahu, Kauai, Molokai and Lanai) online. In Photoshop, I colored over them in a solid turquoise and readjusted their sizes to match the frames I planned to place them in — Hawaii in an 8×10; Maui, Oahu and Kauai in 5x7s; Molokai in a 4×6; and Lanai in a 2×3. (I’ll note here that Rand McNally I am not — though I adjusted the sizes and locations of these islands slightly to match their real-life counterparts, they are in no way to scale!)

I broke out my trusty Ikea frames and cut down each printed photo to fit in its place. Then, I decided to use the same method for hanging them that I did for my hallway photo wall. To start, I laid them out on the ground until I had an arrangement I was happy with.

Frame Arrangement

I cut newspaper to match each frame.

Newspaper Cut-outs

Then, I hung the newspaper on the space above the bed’s headboard with painter’s tape.

Frame Cut-outs

How do I re-create the frame arrangement with the cut-outs? All you really need is a measuring tape.

1. Figure out your horizontal starting point.

Length of the headboard – Length of the photo frames from left edge to right end edge = Blank space

Divide the blank space amount in half. That’s how many inches I want on each side of the headboard to keep the entire collection of frames centered. In this case, it was 8.5 inches on each side.

2. Figure out your vertical starting point. Measure your photo frames from the top edge of the highest frame to the bottom edge of the lowest frame. It was about 24 inches for my frames. I clicked the measuring tape in place at 24 inches and moved it around above the headboard to see what it would look like. Once I found a location I was happy with, I noted how far above the headboard I needed to start the lowest frame. I believe it was around 8 inches.

3. I started right to left with my largest frame cut-out first (Hawaii). I taped it on the wall so the lower right corner was 8.5 inches in from the edge of the headboard and 8 inches above it. From there, I just used my frames as a guide to taping subsequent frames. For example, the next frame over (Maui) was 2.5 inches from the left edge and 3 inches higher than the top edge of Hawaii’s frame. I replicated this position with my Maui cut-out on the wall. I did this with all the remaining frames.

It sounds complicated (I know it’s sure tough to explain) but it’s actually very simple in action. Plus, the benefit of taping the newspaper cut-outs to the wall first is that you can rearrange them to your liking before a single nail goes in the wall.

Once I was happy with the arrangement, the GC hammered in the nails and I pulled the newspaper down and hung the frames.

Hawaiian Islands Photo Wall

I’m so happy with how this turned out! It’s adding some much-needed personality to the bedroom and bringing in a pop of color to the existing all gray-and-yellow color scheme. I’m hoping to do the same thing with a few other projects I have planned.

Hawaiian Islands Photo Wall

Successful projects like this are just a domino effect — they really motivate me to get going on all the other ideas I have swirling in my head. Factor in the ongoing bathroom renovation, and we have a busy May ahead of us!