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How to Remodel a Bathroom with Italian Porcelain Tile & Copper Sinks – Part 2

Bob Jackson
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by Bob Jackson

Bathroom remodeling with Italian tile and copper sinks. Cost, materials, tools and job photos.

This project is continued from Part 1.

How to Remodel a Bathroom with Italian Porcelain Tile & Copper Sinks

I did all the work myself over 3 calendar weeks start-to-finish, with some fetch & carry help from my son. The ‘aquarium’ style shower glass was contracted out to glass & mirror shop.

The demolition phase to remove the old tile and lay the new tile required about 60 hours, which I did during a week off from my day job. Grouting, painting, lights and plumbing fixtures were finished over the next two weekends.

Total labor was about 100 hours over the 3 calendar weeks.

Bathroom Remodeling Cost

About $6,000 for materials. A builder-friend looked at the remodeled bath, saying he would’ve quoted $12K to $15K for the job.

Remodeling Materials

  • Italian porcelain tile, special ordered from a local flooring supply store
  • Marble flat for the top of shower knee wall
  • 1/2 inch ceramic tile backerboard
  • Corrosion resistant countersinking screws for fastening the backerboard
  • Laticrete 255 MultiMax Kevlar reinforced thinset mortar with Microban to inhibit mold and mildew.
  • Laticrete 1500 sanded grout – available in many colors to match the tile
  • HP Austin hand crafted copper sinks, “Old Penny” style.
  • Toto Ultramax 1.6gpf toilet with softclose seat
  • Wax seal for toilet
  • Robern frameless mirrored medicine cabinets
  • Ceiling fan
  • Copper shower head, drain cover, faucets, switch plates and outlet covers
  • Metal braided flexible faucet hot/cold supply hoses.
  • Teflon plumbers tape
  • Copper or oiled bronze towel racks to match
  • Aquarium-style (i.e. frameless) 3/8 inch thick shower glass, ordered and installed by a local mirror & glass shop


  • Wet saw for cutting tile.
    Rented at a discount from the supplier where I purchased the tile and thinset. Wet saws can also be rented from Lowes or Home Depot.
  • Thinset trowel – buy a professional model, it’s more ergonomic and worth the few dollars more on a big job.
  • Grout float
  • Grout sponges – you’ll wear out several on this job
  • Tile spacers – sets the width of the tile joints. Buy several bags.
  • Diamond hole saw – for cutting the round holes for faucets and shower head pipes with a hand drill. Porcelain tile is extremely hard and needs a diamond bit to cut.
  • 3 pound sledge hammer for removing the old floor tile
  • Guarded brick chisel for removing the old floor tile
  • Carpenters flat pry bar
  • 3 foot carpenters level
  • Pencil and writing pad
  • Tape measure
  • Carpenters square
  • 5 foot metal straight edge
  • 5 gallon plastic paint buckets with carrying handle – for mixing thinset, grout and carrying water
  • Heavy Duty Drill – for mixing thinset mortar and grout
  • Heavy Duty Mixing Paddle – purchased from tile and flooring supply store
  • Shop vacuum – you’ll be using it often
  • 1 quart pump-spray bottle of water
  • Non-marking rubber mallet
  • Medium size screw driver with a hard plastic handle
  • Plastic or wood shims
  • Adjustable wrenches for the plumbing connections

To mix the thinset and grout, I used a Hitachi 1-1/8 inch Heavy Duty Hammer Drill (hammer function off) and heavy steel paddle in a 5 gallon plastic paint bucket. Mixing mortar is a two-handed job that will burn up a smaller drill. That’s a yard stick for size comparison.

Heavy Duty Mixing Drill for Grout and Thinset
Heavy Duty Mixing Drill for Grout and Thinset

Job Planning and Estimating

Visualize what you want the new the bath to look like – style, color and patterns. What will be replaced? Tile, plumbing fixtures, mirrors, glass, cabinets, lights, fans, etc.

  1. Bring home tile pieces – floor, walls, countertop, and trim pieces – to layout and see if you like how it looks in your home.
  2. Subdivide the room into sections.
  3. Decide what tile size will be used in each section. I used large tile on the floors, medium size walls and 4 inch small tiles for the counter top and listelos (border accent).
  4. Measure and estimate the square footage of tile needed for each section.
  5. Measure and estimate the linear feet of special tile pieces needed for borders, edges and corners.
  6. Increase your material estimates by 10% to 15% for waste. This arises from making cuts and pieces that are too small to be used elsewhere.

The Tile Doctor has a detailed estimating overview and online calculator.

Bathroom Remodeling Demolition Phase

I used the brick chisel and 3 pound hammer to remove the old tile. Starting at a grout seam, drive the chisel at an angle to get under the old tile. Once the first tile was removed, I was able to drive the chisel underneath the tile and entire sections broke free without problem. Some of the old thinset remained on the floor. I simply made the new base bed of thinset thicker to compensate.

Bathroom Remodeling: Remove the old Ceramic Tile
Bathroom Remodeling: Remove the old Ceramic Tile

While removing the original ceramic wall tile, I discovered the builder cut corners and used plain sheetrock was used as substrate, instead of cement backer board or the “green” sheetrock rated for damp areas. I removed the old sheetrock and replaced it with Hardibacker cement backboard.

Bathroom Remodel: Shower Stall Teardown
Bathroom Remodel: Shower Stall Teardown

The metal frame of the shower knee wall had some surface rust. I treated those areas with Ospho to stop the rust.

Shower Stall Cement Backerboard Installation

The next step is to cut and install cement backerboard to the walls and around the Jacuzzi bathtub with corrosion resistant screws. Ideally, you should stagger the joints such that the board ends in each row don’t overlap, i.e. not like I did here. This could make a difference in finish on a large flat wall or with finished sheetrock. I didn’t because the rows were short and the cement board would be covered with tile.

The tile wet saw is on the floor in front of the bathtub in the next photo. The blade is fixed and tile rides on the rolling carriage for cutting. The white pan underneath the saw holds water which is sprayed onto the saw blade to keep it cool and prevent dust. Cutting tile “dry” (e.g. with a Rotozip) creates an enormous amount of dust.

Bathroom Remodeling: Tile Saw and Backerboard
Bathroom Remodeling: Tile Saw and Backerboard

This project is continued in Part 3.

Take care,

Bob Jackson

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Bob Jackson
Bob Jackson
Technology product manager by day and a prolific handyman in the evenings and over the weekends. Bob was the founder of the original Handyman How To website and that tradition continues on this site with excellent new handyman content into the future.
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