How to Remodel a Bathroom with Italian Tile & Copper Sinks – install tile on the floor, walls and shower with copper sinks.
This project is continued from Part 2.
Tile Pattern and Layout
Decide how you want to layout the field pattern (on the diagonal or square with the walls). The focal point is typically the most visible tile, which in my case the doorway. I was careful to continue the existing field pattern from the master bedroom so it “walked” evenly into the bathroom. Mark a centerline on the floor as a reference to keep the tiles aligned with the room.
Walls: I tile the walls first to avoid dropping thinset mortar on the floor. Work from the bottom row upwards. The Laticrete thinset holds fast. In 10 minutes, you can’t pull the tile off the wall.
Floors: Lay the center-most tiles first for faster progress. I wait and make all my cuts last for the edge tiles against the walls.
Steps for Laying Tile
I do these steps when laying tile:
- Level the old grout lines with a an even coat of thinset using the smooth side of the trowel in an area about 3 feet by 3 feet.
- Spread a layer of mortar on the floor or wall with the notched side of the towel.
- Butter the back of the tile with a shallow coat of thinset so I wouldn’t have a dry surface.
- Place the tile with a slight twisting motion while pressing down with my weight. A rubber mallet is helpful for making small adjustments in position.
- Use the carpenter’s square to mark lines for cuts. In addition to straight cuts, the tile saw can also for ‘nibbling’ out small curves and notches if applied carefully without light pressure on the blade.
- Use the 5 foot straight edge to check the tiles are even with one another in several directions and the rows are straight.
It helps to keep a pump spray bottle of water and moisten the thinset every 10 minutes or so. The thinset wicks water away very quickly and the surface layer turns light gray as it dries.
After each 3×3 foot section is laid, tap each tile with the back of the screw driver, listening for hollow-sounding areas. A hollow-sounding area indicates the tile is not properly set. If hollow, pull up the tile, reapply thinset and place again.
Tiling the walls. Notice the plastic shims on the floor beneath the bottom row of tile to maintain a level row.
Liberal use of tile spacers (plastic white crosses) is essential to maintain proper spacing between tiles. Use the carpenter’s level to ensure each tile is level and plumb in both directions.
The listello (decorative accent tiles) row is set and holes cut for plumbing fixtures.
Detail of the shower floor. The drain is masked off with tape to keep out dirt. The original sloping mortar bed was kept to direct water to the drain.
Tile has been placed around the Jacuzzi and marble cap on the shower knee wall. I used the flat pry bar to gently lift the edge of the fiberglass bathtub to set the tile underneath the rim.
Floor and walls are ready for grouting.
Shower stall walls and floor tile completed. Remember to mark and cut the notch for the soap dish before setting the adjacent wall tiles in thinset, as it is very difficult (and dusty) to notche the tiles after they have been cemented to the wall.
I kept the original vanity cabinet base, as there was nothing wrong with the layout, drawers or storage capacity. My solution was to:
- Remove the original white porcelain sinks, faucets and formica laminate-over-particle board vanity countertop.
- Rebuild the countertop using Hardibacker cement board. This provide a stiff and strong foundation for the tile.
- Finish the countertop with matching porcelain tile.
- Install copper sinks and faucets.
- Paint the white cabinet face a nice dark shade of brown with oil-based enamel.
The tearout of the old sinks, faucets and countertop was quick and easy. Do remember to shut off the hot & cold water supply valves under the sink before disconnecting the faucets.
In this photo, the countertop field tiles and v-cap edge pieces have been set. Holes have been cut for the sinks and faucets for trial fitting. The backsplash tiles have been stood loosely against the wall to layout the pattern. Tip: The hollow pocket on the backside of v-cap must be packed with mortar before setting to prevent breakage from routine bumps and knocks in everyday use. I found the cured v-cap to be very durable.
A closeup of HP Austin hand-hammered pure copper sink. The cost of this sink in in the $600 range. An acid aging kit was applied to achieve an “old penny” darker finish.
Almost done! The final step is paint the white cabinets an attractive dark brown with oil-based enamel paint. Oil based enamel was chosen for it’s durability.
The remodeled bathroom vanity in Italian porcelain tile and copper sinks turned out beautifully! The mirrored medicine cabinet is by Robern.
I was very pleased with the remodeling results. I saved about 50% to 75% compared to what a contractor would have charged by doing it myself. On the minus side, the work was strenuous and hard on the knees and lower back. Overall I enjoyed the experience and would do it again.
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