Bathrooms

Roll-In Shower Remodel

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Roll in shower in College Station, TX
Roll in shower in College Station, TX

There are many options when considering an ADA size specific, roll-in shower remodel. Although the primary need may be for wheelchair accessibility, a roll-in shower can also provide style and beauty to any bathroom.

As you can see, the aesthetic flow of the bathroom was not interrupted by converting the existing shower into one that is more accessible.

The modern look of these showers also give your bathroom a sense of high-end, spa-like luxury that is completely functional.

For more information on bathroom remodeling contact Stearns Design-Build.

Smart Choices for Bathroom Flooring

Tile may be the traditional bathroom choice for most, but it’s not the only flooring type that performs well in a wet environment. Like any other flooring, bathroom flooring should be chosen with style, durability, and comfort in mind. A bathroom floor must be able to handle moisture and humidity from daily use and the appearance of sudden leaks.

Setting Tile

Bathroom College Station General Contractor
Bathroom College Station General Contractor

Finally, it is time to start laying tile.  Your surface is prepared and you have your layout on paper. Now you need to get the layout onto the surface to be tiled.  This can be done using a chalk line to snap lines indicating where the tile goes.  It is not necessary to snap a line for every row but it is a good idea to mark a starting row and then mark about every fourth row in both directions. It is best to mark the lines of the edge of the tile that will be closest to you as you are tiling.   To preserve the marks you can lightly go over them with a clear acrylic spray from a can.

Tile is set into either a ready to spread mastic or a thinset mortar that is mixed as you work.  We prefer to work with Thinset, as it has a better bond and is more flexible to environmental conditions and size of project.

Mixing

It is important to pay attention to The details of mixing thinset mortar; this will determine the strength of the bond that holds the tile to the substrate. We recommend using a polymer modified thinset.  This is especially important here in the Brazos Valley where our clay soils cause foundation movement.  If you are mixing large batches of thinset, it is a good idea to use a five gallon bucket and a paddle made for mixing mortar (not paint) chucked into a ½” drill.

It is important to maintain a clean bucket and paddle.  Old dried or drying thinset can act as a catalyst and cause the fresh batch to setup more quickly than you want. Always use clean water to mix thinset and grout.

Add the water first and then the dry mix.  Mixing it until it is the constancy that you want. It should be something like cake frosting, stiff but easily spreadable. Try not to get crazy with the paddle; you want to avoid mixing in too much air as this will compromise its bounding strength.  Now it’s time to let it slake (rest) for 10 minutes.  This allows any remaining clumps to absorb moisture and dissolve into the mix. Mix one more time and you are ready.

Spreading

Now that your thinset is ready,  and work surface is clean, you’re ready to start laying some tile. But wait, temperature is important when setting tile.  Ideally it will be between 65° and 75° but here in the Brazos Valley we sometimes have to push the envelope.  In both cooler and hotter temperatures you will want to spread less at a time.  Also try not to work in direct sunlight as this will cause the thinset to harden too quickly. Never try to set tile when it is freezing. 

You will need the right trowel for setting the size tile that you are working with. If you are setting tile that is between 4” and 8” Use a ¼”X ¼” notch. If your tile is between 8” and 16” you will need a ¼” X 3/8” Trowel and if your tile is larger than 16” you will need a ½”X ½” trowel.

Start by spreading thinset onto the work surface using the unnotched side of your trowel. Spread an even layer about the thickness of your notchs. Spread the thinset with a low angle pressing down to force the material into the pores of your work surface. Now using the notched side of the trowel you will rack groves into the thinset.  Hold the trowel at about a 45° angle. Maintaining a constant angle is important. Uneven ridges will result in uneven tile. As you start out, it is a good idea to not spread too much at a time. Not only will this prevent the thinset from drying too much before you have set to it, it will also help you keep the ridges more consistent. As you reach longer distances, it is harder to maintain a consistent angle.

Setting

Remember to work your way out of a room. Tile needs at least 24 hours before being walked on. Most of the time you will want to set full tiles before beginning to work on cut tiles.  As you lay tile it is a good idea to use a thin margin trowel to remove thinset from the grout lines before you set then next tile. It is far easier to do it before you lay the tile than after. You do not want the thinset to show through the grout.  And, a thinner grout line that has thinset in it will crack more easily. When thinset gets on the surface of the tile have a damp cloth handy to wipe it off right away.

Next time: grouting.

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Tile Layout

 Tile is a finish that many homeowners are willing to tackle on their own as a remodel project.  While getting tile down is not difficult, a quality tile job requires a lot of attention to detail and a fair amount of finesse.  Most of our clients who have laid tile in the past are happy to let us take on the task now.  Nonetheless, tiling can be fun and provide a nice sense of accomplishment.  In this series of blog entries, we will try to help provide information that can be important when looking at a tile job.

It is a good idea to make your layout a part of the design process.  We like to map the layout on the computer but it can also be done on a piece of graph paper with a pencil.  Proper layout that avoids tiny pieces of tile and considers major sight lines helps create a sense of craft.

Materials

Before you can start the layout process several decisions will have to have been made.  Obviously the tile will have to have been selected.  Many tiles come in a variety of shapes and sizes.  The width of the grout lines will need to be known.  Also are their accents or trim pieces that will need to be worked into the layout.

Starting point

Start your layout from primary place that the tile will be seen.  Center your pattern on the most prominent spot.  This is often the in front of the primary entry into the room, or the wall that is most commonly seen.  In a bathroom consider that the most commonly seen tile may be from a reflection in a mirror. Try to arrange full tiles in this area.  Now extend your pattern in all directions adjusting to avoid sliver cuts.

Trim

NEVER tile to the base board pinching it in behind the tile.  This will create a condition that encourages rot. It changes the scale of your base trim making it look too narrow.  Also do not fail to cut your door jambs and casings up so that the tile can slip under them.  These are telltale signs of a poor job.  Sadly this is often found in work done by low end “professionals.”

Often shoe mold will create an extra generous coverage for tile at the intersection of the wall.  We prefer to tuck the tile under the baseboard and eliminate the shoe mold.  This requires a tighter job that will take a little more time, but we think that the clean lines are worth the effort. Shoe mold tends to get scuffed and catch a lot of spills that would otherwise be caught by a mop.

Starting your job with a good pre-planned layout is the first step in creating a quality tile job.  This will also allow the job to flow much more smoothly. So start dreaming about a tile job that you would like to do.  Then again you can always call us to do the work.  Knowing the essential elements of your job will help create a deeper appreciation of a good job.

TILE SURFACE PREPARATION FOR TILE

CONCRETE  SLABS

You have a layout of your tile project on paper now it is time to prepare the surface to receive the tile.

CLEANING

If you are setting tile to a concrete slab, you will want to make sure that the surface is clean and dust free. In new construction concrete is seldom covered to protect it from drywall mud, paint, and other debris.  So, depending on where you are laying tile, this could be a fairly involved process. Most residues can be mostly removed with a floor scraper. To remove concrete residue such as small pieces or drips stuck to the slab use a cement brick, a coarse stone with a handle. Always mop the concrete before beginning to get as much fine dust up as you can.

FLOATING

Use at least a 4-foot straight edge to check for high and low spots.  Mark these spots. The low spots can be filled with self-leveling cement made for this purpose. Check the floors again.  If there are persistent high spots, a different cement will need to be used to float them out.

If there are cracks in the slab, a crack separation membrane can be put down.  This is a mesh material that helps prevent the tile from cracking. Tile is brittle and here in Bryan and College Station our clay soils move a great deal. So, no one can guarantee against tile cracking, but a crack separation membrane will help hedge the bet.

Wood Sub-floors

It is important to make sure that floor joists are spaced, at the most, 16” on center and that they are properly sized for the span that they are crossing. Deflection in your joist or subfloor will cause the tile to crack.    Wider spacing will require additional sub-floor or bracing.  As joists on 16”centers are most common, we will proceed with that assumption.  There will need to be a minimum of a 1 ¼”sub floor consisting of a layer of tongue and grove plywood and cement backer board.  If the area is to be wet there will also need to be a shower pan.  Plywood sub-floor should be both glued and screwed to the joists.

CLEAN FLOORS

All previous flooring and debris will need to be removed before putting down cement backer board.  The floor will need to be checked for high and low spots using a straight edge that is at least four foot long.  Floors can be straitened using a self-leveling compound or by carefully shimming the plywood sub-floor.

Backer Board

When putting down cement backer board, it is a good idea to dry fit the entire floor before beginning to set the backer board to the plywood. Leave a 1/8” gap at all edges.  Once everything is dry fit it is time to put the backer board down.  Start by spreading thin set and scratching it with a ¼” by ¼” notched trowel. Set the backer board into the thin set and screw it according to the recommended screw pattern using the recommended screws.  Use a straight edge as you go to insure that the backer board is going down smoothly. Using mesh tape and thin set, float all of the seams between pieces of backer board.

WALLS

DEMOLITION

In the Brazos Valley interior residential walls are almost always wood studs with 1/2 inch drywall. In homes built before 1960 tile will often have been set to what is called a mud bed.  A mud bed is a layer of cement over felt paper with mesh in it.  This layer was typically between ¾”and and 1” in thickness. Starting in the late 60s it became very common to set tile directly to drywall.  When demolishing old tile it is always a good idea to get all the way down to the studs.  Once the studs are exposed use an 8 foot straight edge placed on the surface of several studs at a time to check for straightness. If the studs are bowed, take the time to straighten them. It is also a good idea to check corners for square so that adjustments can be made prior to the tile going on.

BACKER BOARD

Once your framing is straight, you are ready to start preparing the substrate.  The first layer should be30 # felt paper attached to the studs working your way up from the bottom overlapping each subsequent row The concrete backer board should be put on with noncorrosive screws placed every 5” on the studs. Take your time to make sure the screw set neatly with no part protruding from the backer board.  Leave a 1/8”gap between boards.  Tape the boards with fiber tape and float with thin set. Also float over the screws.