Category Archives: Bathrooms

Back to the bath.

Oh, hi there. You may remember us from posts like Kent Dates, Surrounded, and Tile Quest, when we were beginning our ensuite bath reno as bright-eyed, energetic fools. Well, our last post on the matter was mid-April, as in…many, many months ago (do we have to say ‘years’?)

Between that time and now, we have been doing important framing, plumbing, and electrical work on the space, albeit at a very comfortable pace. A pretty sizable kitchen upheaval took place last summer, which stymied our steam. Then this year, we had the nicest summer on record. But no more excuses: we have the plumbing and electric installed, vanity purchased, and we’re pretty much in the home stretch of this make-over!

Here’s a photo montage of our progress to date:

March 2010

See Kent Dates for more details on how we gutted this room to prepare for the master bath.

March 2012: the frame is built, and tub laid in for visualizing tile and fixture placement. Also, new toilet placed, ready for plumbing!

The bulkhead and ancient cast iron sewer vent were removed.

Next, we waterproofed the plywood surround and backsplash with Mapelastic™ AquaDefense.

We laid down our favourite tiles to choose the parts of each that we wanted to feature.

Filing the edges of marble tiles after they’ve been cut. This process was only done for the corner edges that will be exposed.

Mortaring the cut tiles into place.

We chose brushed nickel tile edging to frame the tile.

The tiles were set in the polymer-modified mortar for 48 hours, with ‘tombstones’ placed to prepare for the grout lines.

After the grout came plumbing, and installing our fixtures. We chose the Aqueous Roman Tub J-Spout series in brushed nickel.

Cribbing to support the bathtub.

Mortar, covered with 6 mil vapour barrier, and then placing the tub!

Yep. I totally took a bath when it was first installed, before the corner bulkhead walls were restored.

November 2012: Progress to date! New vanity is placed, but not plumbed in yet. Crown moulding (not original) being removed.

November 2012: Walls have been plastered, and are ready for paint and new crown mouldings. Then we’ll tile the face of the surround. AFTER THAT, stain and finish the floors. We’ll need a new light fixture, vanity mirror, and a towel rack. Aaaand then?! We’ll be done 🙂



Filed under Bathrooms, Top floor

Surprise Kitchen Reno! Part IV

In Surprise Kitchen Reno: Part III, we laid the porcelain tile floor in the kitchen and bathroom. Here’s the ‘hard work photo montage’ of what had to be done next:

Removed crown moulding, discovered 2 colour choices from the past: seafoam and butter yellow.

Sealed off kitchen to living room doorway, to contain plaster dust.

Dap DryDex goes on fabulous, dries boring.

Painted doors and crown moulding outside.

Now for the fun parts! We cleaned all of the cabinet doors with a solution of TSP and water, and then we switched out the brass and cream knobs, drawer pulls, and cabinet hinges with brushed nickel versions.

Before: knobs

Before: drawer pulls and hinges.


The former knobs, drawer pulls and hinges had seen better days, and drew attention in a bad way; our nickel versions blend in just as we’d hoped.

One of the most fun decisions in changing a space is choosing a paint colour! I keep a small tote bag full of home decor lit for these kinds of situations:

Embarrassing collection of paint brochures.

The olive tones in the countertop had us looking at greens and beiges, but gray won the day:

Final choices in the running: Martha Stewart 'Sharkey Gray' + Pittsburgh Paint 'Gray Palomino'

We ultimately we decided on Sharkey Gray by Martha Stewart, available at Home Depot. For the windows, doors, ceiling rosette and trim, we went with Colonial White by Pittsburgh Paints.

Sharkey Gray

Colonial White by Pittsburgh Paints

Sharkey Gray: lights off!

Sharkey Gray: lights on!

We’re happy with our choice.

I’m thrilled to be rid of the ‘tole painted’ window cap!! After removal, I discovered that the paint job was actually wallpaper cut-outs, a kind of 90s trompe l’oeil, out of the pages of Country Woman.

Then came the roman shade over the main kitchen window:

We bought the shade for our Victoria Street apartment, and were pleasantly surprised to find that it fits here.

The light fixtures in the kitchen and hall space included 3 pot lights, 1 dome light, track lighting, and a hanging fixture above the table:

before: two pot lights, and track lighting (and a tv)

Before: track light

New track lighting

so glad to have the tv gone, can't wait for the crown moulding to go up...

Above the table, we chose a simple chrome fixture to replace the former, which hung too low for the space.

Former light fixture

New light fixture: chrome!

Our next, and last, installment in Surprise Kitchen Reno will cover the finishing touches, like the switch plates, crown moulding and baseboards. Then, we’ll show our final reveal of the finished space!


Filed under Bathrooms, First floor, Kitchen

Surprise Kitchen Reno: Part III

As of our last post, we had laid the subfloor through the first floor kitchen, bathroom and the hall connecting both. Since there are no square angles in space, it was an exercise in patience to make the precise cuts to the subfloor. The absence of square angles continued to haunt us in the next step towards finishing the floor: laying the tile!

We chose a simple porcelain tile in ‘Texas Beige’.


Our goal was to then lay our tiles to minimize waste and have final lines aesthetically pleasing (since there wasn’t a straight edge for alignment). So, after the tiles were laid out in the configuration we liked, we snapped a chalk line to ensure straight line for laying the tiles permanently.



Again, since there are no square angles, LOTS of cuts required to the tiles for the periphery. Each tile that required a cut was then numbered, as depicted below.

1, 2, 3, 4...

J used a 1/4″ trowel to spread mortar on the subfloor, and then backbuttered each tile. We chose 3/16′ spacers (or tombstones, if you’re fun), and placed four at the intersection of each set of 4 tiles.



To level the floor, we used a 4′ straight edge (with all of J’s weight behind it) as a press. We had to wait 72 hours before we could allow for heavy traffic in the area.

4' level

The second phase was the grout work, which is almost as labour-intensive as laying the tile.

MAPEI Keracolor S in Biscuit

We mixed the grout with the specified amount of water, and then using a sponge float J pressed the mucky goo into the joints to bring it just below level to the tiles’ surface. Then with the wet sponge (we changed our water constantly), we did an initial wipe of the tie surface, and shaped the grout lines. Being very careful not to add water to the installed grout, we used a damp cloth remove the residue or ‘haze’ on the surface of the tiles.

Almost there...

As per the manufacturers specifications, we allowed the grout to dry 72 hours. AND WE’RE NOT FINISHED YET.

The final step: seal the grout and tile.

TileLab Surfacegard Penetrating Sealer

We applied the product along the grout lines with a brush; after 10 minutes, we wiped excess and applied a second coat.

and then…NEW FLOOR!!

Since moving in, the first floor kitchen and bathroom had never felt like they were ours. The floors were a large part of this feeling, as there were three different materials, none of which we were particularly fond. Many corners, edges, and joins were lifting and separating, so that it never looked or felt clean.

Before: interface between the kitchen vinyl tiles, and laminate wood hallway to bathroom

Before: gaps in joins between vinyl bathroom tiles

There was nothing of the original house to resurrect in this space, but our new floor follows a tradition that has persisted for thousands of years, because of its aesthetic and maintenance ease.

In Surprise Kitchen Reno! Part IV, we’ll be plastering and sanding our walls, removing old crown moulding and adding new forms, switching out light fixtures, and painting!


Filed under Bathrooms, First floor, Kitchen

Surprise Kitchen Reno! Part II

In Surprise Kitchen Reno! Part I, we replaced the tiled DIY countertop by the former owner with a new laminate countertop, owing to a leak under the kitchen sink.



While ripping out the former countertop, we discovered water damage on the sink wall, extending to the floor. Uh-oh. Upon further investigation, we found the water had penetrated through the floor all around the sink cabinet. We’ve been planning on replacing the floor in this area, so we decided to bite the bullet, and take on the project. Of course, the weather took a drastic turn from 6 degrees to 20+ temperatures! We enjoyed the gorgeous sun with all of our windows open, and the dust flying!

Current first floor plan

Area highlighted in green to be replaced

The bathroom and much of the kitchen are vinyl tile flooring, and the hall and part of the kitchen are laminate wood. We had NO IDEA what kind of floors we’d find beneath these layers! We didn’t hold much hope for original pine in this area, since the former owners had updated the kitchen and bath in recent years.

We hauled out ALL of the kitchen and bathroom appliances, housing everything in our (now very claustrophobic) living room.

At least I can reach the fridge from the couch, at long last.

Here’s the process of removing the flooring:

Kitchen floor laminate wood & vinyl tile interface

Bathroom vinyl tiles, with washer & dryer removed

Well, after removing the baseboards, the laminate wood was removed; beneath it? Another layer of different, lighter laminate wood! Even more bizarre, we discovered cracked, ceramic tiles under the kitchen vinyl tiles! It was easy to see why they cracked: they had been mortared on to the aspenite subflooring, instead of a sturdier substrate.

Lighter laminate wood

Aspenite subfloor beneath the laminate wood

Cracked ceramic tile beneath kitchen vinyl tiles

After the bathroom vinyl tile was peeled back

It was a huge job to chip away the surprise ceramic tile in the kitchen, and then scrape away the remaining mortar and grout, but he did it!

So nothing of the original floors remained, as we assumed. We decided to tile the area for the ease of cleaning, and a continuous appearance (this area had three different floorings!)

To prepare a proper subfloor for the tile, J laid 3/4′ exterior grade plywood (rough side up). Several pieces of plywood had to be used, and measuring the cuts was a real task, owing to the fact that there are no square angles in the space. As each piece was laid in, it was affixed with PL Subfloor Adhesive. We would then measure out a 6×6′ screw grid, and secure the floor at these intervals.

Terrible photo quality, but this is the first section laid in the kitchen.

Since the cabinets are so large, we left them in the space and moved them around as required. Not standard practice.

New bathroom subfloooor.

Hallway leading from first floor living room, joining the bath and kitchen.

The new subfloor is so wonderfully plane! It’s now possible to float across this space without stubbing a toe at the threshold of a door!

In the next installment of Surprise Kitchen Reno, we lay the ceramic tile!

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Filed under Bathrooms, First floor, Kitchen

A Brass Age Bathroom

Once upon a time (but most recently in the late 70s through early 90s), people adored brass! Everyone loved this shiny, yellowed metallic material so much that they clad their homes with brass sconces, outlet plates, and any other objects that offered to cram brass into their lives.




Having a background in archaeology, I’ll provide some totally legit insight on The Brass Age, via our first floor bathroom.

Upon entering, a very utilitarian laundry area greets you on the left. People of The Brass Age enjoyed displaying all of the many potions used in cleaning brass objects!

A vast array of potions, above the washer+dryer

The peachy paint colour served to accentuate the brass fixtures in this room, and had the added bonus of providing a Jersey Shore tan with the simple flick of a light switch.


Evidently, the population were of much smaller stature in the Brass Age, so a pedestal sink of this size was no issue (so long as there was a stepladder). In our opinion, the sink seems kind of huge and cumbersome in this space.

General observations? This mirror has no place outside of the 1980s, or your grandma’s place. Sorry! Um, also? We’re not big fans of the *modesty-lines* on the shower glass (seriously, wouldn’t most people take the remote chance of an embarrassing moment, rather than having those lines permanently etched on the glass?)

like a crosswalk to nowhere

Overall, we have a much more minimalist vision for recreating this space. Here’s a fun game with photos taken right before we moved in: how many bristled brushes (toothbrushes included) can you spot in the following [attempt at a] composite image?!

Brass Age folks washed their hair at least three times daily, necessitating many varieties and quantities of shampoo

Keeping our grand scheme in mind, we’ve chosen to keep the shower stall, as it was newly installed, and will satisfy the needs of a tenant in the future. Instead, we’ll use our resources on the middle floor powder room, and master bath.

The easiest and least costly way to update this bathroom are:
1) seal ancient gaps between walls + mouldings with painters caulk
2) paint the walls + bathroom cabinetry a light, cool colour to open up the space
3) switch out all brass fixtures for nickel or chrome fixtures
4) switch out huge pedestal sink with smaller sink + vanity (taken from mid-floor bathroom. Bonus: vanity cabinet allows for storage!)
5) organize shelving and storage behind washer and dryer

In the future, we’ll remove the flooring in this bathroom and the kitchen area, level the floors and install a tile floor. This is not a priority at present!

Stay tuned for Part II: The Nickel Revolution!

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Filed under Bathrooms, Decor, First floor