Category Archives: Big House Projects

Master Bath Remodel – Fireplace Phase

Master Bath - Fireplace Header

We are pretty lucky to have a double-sided fireplace in the bathroom/bedroom.  However, I am not a big fan of the tile surrounding the fireplace.  As part of the master bathroom remodel, I decided to add wood mantels and stone to both sides of the fireplace.

Because this bathroom remodel project was so big… I decided to post about it in phases.  If you are interested in the other phases, here they are broken down (I will link to the other phases as I post them):

This picture shows the bedroom side of the fireplace (taken before we moved in).  The other side was surrounded by that yucky 4″ white tile that was pretty much standard with all houses built at the time.

Master Bath - Before 1 The fireplace part of this project started with making 2 mantels exactly the same way as I had before (as seen in this blog post) and adding stone (as seen in this blog post)

Master Bath - Fireplace MantelsHere they are installed using some rebar and epoxy.

Master Bath - Fireplace Mantel Inside

Master Bath - Fireplace Mantel OutsideIt took a while to find the time to actually install the stone, but I think it came out pretty well.  It definitely went a lot faster than the other stone jobs I have done in the house (maybe because there was less of it, or maybe I am just getting better at it).  Here is how they came out!  Much better than they were before and the new mantels gives us another place to collect dust in the house 🙂

Master Bath - Fireplace Outside Final

Master Bath - Fireplace Inside FinalNow it is time to get moving on the final phase of this project.  New cabinets, vanity and mirrors are in order!



Master Bath Remodel – Floor Phase

Master Bath - Floor Header

Because this bathroom remodel project was so big… I decided to post about it in phases. If you are interested in the other phases, here they are broken down (I will link to the other phases as I post them):

It pained me a bit to rip out the tile that I had just installed a few years ago (there was originally carpet on the floor!), but we wanted everything to match and it gave me a chance to install some electric in floor heating.  I had thought that installing in floor heating would be expensive, but it really was pretty affordable.  I bought a kit (including the thermostat) from Warming Systems for less than $300 and they even expedited shipping so that I could install the system when I had a good window of time to do it.  It was pretty easy to install as well.  After screwing down some 1/4″ wonder board, it only took me a couple of hours to lay the wire and run the thermostat wire.  The heating wire did not draw as much power as I expected and I was able to tie into an existing circuit and avoid running a new one.

Master Bath - Floor Heating

I also decided to go with the larger 18″ tile for the floors.  My wife was a little worried about mixing tile sizes (we have 2″, 4″, 12″ and 18″ in the bathroom), but I think the mixed tile sizes gave the bathroom a little more “texture” without it looking weird.

Master Bath - Floor TileIn the picture above, you will notice that I did not tile all the way to the cabinets.  I intentionally left that untiled in anticipation of replacing the vanity cabinets.  One nice touch (I think anyway) was to replace the old wood baseboard with tile baseboard.

Master Bath - Floor BaseboardAfter installing the heated floor system, I was not so sure that it actually made much of a difference.  Most mornings and evenings (when the system was turned on) I did not notice that nice warm feeling under my feet… until we got a cold day.  Wow!  As the weather has started to get colder here in Colorado, I am loving the in heated tile floor.

Master Bath - Floor Final


Master Bath Remodel – Shower Phase

Master Bath - Shower Header

Because this bathroom remodel project was so big… I decided to post about it in phases.  The shower phase is essentially the second phase of the project, but there was some overlap.  If you are interested in the other phases, here they are broken down (I will link to the other phases as I post them):

This is a picture of my starting point that was taken before we moved into the house.  We had actually replaced the shower hardware with oil rubbed bronze hardware… but had not done anything else to the shower.

Master Bath - Before 3The first part of the shower remodel was to build an arch that would give the shower a little bit more of an enclosed feel and add a little more dimension to the bathroom.

Master Bath - Shower Arch Under

Master Bath - Shower Arch FrontAfter getting the arch built, hung and drywalled… it was time to gut the shower.  I was definitely nervous gutting the most used shower in the house and taking it out of commission.  Fortunately, we have a guest bathroom right across the hall that we could use for the time being.  If you really want to test your wife’s patience… take the shower out of commission.  I have to admit, that tiling the shower took longer than I wanted it to, but my wife was pretty patient.

Master Bath - Shower GuttedThe first thing I needed to tackle before I could do anything else was to put in a new shower pan.  There are lots of good videos on YouTube on how to do this and I would suggest you watch several before trying this yourself.  Also, take your time and do your balloon test… you don’t want to mess around with water getting through your shower pan.

Master Bath - Shower LinerMaster Bath - Shower Floor

I also added 2 niches to hold all the shower items.  This is pretty simple.  You just build a box out of 2×4 to hang in between two studs.  The only thing you need to ensure is that the bottom of each box has a slight slope downwards so that the water drains down the wall after a shower.  I started adding niches to all my shower remodels and have really liked not having a hanging shower basket in each shower/bath.  I had actually wanted to add two “banks” of niches to either side of the shower head, but there was just too much plumbing and electrical in the way to do it.  I certainly didn’t want to turn the shower part of the project into a 6 month adventure.

Master Bath - Shower NicheI used small 2″ tile on the shower floor and finished up the cement board on the rest of the walls.  I didn’t get a picture of it, but I also used RedGard on the shower walls for the vapor barrier.  This stuff is not cheap, but it forms a water proof seal if you install it correctly.  I also took extra precaution to seal the shower niches because they are a prime spot for water leakage.  Water proof silicone was used after installing RedGard anywhere there was a change of plane (corners).

Master Bath - Shower Cement BoardHere are some pictures of the finished tile job.  You can see in one of the pictures that I tiled from floor to ceiling and also tiled the ceiling.

Master Bath - Shower Tile Final

Master Bath - Shower Tile Arch

Master Bath - Shower Tile NicheI wasn’t very happy with my work (and the look) of the small tile on the shower floor so I made a quick trip to Lowes to buy some larger tile so I could see what it would look like.

Master Bath - Shower Tile FloorAs you can tell, I decided to rip out the small tiles and replace them with bigger 6″ tile.  You have to be careful when using larger tile on a sloped floor to ensure that there are no tile edges to catch you bare feet on.

Master Bath - Shower Tile Floor BigWe definitely planned on replacing the brass shower door with oil rubbed bronze but wanted to upgrade from a framed shower door to a frameless shower door.  I thought my only option would be to have a custom one made but the best quote was for $1500!  It was very nice, but I didn’t want to spend that much.  After a little research and comparison, I was able to find a pre-fabricated frameless shower at Home Depot for less than half the price.  This DreamLine Unidoor looked almost identical to the custom door.  The only difference as far as I could tell was that the glass for this shower door was not quite as thick as the custom door.  It is still very solid and heavy, so I was fine with it.  The install was a little difficult (pay attention to the instructions where it says you need 2 people!) but it came out looking very nice (and solid).

Master Bath - Shower DoorThe last thing to do before I could call the shower done was to texture the arch.  I don’t do enough texture to warrant owning a professional grade texture sprayer, but I found a Wal-Board sprayer from Home Depot that even works with a pancake compressor.  I can tell you it does a pretty good job, but I wouldn’t want to spray a whole room with it.

Master Bath - Shower Arch TextureA little paint and the shower was done!  After the shower remodel, I started to feel like I could see the end of this project… the operative word being “started”.  I still had a long way to go.

Master Bath Remodel – Bathtub Phase

Master Bath - Tub Header

Somehow every single bathroom in the house had been remodeled before our master bathroom.  I am not sure how that happened, but it was time to fix it.  Because this is such a big job and I seem to have less and less time to work on the house lately… I decided to break this into “phases”.  Here are the main features:

  • New tile everywhere!
  • Create an arch above the shower
  • Add niches in the shower
  • New frameless shower door
  • Add heated floors
  • New vanity cabinets
  • New Granite countertop
  • New sinks (the faucets and shower hardware had been replaced shortly after we moved in)
  • Mantles above the fireplace (both inside and outside the bathroom)
  • Stone surrounding the fireplace (both inside and outside the bathroom)

And here are the phases I chose to break the project into:

This is a very lovely photo of the bath tub in the master bathroom that I took before we moved in.  These pictures were actually taken even before we bought the house.

Master Bath - Before 4
Since moving in, we have done some painting and replaced bathroom hardware.  I couldn’t believe that my wife wanted the beautiful wall paper by the bathtub taken down!  This was my actual starting point.

Master Bath - Tub Starting Point

I chose to start this whole remodel by tiling the bathtub area.  It was the lowest hanging fruit and would have the least impact on our continued use of the bathroom.  The first step was to start tearing out the existing 4″ white tile.  Fortunately/Unfortunately, it was really easy.  The original tile installer used regular drywall as the substrate!  It made it easy to rip out the tile but any water under that tile would have ruined it.

Master Bath - Tub Tile Tearout

I used a combination of wonder board and cement board as the substrate.  The only reason I mixed substrates was because I needed 1/2″ cement board for the wall area (same thickness as the drywall) and wanted to keep the height of the tub deck as low as possible using 1/4″ wonder board.  I then painted all the surfaces with RedGard to keep any moisture from getting underneath.

Master Bath - Tub Cement Board

I wish I had a picture of the bathtub painted in the blazing pink/red of RedGard, but I forgot to take one.  If you are interested… this is what RedGard looks like after it has cured (from one of my other bathroom remodels).

Master Bath - Tub RedGardThe tiling was pretty straight forward.  We chose some tile that we found at Lowes that had a “slate” look to it without the upkeep of actual slate.  For the tub area, we used a 12″ tile along with the matching bullnose.

Master Bath - Tub Final

Master Bath - Tub Final CloseThis part of the entire bathroom remodel was by far the easiest and fastest.  After getting this done, it was time to move on to phase 2… the shower.

Replacing Wood Balusters With Wrought Iron (Sort Of)


We recently had a dishwasher leak in our kitchen that necessitated the wood floors being patched and re-finished.  We had always wanted to extend the wood floors through our entry and into the dining room, so we decided to just pull the trigger and have it done along with the kitchen floor.  It pains me to hire this work out, but insurance was covering the kitchen floors and it was just easier to have it all done at once.  In order to extend the wood flooring, we needed to rip out the stair railing that was holding my kids back from parachuting to the basement.  My wife reminded me that we had a project on “our list” to replace the beat up wood balusters with wrought iron.

Congratulations to me!!!!! I had a new project to work on… and it needed to be done quick!

Here is a picture of my new canvas.

The new wood flooring is in, but there is an 8 foot drop for my kids to find!

The new wood flooring is in, but there is an 8 foot drop for my kids to find!

I didn’t have many pictures of the existing railing (fully in tact), but below you can see what I was replacing.  Anything white on the railing was coming out!

I didn't take many pictures of the old railing, but this shows what it looked like.

I didn’t take many pictures of the old railing, but this shows what it used to look like.

My plan was to:

  • Replace the painted white plate that runs down the stairs with an oak plate stained to match the floors.
  • Replace all the balusters with the wrought iron (actually, they are aluminum…. but look like wrought iron) that I found at Home Depot (link), including the decorative shoes and knuckles (link).
  • Re-finish the hand rail using Minwax Polyshades.  Using Polyshades should make re-finishing go much faster because I did not need to sand down the hand rail to bare wood… just scuff it up with some 400 grit sandpaper.

*** I considered replacing the entire hand rail and newel posts with new oak rails and posts, but it would have added an extra $1,000 (or more) to the job and I decided it just wasn’t worth it.

There are some pretty good YouTube videos on replacing balusters, so instead of giving a full description, i will just give a few links if you want to do this yourself.

Video 1

Video 2

Really… if you are only replacing the balusters, it is a pretty easy job.  You will need a mitre saw, cut-off blade (for metal) and a drill.  I would estimate this job could be completed in a single day if you are ony replacing the balusters.  The picture below shows some of my progress where you can still see the old balusters, hand rail and posts as well as some of the new ones.

Too bad my kids can't parachute down to the basement anymore.

Too bad my kids can’t parachute down to the basement anymore.

Below is a good shot of the new bottom plate that runs down the stairs.  It almost looks like it has been there the whole time!

New oak bottom plate.

Everything has a new coat of stain!  Polyshades is quite a bit more difficult to work with than regular stain and my first pass came out a little blotchy.  I was trying to avoid going too dark, and a second coat of Polyshades would have made it too dark.  I ended up using a brush to “touch up” the blotchy areas and even out any areas that were too light.

Almost done

Almost done, just need to cover up those newel post anchors.

The railing is a little “bumpy” after the Polyshades.  I had heard about a trick to rub down your finish with cardboard to smooth out those bumps and it worked like a charm.

Close up of the re-stained hand rail

Close up of the re-stained hand rail

After covering up the newel post anchors and putting on some finishing touches, this job was done.  My kids are just going to have to climb the railing if they want to parachute down to the basement.

Some final pictures:

Railing - Final 1

Railing - Final 2

Railing - Final 3

This project definately gave our entry way a much needed boost!  While the balusters are not real wrought iron, they seem pretty durable and have a nice look to them.  They are also pretty easy to work with.  The only thing I would do different on this project would be to stain the hand rail and newel posts before installing the balusters.  Unfortunately, time (and safety) did not allow me to leave a big 8 foot drop into the basement.  My kids had already began fabricating their parachutes so I needed to move quick!

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