Category Archives: Products

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.

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!

Kids’ Handprint Plaque Inside A Storage Chest


We have kids, and those kids have hands.

On mother’s day this year, the kids and I bought mom a keepsake storage chest that she has been wanting for years.  She mainly wanted to store kids’ items like blankets, special stuffed animals and things we always associated with each kid.  Because this would store kid stuff, I decided to personalize it a bit by adding a plaque with the kids handprints mounted to the inside of the lid.  That way, every time she opens it she will get a little reminder that she has kids, and those kids have hands.


For this little project, I wanted to make the wood plaque look like weathered wood instead of trying to match the stain of the storage chest.  I first tried the baking soda/water/sun trick that is all over the internet but only succeeded in turning my pine board yellow.  What I ended up doing was a sort of a hodge podge of stains.  I first used Minwax Classic Gray with a very light application.  It was too gray, so I added two coats of Minwax Cherry (which is very very light brown on pine).  This added just a tinge of brown to get the look I wanted.

Before doing the handprints, I had the kids each write their name on the bottom of the board (in pencil) so I could trace it later.  For the handprints, I just mixed up some black and white tempera paint to make a nice charcoal gray color that blended well with the “weathered” wood.  The kids really enjoyed me smearing paint all over their hands and they each got to do it twice… one for a practice, one on the plaque.  I was worried that the tempera paint would not react well with the oil based stain I had used, but it turned out fine with no bubbling or pooling.  I didn’t have a paint brush thin enough to trace their names, so I used a toothpick dipped in paint to methodically trace their signatures, and add “mother’s day 2013” to the top.  After all the handprints had dried, I sprayed on 2 coats of Minwax Polyurethane to preserve the handprints.


I mounted the plaque with 4 oil rubbed bronze screws I found at Home Depot, being very very careful not to drill through the lid of the storage chest.  Just to make sure, I used some painters tape to mark the depth on my drill bit.  I also pre-drilled the plaque before drilling into the storage chest lid.


All that was left was to tighten up a couple of screws and now mom will always have a reminder that she has kids, and those kids have hands!




Fireplace Remodel With Stone

Main Fireplace - Before and After

The fireplace on the main level of our house should be a beautiful focal point of the living area, but it was…. well… builder grade.  It could be much worse, but cheap ceramic tile and a skimpy white mantel were not demanding much attention.  Neither was the tile on the floor in front of it.

Our fireplace before the remodel

Our fireplace before the remodel

For this project, I wanted to surround the fireplace with stone (or manufactured stone), raise the fireplace to accommodate a hearth (instead of just tile on the floor) and add a new rustic wood mantle.  I had worked with manufactured stone before, but that was only a month ago when I added a fireplace to my basement.  Luckily I learned a few things from the first install.

To get started, I removed the old mantel, tore out all the tile and disconnected the fireplace from the gas line (after turning off the main gas line of course).  I built a box for the fireplace to sit on and had to re-frame a part of the outside wall to accommodate the fact that I also had to raise the vent pipe.  Now I have a siding repair project, but that should go quick.

Main Fireplace - Demo and Raise

All the “builder grade” has been removed and the area prepped to put the fireplace back in

The gas line also needed to be raised by taking out a section of the old pipe and replacing it with a longer piece.  I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Home Depot could cut and thread black pipe.  After using some Rector Seal to ensure no gas leaks, the hole I had made in my wall was ready to welcome back the fireplace.

Newly raised gas pipe peaking over the box

Newly raised gas pipe peaking over the box

Because I was installing the stone inside the house, I didn’t need to put up a vapor barrier and could put the metal lathe directly on the drywall after patching it.  Metal lathe is nasty, nasty stuff and will cut you in half if you are not careful.  Wear gloves (which I did) when working with it.  It just needs to be nailed into studs with the “cup” parts facing up and separate pieces overlapped by a few inches.  You can see I also built a box for the hearth stones to sit on as well.

Main Fireplace - Lathe 1

Floor to ceiling metal lathe

Main Fireplace - Lathe 2

Lathe is overlapped by a couple inches and nailed into studs

Next came the “scratch” coat.  It is basically mortar that is smeared onto the metal lathe to give the stone something to stick to.  The first time I did this, I actually put the mortar on smooth and went back and scratched it up before it dried.  This time I just used a notched trowel and saved myself the hassle and mess.

Scratch coat is up on the wall

Scratch coat is up on the wall

Now for the hard part… laying out the stone.  We chose a field stone with various colors from Sunset Stone and  in order to get all the pieces to fit into this giant puzzle, I went out into the garage and used some of the kid’s sidewalk chalk to draw out the areas we needed to cover with stone.  The first time, my wife and I spent hours and hours trying to get pieces to fit and the color to balance only to find that the stone doesn’t install exactly like you lay it out and I had to add filler pieces anyway.  This time we were smarter about it and focused on getting the colors balanced and getting the pieces to generally fit together.  I also took note from my first stone install and made sure that none of the exposed edges would get cut.

This is a very big, very heavy jigsaw puzzle

This is a very big, very heavy jigsaw puzzle

When installing the stone onto the wall, I found it easiest to work with sections at a time, starting from the top.  I set the big pieces that did not need to be cut and then would cut/set stones as I went.  I also tried to set any stones with an exposed edge first to ensure that if I had any unplanned cuts, they would be on the inside.  I just used an angle grinder with a diamond blade to make the cuts.  Make sure you wear glasses, ear protection and a mask when cutting manufactured stone, because concrete dust is NOT good for you in any way.  After all the big stones are set, I went back and cut/added filler pieces with scraps or custom cuts where there are big gaps between the stones.  Easily the worst part of this job is cutting and adding the little filler pieces.

All of the stone is installed along with the hearth.

All of the stone is installed along with the hearth.

After giving everything a day to dry, it was time for the grout.  It is the same mortar used for applying the stone to the wall, except that I colored it using Quikret Cement Color.  It is a little un-nerving to pour some neon orange colored water into your cement mix and expect it to come out brown… but it did.  Unless you plan on mixing a ton of grout, take note of how much liquid color you use to how much mortar mix (I used 1 oz. color to 16 lb of dry mortar).  The easiest way I found was to mark a line on a disposable cup and to use a separate bucket to measure out my mortar mix.  Grouting goes quickly and despite holding a 10 pound icing bag…. is pretty fun.

Grouting tools and neon orange cement color

Grouting tools and neon orange cement color

Getting the grout installed (see... I am actually doing this stuff), and the grout job complete

Getting the grout installed (see… I am actually doing this stuff), and the grout job complete

Nearing the home stretch… I made a new solid wood mantel the same way I made the mantel for the basement fireplace.

Mantel is drying after its final coat of polyurethane

Mantel is drying after its final coat of polyurethane

One night after work I got a bug and decided to go ahead and set the mantel with some 1/2″ rebar and some epoxy.  I had used Liquid Nails and lag bolts with the heads cut off for the basement fireplace and the epoxy and rebar worked much much better.  This project is done!  … well … besides patching the siding on the outside of the house.

It's all done!

It’s all done!

A couple notes and thoughts about installing manufactured stone:


  • Be patient mixing your mortar.  You may think you have not added enough water, but keep mixing until you are certain you need more water.  I should know better, but a couple times I added too much water initially and had to hover over my mortar pan with an 80 pound bag trying to add a tiny bit of mortar to thicken the mix up (not fun).
  • Let the mortar set for a while before using it.  I would bring the mixed mortar into the house and start using it only to find that it set up a bit and I had to add a bit more water to make it usable.  I just kept a container of water inside to splash and mix after it had set up a bit.

Stone Install

  • A garage with a chalk outline of your stone area works great for laying out stone.  I am sure stone masons do not even need this step, but us DIYers definitely need it.
  • Do everything possible to have your cuts on the inside.  Cut manufactured stone looks like concrete and it will stick out like a sore thumb.
  • Use a spray bottle to wet your scratch coat before setting the stone… it makes a huge difference in the adhesion.
  • Work from the top down to avoid dropping mortar on the stone.
  • Do NOT try to wiggle the stone into position after you have pressed it onto the wall.  This will just break the bond and you will be scraping mortar off the wall and the stone.  Get it into the exact position first, then wiggle WHILE you press.
  • Do NOT beat or bump the stone into place.  You may cause the surrounding stones to fall off.  Just press it onto the wall.
  • On the edge pieces, wipe out the mortar (while it is still wet) that squirts out of the edge to give yourself a little cavity to fill with grout.  Don’t worry about it on the inside pieces because those “mortar boogers” will get covered in grout anyway.


  • Pay extra special attention to the grout consistency.  If it is too runny, you will make a huge mess and most likely stain your stone.  Too thick and it won’t come out of the bag.  Don’t be afraid to dump out your grout bag and mix a little more water into it.
  • Be very careful using a metal strike with manufactured stone.  It will make marks on the stone if you are not careful.  I still used a metal one, but most masons will tell you that a stick works just fine.
  • WEAR GLOVES!  These gloves will get destroyed during the process, but will save your hands.  After using the strike, I would use my hands to smooth out the grout even further.


  • Spend a little extra time covering everything up.  I didn’t do this the first time and the mess was out of control.  I tried to clean up after every major step and my carpet (and wife) appreciated it.
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