Category Archives: Do It

1920′s Home Renovation Portfolio of before and after photos (bathroom)

Continuing my series of portfolio pictures of what was accomplished at the 1920′s duplex, one of the major transformations occurred in the bathroom.  Everything was white:  original hexagonal tile, white shower, white paint and white sink and white tongue and groove plank wood walls.  I struggled initially with the emotional decision as to whether I should retain some of the original elements for historical purposes but I decided it was best for rental value, and considering what was there was in bad shape, to go ahead and modernize the space a bit.

Here’s what was done to transform this room:  1)  All fixtures and finishes were removed except the medicine cabinet and tile 2) new travertine tile was installed directly over the old tile 3) new toilet, vanity, lighting and fixtures 4) had a plumber help to replace old galvanized pipes in walls and under foundation for new shower  5) installed new step in shower pan, backboard and tile for shower 6) instead of going back with mini-blinds, I used a frosted window film that I found that gives privacy yet lets the natural light shine in uncluttered.

Details:  wall paint color-Mushroom Bisque, oil rubbed bronze fixtures by Danze, Medicine cabinet and shower trims painted Espresso brown, shower tile is a combo of blanco tumbled marble and a glass mosaic I found at Lowe’s

Before: 

Shower

Vanity area

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How to make a corner shower shelf using tile

If you don’t want the cluttered look  of a shower basket hanging off of your shower arm or can’t afford a pre-fabricated recessed niche when tiling your new shower, an easy and great solution would be to build a corner shelf using the same tile!

Shaving ledge

 

Soap and shampoo shelf

 

 

The process is the same for a shampoo/soap shelf or a shaving ledge:

1) Determine location

Once you determine the height of your shelf, mark the location in the corner so that when you are cutting the backer board, you can leave a horizontal cut out for the shelf.  Allow enough room for the tile shelf  to slip in snugly.

2)  Cut a shelf to fit in the corner

Sometimes a 45 degree cut is all you need but if you want it larger, you may have to play with your angle a bit more.

3)  Tile up to the shelf

Tile up to the self and using a stacked spacer in the corner where both walls join, lay the tile shelf in place.  The additional spacer gives it a slight angle so that water will run off.

4)  Cut an L tip on the next tiles for the top

The little “L” helps to hold the shelf in place once its grouted.

5)  Grout as typical

 

 

Tricks and tips to use when working with natural stone tiles

There is no doubt about the natural beauty of stone tiles used in your kitchen or bath.   Unfortunately, because it is a natural product and not “man made” like porcelain tiles, the cuts and variation in size may be slight, but create havoc when trying to stay “square and level”.

Here are some tricks I have picked up when working with natural stone to make your tile job a little less frustrating:

1)   Tiles do not stay square

When a natural stone tile is not cut square, it will create “unevenness”.  Depending on the severity of the misalignment, use a toothpick on top of a spacer, a stacked tile spacer or a shim to level the tile at the top or sides. Don’t worry if your “lines” don’t look exactly the same throughout as the variation should be so slight, especially if you split the adjustment difference between the tile out of square and the next tile.  Grout hides more than you may think as long as variations are kept small.

2)   When cutting, the stone breaks before you get to the end

Many natural stone tiles are actually somewhat “soft” and crumble, chip or break easily when using a tile saw before you even finish the entire cut.  Start with a small cut at the opposite end then flip the tile to the other side.  This extra cut at the end will give it better “strength” as your cut line comes together.  Also make sure your tile is wet enough.

3)   Tiny L-shaped corners just break off

Start by cutting the smaller part of the “L” before you do the longer side.  Again, this gives the tiny part better strength when the long cut meets up.

4) ALWAYS seal your natural stone tile before grouting

Natural stone tiles are very porous.  Use a matte or glossy  sealer that is compatible with your stone (read the manufacturers label) and apply at least 2 coats and let the sealant completely dry before grouting.  This will make grout clean up a cinch.

5)  Always seal your natural stone in wet areas at least once a year.

Some sealants claim to have better waterproof longevity, but why risk it when the sealing process is so easy?  This  also helps with maintenance!

How to install a new toilet

If you are like most people, you probably never give your toilet a second thought as long as it works.   If it doesn’t work however, it can get aggravating really fast.

Once you find yourself with a leaky toilet or worse, a money flushing toilet (think lots of water used to do the job), then it may be time to think about a replacement. You might be surprised at the flushing power and water efficiency of today’s modern toilets.  For $100-150, you can install a new toilet that flushes quickly and with very little water….think 1.4 gallons!  Your water bill will thank you!  I know, I know, it’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it.   Unless you want to pay a plumber, the good news is that it is fairly easy and quick as a do-it-yourself project.

What you’ll need: New toilet, new flanged wax ring with adjustable height bolts, plumbers tape, wrench and pliers, plastic putty knife, level, shims and caulk

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How to cut ceramic tile to fit around a toilet or bath fixture

Ever wonder how to cut tile to fit around a circular object like a toilet flange or a plumbing fixture?  Its easier than it may look and the steps are similar for any area where you need a rounded cut.

You will need a tile saw and some tile nippers; these instructions assume you are familiar and comfortable with the use of a tile saw and safety is always important when working with mechanical equipment!

Here’s the basic steps:

1)  Take a piece of paper and sketch the outline of the rounded area you need to cut so that you can transfer that same radius to a tile.

2)  Use a permanent marker or pencil and transfer the radius pattern you need to the tile to be cut.

3) Using your tile saw, cut several straight lines with about 1/4″  spacing into the tile up to the point of your marked radius; don’t worry about the appearance of the cuts as long as you don’t go beyond the marking.  Use your tile nippers to “break” the straight pieces off one by one by holding the nipper claw at the mark.  The straight pieces should break off easily.  You may be left with some jagged edges but don’t worry, most plumbing fixtures come with an outer flange or cover that will conceal these imperfections.

4)  Now you have the rounded edge you need and the tile should fit right in.  Good luck!

If you have any questions about this process or any other home improvements, please leave your feedback.

4 Quick and Inexpensive Bathroom Repairs-No Plumber Required

Ahh, the throne of your home for the king or queen of the castle is located here.  A place to relax and wash the troubles of the day away.   For a room that arguably gets heavy daily use in your home, you can expect that there are many small repairs that can creep up on you in a bathroom.  The good news is that most of the fix-its are very quick and easy and don’t require an expensive plumber bill.

Here’s a quick run down of common problems that can be remedied quickly and inexpensively:

1) Clogged Shower head: Hard water causes calcium buildup over time and clogged holes will cause uneven and reduced water flow.  Before resorting to removal or replacement of the head, you can try using a toothpick to remove the mineral deposits from the holes.  You can also try to soak the head in vinegar by filling a ziploc baggie full of vinegar and attaching it the head with a rubber band or tape and letting it soak for a few hours.  If this doesn’t work, you might consider replacement.

To remove the head, put a piece of masking tape around the arm (flange) for protection of the surface and using a wrench, loosen the shower head by turning to the left. The (flange) arm will stay in place.   Simply discard the old head and screw on the new one.  There are some pretty nice water saving heads available for less than $20.   Make sure you ensure a new watertight seal with white plumber’s tape.  The tape spool is usually blue with white vinyl tape and costs around $1 but well worth peace of mind to be leak free.

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Quick and Low Cost Kitchen or Bathroom Cabinet Makeover

Your natural wood cabinets looking a little old and tired lately?   Try painting them!   For the cost of a can of paint and primer, you can give your cabinets a fresh new appearance.

Using a color that is anything but neutral can give your kitchen a customized look but for resale value, neutral is the safest bet.  White and black are always classic but if you want the cabinets to still appear to be wood, I love Behr’s Paint and Primer in One in the Espresso brown tint.  I’ve also noticed a trend toward grays or sage greens, but those get a little more personalized.  Some like the eggshell finish, I like the satin.  Choose the sheen you like the best for your own project.

Ready to do it?  Here are 5 easy steps to give your kitchen cabinets a quick makeover:

Step 1) Remove doors and drawer fronts.  Remove any door hardware.  A quick tip for hardware is to secure them with masking tape to the inside of the cabinet or drawer with masking tape so they won’t get lost or mixed up.
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Oops, wrong hole! How to fix cabinet hardware blunders.

Ok so we’ve talked about how to install cabinet hardware and you have decided to take on the challenge. http://agirlcandoit.com/2010/04/26/cabinet-hardware-how-to-install/

Yeah for you! Using the template I recommended, everything is moving along smoothly and then oops!  You find you drilled a hole in your cabinets in the wrong spot, even with your best attempts to be careful.  Or, the hole you drilled is too big and now your hardware is loose.  How can you fix this?  No fear, its easy!

1)    Cabinet hole in the wrong spot

You can use some wood putty and fill the wrong hole and sand smooth.  There are wood stain touch up pens in a variety of colors; match the one closest to your wood color.  Even better if your cabinet is painted; simply fill the hole with wood putty, sand and retouch your paint.  Usually these holes are so small and so close visually to your existing hardware, no one will even notice the mistake.

2)    Hole is too big

Place a few toothpicks in the hole dipped in wood glue and let dry.  Break off the toothpicks flush with the cabinet with some needle-nose pliers and reinsert your screw.  Sometimes just the little extra wood will be all you need.

Another way is to wrap your screw in wood putty, leaving the end that attaches to the hardware clean, then reinsert the screw into the hole and let dry.

Finally, another option is to insert the screw into a washer and let the washer come to a rest on the backside of your cabinet door.  The washer will keep the screw from slipping through the hole in the backside of your cabinet.  If the hole lets the hardware wiggle too much, you might have to use the toothpicks or wood putty along with the washer to ensure a good snug fit.

Hope that helps!

A Home Remodel Series- Part 2 (replacing bathroom faucets)

Continuing the progress at my friend’s home remodel  http://agirlcandoit.com/2010/04/27/a-home-remodel-series-part-1-before-demo/ , they had 5 bathroom faucets to replace.  With new faucets running as inexpensive as $40 and up, this is an affordable update to make to your space style-wise.

First and most importantly,  make sure that your new faucet needs the same number of holes as your old faucet.  In other words, some sink faucets only need one hole in your counter tops whereas some others need 3 or 4.  Sometimes it might just be easier to take the old faucet with you to your local store to ensure a match.

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Frame a mirror

Mirror, mirror on the wall, you ARE the fairest of them all!


Mirrors never lie, unless you find yourself in a fun house.  You stand in front of the big rectangular beast every day, and you don’t like what you see and surprise, it has absolutely nothing to do with YOU.

Besides its plainness, your mirror may be *gasp* showing the harsh truths of its age with the little age spots setting in around the edges.  Kindred spirits.  The plain and drab favorites of builders everywhere do a lot for making a room appear larger but very little for actual aesthetics.  Before you decide to spend money on a cuter, sleeker model, there are few things that you can do to boost your mirror’s self esteem.

Sizing it up

First determine where you want the frame to be.  If you want to attach the frame to the mirror on its edges or cover up age spots, it will reduce the mirror’s apparent size.  Opting for this method, you will simply want to measure the width and length of the mirror.  If, however, there is a space between the mirror and the wall and ceiling, you have the opportunity to make your bathroom mirror look even bigger than it really is, by having your frame attached to the outside edges of your mirror.

To go bigger, use a level, draw a line on the wall around the mirror at a distance of least 2-4 inches (depending on your frame selection below). This line will be your guide showing where the frame will end and will be your new measurements.   I highly recommend adding 1 or 2 inches to any measurement you take, to offset any errors when it comes to cutting the corners of the frame.

Picking the frame

There are a wide variety of wood trim options: unfinished ready for staining with wood finishes, pre-primed (great for painting), less expensive MDF board frames (also great for painting).  The wider and fancier you get, the more expensive.   You can match the color of your cabinets, paint them to contrast the room or whatever you desire.  Semi-gloss paints make the best finish in wet areas for ease of clean up.  The simplest of trims can make a lot of impact for as little as $20-30 to complete this entire project.

Whatever trim you choose, you will need 4 pieces, long enough to measure the longest length or width of your mirror.

Making the cut

Imagine a picture frame; the 4 pieces you have will each be cut at 45 degree angles at the ends so they fit together to form a square.   If you have a saw at home that can cut at an angle (like a miter saw or miter box guide), then simply cut your wood at 45 degree angles. You will create two pieces for the width and two pieces for the length.  Remember to switch between right and left as you go so that when placed together, they make 90 degree right angles.

If you don’t have access to such a saw, most stores offer wood cutting services at no charge.  You may also find that many Home Depot stores provide a table with a handsaw and a frame for sawing at a 45 degree angle so that you can cut the wood yourself.

Frame it

After your pieces have been cut to measure and you have stained or painted as you desire, you are ready to frame it up!  Using a heavy duty adhesive (I like Power Grab because of its easy clean up and quick set time), apply the adhesive to the backside of your wood pieces that will make one corner. You will need to hold the pieces in place until the glue begins to set up.  You can also use some heavier duty painters tape or a brace of some sort to hold the wood in place firmly until it dries.

Once this first half of the frame is affixed, you can now attach the other half the same way, completing the “square”.

A small twist in the plan

If you aren’t convinced that wood cutting or framing is your thing, think of what your mirror would like like if you “framed” it with smaller bathroom tiles, or seashells, or glass mosaic tiles or whatever style your bathroom takes on?  Heavy duty adhesives can go a long way to adhering things directly to the mirror.  Tiles can be applied to the surrounding wall with a tile mastic.  Let your imagination run wild.  Your mirror will thank you for it!

Whatever you decide, your mirror will now look like a sharp finished companion that will share your deepest darkest secrets for days to come.

**In case you aren’t convinced, let me also add that these mirrors are also usually very heavy and glued to the wall; so proceed cautiously if you still decide to opt for replacing it.