Answers to 8 Questions about Bathroom Renovations

Applying mortar to ceramic tile with a trowel.

Q. We are remodeling a bathroom and have ceramic tile on the walls in the shower enclosure and also about four feet high throughout the rest of the bathroom. We do not want to have to go through all the work of replacing the tile. We were wondering if we could just paint it?

A. You can paint tile with an acrylic paint. Recommended paint for tile, especially in a shower, would be a two-part epoxy. It's kind of tricky to work with, and smells pretty potent, but dries hard as nails and levels beautifully.

Q. We are remodeling a house we just bought, and one of the bathrooms is included in the remodeling. There's pink and white tile used in this bathroom. Is there anyway I could paint the tile to make it black and white?

A. Yes and no. There are paints made specifically for painting tile. Ask at your home improvement center. You can also paint vertical tiles that don't get much wear, like a kitchen backsplash or bathroom walls with regular latex paint. However, you can't really scrub them or anything, or the paint will come right off. But if you treat them gently, it can be done. The key to getting a result that doesn't look like you've just painted your tile is how you deal with the grout. As long as you can keep the grout white or mostly white it can look "okay." If you just take, say, hunter green, and paint all the tiles and grout, then it can look cheesy. So, maybe if you're careful, and only paint the pink tiles black, and not the grout, it might look all right. It's a temporary solution, at best, which might be just what you're wanting. Or you may want to work with the pink and white. It's not the worst tile color combo out there. At least it will blend with most floral patterns, and many retro schemes. You might just add black accessories and go for a 50's look.

Q. We are remodeling our bathroom. We plan to lay 12x12 marble tile on the diagonal. Where do we start with our floor plan? If we start in the middle we will have small triangles at the door and back wall. I find this acceptable, but my husband wonders if there is another approach. Our bathroom is small, only 5 feet x 6.5 feet. Additionally, we are in disagreement about where the focus should be on the floor. Specifically, should the odd smaller pieces of tile be at the far wall or in the doorway? I think that the focus would be on the doorway, or is it on the back wall?

A. The pattern should be centered between the walls. To do this measure the midpoint of the 6.5 foot wall at both walls. Then snap a chalk line. Next snap another line at the mid point of the other wall perpendicular to the first line. This establishes the center of your room. To start laying tile, place a tile such that a corner is on each line with the point of the center of the room under the center of the tile. The best thing to do then is dry lay all the tiles, cutting the ones along the wall as necessary. This way all the cutting is done before you start mixing thin set. Be sure to mark all the cut tiles identifying where they belong as you take them up. It takes a lot of words to describe what a picture can portray very simply. Give this some thought. Try it out on paper first.

Q. I have a 1969 house. In the bath, there are white ceramic holders that the towel rack was in. The rack, a piece of plastic-coated wood, was broken. One of the holders or the base it was in is very loose. I would just like to remove them and affix new ones to the wall. It looks like to me they go clear through the wall. How should I remove them? Should I just try to muscle them out or cut more plasterboard wall out around them? I don't know how big they are on other side and don't understand how they are attached. Is there someone that can educate me on this small but very irritating problem?

A. Usually they have a lip inside that's is cut in the drywall then used plaster to hold it in place shape like a S. Just work it out and it pops out.

Q. I hope someone can give me some suggestion on where I can find information on removing a bathroom. I want to convert it into a nursery. We have a mobile home and don't need the extra bathroom. I have been unable to find any information on doing this or if it should be done at all. I'm sure it requires capping off or removing drains and such. Does anyone know of a website or a book?

A. This should be thought over very well before considering such a removal. I'm unsure where you live, but removal of a bathroom within a mobile home may not be advisable. Should you try and sell this, the loss of a bathroom will work against you. Since you are unsure of what to do then you need to have a professional take a look at what can be done and determine the cost for such removal. The other issue is what is allowed per your local codes on this project.

Q. I just purchased a new home and wanted to tear out the tile from the bathroom and drywall it up. I also wanted to get a new tub and surround to get rid of the grout cleaning duties. My problem is that when I pulled off the first tile with the crow bar it brought with it concrete exposing wire mesh with more concrete below it. The house was built in 1951 in Pennsylvania if that helps. I assume this is something like Wonder board? What is required to prep this type of wall for drywall?

A. I suggest you install new drywall over the entire thing. First, remove the old drywall sections and then look for wires or other utilities running through the wall. Then use a wonder bar and a hammer to knock off sections of tile along each stud. Then using a saw with a carbide blade, cut along one side of each stud and you will be able to wrangle sections of the cement wall off the studs. There will be a dusty mess. Gloves, eye protection, respirator, and hearing protection are a good idea too. You will use lots of heavy-duty contractor trash bags.

Q. I am finishing a bathroom in my basement. There is a 90 degree corner between the Durarock in the shower and the plasterboard bathroom wall. I am not sure how to finish this corner. Should I use thinnest and put a bull nose tile on the wall outside the shower? Should I use corner bead or tape on the corner?

A. I'm assuming that you are describing an outside corner that is formed between the wallboard and the Durarock. Will you be installing shower doors? If so, the tile should extend at least 1/2 tile beyond the exterior side of the shower doorframe. You don't describe how far away from the shower area the corner exists, but if it is within 4"-5", plan on the bull nose tile ending exactly at the corner. You can use a paper tape with imbedded metal strips for additional strength on the corner. If the distance is greater and you don't plan on running tile all the way to the corner, then use a regular corner bead. You can use plasterboard mud to finish the corner. Don't forget to prime the walls, especially the mud before applying the thinnest mastic.

Q. After my husband removed the bathroom flooring, there was a strong mildew smell. You couldn't see it, because the concrete floor is black anyway. It has now been cleaned with bleach. So, should we remove the shower pan also, on the presumption that there could be mold/mildew under it also? Should we just leave it alone, since it would require a professional to reinstall, and we are having a lot of trouble finding a contractor who isn't already busy for the next six months?

A. I would pull up the shower pan just to cover all bases and inspect the damage done. That way you can have peace of mind that you fully contained and removed all damage that was caused to the floor.

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