Installing a new shower head and control.

I’ve slowly been upgrading the fixtures in my bathroom to brushed nickle.  I’m a sucker for brushed nickle.  And I’ll be honest, chrome holds water stains and fingerprints ALL the time– much to my annoyance.  So this weekend I decided to buy a new brushed nickle set and install them.

Here’s what I used:

  • A new shower arm
  • A new shower head (uses 30% less water!)
  • A new shower control set (MAKE SURE YOU BUY THE SAME BRAND AS YOUR ORIGINAL FIXTURE–OR COMPATIBLE–UNLESS YOU WANT TO REPLACE THE PIPING CONNECTION IN THE WALL!)
  • Phillips screwdriver
  • Channel Locks (or an adjustable wrench)
  • Teflon tape
  • Clear caulk

Here’s what I did:

1. I turned off the water (safest is to turn off the water to the whole house, but there might also be water turn off valves near your water heater too). Then turn on the water to drain the pipes.

2. I removed the old shower head (counterclockwise) and let any excess water sitting in the shower arm drain out.

3. I used my channel locks to carefully unscrew the shower arm from the wall.

4. I threaded Teflon tape (CLOCKWISE!) around both ends of the shower arm.

5. I screwed the shower arm into the wall until it was tight– don’t unscrew it because it could mess up the teflon tape, only screw clockwise.

6. Then I screwed in the shower head.  Easy easy.  Then came the harder part.

7. I used a small flathead screwdriver to pop off the handle cover, then removed the screw holding the handle to the fixture.

8. Then I used the screwdriver to remove the two screws holding the control plate to the wall.

9.  I used a small flathead screwdriver to pop the control plate from the wall– if the caulk was still good, I might have needed to cut the caulk out around it first.

10. Then I followed the directions that came with my control set to install the new one.  The new plate, a metal control piece, and finally the new handle.  Just a couple screws in and I was done.

11. Use a clear caulk to caulk around the edges of the control system.  It should look something like this when you’re done.

12. Turn on your water and test your system.

I love that all my shower fixtures finally match (the shower door I had installed last summer is brushed nickle).

Things to note:

  • It is really important if you’re planning to switch out your control piece that you go with the same brand of fixture.  Mine was Moen.  I didn’t feel adventurous enough to start messing with the piping in the wall, nor was that necessary in changing the look of the fixtures.
  • Home Depot doesn’t sell the control sets separate, which I think is DUMB.  Lowes, on the other hand, does.  So, instead of buying a complete set from Home Depot for $150, I went to Lowes, bought individual pieces (that I liked better!) and only spent $90 for everything.

Have you replaced your shower set recently?  Did you attempt to switch brands and mess with the piping behind the wall?  I’d love to hear how it went!

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Fixing a running toilet

My downstairs bathroom has had a running toilet since I moved in.  I guess I just didn’t stop and think about all the water that toilet was actually wasting.   Especially since it was such a quick, inexpensive, and easy fix to do.

Here’s what you need:

  • Screwdriver
  • New toilet flapper

Here’s what to do:

1. To check and see if your flapper is old, warped, or just not sealing correctly, put a few drops of food coloring into the tank.  Wait 30 minutes.  If you see food coloring dripping down the sides of the toilet bowl, you’ve found your culprit.  This is the most common fix.  If you don’t see coloring appearing, don’t despair, I didn’t either.

2. Turn the water off to the toilet.

3. Flush (and hold down the handle) to get as much of the water out of the tank as possible.

4. Unhook the flapper from the arm (I replaced my flapper while I was at it– just in case) and unsnap (or disconnect) below as well.  Throw the old flapper away.

5. Attach the new flapper and rehook the metal to the arm.  You might need to adjust the length of the chain– once you turn the water back on you can try different lengths while flushing to see what works the best.

6. Turn the water back on.

7. If your problem isn’t fixed by replacing the flapper, you probably need to adjust the float.  On my toilet, it’s a screw at the top of the float, but in some toilets you’re going to need the tank empty to adjust the float near the bottom.  Look for the part that rises with the water level and causes the water to turn off.  Then, just use your screwdriver to adjust in the opposite direction.  The water should be about an inch lower than the overflow tube top.

Try these two fixes and if you’re still having issues, you’re probably going to need to replace all the toilet tank parts– Home Depot and Lowes sell kits for this.  But chances are, replacing the flapper or adjusting the float should fix your problem.

Replacing Individual Tiles

Or, what I like to call, “Goodbye Ugly Fish!”

So my house has this stall shower upstairs with white 3×3″ tiles– they’ve got a little texture to them and aren’t bright white.  But, the most disturbing part of the shower were the five random fish tiles.  Okay, I understand that people like to accent their shower with painted tiles, but the fish just weren’t doing it for me.  In fact, they felt juvenile and haphazard at best.  I’ve wanted them gone from the moment I moved in, but I didn’t realize until this week how easy that could actually be.

Here’s what you need:

  • Replacement tiles (I got lucky and found mine at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore)
  • Grout saw
  • Chisel & hammer
  • Thinset
  • Grout (I used Custom Building Products) **
  • Rubber spackle knife or a grout float
  • Large sponge

**You’ll need to look at your current grout to figure out if you needed sanded or unsanded grout.  If your grout lines are about 1/8″ or more thick, you probably want sanded grout– it holds up better thicker grout lines.  If you just look at your current grout you will most likely be able to see tiny sand particles in the finish.  I used sanded in my shower, but I used unsanded in my kitchen– all depends on the grout thickness.

Here’s what you do:

1. Lay down a towel to catch debris and to keep debris from going down the drain.

2. Use the grout saw to remove the grout from around the tile(s) you want to remove.  Use a back and forth sawing motion and be prepared for a lot of grout dust.  Get as much grout out as you can.  This will make it easier to remove the tiles whole, but it also separates the tile you want to remove from the tiles you want to keep– which is handy when you have to start chiseling tiles out.  You don’t want to break unnecessary tiles!

3. Use the chisel and hammer to pry the old tile out.  If you remove most of the grout (and your adhesion was like mine), most of your tiles will pop right out.  If not, then just chisel out piece by piece.

4. Use the chisel to get the tile area clear.  Scrape all the remaining grout & thinset away from the wall hole.

5. Wipe off the area with a dry rag.

6. Use a vacuum to clear out the area of dust and debris.

7. Mix your thinset (I cheated and reused some already-mixed adhesive that I had bought for my subway tile backsplash project because I was only replacing a few tiles, but the pros recommend that you use thinset over adhesive or mastic in a “wet” environment like a shower.)

8. “Back butter” your tile and set it in the hole.  Press firmly to get a good hold.  Slide the tile a bit until you have it aligned just right.  You can use spacers to keep the spacing, or you can use painters tape to hold the tile in the correct place.  I used neither and it worked out just fine.

9. Let the shower dry for AT LEAST 12 hours to give your adhesive time to dry.

10. Mix your grout (Finding a matching grout color was the hardest part of this project.  I didn’t take advantage of this, but I’ve been told that at Lowes you can get a grout chart to take home with you to make matching grout much simpler.  I just ended up buying two different colors of grout and using the one that was closest).  You want the texture to be like thick pancake batter or peanut butter.  I didn’t measure, just put some grout powder in the bucket and slowly added cold water until it was the consistency I wanted. Then give the grout 5-10 minutes before you start actually applying it.

11. Use the spackle knife or grout float to get the grout in around the tiles.  Hold the bucket with the mixed grout underneath the tiles to catch any falling grout– this will make clean up that much easier.

12. Give it 10 minutes to start to set.  Then, use the sponge to wash the excess grout away.  Be sure that your sponge is only slightly damp, you don’t want to get the grout too wet.

13. Give the grout two hours to completely set and then you can use cheesecloth or your sponge to buff the haze off.

SO much better!

Cleaning your bathroom fan (with a light)

It was starting to take an unusually-long time to de-fog the bathroom in the mornings after my shower, and when I looked up at the fan vent, all I saw was dust and grime.  Time to clean it out.  Had I known it was going to be this easy I probably would have done it a long time ago.

Here’s what I used:

  • Phillips screwdriver
  • Shop vac (with a brush attachment)
  • dry rag

Here’s how to clean it.

1. Turn off the power.  Safety first.  Make sure that the power is off.

2. If you have a simple fan (without a light), you should be able to pull down lightly, squeeze some pins on the side, and pull the grate off.  If you fixture (like mine) has a light, you’ll need to pull the light cover down first (mine was plastic, but when the sides were squeezed together it popped right off.

3. Remove the light

4. Remove the grating and then look for screws and remove the piece that holds (and powers) the light.  It is likely plugged in (along with the fan)– carefully unplug and remove.

5. Unplug the fan as well.

6. Use the shop vac to clean all the dust and other gross-ness off everything you can see.

7. I was unable to get my fan out of the ceiling, so I used a toothbrush to clean the fan blades and everything else I could see.  This resulted in a dust shower all over the floor, but boy was it exhilarating to get all the crud out of the fan.

8. Once you’re done cleaning everything (plastic grating or plastic light covers can be soaked or rinsed in warm soapy water), plug the fan and light back in the way it was before.

9. Attach the grating and the piece that holds the light back into the ceiling with the screws

10.  Put the light back in.

11. Pop the light cover back in.

12. Turn on the power and test it.

I’ve listened to the difference, and my fan seems to be operating a lot smoother– not to mention my light is a ton brighter after cleaning out the light cover.

What Spring Cleaning projects have you been working on lately?

Sealing grout & tile

When I finished my subway tile backsplash, I sealed the tile so that food and other grime would easily wipe off and not stain my brand-new white grout.  The process was so easy that I decided I wanted to seal the grout & tile in my upstairs shower.  Of course, to do so meant that I needed to deep clean the shower to prep it– something that I put off for a long time.

If you’re sealing newly-laid tile, you can go ahead and just seal it.  If you’re sealing existing tile, make sure you clean it first.  Otherwise you’re just going to seal in the grout stains.

Here’s what you need:

  • Grout & tile sealer (I bought THIS at Home Depot, jut make sure you buy a sealer for the appropriate kind of tile– mine was porcelain tile)
  • Large sponge (I just reused my tiling grout sponge)

What to do:

1. Deep clean your tile.  I ended up using: 1 tablespoon TSP (Trisodium Phosphate, you can buy this at any home improvement store) and 1 gallon hot water.  I used a non-scratching scrubbing pad I bought at Walmart and scrubbed each and every tile.  Soap scum is gross.

2. Deep clean your grout.  Use a 3 to 1 mixture of baking soda to bleach and scrub the grout with an old toothbrush or grout scrubber.

3. Rinse and wipe down everything.

4. Towel dry and let it air dry for a couple of hours.

5. Pour some grout sealer on your sponge and run down and across each grout line.  Work in sections.  When you’ve covered every line, rub the sealer over all the tiles too.  To see that the sealer got into the grout, you should notice the grout turn a littler darker– like it’s wet.

6. Wait 5-15 minutes (depending on your sealer– read the label!) and repeat.

7. Dry-wipe the tiles and give it 24-48 hours to cure.

There isn’t really a dramatic before & after, but the process of sealing should really help.  Remember that tiles requires cleaning, and after enough cleanings the sealer is going to break down.  I believe they recommend that you apply sealer every 6 months.

Have you been working on any bathroom projects lately?

DIY Shelf for a Half Wall

After finishing the stripes I painted in my downstairs bathroom, I decided that I really wanted to finish the poor little half wall.  The top was textured, and for some reason always dirty.  It needed a shelf.  Here is what I started with:

Here is what I needed:

  • 1″ board for shelf
  • Quarter round (already primed)
  • Miter box (THIS is the one I purchased)
  • Finishing nails
  • Nail set (like THIS)
  • Primer
  • Paint
  • Caulk
  • Wood putty

Here’s what I did:

1. I measured the width and the length of my half wall.  I bought a board that would hang at least 1″ on every sides (my wall was 4″ wide, so I bought a 6″ wide board).

2. I measured (adding an extra inch or two for mitered corners) how much quarter round I would need to wrap around the bottom of the board/by the wall.

3. Then I cut the shelf board to size and used my palm sander to get the board really smooth– including the edges.

4. I laid the board on the half wall just to make sure that it fit well.  Then I took it off and primed it while I worked on the quarter round.

5. I measured, then started cutting my first piece of quarter round.  This step was admittedly the hardest.  And I spent a good 15 minutes sitting by the miter box trying to get the angle I needed.  Here is what I figured out.

  • Put your quarter round against the wall you want it, mark the spot where the inside edge will hit the wall.  Do both long walls, then measure the piece on the short end after you’ve cut both long ends.
  • Lay the quarter round with the rounded side down on the bottom of the miter box.

  • Pull the quarter round towards the edge/wall of the box.

  • Put your fingers under the rounded side of the quarter round and gently pull it towards the edge/wall of the box.

  • Line up the your mark with one of the 45 degree saw lines (use the opposite 45 degree angle cut for the other side)
  • Make sure that the angle you’re cutting is correct (mine were all outward pointing angles)

  • Saw through the quarter round

6. Measure your other sides of quarter round and cut.  This is what your angles should look like when you’re done.

7. Make sure your shelf board is hanging over an equal amount on both sides.  Then nail it into the half wall with finishing nails.  Use your nail set to get the nails all the way into the wood without damaging the wood with the hammer.

8. Nail some finishing nails partially into your quarter round.

9. Nail your quarter round underneath your shelf against the wall.  Use the nail set to get the nails all the way into the wood so you can cover those holes with wood putty.

10. Use wood putty to cover nail holes.

11. Paint the shelf and quarter round.

12. Once the paint is dry, use a paint-able caulk around every edge for a seamless look.

I absolutely love  how the shelf turned out.  Now all I need to do is grab some cute vases to set there!

Have you built anything recently?

I’m linking up to Thrify Decor Chick’s April Before & After Party.  Check out some other great projects there!