After months and months of delay, I was finally at a place where I was ready to install walls in the bathroom. I cannot even explain how excited I was to finally feel like I was making progress again. Even though there were a gazillion steps left, it was starting to feel manageable and I could see the light at the end of the tunnel.
With all my framing and insulation in place, it was finally – FINALLY – time to throw up some drywall and backerboard. In deciding where to put backerboard versus drywall, it really came down to where the tile would be. Anything else would have mold-resistant drywall.
While I normally make sure my walls and ceiling are level and flat, I paid particular attention to this detail for the bathroom since the tile will clearly show any unlevelness and the backerboard needs as flat a surface as possible for good tile installation. This meant shimming some of the studs as I went.
The first drywall up was the ceiling and even that felt like progress! The room is approximately 8′ long, so my plan was to install 2 sheets cut to the right length (5′) and call it a day. Unfortunately after I put up the first piece I measured 51″ to the window – just over 4′. Not the end of the world, but it meant I needed two more sheets instead of 1, which also means another seam to fill…
Next, I focused on the exterior wall since it was the most complicated and it made sense to work my way from the back of the room out. The window was the trickiest by far – I didn’t have much to attach the backerboard to and it was extremely drafty. I had a few head-scratching moments, but managed to MacGyver a good backing for the backerboard (thank you, spare pieces of hardwood flooring) and I used foamboard and spray foam to fill in any drafty bits. Luckily (?) it was -10 while I was working on the window, so I could feel any cold air making its way in. It wasn’t pretty, but it worked.
With the exterior wall done, it was really starting to come together.
The other fun bit about the exterior wall was that I had to make sure the shower ledge and window ledge were at a slight angle so any water would run down into the shower (thank you, gravity). I did this by screwing down the front edge (the one closest to the shower) and using big gobs of adhesive on the back edge and pressing down until I got the right angle. Also, it wasn’t just regular construction adhesive – it was adhesive specifically for backerboard (so it doesn’t corrode).
Next was the plumbed wall. Since the entire wall would be tiled, I needed backerboard on the entire wall.
Most of the work in the wall (plumbing and electrical) was done, but we needed to sort out the vanity area before I could complete the wall. I had to finally choose a sink so that we could install the plumbing at the right spot and also figure out the exact height of the faucet, mirror and vanity light.
We struggled the most with the vanity and faucet heights. Because we’re getting a vessel sink and wall-mounted faucet, the standard heights didn’t necessarily apply. And trying to figure out faucet height was particularly difficult. Most vanities sit between 30 and 36″ (the higher being referred to as ‘comfort height’), so we decided to do something in between and put the top of the vanity at 33″.
Most of what I read about faucet height was to place the wall-mounted faucet at a height that wasn’t too high to create a lot of splash but not too low to get in the way of washing your hands. That’s great, but how am I supposed to know what those heights actually are?! The only real recommendation I saw was 6″ above the bottom of the sink, so we went with that.
Once I had everything figured out – the vanity height, the faucet height (also making sure it would look nice given my tile location), the mirror height and the light height – I diligently and carefully marked the wall so I would know where everything was. Alex then installed all the plumbing and electrical based on my markings.
After I added Rockwool in the wall for soundproofing, the wall was ready to be covered (eek!), so up went the backerboard! It looks so easy, but drilling holes in the board for the electrical and plumbing was a pain.
Next I worked on the easier wall (opposite my plumbing wall), which is a combination of backerboard (in the shower) and drywall (outside of the shower). The challenge here was that I wanted the final installed tile and drywall to be flush, so I had to shim the drywall wall out about 3/8″. I also added a trim-tex corner to keep the drywall nice and clean-looking (even though the tile will eventually butt up against it.
Finally, I put drywall on my pocket door wall. Luckily the pocket door came with self-drilling screws that were also the right length, so hanging the drywall wasn’t too complicated. One challenge I had was that I didn’t have a stud at the far side of my pocket door wall to attach the drywall to and couldn’t add a stud because it would have been in the way of the pocket door, so I added a metal corner and used Sheetrock 90 to glue the board to the wall (also making sure it was in the right position and square to the other wall).
With all the walls up, it really felt like a bathroom!
And since I was doing all this mudding and taping in the bathroom, I decided to also hang drywall in the family room and along the hallway. I also put up some temporary drywall sheets so I could install Rockwool along the entire wall but not have it exposed to dust and kids. Now almost all of the family room is drywalled, except the main exterior wall which will eventually hold our entertainment system and fireplace. So no big deal.
Applying thinset to the backerboard was relatively easy. I taped all the seams (using backerboard fiberglass tape) and then applied the unmodified thinset with a regular putty knife. It took a few rounds, mostly because getting the tape to stick on the outside corners wasn’t easy, but it was far faster than mudding drywall. It was also a good trial run for the thinset since I don’t have much experience and I’ll be doing two more thinset applications as part of the bathroom reno.
And finally, the drywall. As much as I hate mudding and sanding, there’s something absolutely satisfying about putting drywall up and getting it paint-ready. I’m also glad that I did the extra drywall in the hallway (outside of the bathroom) and on the ceiling in the family room. As much of a pain as it was, the family room is now looking even more complete.