Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Master Bath Shower Remodel

I wanted to post an in depth overview of how I approach a shower remodel from start to finish. I will show you how I created a waterproof barrier, allowed for expansion while maintaining its shape and function and talk about how water moves in a shower and the walls of your home. As a bonus I will detail about some of the special considerations and unexpected issues I encountered with this and the solutions I applied.

Above is how it looked after tear out, and to the right you can see how I modified the framing to accommodate the Onyx Collection shower caddy. The diagonal pipe you see is from their A/C unit and acts as a drain for condensation. The homeowner was ready to move the caddy to another wall before I showed him how this could be done.

With the Onyx Collection shower base they had selected we had a choice of moving the drain plumbing or furring the back wall the width of a 2x4 and cutting the existing floor tile a little to fit. We did the latter. I placed 2x4s 16" on center horizontally to add some strength and protection from future shifting. I was careful to allow over 3/16" in all directions for the drain pipe from the upstairs shower. Surprisingly this exterior wall had no insulation which I made sure to add.

There was one copper supply line protruding at the base of the wall which I decided to work around to avoid any potential for damage and leaks. Some would want to pound it out of the way, but I would advise against it as this could lead to an especially expensive to fix inside the concrete slab and could have cost the homeowner in both extra water and electricity before it was discovered since this one was the hot water supply line.

Next came the Hardie Backer board the customer had opted to use. In order to work around the copper supply line I mentioned I had to score a small channel in the back of the lowest part of the Hardie Backer board. I would later use a thicker application of mortar for the tile on this side to fully correct the finished tile.

After furring the back wall there was no structure to fasten the edge of the adjacent wall. I ripped scrap 2x4 in half lengthwise and using roughly 16" lengths in a few spots I then attached 2x4 vertically in the corner to secure this edge of the board as shown to the left.

Once all the board was fastened I used alkaline resistant mesh tape on the roughly1/8" seams which I then filled with modified mortar. The gap at the seams allows for movement without compromising the structure and the modified mortar acts to fill the gap for waterproofing while still allowing it to flex without buckling or bulging.

While doing this I also covered all screw heads with the same modified mortar. This is to make the surface easier to waterproof. The next day I used a rubbing stone to remove any loose mortar and smoothed the surface, making a more ideal substrate shape for tile. 

Next I waterproofed the walls using AquaDefense made by Mapei. I carefully applied two coats (used a full gallon), sandwiching fiber matting strips in the corners and over all seams where Hardie Backer board meet. This acts to create a durable layer of a latex-like material which is flexible, stretchable and waterproof. The fiber is used to increase the durability of the membrane in the areas most likely to fail. The product is also designed to be a good substrate material for tile work.

Now for the tile work!

The most important step of a successful shower tile install is creating at least a 3/16" gap between the bottom of your vertical tile and the horizontal base below. This will later be filled with chalk, usually a color match of the grout. This is done to allow your base and walls to move relative to each other without cracking, buckling or other stresses causing the tile to fail as well as to keep the grout out of any standing water which it could then transport up or along the wall. It is a good idea to keep grout lines small and seal them in any direct water installation also.

Another important note is the placement of your board relative to the base. You will want to allow at least a 1/4" gap from the top of the base (including the flanges if using a manufactured base) to the bottom of the board. This is done to prevent water from climbing from base to wall behind the tile and becoming trapped.

There are books written solely on how water travels in a home, how geography, climate and even the direction of the sun affects how water will behave and the best building practices to manage water migration. Here I will simply say homes breath much more than most people think and moisture is present in practically all outside air at nearly all temperatures. Problems with moisture in homes usually only manifest when it has no route to escape through evaporation and is trapped as a liquid. This is why most homes in the southern part of the US do not use a complete vapor barrier on either the inside or outside of the external wall cavity.

Ok, back to the tile:

I know, I skipped a lot. Like how I used a laser level to pattern the tile from the center of the drain and counted courses to plan how the shower arm (the little pipe for the shower head) would land in the center of a tile rather than on a grout line. How I used a 4' level and a suction cup to keep the tile vertically plumb and the 1/2x1/2x1/2 trowel I used across the short dimension of each tile to eliminate as much air in the mortar as possible for the best adhesion. I also cleverly used scrap tile as the substrate for the mosaic at the top instead of floating it into a deeper mortar.  Anyway, there you have it for now.

Wait, what is up with the wall cap? is it really bigger at the top than the bottom? Not for long!

This is one of the issues I came into during the install. It turns out both walls are parallel, but both are also leaning left. There are many ways this could have happened, but to correct how this looks I used a new corner bead on the lower left side and along the middle and upper shower side. Using drywall compound to feather the wall on the left side and fill the corner on the shower side I created a consistent and plumb wall cap. This also required removing and replacing the baseboard.

To finish I filled all angle joints with color match chalk, grouted the tile work, inserted the caddy with clear silicone and sealed the outside edge with color matched chalk. I later installed the door by carefully drilling holes into the tile using a specialized drill bit with diamond dust similar to what dentists use and inserting wall anchors to fasten the rails. I completed it by sealing all edges inside and out with clear chalk. Feel free to comment or contact me if you have any questions or would like my services.

The homeowners have told me they are very happy with their new shower and commented specifically on how much they appreciate the extra attention to detail. I really enjoy what I do.

All pictures posted were taken and posted with the consent of the homeowners

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Easter is one of my most revered holidays and I had the privilege of working with a fellow churchgoer, Luke, on a special project for our church this year. I can only take credit for lending a helping hand to ensure the safety of the base as the idea for this nearly fifteen foot cross as well as nearly all materials came from Luke.
Before building this cross I also had the honor of helping Luke enhance the stage area with taller walls. Again much of the credit belongs to Luke as well as others who helped to make this possible.
We also added custom shelves to the back for our musicians' instruments.
Our work was a hit with the congregation  and I look forward to working with Luke and others as we continue to add more improvements to the stage in the future.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

On Saturday 11/5/2016 two homeowners requested a solution to water escaping below the semi frameless bypass doors of their newly installed shower. When the doors are closed there was a gap greater than 1/4" between the sloped bottom track and the innermost door. This allowed some of the water to splash out onto the floor and nearby wall.
These homeowners had significant water damage issues in this room months ago which I had urged them to tear out and reconstruct as soon as possible. Their homeowners' insurance covered specific contractors for the repairs which were performed. When these contractors had concluded their work and seemed to reach the limit of what they would come back to address, they called me.

I knew I could not add directly to the door because of the track guide on the bottom middle and discussed with the homeowners their preference of door use and position. I brainstormed overnight with function and aesthetics in mind and was able to deliver this the very next day:
I custom made this piece on site from a section of aluminum angle iron. I cut it to size and added five holes drilled at an angle precisely to allow any water in the channel to drain.

For the best function I recommended the doors be used in the same configuration each time the shower is in use. I let them know specifically why this was a better option than adding track to both sides, which is to keep direct water from the exposed "U" channel on the other side. This makes it more effective, safer and easier to clean and keep clean.

As always, I consider it a privilege to work on another's home and strive to reflect this in my approach and workmanship. I made sure these homeowners knew they can contact me if anything I have done requires further attention or to tackle the next item on their home to-do list.

The pictures in this blog are posted with the express permission of the homeowners.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Here are the latest two jobs I have done for my customers:

On Wednesday 08/03/2016 I finished work on this engineered solution for a customer whom wished to have this Kohler shower faucet set installed on an existing Moen volume control valve. I used stainless steel threaded stock, lock nuts, set screws, 3/8 inch pex and the valve stem adaptor from the Kohler kit. I drilled the adaptor for set screws, tapped the holes and sandwiched the bent end of the threaded stock with lock nuts into the adaptor. I was able to securely fasten the valve stem adaptor to the valve stem using the existing screw and the handle directly onto the threaded stock. This custom configuration allows the handle to reliably control temperature by twisting and on/off with flow control by pulling or pushing. This customer had been unable to find anyone willing to attempt this without buying a compatible handle set trim kit and/or replacing the valve assembly for some time before she asked me.

On Monday, 08/08/2016, I completed the replacement of a pedestal sink with a preselected cabinet which I modified to fit. Spent a day doing all of the custom work to make the cabinet the exact size and shape to fill the alcove which was about 4 1/2 inches shorter from front to back. This included shortening the drawers and draw pulls while maintaining the rest of the interior of the cabinet and reattaching the back before carefully setting the cabinet in place and fastening it to the wall. I also had to color match paint to this varied cabinet color using color pallets to find the closest overall match. I used the paint to match the two fillers on either side which precisely filled the spaces for a seamless result. I custom ordered the vanity top from The Onyx Collection. I had it made to dimensions the website suggested were too small for the desired sink. I keenly went over the bowl styles and dimensions and made sure it would work. They were willing to work with me once I detailed my plans with a template and how each piece would fit together. I also saved the customer money by planning to cut it to shape on site and drill the faucet hole after it was installed. The notched front right corner was done to maintain a factory finish for eye appeal as well as to allow the side to fully fit the odd shape of this alcove. I also performed many minor alterations to the room such as chiseling concrete at the back base of the cabinet to allow the cabinet to stand properly, cutting the baseboard on both sides and using hidden spacers to secure the cabinet from the sides. This customer commented a few times while I was working about why the previous owners of the home had opted for a pedestal sink instead of a vanity in this half bath. They were extremely pleased with the results especially since it matched the other two bathroom vanities' top, cabinet and sink style.

The pictures posted here are from genuinely satisfied customers' homes with their express permission.

 Since these two jobs I have been doing mostly routine maintenance jobs and getting my new business going. I will post more projects as I do them!

Hi, my name is Ryan and I am starting this blog to promote my new business, Professional Jack. As I work on special projects I will post about them and, with the permission of my customers, include pictures showing how I was able to make a difference. I plan to specialize in:

- Bathroom Remodeling
- Interior Plumbing

I also do:
- Home Theater
- Sound Systems
- Special Projects
- Odd Jobs & More

I am an authorized dealer of "The Onyx Collection" cultured granite and cultured marble surfaces and accessories. You will see my handy work with their products from time to time.

I often complete jobs employing creative solutions. I have studied the basic sciences and engineering at an accredited university. I have also spent three years at a top home improvement retailer in Austin as a coveted resource delivering solutions to common and unique problems alike. I am genuinely excited to offer my direct services to those in Austin, Round Rock, Hutto, Pflugerville, and Cedar Park, TX.
Thank you,
Ryan M. Carlow
Professional Jack, LLC. Founder