A quick intro to a not-so-quick post: Let me backtrack 6 months to when we were demo-ing the basement “bathroom”. The half-bath (shown in that thumbnail to the left) in the corner of the otherwise unfinished basement was nothing to rave about; the water to the sink wasn’t hooked up, and while the toilet was functional, it had been leaking for who-knows-how-long and destroyed the raised platform floor. I believe my home inspector called it “spongey” in his report.
The situation didn’t bother me too much; I had a full, non-spongey bathroom upstairs. Sidenote: I’ve heard that many local-to-Rochester, NY American Foursquares are set up to have toilets in the unfinished basement. So weird.
Anyways, Pete claimed it as his bathroom for when he was working in the basement; said it was manly and convenient and he liked it because he could wear his muddy Doc Martens to the bathroom without worrying about tracking the mud up the stairs and across the West Elm bath mats. Fair enough, but that meant that the spongey situation had to be fixed.
We tore out the vanity, and tore out the wall enclosure – you can read about the whole plan here and here. (We’ve been using those materials for various projects, like building the workbench and my gardening storage).
And that brings me back to present day. The toilet and remainder of the platform were the last things to be removed. Basic uninstall of the toilet, and demo of the remaining soggy wood (which went straight to the trash), left us with a blank slate in which to build a new platform on which we could re-install the toilet.
Pete covered the area in sawdust to help absorb some of the moisture that had gathered on the floor. This seemed to help a lot after a day of absorbing and evaporating. Since we knew that the leakage was just from the faulty toilet, we knew the wetness wouldn’t be an ongoing issue.
As you can see in that last picture, the plumbing forces the toilet to sit about 9″ off the ground. Pete figured out how tall the platform needed to be based on that, and built a 3′ x 5′ structure that was tall enough to support the toilet, and wide/long enough to be comfortable for the person using it. Toilet user space is such a classy topic.
Hi, Pete here. Not only did I choose 3’x5′ because it was comfortable, but also because that just happens to be the uncut dimension of HardieBacker® 1/4” Cement Board.
Each board that Pete used in the new platform construction was partially wrapped with plastic; just a little something to help keep the wood from absorbing inevitable moisture from the concrete. You can see it a bit here in this photo with the finished platform and soon-to-be-installed OSB.
The OSB installation was a breeze – it was connected to the platform with basic wood screws. The cement board, unlike the OSB, needed to be mortared and then screwed into place with cement screws, which were bought and used in that step. The next picture, taken at some point between the OSB install and before the cement board was dropped on is decent for scaling the real size of the platform when compared to my feet. And it’s a little mortaring-technique action shot for you guys. Pete’s a blur in most photos I take of him, and occasionally I have to ask for a “FREEZE” to get him non-blurred when I’m using the iPhone.
When it came to tiling the surface of the platform, we were approaching it with a “this-is-our-first-tiling-project-ever-practice-run” for when we get around to doing other projects on my wish list (like the entryway, the bathroom, the kitchen).
I found a whole bunch of tile in my basement from the previous owners, and our full-intent was to put it to use on the platform during this tiling test run. (Read: free!)
They’re neutral gray, and free is just the ticket. It was a good plan until we noticed that they had been previously mortared. Semi-blow to my positive attitude. Before I could get too far with a plan to try and chip off the remaining mortar by hand, Pete observed that the tiles were an odd 6.5″ square size and to fit on the 3′ x 5′ platform, we’d have to do a lot of avoidable tile cutting… without wet saw access. Another blow to my now semi-positive attitude.
I sulked a little bit about missing out on being able to use the free stuff, but got over it when we went to Home Depot and bought the plainest-of-the-plain 12″ ceramic tiles that were clearance priced at a sweet 88-cents/sq. ft. (down from $1.23/sq. ft. which is still mighty cheapola). At least we knew that the even 12″ tiles would fit evenly on our 3′ x 5′ structure without much extra work.
The tiling process was as easy as I could have expected; with the cement board screwed in place, we applied mortar slowly across the platform (and also buttered the backside of each tile, thank you DIY Network). The tiles went down and aligned very nicely, except, oh, see those two missing tiles at the top around the plumbing?
We tried both an angle grinder and a few Dremel attachments to try and cut out the half-circles that needed to come out of each of the two tiles. None of those efforts worked, so don’t even try it yourself; we ended up taking a quick road trip to a friend’s house for some wet sawing therapy before all the hand-mixed mortar dried up on us. It was like the Amazing Race of DIY, the race against the stubborn substance that wants nothing more than to cure in a huge bucket and become unusable. A race against the clock. It was actually Scott from the Hamilton Productions Workpad post + fiancee Sherri that came to the rescue here, and boy oh boy, did we appreciate the last-minute-availability and tutorial on using the wet saw (also the first time using one). P.S. Doesn’t the lawn look so lush over at their pad?
Because the saw only cut straight lines, we cut narrow, parallel strips into the tile, and then chipped each manageable piece out individually. Good technique for a wet-sawing newbie. Write that down.
And yes, we did beat the clock, making it home before the mortar went unusable and got the last two tiles worked into place. We let the mortar set for two days to dry thoroughly.
When it came time to grout, we chose a simple dark gray color that we mixed ourselves instead of buying a pre-made container. I liken it to making your own inexpensive macaroni salad instead of buying the tub of it at the store.
The toilet install was the final step, using a new wax ring and the existing fixture, but noticed that once it was installed it was leaking from the tank.
At least Pete’s handy and knew that this was probably because the rubber washers used on the bottom of the tank were deteriorating and needing to be replaced, so after another trip to Home Depot, he had the parts he needed, emptied the tank, and made the swap.
To clean up the edges of the platform, Pete custom-made trim for the exposed two edges out of wood that had been used in the original bathroom structure. Also, he painted the walls surrounding the area that were dirty (not mold, just a combo of previous water damage and never-painted walls that were hidden in the original half-bath, we think).
Perfect seal, clean space, and a finished basement bathroom platform.
Hi, Pete here, again. Wow, look at the difference between the old, disgusting wall that was covered and the nice, new white from the UGL DRYLOK® Waterproofer. Now I just have to clean the grout off the trim panels I put up and paint them.
Kind of exposed, so knock before going to the basement. I suppose it would decrease the manly rating if I hung a yellow ruffly curtain around the edge?
P.S. You might be wondering where the vanity went. To the curb, baby; it was a 1940’s crumbling mess. There’s a sink in the basement that is totally usable 5 steps from the toilet. Now, where to put the toilet paper?