Whether you have pre-primed walls or the wallpaper is glued directly to the wallboard, I have the easiest and best-looking ways to get rid of wallpaper! Save yourself time and a headache with my tips to get rid of wallpaper.

2 Ways to Get Rid of WallpaperHow to Get Rid of Wallpaper (Remove It or Paint It)

Having owned two houses built in the 70’s, I’ve dealt with my fair share of wallpaper!

Did you know there are really only two types of wallpaper when it comes to getting rid of it?

  1. The Easy to Remove Kind
  2. The Pain in the A$$ (what idiot didn’t prime the drywall—oh screw it let’s just replace the drywall) Kind

I’ve dealt with both kinds and am happy to share with you the easiest way to get rid of both! Yes, even if the wallpaper is glued to the drywall (no primer between the two). Grrrr!

In a perfect world, we’d all be dealing with removable wallpaper. Unfortunately, removable paper is a relatively new invention. Back in the day, it was either pre-pasted wallpaper or unpasted wallpaper where you had to apply the glue first.

Today I’ll go over two easy proven techniques for getting rid of wallpaper permanently!

How to Strip Wallpaper:

You don’t need a steamer to strip wallpaper. And you don’t have to buy chemical strippers. All you need are a few things, most of them you can find in your house.

Materials:

(I’ve included affiliate links for your convenience. I earn a small percentage from a purchase using these links. There is no additional cost to you. You can read more about affiliate links here.)

Let’s go over the easiest way to remove wallpaper. Always test this removal process in an inconspicuous corner first. If the wallpaper doesn’t come off easily, skip down to How to Paint Over Wallpaper tips below.

How to Remove Wallpaper:

This is the easiest way to remove wallpaper and it won’t cost you a lot of money buying a steamer or other tools. You’ll definitely need a scorer though.

  1. Use a scoring tool to perforate the wallpaper with lots of tiny holes.
  2. Fill a spray bottle halfway with cheap liquid fabric softener. Fill the other half with warm water.
  3. Spray the wallpaper with the fabric softener mixture until it’s saturated.
  4. Let it sit for 15 minutes.
  5. Saturate the wallpaper again with the fabric softener mixture.
  6. Let it sit another 10-15 minutes.
  7. Use a flat drywall knife or scraper to gently pull up a corner or seam.
  8. Pull the wallpaper off the wall.

Preparing Previously Wallpapered Wall for Painting:

It is imperative that you remove all the wallpaper pieces and any glue residue from the wall before painting. Here are the steps to properly prep your wall for painting:

How to Install a Tile Backsplash (Tile setting) | Pretty Handy Girl

  1. Fill your spray bottle with 1 part warm water and 1 part liquid fabric softener.
  2. Spray the mixture on the walls.
  3. Use a sponge saturated in the mixture to wash the walls and scrub off any pieces of wallpaper remaining.
  4. Fill a bucket with clean water. Dip your sponge in the water.
  5. Scrub the wall to remove any remaining fabric softener or residue with a clean sponge dipped in water. Refill the bucket with clean water often.
  6. Allow the walls to dry. Fill in any holes or dings with joint compound or (my favorite) Patch Plus Primer. Allow to dry.
  7. Then lightly sand with a fine-grit sandpaper. This will smooth any imperfections and leave you with a smooth and clean wall.
  8. Prime the walls before painting.

How to Paint Over Wallpaper Effectively:

If you’re reading this section, first let me say, I’m sorry you have the pain-in-the-a$$ kind of wallpaper. Rest assured, there is a solution and it’s not as bad as you think. You can paint over your wallpaper after you prep it properly.

How to Patch a Hole in Drywall | Pretty Handy Girl

  1. Make sure to glue down any seams or areas that are peeling up (you can use any thin glue, even school glue if you like.)
  2. Use joint compound to cover all the seams (don’t use drywall tape).
  3. Let the joint compound dry, then sand smooth to eliminate any appearance of the seams.
  4. Prime the wallpaper and the joint compound before painting.
  5. Paint to your heart’s content and no one will ever know you had wallpaper underneath.

I know some people are horrified at the idea of painting over wallpaper, but I assure you we’ve painted over wallpaper in several rooms in our house because the wallpaper was glued directly to the drywall. We have had no issues and you can’t see any seams. It’s been almost 15 years and they are still holding up fine.

So, let this be the day where you finally decide to get rid of that wallpaper once and for all! Whether you are successful at stripping wallpaper, or you have to seal the seams and paint it, you can say goodbye to that old, garish wallpaper once and for all!

Let’s hear from you, what’s the ugliest wallpaper you have or had to remove? I’m all ears (thankfully not eyes).

I know you’ve all been patiently awaiting another Millie’s Remodel update and today I have just that for you! Come see the drywall installation (one of my favorite phases in construction) and find out how I’m dealing with critters in the attic.

Millie's Remodel: Drywall Update and Critters

Millie’s Remodel: Drywall & Critters

I’m excited to share the next Millie’s Remodel update. If you can’t wait to see inside, scroll to the bottom of this article and take the video tour. In the last update, I shared progress in the framing, plumbing, and electrical department. Luckily, the inspection passed after one minor change. I got very lucky on this project and had one multi-trade inspector who was willing to let me send him a picture of the one item he asked for once it was complete. Because we were able to do that, he passed us that same day.

Like most permitted home construction projects, it’s important to pass inspections for your rough-ins (plumbing, electrical, and HVAC) while the walls are open. You also need to have insulation installed as long as it allows the inspector to be able to see the plumbing and electrical.

angled view of new electrical sub panel and view down hallway

My electrician ran into a snag requiring a little more demolition. But it was no big deal. I grabbed my favorite demo tool, a flat shovel, and removed the section of the wall he needed to get into. Of all the tools I’ve tried, I love how the flat shovel slides into the side of the drywall and can press on the opposite wall for leverage without worrying about ripping a hole in the other wall. Once the wall was opened, my electrician was able to remove the old wiring and add a new box for the switches.

Pocket Door Installation:

While my electrician worked on wiring the switches, I installed the pocket door hardware in the laundry room/powder room. The instructions for this thing are horrible, so it took me a little longer than expected. Maybe I should offer to re-write the instructions for them, what do you think?

Pretty Handy Girl installing pocket door kit

Before the drywall stage, I take pictures and/or videos to refer back to when I’m trying to find the studs. In the kitchen, I made the smart decision to write measurements from the wall on the studs and blocking. Then I could refer back to these notes in the video when it comes time to hang the open shelving.

Once the drywall installers arrived, the house started to feel a bit crowded, so I headed up into the attic to take care of the critter problem we had.

During the inspection, we found a lot of animal feces in the attic. I’m not talking about little mouse droppings (although I’m sure there were plenty of those in the insulation), I’m talking large animal feces like a raccoon or possum would leave behind. I found many holes in the attic and in the crawlspace. I think the interior wall between the bathroom and the kitchen was a rodent highway. The chimney also didn’t have a cap on it, so I added one in case the animals were getting inside there.

The last spot where animals could get into the attic was along the gable ends through the attic louvered vents. To keep birds and bats from flying into the attic, I installed hard cloth mesh inside the vents.

Here are some spots to look for critter entrances:

  • Rotted siding or trim boards
  • Gaps around plumbing pipes
  • No cap on your chimney
  • Louver vents without hard cloth mesh
  • Attic vents without hard cloth mesh
  • Gaps in the crawlspace or attic framing

Purple Drywall:

In the bathroom and kitchens, I had my drywall contractor install Purple drywall to avoid mold issues in the future if there ever is a water leak. Click here to learn more about how purple drywall works to prevent mold.

Speaking of preventing mold and water intrusion, the area around the tub will receive Kerdi waterproof boards in the future. I can’t wait to show you how this product works. I love working with it.

Closet to Pantry conversion:

In the narrow hallway across from the kitchen was a coat closet, but I felt it would work better as a pantry. You can watch in the video to see how I added melamine shelving in the closet to make it function as a pantry.

Goodbye Popcorn Ceilings:

I knew I wanted to get rid of the popcorn texture on the ceilings, so I tested it for asbestos. The popcorn came back negative, but the joint compound did have a small percentage of asbestos. Rather than risk disturbing the joint compound, we decided to cover it with a layer of drywall. This was such a quick and easy solution I will definitely do this again to cover popcorn. Once the drywall was up and primed, it was remarkable how much brighter the rooms were. Did you know popcorn ceilings make rooms a little darker because the light can’t reflect as easily off a textured ceiling? The new drywall and priming all the walls took care of most of the funky odors in the house.

Improved Floorplan:

The biggest change in the look of the house is the open concept kitchen. During demolition, I removed the corner walls in the kitchen to open the floor plan. With the drywall installed, I can really get a feel for how the kitchen and living spaces will function.

millies-remodel-floor-plan-before

Speaking about function, the new laundry/powder room will be a much more functional room. You may remember the house only had one bathroom, and the laundry room was only accessible from outside the house. The exterior door was removed and a transom window installed to allow some light into the room. I installed the pocket door to maintain enough space for a toilet and a sink creating a much needed second bathroom. Unfortunately, neither bathroom is useable right now. Instead, I have a port-a-potty in front of the house that is used by my subcontractors and several passersby (including the mailman who uses it everyday.) I will be so happy to get rid of it and have a toilet inside the house to use!

Exterior Updates:

Outside the house has changed considerably now that my siding contractor has removed the vinyl siding to reveal the original wood siding. I have plans to paint the entire house, but for now, let’s keep going.

removed-old-siding to reveal wood siding white and brick front house

In the backyard, I have plans to try to move the ugly shed to the back of the lot, but honestly, I’m not sure it will survive the move. It’s really not built well.

Ready to take the video tour?

That’s it for the update. I’ll be back soon with another progress update. Have a great week!

A special thank you to the Millie’s Remodel Sponsors:

The Millie’s Remodel project sponsors have donated materials for the Millie’s Remodel project. As you know I am very particular about the brands I work with and recommend. As a general contractor, I choose the products used on my projects wisely to make sure they last a lifetime. Therefore, I have no reservations putting my name behind each and every one of these sponsors.

millies remodel sponsors logos

If you want professional-looking tile floors (regardless if you want to do it yourself or hire someone), you must read this article to find out what tiles to buy, how to avoid cracked tiles, and risk a finished tile floor that is less than professional-looking.

11 Must See Tips for DIY Professional Looking Tile Floors11 Must-See Tips for Professional Looking Tile Floors

I’m here to tell you, YES, you can lay your own floor tile and achieve professional-looking results if you learn a few tips and tricks. First, can I share a secret with you? Seven years ago I thought I had to hire a tile installer when we had our mudroom tiled. I wish I knew then what I know now because I would have kicked that installer out of my house immediately. I still have to look at some of the issues he left behind pointing to a less than professional looking tile job. (Insert Angry Face Emoji!)

But, I completely understand if you still want to hire a professional tile installer for any number of reasons:

  • No time
  • Don’t have the tools
  • Physical disabilities (tile-setting is tough on the back and body)
  • No desire to install tile

Did I miss any reasons? If I did, leave me a comment below letting me know why someone wouldn’t want to embark on a DIY tile flooring project.

Before we get to my tips, I want to give you a little education on tiles. Especially if you had problems previously and thought it was your fault the tile job didn’t look professional. Believe it or not, your issues may have been caused by cheap or poor quality tiles. Say what?!

How to Spot Poor Quality (Cheap) Tiles:

Did you know those tiles you are saving a boatload on may not be quality tiles? Did you even know there were inferior quality tiles? Yes, it’s true. A few years ago I hired a tile installer to help me tile some of the bathrooms in the Saving Etta project. (Yes, I could have done it myself, but I’d still be tiling if I did everything myself.) When I first met the installer, he asked me about the tiles I had purchased. I showed him the boxes and he opened several to inspect them. This is what he was looking for to determine if they were cheap tiles:

  • Color – Pull tiles from several boxes (if possible) and check to see that the color is consistent for one color tiles. (Obviously, if they are supposed to vary in color and pattern that’s okay.) Regardless, you should always pull tiles randomly from several boxes when laying tile.
  • Size – Pull random tiles from several boxes and stack them together. They should be identical. Poor quality tiles can vary up to 1/8″ in size. This will cause issues especially if you are using a small grout joint.
  • Printing – Many ceramic or porcelain tiles are printed to look like real stone today. Take a close look at the surface. Is the printing evident? Do you see small dots like a printed newspaper photo? If you can’t see them easily, the printing was well done.
  • Thickness – In addition to the overall dimension of the tiles, you should check the consistency of thickness.
  • Warping – Are your tiles perfectly flat or do they bend? See below for a picture of two 4″ x 12″ tiles that show some bowing in the center of the tiles.

(To eliminate accentuating this defect, you wouldn’t want to install these tiles with a 50% offset (shown below). Instead, a 25 or 33% would be a better staggered joint pattern.)

bowed tiles at 50% offset shows shadows and lippage

  • Wedging – Square and rectangular tiles should be cut square. Out of square tiles could would impact your tile job and show up especially in the grout joints.

Typically you can expect good quality from tiles that are labeled as Standard or First Grade. Second grade tiles will have more variations in appearance. Independent tile shops are the best place to purchase good quality tiles. They typically sell to designers and tile installers, but also sell to the general public. Granted, you will likely pay more. But, you know the old saying, you get what you pay for.

Picking Tiles:

Tiles are tiles, right? Wrong, there are many tiles that would not be suitable for a floor. And some tiles are not good for high traffic areas. Finally, some tiles are not a good fit for showers. How can you tell which tiles are best for use in specific areas?

Floor Tiles vs. Wall Tiles:

Floor tiles must be strong enough to handle walking on and an occasional dropped item. Did you know there’s a rating for tile strength? It’s called a PEI rating.

A PEI of 1 is ideal for walls. PEI of 2 is best for bathrooms and kitchens. And a PEI of 3 is appropriate for all residential applications. Meanwhile, PEIs of 4 and 5 are applicable for commercial and heavy commercial applications. When shopping for tiles, they may not have the PEI rating displayed, but there should be a notation if they are acceptable for floors and walls. If you don’t see a notation, ask a salesperson or check with the manufacturer.

Avington Black & White Cement Tiles from TheBuilderDepot.com

How Slippery Are Your Tiles?

Floor tiles must meet certain criteria for COF or coefficient of friction (basically how slippery the tile is.) But, different areas need different COF values. Let’s talk strictly for residential purposes (because commercial and business sites are a whole other beast). Floor tiles in a bathroom with a shower or tub must meet a greater than .42 DCOF test.  Tiles that score less than .42 would only be appropriate for areas that will be kept dry or walls.

Polished tiles tend to be more slippery. Tiles that have texture usually score better on the DCOF test, but depending on how textured, they can be harder to clean.

Are marble and natural stone tiles good for floors?

Oh the beauty of real marble! I know, I know, I love marble too, but would it be a good choice for your floor? This depends on several factors. The first being the use of the room. If using in a kitchen or room with a lot of traffic and opportunities for spills, you’ll want to steer clear of marble and stone products that can wear or stain easily. Of course, you can seal your tiles, but the upkeep will be a lot more than porcelain or ceramic tile. But, if you are okay with your floors showing off natural wear and patina, go for it.

Porcelain vs. Ceramic – What’s the Difference?

Porcelain tiles are stronger and more dense than ceramic tiles. They don’t absorb as much moisture as ceramic tiles (Porcelain tiles must be tested and absorb at 0.5% or less to be certified porcelain.) Because they absorb less, porcelain tiles are more ideal for shower floors or areas that stay damp or humid. While porcelain tiles will usually be stronger, thicker, and less porous, they can be tougher to cut and more expensive. Ultimately you can use ceramic tiles on your floor, as long as they meet a 3 or higher PEI rating (as discussed above).

How Many Tiles Should I Order?

Typically most tilers would suggest you order anywhere from 15% -20% extra for your job. If you are using small tiles, you can order as little as 10% overage. Usually, I order 15% because it’s better to have a few left over to keep on hand should you ever have to replace a tile. Besides, it’s a real pain if you run out of tiles mid tile job.

Know Your Finished Height:

If you are picking out tiles, be sure you know the difference in height of adjoining rooms. Choosing your floor tile can mean the difference between perfectly matched floor levels or the need for a transition strip (or worse, a step up or down!) Luckily there is a transition strip for most floor differences.

Tools:

(I’ve included affiliate links for your convenience. I earn a small percentage from a purchase using these links. There is no additional cost to you. You can read more about affiliate links here.)

I’m a big advocate of having good tools. Having a good tile cutter means the difference between flying through a tile job or having it drag on for an eternity. A good tile cutter also reduces waste because they cut tiles cleanly.

When possible, I prefer cutting the majority of tiles with a scoring tile cutter. It’s quicker, a lot less messy, and clean up is as simple as brushing off the platform.

Occasionally I’ve run into tile that resisted cutting on my scoring cutter (thick porcelain tiles usually fall into this category). For those tiles, I use my wet saw. A wet saw can also cut angled and corner cuts into the tiles. I’ve used the same inexpensive wet saw for years, but when it dies I’ll upgrade to a bigger wet saw.

Recently I started using an angle grinder with a diamond blade for more precise intricate cuts or to knock off a small amount. It works faster and is less clean up than the wet saw for those intricate cuts.

Finally, if you are tiling a shower, you’ll inevitably need to cut a hole in your tiles around a pipe. For that task, I use a drill with a diamond hole saw.

My Tile Cutting Tools:

Now it’s time to learn my top tips for a professional-looking tile floor. If you are a newbie and want to learn the basics of tiling, you’ll find these two lessons helpful: Learn How to Set Tile

and Learn How to Grout.

Okay, let’s learn how to get those professional tile results that will even fool the pros!

11 Must See Tips for Professional Looking Tile Floors:

Over the years I’ve taken several courses on tile setting and worked directly with several professional tile setters. From each experience, I’ve learned a lot and now I want to share the things I’ve learned with you so your next tile job comes out beautifully.

In my video you’ll get to see the progress at the Millie’s Remodel project as I tiled the kitchen floor. I decided to incorporate the tiling tips I’ve learned into the video for you.

Watch the video for the tips and how I install floor tiles:

You can also watch the video on YouTube if you prefer (especially if you want to click on the links to the other videos I mention).

1. Flat and Sturdy Subfloor:

Like building a sturdy house, your foundation is super important. When you walk on your floor does it flex, bounce, or squeak? If so, you need to solve these issues now. Use a level and rest it in several different areas (and directions on your subfloor). Are there low spots, high spots, or a slope? If you have dips or valleys in your subfloor, you can’t get a good tile job that will last. If your floor isn’t sturdy and flexes, you will have cracked grout, or worse cracked tiles.

As specified by the TCNA (Tile Council of North America), you want no more than 1/4″ difference in 10′ and no more than 1/16″ within 12 inches. If your subfloor isn’t flat, you can learn how to level your floor here.

If you have a wood subfloor, make sure your wood substrates have the manufacturer’s recommended spacing (typically 1/8″ gap between plywood sheets.) Backer board or uncoupling membranes should be laid onto the subfloor before tiling.

Never tile directly onto new concrete. In fact, keep reading to learn why I use uncoupling membranes and how to prevent your tile job from being ruined by expanding or contracting concrete.

2. Consider Using an Uncoupling Membrane

In another previous post, I shared how to apply the orange Schluter Ditra waterproof membrane before tiling. The Schluter Ditra material also acts as an uncoupling membrane which prevents cracks in your tiles and/or grout.

After taking the Schluter workshops, I will never tile a room without an uncoupling membrane again. As a bonus, their membranes are waterproof. No more need to worry about water soaking into your subfloor and causing mold to build up.

3. Use a Good Tile Cutter

Using good tools will help your tile job go smoothly and it will keep your tile cuts from looking like a jagged mess. If you can’t afford to buy good tools, look into renting some, or ask a fellow DIYer if you can borrow theirs. (Always clean their tools before returning them. Nothing irks me more than dirty tools.)

4. Layout Tiles Ahead of Time

If you’ve heard that spending time doing the prep work will save you time in the long run, nothing could be more true than when tiling. Before I start any tile job, I always lay out my tiles first. I dry lay them out to see what I’m dealing with. First I layout a run of tiles along the length of the room and position the tiles to avoid having to cut a small sliver of a tile at either end. Then I layout a run along the width of the room making adjustments to avoid the same situation.

If I have printed tiles, I separate them into piles by their individual print design. Then when I pull tiles later I pull from different stacks. I also step back to make sure two of the same tiles aren’t next to each other (like in the example below thanks to that so-called professional I hired).

Nothing screams rookie tiler louder than two printed tiles being installed next to each other. And in the same orientation!

5. Leave an Expansion (or Movement) Joint

Despite what you might think (especially if you have perfectionist tendencies), you do not want to cut and install your tiles tight against the wall (or other objects in your room like columns, pipes, or walls.) You must leave at least 1/4 inch around the perimeter of your room or around immovable objects. Not adhering to this rule can lead to your tile floor popping up or tenting (See this article for a photo of tenting tile.) Additionally, you need to install a movement joint in any interior room at every 25 feet in each direction. However, if this room is exposed to direct sunlight or heat, you’ll need an expansion joint at every 12 feet in each direction.

6. Use Recommended Trowel Size

Tiles come in all shapes and sizes and therefore they require a variety of trowels. Be sure to check with the specifications on your tile to find out the trowel size. Or ask your tile shop representative for their recommendation. Using a too-small trowel with large tiles would cause the tiles not to adhere to the surface. And too big a trowel with smaller tiles will make it difficult to level the tiles.

7. Back Butter Large Tiles

When tiling a floor with large tiles, back buttering is a must. Typically I’ll spread the thinset mortar onto the floor and trowel through it. I’ll use the excess to scrape a thin layer over the back of the floor tile. This accomplishes two things:

  1. It keys mortar into any voids on the back of the tile.
  2. It ensures full coverage on the back of the tile.

If you don’t back butter large tile, you run the risk of having air pockets behind your tile which can sound hollow when walked on or cause the tile to pop up.

8. Use Leveling Spacers

Leveling spacers are a relatively new product, but I will never tile a floor without them again. I’ve tried several brands but prefer the wedge-shaped leveling spacers. The wedges are inserted into the tile spacer and ratcheted tight to bring tiles to the same height as the adjacent tiles. You can see how they work and how to remove the spacers in my video above. (It’s a lot of fun removing them as you’ll see!) Using leveling spacers virtually eliminates lippage on tiles.

wedge shaped tile spacer leveling two tiles

9. Clean Thinset Off Tiles

Anyone who has had to clean dried thinset mortar off tiles will never make the mistake of letting it dry on tiles. When tiling, keep your area clean. Be sure to clean off any mortar on surrounding tiles. In addition, make sure to clean thinset that squeezes up between the tiles. You want to make sure you have enough room for grout to set on top of the mortar.

10. Use Grout with Sealant

Grouting is the final step for any tile job, but if you didn’t add a sealant additive to your grout, you will need to seal the grout after the fact. I don’t know about you, but the last thing I want to do after tiling a floor is hand paint sealant on all the grout lines. And if you skip sealing all together you’re going to hate keeping the grout clean.

11. Plan Your Transition Pieces Ahead of Time

One thing that will truly set your tile floor job a notch above is using sleek transitions. Personally, I prefer using Schluter profiles strips for my floor transitions. There are a variety of finishes, sizes, and styles. Some of the profile strips are laid under the tiles for a stronger bond. Others are installed after the grout has cured. In the Millie’s Remodel kitchen, we had a big change in height between floors. I ended up using the the Schluter Reno-V profile which has an L shaped piece that slides under the tile edge during installation. (You can see the way it works in my video.)

However, in the Saving Etta house, I used simple Schluter Schiene profile strips between tile and wood flooring.

How to Speed Up Your Tile Job:

It helps to have a helper when tiling. Once you mix thinset or grout, you’re on the clock. Both will harden within a set time. If you have a helper, you can give your helper the task of cutting tiles or changing out your dirty water buckets, or mixing more thinset mortar. Speaking of mortar, never mix more than you can spread before hardening. As an experienced tiler I try not to mix more than 1/3 of a 50 pound bag of mortar. Otherwise, you’ll be left with a big boulder of thin set when it hardens.

If you can’t get a helper, make sure to fill multiple buckets with clean water before you begin. It also helps to cut some of your perimeter tiles ahead of time.

Tip for Working with Grout: You can slow the curing time of your grout if you set your mixed grout into a second bucket filled with ice water to slow the curing process. I show this in more detail in my grouting tutorial.

Best of luck tiling your floor.  I know you can do this.

After demolition, I realized several water leaks left some low spots in the kitchen floor at Millie’s Remodel.  Today I’m going show you how to use self-leveler to fix a sagging floor.  I’ll also show you a few tools you’ll find helpful when pouring self leveler.

Tips & Tricks to Self-Level a Floor at Millie’s Remodel

Can I level with you? LOL. Seriously, when I bought the Millie’s remodel house I knew there were some plumbing leaks. But, I had no idea how much damage the water had done to the floor in the kitchen. I discovered a pretty decent hump in the middle of the room with low spots on either side. To combat the hump my assistant, Stephanie, and I secured cedar shakes to the floor in one of the low spots. Then we laid 1/2″ OSB plywood on top. This helped a little bit with the bow, but we still had some issues.

One corner of the room was 3/4 of an inch lower than the other corner. Plus you could still detect the hump. I decided the best way to deal with the dips, hump, and creating a flat surface to tile onto was to pour a self-leveling concrete in the kitchen.

Prepping the Room for Self-Leveling Concrete Pour

Before pouring self-leveler, you should understand the properties of this mix. When you first mix the product, it’s very liquid and will flow to the lowest spot in your floor. It’s important to seal any cracks or gaps in the floor or your mix will seep through the cracks. You also need to cover any vents or you’ll watch all the mix pour into your ducts (no bueno!)

I like to use rigid foam insulation to prep the perimeter of the room. This creates a form and keeps the liquid from flowing outside the room. I use a sharp utility knife to cut strips from a big 4×8 sheet of rigid foam insulation. I found it easiest to use my trim nailer to nail the pieces to the perimeter of the room. Then I sealed the joint where the insulation and subfloor meet with a line of caulk. If you’ve never mastered spreading caulk quickly and cleanly, you’ll want to see my tutorial for using a caulk gun.

Now that the prep work is done, you’ll need to gather a few tools for this project.

(I’ve included affiliate links for your convenience. I earn a small percentage from a purchase using these links. There is no additional cost to you. You can read more about affiliate links here.)

materials for self-leveling concrete project

Materials:

Optional: Work boots you can clean off easily

Priming the Floor:

Self-Leveling floor primer

Before pouring the self-leveling concrete, read the directions on the bag. Most leveling mixes specify you apply one coat of primer to a clean floor and let it dry before pouring the self leveler.

Tips for Spreading Self-Leveler:

Watch this video to see how we quickly and efficiently spread the self-leveling concrete mix:

Can you believe how helpful a simple garden rake is for spreading self-leveler? Me either!

After pouring your self-leveler, use a long level to check to see if you need to pour in more areas. Finally, use the concrete float to smooth and feather the edges of the self-leveling material into the floor.

Stay off your concrete pour until it has hardened. Make sure you clean any self-leveler off your tools, boots, or areas you don’t want it to harden onto.

After the self-leveling concrete has hardened, you are ready to tile or install your flooring!

I hope you found this tutorial helpful! Are you subscribed to my YouTube channel? If not, you’re missing out.

P.s. You might also find this tutorial helpful if you have a concrete floor that is damaged or chipping. Follow this tutorial for patching a damaged concrete floor.

 

A special thank you to the Millie’s Remodel Sponsors:

The Millie’s Remodel project sponsors have donated materials for the Millie’s Remodel project. As you know I am very particular about the brands I work with and recommend. As a general contractor, I choose the products used on my projects wisely to make sure they last a lifetime. Therefore, I have no reservations putting my name behind each and every one of these sponsors.

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We recently completed Habitat for Humanity Bathroom Renovations in a Weekend.

I don’t usually work for others, but when the executives at my local Habitat for Humanity office asked me to come in and take a look at their dated bathrooms, I said I could. But, I quickly stated I don’t traditionally offer my general contractor services to anyone. Most of you know that Habitat for Humanity is one of my top charities. And for good reason! Our local Habitat for Humanity has built over 600 homes to help address the affordable housing crisis in our area. I would do anything for this organization, but renovating two bathrooms wasn’t a job I’d usually tackle unless it was for one of my own properties.

However, when I saw their sad and dated twin bathrooms, I changed my mind about offering my services. I knew I could improve the bathrooms as a way of thanking the employees for the work they do for our community. I also knew it would be a great way to keep busy before closing on Millie’s Remodel. Between Habitat for Humanity’s calendar and mine, we finally settled on the last weekend before I signed the contract on Millie.

In my head, I thought it would be a quick two day renovation easily accomplished over a weekend. Instead, it turned into a four day marathon working into the evening on two of those days. In an effort to explain my faulty time estimation skills, I submit two facts:

  1. I’m an overly optimistic person. I will always see the glass half full.
  2. I’m not the sharpest math person and forgot to multiply my time by two for two bathrooms.

Oops! Luckily, I got some help from two local friends: Sophie from @TheHipperFam and Stephanie from @UncommonOutpost. Without their help, I might still be working on these bathrooms.

The Before:

Although the pictures look dark, what you can’t see in these photos is the horrible flickering fluorescent light fixtures. The lighting was so dismal, I knew I had to change out the fixtures. Because no matter what updates were made, the lighting would always act as a wet blanket on the new look.

The old vanities were both built for handicap accessibility which left no room for storage under the sinks. Therefore, each bathroom had a ReStore salvaged kitchen cart to make up for the lack of storage. But, the carts were dirty and looked out of place in the bathrooms. I knew I had to come up with a plan to get rid of them.

Speaking of dirty, the walls definitely needed a new coat of paint. The grime and scuffs were everywhere.

The Design:

For the design plans, I challenged myself to work within a small budget and use as many items as possible from the Habitat ReStore. With this in mind, I created a plan in Photoshop and submitted it to Habitat for Humanity for approval.

Luckily they loved the design idea and gave me the go ahead to renovate the bathrooms. But, I kept a few things secret from them. After all, what fun is a makeover project without a little surprise, right?!

The Renovation Plan:

  • Electrician to replace CFL tube lights with LED Recessed Can Lights
  • Pretty Handy Girl build storage cabinet and one handicap sink frame
  • Plumber to Remove Sinks and Toilets
  • Remove all Fixtures from Bathroom
  • Remove Flexible Vinyl Baseboards
  • Clean and Patch Walls
  • Clean floor with TSP Cleaner
  • Paint Walls
  • Lay Waterproof LVT Flooring
  • Sand and Prep Reclaimed Lumber
  • Install Reclaimed Wood Wall
  • Install Vanities
  • Add Wood Baseboards and Paint
  • Plumber Replaces Toilets and Installs Faucets
  • Add Mirrors, Art, and Replace Fixtures
  • Stand back and admire the renovation results (and snap a few pictures)

Let the Habitat for Humanity Bathroom Renovations Begin:

A few days before I started the renovation, my electrician stopped by the offices to swap out the old fluorescent lights with brighter (and less flickery) recessed LED lights. Immediately the room felt brighter, but it wasn’t as bright as I had hoped. To help lighten the space more, I chose light paint shades for the walls. The colors I selected are from Magnolia Home Paint Line because I loved working with the paint in the Saving Etta house.

The handicap accessible bathroom was painted Carter Creme. I knew this color would look beautiful with the reclaimed wood wall and add a little warmth to the room.

Carter Creme paint color by Magnolia Home Paint

I would have liked to use the same color in the other bathroom, but the vanity color  was already a cream color and I didn’t want to draw attention to the slightly dated vanity color (or accidentally match it). Using Cloudy Gray, a paint color with cool tones, helped tone down the warmth of the vanity and provided some contrast.

Cloudy Gray paint color walls by Magnolia Home Paint

Both paint colors were light enough to do wonders for improving the light in the windowless bathrooms.

After painting, Sophie and I worked the afternoon to lay LVT waterproof flooring (also from the ReStore) in one bathroom. The flooring went in very easily, but we did have to slow down to cut around the toilet flange and the doorway.

After Sophie left, I tackled the second bathroom floor, working late into the night. It’s amazing what a difference the new waterproof LVT flooring made in these bathrooms.

On Sunday, Stephanie helped sand and prep reclaimed lumber from the ReStore for installation. We ran out of weathered boards, so had to improvise with a vinegar and steel wool concoction I whipped up the night before. My friend, DIY Pete, has a great tutorial for making this solution here. After the boards were dry, she and I clad the back walls of the bathrooms with the reclaimed lumber.

To achieve the striped look, we alternated the weathered side with the protected side of the wood. These boards were originally subflooring in an old house, so they have lots of character, nail holes, and a beautiful warm color. To protect the boards from water and to keep them from flaking, we coated them with a clear varnish.

Finally on the afternoon of Day 4, I gave my plumber the go ahead to come back to install the new toilets (courtesy of Wilkinson Supply Co.) and the sink faucets. Stephanie and I worked feverishly ahead of him trying to hang the mirrors and art.

We replaced the dated oak mirrors with pretty gold framed ones. I found the first mirror super cheap at a thrift store.

The other one was a gold art frame from the ReStore. I replaced the picture with mirrored glass and it looks like it was always a mirror!

This is a little message area was created by screwing two drawers (salvaged from the ReStore) together and adding cork and a clip board.

The handicap bathroom needed additional storage since it didn’t have a sink cabinet. To solve the issue, I built this little wall cabinet using an old window from the ReStore.

Then I added a little reclaimed door latch to keep the door closed. Hooks on the side are for hanging up a purse or light jacket.

Two Bathrooms in One Weekend – The Reveal:

Are you ready to see the final results? First here’s a reminder of what the bathroom looked like four days earlier. (The new LED light was already installed by my electrician in this photo.)

Habitat for Humanity Bathroom Renovations

And here’s what the same bathroom looks like now!

Originally I thought we could secure the sink base to the studs. But, after discovering the studs were all metal, we decided to add one leg to the front corner of the sink apron for more support.

The art quotes were created by reusing ReStore art frames. I simply created some watercolor art and added the quote in Photoshop.

Habitat for Humanity Bathroom Renovations

The twin bathroom looked like this before:

And now!

The sink vanity was from the ReStore. We were lucky the Raleigh ReStore has a huge selection of donated cabinets.

Habitat for Humanity Bathroom Renovations

I documented the entire renovation on video, hopefully, you’ll enjoy watching the whole Habitat for Humanity Bathroom Renovations process.

Want to Help Habitat for Humanity and Work Along Side Me?

Have you ever wished you could work next to me? Learn some tricks and tips of the trade? Well, now you can! I’ve signed up to volunteer for this year’s Women Build, She Nailed It Campaign with our local Habitat. This is a one day opportunity to help build a house with ALL WOMEN! Don’t be intimidated, you won’t be asked to do anything you aren’t comfortable with. But, you may gain a little empowerment and learn a new skill or two!

Habitat for Humanity Women Build Charlotte, NC | Pretty Handy Girl

The date is Saturday, September 28th in Wake Forest and I’d love to meet you there and share a day of swinging hammers. What do you say? Want to join me? If you can’t, but still want to contribute, please make a donation to the Women Build Campaign. Even the smallest donation will help us accomplish our goal.

Again, I have to give a huge shout out to Sophie from @TheHipperFam and Stephanie from @UncommonOutpost who came to help me on this project and gave up their weekend. Also, a big thank you to ALM Plumbing and Wilkinson Supply Co. for donating the toilets.

I hope you liked the video. If you aren’t subscribed to my YouTube channel, definitely do so now to stay up to date on all my tutorials and renovation projects!

Subscribe to my YouTube Channel

See you all soon.

Be sure to pin this image to share how to accomplish a bathroom renovation in one weekend!

 

How to Install Privacy Film on WindowsHow to Install Privacy Film on Windows

Do you have a window in your house that puts you on full display? Or maybe your neighbor’s house is very close to your’s and you feel like they can see in your window (especially a bathroom or bedroom window.) Sure you can add curtains or blinds, but then you won’t get the natural light you want from your windows. Today I have the solution to your privacy needs without blocking the light. Let me show you how easy it is to install privacy film to your windows with professional looking results.

Materials:

(I’ve included affiliate links for your convenience. I earn a small percentage from a purchase using these links. There is no additional cost to you. You can read more about affiliate links here.)

About the Privacy Film:

Before we begin, I have to tell you when Stick Pretty approached me about using their product I was thrilled to find they have some very attractive options for privacy film! Those of us that shop at the big home improvement stores know the options for privacy film are fairly limited. Feast your eyes on just a few of the beautiful adhesive film patterns Stick Pretty has to offer:

And there is a semi-transparent option for blurred viewing (less opaque.)

That’s not all. You can also order any of the patterns in a sheer adhesive film to dress up your windows. All the adhesive window films are customizable with white, fog, mushroom, or black designs.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Stick Pretty also sells tile decals (to brighten your tiles or cover up ugly tiles.)

And they offer decorative adhesive panels for use on walls, furniture, or anywhere your imagination can think of.

If you find yourself falling in love with any of the products on the Stick Pretty website, don’t forget to get 20% OFF your order if you use the code: “PrettyHandyGirl” at checkout.

Now, on to the tutorial for installing privacy film on  your windows.

Instructions:

Watch this quick video to see how easy it is to install privacy film to any window.

Step 1. Clean

Use glass cleaner and a lint free rag to clean the window really well. Make sure there’s nothing on the glass that will stick under the adhesive film (which would stick there forever until you take it off).

Step 2. Measure & Cut

Measure each pane of glass on your window. Add 1/8 of an inch, because it’s better to cut the film too big. We will cut off the excess at the end.

Transfer your measurements onto the privacy film. Use a sharp x-acto blade and a metal ruler to guide your cuts. Apply gentle pressure as you cut the film.

3. Installing the Privacy Film

Carefully peel up your privacy film and take it to the window immediately. If you wait, dust can settle onto your film.

The key to a really good adherence of the film to the window (with no bubbles or wrinkles) is to use a mixture of water and a few drops of dish soap in a spray bottle.

It also helps to use a good squeegee.

Spray a liberal amount of the water and soap mixture onto the glass. If you find the film sticking too much to the glass, spray more of the mixture onto the glass.

Line up the film at the top. Using your hands, push from the center, down and out to set the privacy film. If needed, lift the film and reposition.

Use the squeegee to push out any water and air bubbles. Again, working from the center out and top down.

Use a clean rag and run it along the edges to clean up any water that has squirted out.

Step 4. Trimming Excess

If your film is too large and overlaps off the glass, take a sharp x-acto knife and cut off the excess. Peel off the trimmed excess.

Then squeegee the film again and clean it up any water from the edges.

You can see the difference between the regular window glass and the glass with privacy film on it below.

Half installed window privacy film see the difference

After installing your privacy film, you may see some ghosting between the film and the window. As long as you have pushed all the air bubbles out of the film, the ghosting should go away after a few days. (Can you spot the ghost spots in the picture below? Within 48 hours they had disappeared.)

Hopefully this tutorial will help someone reclaim some privacy in their home without giving up natural light! Pin this image to share with a friend:

How to Install Privacy Film on Windows

Friends, I have a question for you:

I decided to let the video tutorial guide you through the process on this tutorial instead of the usual step-by-step photos. Let me know what you think and if you miss the photos when there is a video tutorial. Thanks for your feedback.

Disclosure: Stick Pretty sent me the privacy film at no cost to try out on the Saving Etta project. I was not told what to say. All opinions are my own. If you use the coupon code: “PrettyHandyGirl” on the StickPretty.com website, you will receive a discount and I will receive a small percentage of the sale. As always, I am very particular about the brands I represent on this website and will always let you know if you are reading a sponsored post or if I received free materials.

If you liked this tutorial and want to add a layer of security to your glass doors or windows, you’ll appreciate my tutorial for adding security film to your home.

How to Add Security Film to Glass Doors & Windows | Pretty Handy Girl

How and Why You Should Install a Smart Lock on Your DoorHow and Why You Should Install a Smart Lock on Your Door

Smart locks have been around for a while, but I’ve been slow to jump on the bandwagon and install a smart lock. I worried they might be tricky to install and had heard stories of the technology being glitchy (although I can’t find a lot of concrete evidence beyond this firmware update glitch that left 500 LockState locks completely useless.) However, after installing a Schlage smart lock on the Saving Etta house, I am a converted technophobe.

If you’ve never installed or used a smart lock before I have some considerations for you when deciding How and Why You Should Install a Smart Lock on Your Door.

Why are Smart Locks are a Good Investment?

If you’ve ever had the unfortunately situation of locking yourself out of your home, with a smart lock this is a thing of the past! You only need to remember your code! Do you hire contractors or cleaning people to work at your house? Now you don’t have to take off work or give them a key if you aren’t home. Set up a temporary code for each person and remove the code when they are done. The same can be done for guests or for an AirBnB property.

Do you have kids old enough to let themselves in after school? Why not give them a code so you don’t have to worry about them losing a key and you can keep track of when they got home.

Finally, if you’ve ever had that nagging feeling that you left the door unlocked, you can rest easy by simply checking or locking the door remotely from your smart phone.

What if I told you a smart lock can also help lower your homeowner’s insurance and could be a selling feature when you sell your home? Is there really any reason  you wouldn’t want a smart lock? There may be, so read on.

Some Things to Consider Before Buying a Smart Lock:

  • Do the centers of your deadbolt and door knob holes have at least 5 ½” between them? (If not the interior circuit and alarm unit may not fit.)
  • Does your deadbolt hole equal 2 1/8″ in diameter?
  • Does the deadbolt and door knob hole backsets equal 2 3/8″ or 2 3/4″ from the edge of the door to the center of the holes?
  • Is your door thickness 1 3/8 – 1 3/4″ wide?
  • Is the latch bore hole in the door frame at least 1/2″ – 7/8″ deep?

If you couldn’t answer yes to all of these questions, a smart lock may not be right for your current door.

If you have a door that requires you to push hard, pull up, or hip check it, you will need to make adjustments to your door before installation. Why? A smart lock is activated by an electronic mechanism. The deadbolt needs to move freely into the frame to work properly.

Do you have a smart phone? If you don’t, you can still use a smart lock, but understand that you can’t take advantage of all the remote features.

Most smart lock run on batteries, but many needs Wifi or Bluetooth to handle features performed on your phone remotely. Obviously these functions may not be available if the power is out in your home. For this reason, it’s always good to carry a back up key on your keychain.

Some experts say smart locks can be hacked, but most standard locks can be picked or opened with brute force. Both have their limitations. I’d recommend doing further research if you are concerned about smart lock security.

Finally, there is the cost to consider. Smart locks aren’t cheap, but as I mentioned above, they can save you money on insurance or give you more money in your pocket when it’s time to sell.

How Hard is it to Install a Smart Lock?

Installing a smart lock to your entry door may seem like a hassle, but it’s actually a fairly simple installation anyone can accomplish.

For some reason I thought the install would be more difficult, which is why I installed the ho-hum satin nickel knob and deadbolt on the Saving Etta house door. Sadly, it stayed on the door for months. As the completion date neared, I thought I’d need to clear an hour or so to install the Schlage Smart Sense lock. Boy was I mistaken, it took less than 30 minutes!

Let’s give your home a smart upgrade by installing a smart lock today. Here’s how to install the Schlage Smart Sense Deadbolt in thirty minutes or less.

(I’ve included affiliate links for your convenience. I earn a small percentage from a purchase using these links. There is no additional cost to you. You can read more about affiliate links here.)

How to Install a Schlage Smart Sense Deadbolt:

Remove the Smart Sense Deadbolt from the box and make sure you have the booklet included. This booklet has the programming codes and must be kept in a safe place. DO NOT THROW IT AWAY!

Materials:

Instructions:

First check to make sure your deadbolt engages freely into the door frame and deadbolt strike plate.

Remove the existing hardware.

Also remove the existing strike plate from the door frame. Then install the reinforcement plate into the door frame using the longer reinforcement screws. (Pay attention to the wording on the reinforcement plate telling you which way to orient the plate.)

Install the new strike plate on top of the reinforcement plate.

Insert the new bolt into the door (if you have a circular faceplate in the door, you’ll have to swap the rectangular plate with the round one in your kit and use the hammer and block to tap the bolt in.) Secure the bolt to the door.

Close the door and use the flat head screwdriver to test the locking mechanism. Does the deadbolt seat properly in the door? If yes, move on. If not, make any adjustments to your door now.

My door needed some adjusting (a shim behind one of the hinges to square up the door) before the deadbolt could open and close freely. 

Now that the bolt seats properly, add the keypad to the outside of your door (be sure to feed the cable through the door and under the bolt as you seat the keypad.)

The cable should be positioned under bolt and exit on the interior side the door.

Add the support mount to the interior of the door using the mounting screws provided. The support mount is stamped with the words TOP and AGAINST DOOR. Be sure to orient the support accordingly. Make sure the support mount and keypad are straight and plumb before tightening the screws.

Remove the top cover on the alarm unit.

Attach the cable to the back of the interior alarm unit.

Carefully attach the alarm unit to the support plate. You may have to turn the knob to line up the slot in the back of the alarm unit with the tab in the bolt.

Secure to the mounting plate with a screw in the middle of the until and a second screw above the circuit board. (Please note: Schlage recommends using a hand held screwdriver instead of a drill. I’m a rebel, what can I say?)

Remove the battery tray inside the alarm and insert four AA batteries.

Replace the battery tray with the batteries facing the door. Re-attach the battery connector.

Make sure not to turn the deadbolt knob until you set up the keypad. Replace the cover.

Now it’s time to test your keypad. Grab the brochure and locate the default codes on the sticker. Press the Schlage logo. The keypad should light up.

Enter the default code and the deadbolt should go through a set up routine. Let it finish, then close the door from inside the house and test the lock using the thumb turn. The bolt should still be able to open and close freely. (If not, make any adjustments to your lock or door as necessary.)

Now you can test the keypad entry. Take a key with you as you step outside. Close the door and press the Schlage logo. The door should lock.

Press the Schlage logo again (the door should stay locked.) Now enter one of the default codes and the green check mark should illuminate and unlock the door.

Your new Schlage Smart Sense deadbolt lock is now set up.

To manage your new smart lock, download the Schlage Smart Sense app on your smart phone and follow the instructions. You can also set up new codes, or lock and unlock it remotely.

Schlage has an installation video if you have any questions about this installation. Watch it below:

The Schlage Smart Sense Deadbolt was fantastic to have on the Saving Etta house. I was able to program temporary codes for the subcontractors and deactivate them after they finished their work.

I will definitely be looking into adding one of the Schlage Smart Sense Deadbolts  to my own home. Especially because my boys are always misplacing their keys. 😉

Disclosure: As a sponsor of the Saving Etta project, Schlage sent me the Smart Sense Lock for the house. I was not told what to write, all opinions are my own. 

Pin this image to help others learn more about smart locks!

 

Want to learn how to drill new door knobs holes?

How to Drill New Holes for Door Knobs

Or maybe you want to learn how to replace the other door knobs in your home:

How to Replace Door Knobs and Deadbolts | Pretty Handy Girl

Saving Etta: Kitchen RevealSaving Etta: The Long Awaited Kitchen Reveal

Thank you all so much for your patience with me as I put together the final Saving Etta updates. I have more to come, but for now I know you’re anxious to see the Saving Etta kitchen reveal. Get settled down with a nice cup of coffee or hot chocolate because there are many photos coming your way!

Before I show you this beautiful modern farmhouse kitchen, I want to thank the Saving Etta sponsors who made it all possible!

Plygem, Broan-Nutone, Impressions Hardwood Collection, Leviton, Ask for Purple Drywall, Wood It’s Real, STIHL, Schlage, Duluth Trading Company, Magnolia Home Paint, KILZ, Jeffrey Court Tile,  The Builder Depot, Wilkinson Supply Co., Designer Drains, Liberty Hardware, and Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery

My Big Fat Crazy Push to Finish

Remember when I told you I was on a tight deadline? In early October, I had an inkling that I needed to get the house finished and listed for sale within 6 weeks. My husband thought I was crazy (and in hindsight I probably was).  Market strategists had been predicting a downturn in the fourth quarter of 2018 and I could tell things were starting to get inflated near downtown Raleigh. Surrounding homes were selling for more and more since I bought Etta in May of 2017. I felt a strong need to get the house on the market before things slowed down for the holidays. This meant a final push and a self imposed crazy work schedule for me.

My day started at 5am to shower, eat, and get my sons out the door. We’d leave the house at 6:45 to drive my eldest to school. After dropping him off I’d head downtown. By 7:30am I’d arrive at the house and get straight to work planning out the tasks for the day. My subcontractors usually showed up at 8:30 or 9 am. They took a break for lunch but then got back to work until about five o’clock. By then, it was solidly dark and my subs headed home to their families. I usually worked until about 8 or 9 pm and grabbed dinner at one of several fast food restaurants on my way home.

Once home I had just enough time to answer emails and throw some tools and materials in the truck for the next day. The good part about my crazy schedule was I usually fell asleep easily after a long day’s work. The bad part was I packed on about ten pounds eating mostly fast food (even though I rarely sat still all day).

Lest you think I was working inside a cozy climate controlled house, I wasn’t. It was early November and the cold weather had set in. I bundled up and warmed myself in front of the space heater from time to time. I even bought a little used Keurig single serve maker to be able to drink warm coffee and tea. We didn’t get the gas meter hooked up and approval to run the heat until the day before the open house (almost a month after tiling the backsplash.)

Was it all worth it? Absolutely! The house turned out amazing and I was pleased with the final results. And just a little reminder of what the kitchen looked like when I bought the house (you can see more progress shots in this kitchen update post):

Saving Etta - The Story of Saving a House Built in 1900 | Pretty Handy Girl

Saving Etta - The Story of Saving a House Built in 1900 | Pretty Handy Girl

Ready to see the kitchen? Without further adieu…

The Saving Etta Kitchen Reveal

This is just one angle of the kitchen. You can read how I installed the cabinets with some help from my husband and a good friend here.

gray shaker cabinets with subway tile backsplash and stainless steel hood from Broan

I love the sleek stainless steel range hood I chose. It’s the Broan RM533004 30″ Chimney Hood. And you can see how it was installed and why I had to act as supervisor.

Plygem mira window with facet pendant light and subway tile

This kitchen sink, faucet, pendant light, and the window brought me joy, partly because they all lined up perfectly! Anyone who does kitchen renovations knows it can be hard to center all these elements with each other during the rough in stage without the cabinets or countertops in.

As I mentioned the other day, the pendant light was a swap I made after the first light wouldn’t cooperate. I took down the first pendant light and replaced it with this modern geometric pendant and pendant light kit from Lowe’s. I really like the open cage, no glass shade to clean!

Plygem Mira black framed casement window over bronze faucet subway tile open shelving

The window is a Plygem Mira casement window. It has a folding hand crank for opening to let in fresh air, but the handle tucks neatly out of the way when not in use. All the Plygem Mira windows in the house operate smoothly and look gorgeous! Especially with the simulated divided light grilles. You can read more about the windows and how they are installed in a new construction house.

Plygem Mira black framed casement window over bronze faucet subway tile open shelving

Just outside the window is one of the reclaimed doors I saved from a series of 1890-1920 houses that were slated for demolition. Behind the door is a little shed off the side porch.  It’s nice being able to gaze on that gorgeous wood door while at the sink. Plus, the homeowners can see anyone pulling in the driveway from here.

PHG using Mirabelle kitchen sink sprayer

You may have noticed that beautiful faucet! It’s a: Mirabelle Calverton Pull Down Faucet in oil rubbed bronze. The finish on this faucet is beautiful and unlike anything I’ve seen before. Ferguson Bath, Kitchen, & Lighting Gallery stocks the Mirabelle line of kitchen and bath products (and provided the faucet and sink for the Saving Etta kitchen). If you’ve never been to a Ferguson showroom, you have to go! Especially if you are getting ready to remodel your kitchen, bathroom, or build a new house.

Mirabelle Faucet by Single Basin Sink

The sink is a Mirabelle Totten Single Bowl Granite Composite Sink (also available from Ferguson Bath, Kitchen, & Lighting Gallery). The granite composite is definitely a material I wasn’t familiar with. It has a very slight texture but looks like a cast iron farmhouse sink. Luckily it’s not as hard or as heavy as cast iron. Which makes it easier to install and more forgiving if you drop a glass or dish in the sink.

Plygem Mira black framed casement window over bronze faucet and gray cabinets

When I was finishing up the house, I was going to forgo staging and save some money. But, after seeing how pretty this kitchen was and how empty everything felt, I opted to hire a local stager. I discovered Minted Spaces on Instagram and immediately fell in love with Aryn’s design style. I knew her staging would appeal to a wide variety of buyers. In the end, they did a phenomenal job staging the Saving Etta house.

reclaimed lumber open shelving modern farmhouse style with glasses

These open shelves aren’t just your random reclaimed lumber. Nay, they were made from the original mantel shelf! When I decided to salvage and re-use the 1900 mantle from one of the front rooms, I didn’t think about trying to purchase gas logs to fit inside the old mantel. Unfortunately once the fireplace was installed, I realized I needed to widen the legs to make it work.

reclaimed lumber open shelving modern farmhouse style with glasses

Luckily I work with a local salvage company who found some longer lumber to match the old mantel shelf. After we rebuilt the new fireplace mantel surround, I wasn’t sure what to do with the old shelf until I realized I could cut it in half and use it for the open shelving. At first I was going to round the cut ends, but decided to leave it because it helps tell the story of it’s origin. (You can see the re-built mantel in the background below.)

All together, I’m so happy with this area of the kitchen. It has the perfect blend of modern and aged rustic elements.

Open modern farmhouse shelves on subway backsplash

The Pantry

For some reason, I came up with the idea to paint the interior of the pantry black. It might have stemmed from my desire to do something different in there. Originally I thought about wallpaper, but I knew patterns are a personal preference, and one pattern may be loved by one person and hated by another.

When I saw photos of Blackboard from the new Magnolia Home paint line, I envisioned how the food labels and packaging would look in front of a dark background. The colors would stand out for certain! Although Magnolia Home partnered with me as the paint sponsor for the Saving Etta house, my last minute decision on the pantry color lead me to my local Ace Hardware to purchase a gallon of blackboard.

Pantry with Reclaimed door and microwave. Black walls

That’s how I found myself painting this little pantry Blackboard by Magnolia Home Paint. One concern I had was how durable the paint would be in the pantry. After cleaning off dirty finger prints and dings on the rest of the walls, I knew this paint could withstand a fair amount of scrubbing. But, I didn’t expect it to perform like this!

You may recognize that wood door as a twin of outside shed door. It was salvaged from the same house being demolished. For some reason this door has a much more unique wood grain on the panels than the shed door. At first I thought about covering up the grain, but the more I saw it the more I fell in love with the uniqueness of the lines.

Pantry with Reclaimed door and microwave. Black walls

We can’t forget the beautiful glass door knob. Did you think it was an antique knob salvaged from an old house? What would you say if I told you it’s brand new and you can buy these knobs for your house! Schlage was also a sponsor of the Saving Etta house and they provided me with those beautiful Schlage Hobson Glass Knobs with Century Trim.

Gray shaker style kitchen cabinets and stainless steel dishwasher

The huge island in the kitchen was a must for this space. (And because I wish we had the room in our kitchen for a big island!) The side closest to the refrigerator has two cabinets with five drawers total.

Liberty Classic Square and Lombard pull on gray shaker cabinet

The cabinets have beautiful iron knobs and pulls. The Liberty Hardware Classic Square Cabinet Knob in Soft Iron are supposed to be installed as squares, but I turned them on an angle to reflect the diamond theme from Etta’s exterior. The Liberty Hardware Lombard Cabinet Pulls have the same soft iron color and a square end to match the knobs. I love how soft and sleek the pulls feel in your hand.

island cabinets on seating side

The other side of the islands has two more cabinets with shelves inside for extra storage. This side also has a one foot overhang for extra seating. I bought these cute Liberty Brand Acrylic Faceted Knob with oil-rubbed bronze and copper for a change from the rest of the cabinet hardware.

Leviton gray usb charging outlet in gray island

You might recall I installed this USB charging outlet in the side of the island. I love that Leviton has colors to match almost any wall or cabinet color you can dream of. You’ll notice the same outlet in white below.

White subway backsplash open reclaimed wood shelving

The countertops are Carrara Venatino Quartz from Cosmos. I love the look and how similar it looks to marble without the softness of real stone.

liberty lombard kitchen cabinet pulls and carrara quartz countertops

The larger scale Jeffrey Court 4 x 12 Subway Tile backsplash really makes this space in my opinion. They are classic but also modern. The white tiles provide a nice contrast against the gray cabinets.

Subway tile backsplash, gray shaker cabinets, stainless steel range hood from Broan

The light fixture over the island is from Houzz. I’m not going to link to it, because frankly I’m not very pleased with the quality and it was a pain to install (remember I had to go hunt for the parts.)

Beautiful modern farmhouse reclaimed open shelves subway tiles and carrara quartz countertops

The Impressions Hardwood Collection Elegance Series wood floors throughout the house are beautiful! They are the real deal, solid white oak floors with wire brushing to give them an aged look. You can find out more about the wood floors in my post about why I couldn’t save the original flooring.

I am proud of how the kitchen turned out. I poured a lot of thought and effort into the design and tried to envision how the kitchen would function for future homeowners.

Modern Farmhouse Kitchen in a 1900 historic house

I hope the kitchen reveal was worth the wait. What did you think? Do you like the fixtures I chose or if not what would you do differently?

Kitchen Sources:

A huge shout out to all the brands who sponsored the Saving Etta project and helped me turn this ugly duckling…

Saving Etta - One Woman's Journey to Save a House Built in 1900 | Pretty Handy Girl

…into a beautiful swan again.

saving etta beautiful restored 1900 house near downtown Raleigh

I hope you will consider using some of the sponsoring brands when you are ready to take on a new kitchen, bath, or renovation project in your home.

Which were your favorite elements in this beautiful kitchen?

Disclosure: I received materials and/or compensation from the sponsors of the Saving Etta project. These were the kitchen sponsors: Plygem, Broan-Nutone, Impressions Hardwood Collection, Leviton, Schlage, Magnolia Home Paint, KILZ, Jeffrey Court Tile, Liberty Hardware, and Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery. I was not told what to write. All opinions and words are my own. As always, I will notify you if you are reading as sponsored post or if I was compensated. Rest assured I am very particular about the brands I work with. Only brands I use in my own home or that I’ve had a positive experience with will be showcased on this blog.

Saving Etta: Kitchen Tile UpdateSaving Etta: Installing the Tile Backsplash & a Mistake I’ll Never Make Again

Last week you got to see how the range hood was installed (and how I averted disaster during the installation.) Today I’m sharing more kitchen updates. We’re going to dive into tiling a backsplash and one mistake I’ll never make again.

Before we get started, I want to give a big shout out to my sponsors! These brands came together to help me save Etta and I am incredibly grateful.

(I’ve included affiliate links for your convenience. I earn a small percentage from a purchase using these links. There is no additional cost to you. You can read more about affiliate links here.)

After hiring tile setters to lay the bathroom and mudroom floors, I chose to save some money by tiling the backsplash myself. After all, I consider myself fairly experienced at installing backsplashes after I tiled three walls in my own kitchen and wrote a tutorial to help you learn to tile.

Fall Decor in a Rustic Farmhouse Kitchen | Pretty Handy Girl

Light Fixture Installation Woes:

Shortly before tiling, my electrician joined me late one night to finish installing the light fixtures in the kitchen. My sons and I had already installed all the recessed can lights. But, I let my electrician handle the remaining fixtures. Especially because I was on a tight deadline to get the house finished and on the market before the holidays.

electrician hanging pendant light

This guy standing on plywood at 9pm at night, is my knight in shining armor. Harvey has been my electrician for over six years and he’s helped me solve electrical problems on multiple occasions.  The thing I love most about him is he always pushes me to take on the smaller electrical projects myself. When I wanted to hire him to install a switch for an automatic door activated light in our pantry, he explained the process then left me with these parting words, “Call me if you get stuck.”

Most light fixture installations are straight forward and simple, but we had several issues with the lights I ordered for the Saving Etta house. One of them was missing parts to attach the hanging hardware to the canopy that attaches to the ceiling box. Harvey sent me to a nuts and bolts store. I kid you not, it was an obscure hardware store I never knew existed in Raleigh. Walking through the door, was like walking back in time. Picture Michael J. Fox stepping into the soda shop in Back to the Future. The gentleman working the counter looked at my light fixture parts and started searching through aisles of fasteners, nuts, bolts, screws, and who knows what else. Ultimately he found a nut that would work for our light. Hallelujah.

The gentleman took my credit card and I nearly laughed as he ran it through one of the old carbon copy credit card machines. If you’re too young to know what this is, I leave you this video for your education. For the rest of us, enjoy a trip back in time.

Back at the house, Harvey had finished installing the pendant light over the sink. But, something looked off. The pendant shade wouldn’t hang level no matter what we tried. Ultimately, I took it down and replaced it with a modern geometric pendant and pendant light kit from Lowe’s. In my opinion, the light is perfect for the modern farmhouse look I was envisioning for Etta.

Plygem mira window with facet pendant light and subway tile

Countertops:

After the cabinets and range hood were installed it was time to call the countertop fabricators. The owner arrived and took measurements, then he sent me to look at slabs in the local granite and stone warehouse. I took my youngest with me and we watched in awe as a huge robotic arm lifted giant slabs of quartz and granite for customers to view. You can join us as we are looking through the slabs in my Facebook Live video:

Can I share something with you? I’m not a big granite fan, although I saw some amazing slabs at the warehouse. Instead of granite, I chose a marble looking quartz. The quartz is called Carrara Venatino from Cosmos. I think Cosmos has it manufactured especially for them. If you like the countertops, you can see if there is a Cosmos distributor near you.

Liberty Lombard - cabinet drawer pulls

The countertops are one of my favorite finishes in the kitchen. I almost wish I had used them in our own kitchen instead of the recycled glass quartz countertops. My only complaint about the Carrara Venatino is it tends to scuff easily. Belt buckles and rivets leave gray lines that look almost like pencil marks on the edges. It’s not a huge deal as they seem to wipe off with a rag and some cleanser.

Tiling the Backsplash:

The backsplash turned out beautiful and definitely attracted a lot of attention in this open concept kitchen. I used Jeffrey Court 4″ x 12″ white subway tiles from Home Depot. The subway tiles have a timeless classic look and the larger size meant the install was a little faster than standard 3×6 subway tiles.

subway tile backsplash being installed

There were two particular evenings I stayed crazy late. I had to bust my butt to finish the tiling. Pretty Handsome Guy came one night to help, and brought Jersey Mike’s for dinner (see if you can spot my ingenious use of the trash as a faucet cover). The hubby got a crash course on using the wet saw and after about a dozen practice cuts, he finally got the hang of cutting tiles. (He still has to pick up some more skills before he can have the name Pretty Handy Guy. Have I mentioned he’s not the handy person in this marriage?) But, without his help I might still be tiling that backsplash! (Okay, that might be a bit of an exaggeration.)

Tiling can be a solo job, but it really helps to have one person cutting the tiles and the other one setting them. Especially because the thinset will eventually harden. At least the hardening process was slowed by the cold temperatures inside the house and out. (We still didn’t have the gas hooked up for the heat yet.)

The second night I worked by myself until about midnight. By the time I left, I was cold, tired, and sore. Climbing up and down on top of countertops is tough work. But, also rewarding as you can see by this progress after the first evening.

installing subway tile with spacers

Installing Open Shelf Brackets:

Having open shelving in the Saving Etta kitchen was a no brainer. In my own kitchen I have two open shelves and I love them! For my shelves, I installed corbel shelf brackets after the tile was installed.

DIY Aged Chippy Paint Technique | Pretty Handy Girl

I was planning on doing the same at the Etta house. But, shortly before tiling I stumbled across a tile setter on Instagram who had installed the shelf brackets before tiling. Thinking this guy was a professional and knew what he was doing, I decided to try doing the same thing. After all, it would be easier to locate the studs and blocking before tiling. Truth be told, I had added blocking in the wall where the shelves were going to be mounted, and took a picture before the drywall was hung. (Smart, right?!)

Continuing my claim of having smart ideas, I decided to put a paint stick behind the shelf bracket before securing it to the wall. This would insure the bracket would be at the same depth as the tiles. In theory it seemed like a good idea. Can anyone guess what my mistake was?

Subway tile next to shelf bracket

There were actually two issues. The first was I failed to allow for mortar thickness. Depending on the size notched trowel you use, the thinset can add anywhere from 1/8″ – 1/4″.  I guess I can be thankful at least I put something behind the brackets or they would have been horribly recessed.

It wasn’t until I began grouting that I realized the second issue with installing the shelf brackets first: sloppy cuts.

tile around shelf bracket

Cutting tiles is not like cutting wood. Where it’s fairly easy to cut shapes in wood, it’s not that easy with tiles. Making perfect 90˚ cuts into tile is tough. As you can see above, I had one tile that needed to be notched. The small leg on the right kept breaking. So I ended up piecing the tile around one of the brackets.

Next came the challenge of grouting around the brackets. After much mental exercise, I chose to put white caulk around the brackets to minimize the cut lines. The caulk hides some of the imperfections, but it still bugs me that they don’t look perfect. In DIY, there are plenty of opportunities to be creative and it also provides plenty of learning opportunities.

I will never make the mistake of tiling around brackets. Next time I will tile first and install the shelf brackets afterwards. (In case you are wondering, these are the brackets I used. They are sufficiently strong to hold shelves with glasses and dishes, but I wouldn’t use them to hold super heavy items like hand weights.)

The next day I finished tiling around the range hood and was able to grout the wall with the open shelves (but needed to wait for the newly set tiles to cure overnight.) By the end of day three I had completely tiled and grouted the backsplash!

counter protected while installing shelf brackets

Despite the few cut tiles around the shelf brackets, I am pleased with the backsplash. I’m keeping you in suspense with the rest of the kitchen reveal until Friday. But, here’s a close up of the tiling around the brackets. It looks okay from a distance, which is all that really matters, right?

White subway backsplash open reclaimed wood shelving

Stay tuned, the next Saving Etta update will be the full kitchen reveal and I can’t wait to share it with you!!!

Disclosure: I worked with Jeffrey Court for Home Depot on this project. I was provided with the subway tiles for the kitchen backsplash. I will always let you know if I was sponsored or compensated. You should also note that I’m very particular about the brands I work with.

How to Install Cement Tiles and Achieve Professional Results

How to Install Cement Tiles and Achieve Professional Results

If you’ve been browsing Pinterest lately or flipping through the pages of your favorite home design magazine, you’ve probably seen (and likely fallen in love with) real cement tiles. Cement tiles are trending, so much so that porcelain and ceramic lookalikes are popping up at most tile retail shops. The first thing you’ll notice about real cement tiles, is the price tag can be steep. What you probably don’t realize is cement tile can be a bit trickier to work with than standard ceramic or porcelain tiles. Don’t let this dissuade you, because today I’m going to show you how to install those beautiful authentic cement tiles and achieve professional results. Plus, because we’re friends, I’m going to share with you my affordable source for real encaustic cement tiles!

Cement Tile Look Alike on Bathroom Floor

Cement tiles purchased from most tile retailers can run upwards of $20 per square foot. But, I’m about to let you in on my secret tile source. Shhhh, lean close so I can whisper it in your ear. “TheBuilderDepot sells real cement tiles for less!”  In fact they sell more than just cement tiles and their prices can’t be beat! You might remember I used beautiful marble subway tiles from TheBuilderDepot when I was renovating my kitchen.) The Builder Depot offers popular tiles at a discount because they cut out the middle man. (Here’s a brief explanation on why their prices are lower than other retailers.)

How to Install Cement Tiles and Achieve Professional Results

Seeing those beautiful cement tiles and a great price prompted me to contact my friend at The Builder Depot and ask him about being a Saving Etta sponsor. He agreed but on one condition; he asked me to write a tutorial on How to Install Cement Tiles and discuss the pitfalls and risks associated with improper installation techniques. Apparently customers were unaware of the proper way to install cement tiles. In fact, even seasoned tile installers were making costly mistakes because they were treating cement tiles like ceramic and porcelain tiles. There is a big difference between them.

What’s the Difference Between Cement Tiles and Porcelain or Ceramic Tiles:

  • Ceramic and porcelain tiles are slick (often shiny) and aren’t absorbent on the surface.
  • Encaustic cement tiles are highly porous and absorbent from the surface to the base.
  • Porcelain and ceramic tiles can be grouted immediately after the thinset mortar has cured.
  • Cement tiles must be sealed before grouting or you risk the grout staining (or permanently sticking to) the surface.
  • Porcelain and ceramic tiles do not need to be sealed.
  • Cement tiles need careful handling to avoid staining and scratching the tiles.
  • Porcelain and ceramic tiles are forgiving and can stand up to a lot of abuse.
  • Encaustic cement tile patterns are created by pouring different colored clay baked into the tile. It’s not merely a coating.
  • Porcelain and ceramic tile patterns are applied in the glazes (painted on top of the tile).

Here’s a beautiful video showing exactly how encaustic cement tiles are made:

Now that you know more details about cement tiles, you can have a beautiful cement tile floor. But, you need to follow this tutorial closely. (Almost all these instructions will apply to installing cement tiles on a wall, so keep reading.)

Making Manzanita's tile shower niche cement tilesCheck out this beautiful bathroom makeover with a Cement Tile Niche
by Making Manzanita

How to Handle Your Cement Tiles:

When you receive your cement tiles you’re going to be tempted to rip open the box and rub your grubby hands all over the smooth tiles (or am I the only weirdo that likes to stroke tiles?) Regardless, before you open the box, wash your hands. Cement tiles are EXTREMELY porous and will absorb oils and stain easily. Until you get to the sealing step, you’re going to have to handle these tiles with care (kid gloves wouldn’t be a bad idea.) Lest you think you can seal the tiles before installation, don’t try it. The tiles have to be porous to release moisture while the mortar is curing. If you seal it ahead of time, there’s a good chance your tiles will develop a ghosting appearance.

Cement tiles can scratch easily. Keep the packing material between the tiles until you are ready to install them. Don’t mark your tiles with a pencil or pen for cutting (unless you will be cutting off the marks.) Even faint pencil lines can’t be easily removed from the tile surface.

How to Prepare Your Floor for Cement Tiles:

(I’ve included affiliate links for your convenience. I earn a small percentage from a purchase using these links. There is no additional cost to you. You can read more about affiliate links here.)

Just like when you paint a room, you’ll get the best results if you take the time to prep your space before you begin.

Before laying tiles on your floor, you must put down a substrate to prevent future flexing that can lead to cracks in your grout or worse in your tiles. Typically tile installers will use cement backer board. But, because the cement tiles are so thick, I chose to use an uncoupling mat to reduce the finished floor thickness.

cutting uncoupling mats.

Measure and cut your mat (or cement board) with a utility knife. Dry fit the mats (or boards) before proceeding.

Whichever substrate you use, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s installation instructions. For improved waterproofing, you’ll want to cover seams with the recommended seam tape. For completely waterproofed floors, add seam tape around the perimeter of the room (as shown in this video.)

Installed uncoupling mats, finding center of room. Marking perpendicular lines.

Next find the center of your room and mark perfectly perpendicular guidelines to use as a guide when laying out your tiles.

Layout cement tiles starting in the center.

Dry fit the tiles with spacers in your room before you begin. Make any adjustments to the tile layout or pattern before you begin.

Dry run. Layout cement tiles before installation

How to Install Cement Tiles:

With your substrate installed, it’s time to install your tiles. Before we begin, make sure you have these tools and materials. A quick note on cutting the tiles. You can use a score and snap manual tile cutter for straight lines, but nothing beats a wet saw for angled and more complicated cuts. If you don’t want to buy a wet saw, you can rent one. Tile setting is a one person job, but it helps to have an assistant to speed things along by making cuts and mixing more mortar and grout.

Materials:

Instructions for Installing Cement Tiles:

Here’s a video I made to help you learn how to install cement tiles properly and keep them looking beautiful!

Mix your thinset mortar according to the package directions. (I usually try to achieve the consistency of peanut butter.)

Prepping Your Cement Tiles:

One of the most important tips for working with cement tiles is to soak them in water before installation. Allow them to soak for at least 30 seconds before laying them into the mortar. If you don’t soak them, the tile will absorb too much moisture from the mortar.

Soak tiles in water tub

Starting from the center of your room, apply the thinset mortar to a small area and use your 1/2” notched trowel to comb the thinset. Lay your tiles down. Lift one tile to check and see if the mortar is completely covering the back of the tile. If not, your mortar consistency may be too dry.

Avoid the temptation to lay more than a few tiles at a time.

Lay first four tiles in thinset mortar

After your first small group of tiles are set, insert spacers. Check to make sure the tiles are level and the same height. Then immediately clean any and all thinset off your tiles using a damp sponge.

Now you can move on to installing the next small grouping. Periodically check to make sure your tiles are lined up with each other and there are no lips between tiles. (Using these self leveling spacers will eliminate any lippage on tiles.)

After all your tiles are installed, block off the room and keep off the tiles for at least 24 hours while the thinset hardens.

How to Install Cement Tiles and Achieve Professional Results

Sealing Cement Tiles:

We’ve arrived at the most important step when installing cement tiles! You must seal the tiles before grouting them. Use a penetrating sealer made for porous stone or cement tiles. Before sealing, make sure your tiles (and the thinset for that matter) are completely dry. You can test the tiles for any remaining moisture by laying down a piece of plastic on the tiles after installing them. If there is moisture the next day when you lift the plastic, they aren’t dry enough. Wait for them to dry or you could risk discoloration of your tiles.

Clean the tiles by sweeping off any debris and clean with a ph balanced cleaner (a bucket of warm water with one drop of dish soap is a good cleaner.) Let the tiles dry. Wipe or buff with a rag.

Pour the sealer into the dish pan. Dip your pad applicator into the sealer liquid. Squeeze off excess sealer against the edge of the dish pan.

Apply sealer with pad applicator

Apply the sealer in thin coats working in one direction. Remove any excess sealer from the tiles BEFORE it dries. (See the streaks below? Those streaks and any puddling needs to be buffed off to avoid uneven drying.)

Avington Black & White Cement Tiles from TheBuilderDepot.com

Let the first coat of sealer dry completely. In fact you may want to take a break for 30 minutes or so between coats.

Buff off excess sealant from tiles.

Be prepared to apply many coats before your cement tiles are fully sealed. (My tiles needed 5 coats to seal them. Then I had to wait another 24 hours for the sealant to fully cure before grouting.) It may seem like a long process, but this insures the tiles will withstand regular use and resist stains.

After each coat of sealant dries, you need to test to see if the cement tiles are completely sealed. Drip water onto the tiles. If the water beads up, they are sealed. However, if the water absorbs into the tiles, add another layer of sealant and try the water test again later.

Water beading up on cement tiles means it's ready to grout.

Once your tiles are fully sealed, wait 24 hours before grouting.

How to Grout Tiles:

Because I work alone, it takes me a little longer to grout. To prevent my grout from hardening too quickly, I like to float my mixed grout container in a bucket of ice water to slow down the setting action.

Load up your float with fresh mixed grout. Holding your grout float at a 45 degree angle against the floor, spread the grout over the gaps between the tiles in a diagonal motion. Work in small 3 – 4 square foot areas. Then scrape any excess grout off the tiles using a clean grout float.

grouting tiles with grout float

Immediately wipe off any excess grout using a clean damp sponge. Ring out and refresh your sponge with clean water frequently.

It is imperative to get all the excess grout off the tiles or you risk the grout staining or settling into the tiles. Go ahead and move on to the next section, but go back to the previous tiles and buff off any haze with a dry rag.

Avington Black & White Cement Tiles from TheBuilderDepot.com

After the grout has cured, clean your floors with a pH neutral mild cleanser. Then apply one final coat of penetrating sealer. A new coat of sealer should be reapplied every 6-12 months for floors, and every 2-3 years for wall tiles.

Avington Black & White Cement Tiles from TheBuilderDepot.com

Cement Tile Maintenance:

To protect your beautiful cement tile floors, clean up any spills immediately. Never leave anything sitting on the floor that could stain or scratch your tiles. If your tiles get scratched or stained, you can use a fine grit sandpaper to sand off the stain. Just be sure to re-seal your tiles after sanding.

Still on the fence about installing cement tiles in your home? This is a good article breaking down the pros and cons of cement tiles.

A big thank you to The Builder Depot for providing the laundry room tiles for the Saving Etta project and for giving me excellent instructions for installing the cement tiles. What do you think? Do you love the cement tile look?

Laundry Room with Avington Cement Tile Floor.

I hope you found this tutorial helpful. Happy tiling!

How to Install Cement Tiles and Achieve Professional Results

Disclosure: The Builder Depot is a proud sponsor of the Saving Etta project.  I was provided with materials for this project. I was not told what to write. All opinions and ideas are my own.

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If you liked this post, you’ll also find these tile posts helpful:

How to Install Cement Tiles and Achieve Professional Results

How to Tile a Backsplash

 

How to Install Cement Tiles and Achieve Professional Results

How to Grout Tiles