Westerville, Ohio Master Bathroom Remodel – Spotlight: The Importance of Proper Installation Techniques

Today we began a Master Bathroom Remodel in Westerville, Ohio.  The homeowners purchased this house within the last couple of years.  One thing they were a little worried about was that the garage ceiling had repairs done to it and signs of water damage.  Directly above the garage is the Master Bathroom. The source of the problem was not known.  So an effort to remodel the Master Bathroom was to bring an update to this Bathroom: eliminating the Tub, Making the Shower Larger, adding a second vanity sink, and in the process finding and fixing the source of the water issue.

When I originally consulted with the homeowners, they had been worried that the problem was under the soaking tub.  But when I looked under the tub through the access panel, everything appeared to be fine.  So we headed into the project not really knowing what to expect.

We removed the shower today and found the source of the problem.  Most every shower pan (shower floor), whether it be Onyx Collection Solid Surface, Cultured Marble, Fiberglass, Acrylic, etc has an integral flange on the sides of the pan that touch the walls.  This flange is designed into the shower pan as a built in water-proofing mechanism.  The way it is designed is that the Shower pan is set in place, the flanges sit against the stud walls (the flanges stick up maybe 1/2″ but it varies on manufacturer).  If solid surface walls are being installed (which in this case this is what we were removing), the pan is suppose to be installed first, then the new wallboard gets installed down to the top of the flange.  Next, the solid surface walls are installed over the drywall and down onto the top of the shower pan.  This is the basic installation idea.

In this case, what we were tearing out was a system that was incorrectly installed and caused rotting subfloor.  The remodeler of the bathroom had installed the drywall first, then put the shower pan in place, then installed the solid surface walls down to the top edge of the flange.  A “clever” caulking job hid the problem.  But caulking should never be relied upon for waterproofing, only as a sealing function.  There are so many ways to do things in the remodeling field, a lot of different approaches for different situations.  But I have found that many problems we have come across with water damage can be linked back to the installation techniques used.

Perhaps a half dozen bathroom remodeling projects we have worked on over the past several years have been situations in which the bathroom was currently in the process of being remodeled, recently remodeled, or just a year or two old.  These cases all involved improper installation techniques.  Even the best quality bathroom products on the market can not survive in a situation of incorrect installation.

In the video below, I am showing the Master Bathroom we are tearing out, a closeup of the water damage caused by the improper installation techniques, and a 3D plan view of the Master Bathroom we are in the process of building…



New Albany Ohio Bathroom Remodel: Video Interview

Video Interview – Columbus Ohio Area (New Albany) Master Bathroom Project…

We recently completed a Master Bathroom Remodeling Project In New Albany Ohio.   We interviewed our client about the process and their experiences in working with us.  Here is the video…


What makes for a Positive Remodeling Experience?

While the focus of our efforts revolves primarily around providing well built, quality bathrooms to our clients throughout Columbus and Central, Ohio this is a question I think is worthy for not only all types of remodeling services, but in many areas of exchanges in commerce.

Last night, on a particularly beautiful spring evening, I went out for a walk on Hoover Dam up in Westerville.  I found myself thinking about this question.  I have had many stories related to me from numerous people over the years regarding their varied remodeling experiences.  I was thinking about (what really does) make for a positive experience for people engaging in any type of relationship or arrangement with any sort of business.  What separates the companies that are better than others or worse than others?  After all, people make mistakes every day.  Some larger, some smaller.  Everyone has stories of something that occurred or things gone wrong, or accidents, in their own lives and in the lives of people they know.

On every remodeling project there are many people involved in the project: from suppliers, to manufacturers, to shipping companies, subcontractors, our team, etc.  What has allowed for the advancement in society and technology is in people becoming experts in one area and then building off and sharing this knowledge in a way that is beneficial to the whole.  But there is always some possibility for an error somewhere along the way.  I have seen HGTV and other shows highlighting things from rebuilding a house, to tearing out a terrible looking landscape, to building storage solutions.  Even in these shows, in which they have everything lined up perfectly with lots of people on staff, and each with their own unique task… there are things that go wrong.  Perhaps the truck breaks down that is suppose to bring a crucial component,  a miscommunication happens, a broken part shows up, or tile shows up with small defects in it upon careful scrutiny and it is going to take a week to get new tile.

In projects of all types of areas things sometimes happen, people make mistakes, or no one made a mistake but something was manufactured incorrectly and not known about till it was to be installed. What we strive to do best is relate with each other and our clients in a way that every person involved has an important role to play and this truly is a team-oriented approach.  Our Clients are part of our team on every project.

An Attitude of Trust, Relaxed Co-operation, and Wanting to always do our Best in Every Circumstance

I think the crucial key to a successful and positive experience during a project is for every member of the team to have a certain type of sincere desire to understand clearly the problems when they do arise and an attitude of wanting to provide the best solutions that make the most sense for each situation. It is also imperative that each person on the team trust and respect one another while acknowledging that we all have certain strengths (in different areas) to bring to each project.  Quite simply: an attitude of fairness toward others and desire to do one’s best, and to try to always consider every situation from the standpoint of how another may be viewing it – understanding of another’s viewpoint.

Most everyone has heard stories about bad experiences with contractors (usually always when a situation got stressful or tense) when they got angry or became extremely negative.  This is when the conflict began.  Something occurred in which in some way, the opportunity to work through a difficulty or variance of understandings between the parties involved went awry.   I think it is imperative look at any difficulty as an opportunity to work through something in a shared way with people, and to do this in a way which values people and the relationships with people as much as the project itself.  This is the nature of every project from the very beginning.  Every project begins with a problem.  The process of getting from the beginning problem to the final solution is what is important. The interactions that occur, the way things are worked through – an experience of a positive internal feeling about the project and the parties involved naturally happens.

I have witnessed over and over our team members performing in ways or acting in ways that I feel proud of having them a part of our team,  I also feel fortunate to have worked with very good people (in our Clients) over the years.


Pickerington Ohio Master Bathroom Tear Out

Revisiting water issues in showers: Another project we started today

Pickerington Ohio Master Bathroom Tear Out

Completely Soaked Drywall in shower area

We started a Master Bathroom Project in Pickerington,OH today.  This Home was built less than 20 years ago.  One of the reasons our client decided to have us do this project is because the tiles in the shower were “pushed inward” on the wall.  There were suspected water issues behind the tile.  When we tore open the shower wall we found completely soaked “greenboard” drywall.  There was a bad mildew odor.  I couldn’t see any mold, but the practice of putting tile over drywall in showers could potentially lead to a very serious mold issue.  I have seen this a few times, in which the insulation in the wall behind the wallboard keeps sucking up the extra moisture, does not have time to dry out, and turns completely black.  Yet, many new homebuilders and contractors continue with this practice because it is cheaper to do.

When I refer to drywall behind shower wall tile, I am speaking of GreenBoard.  It is supposed to be  “water resistant”.  This is true to a degree, but certainly not to the degree that it should ever be used behind tile in showers.  Amazingly, I would say that approximately 90% of every shower we have torn out of houses (built in the last 25 years) has been the standard 4″ ceramic tile on Drywall combination.

We have redesigned this bathroom and soon it will look similar to this 3-d Conceptual View….

3d Master Bath Pickerington

3D Concept of the Project we Began Today

Which Toilet Should I Use in My Bathroom?: Why We Recommend Toto Toilets

Are there really differences between toilets?  There are a lot of choices.  The answer is an emphatic YES – there are differences in the way different toilets flush, function, and perform over time.   Many years ago, I spent a lot of time researching the best quality toilets on the market. I was looking for good design, ecological sustainability (low water flush), and reliability.  I found Toto.  The short video below explains why Toto is the world leader in toilet technology and why we install Toto in almost every bathroom remodeling project in which we engage.

B R tile over drywall

Tile Over Drywall (Showers): A Common but Bad Practice

B R tile over drywall

Tiles falling off the wall

Many of the bathroom remodeling projects we have completed over the years have been in homes that were only 5 to 15  years old.   By far the most common problem I have encountered has been tile installed over drywall in shower/wet areas.  This is the case so much of the time that when people tell me on the phone that they have tiles they can push in with their hands in the shower, or that the tiles are falling off the wall or seem ‘squishy’, I immediately get the image in my mind of the very common 4″ ceramic tiles installed over drywall.  And in most cases, this is exactly what they have.

This method of tile installation is simply bad practice, yet it is by far the most common situation I see in bathrooms that we tear out.  The reason this is such a common practice by new home builders and remodelers is only for one reason – it is cheap to do.  There is no other benefit than cost.

Many of these installations have water damage in the wall, on the studs, wet drywall, spots of mold/mildew in the wall, ants, and water-loving bugs present in the wall (at least this is what we have found in many occasions).  Another issue is that at the bottom of the tiled shower wall (where the shower base is caulked against the shower wall), there is an endless black discoloring of the caulking.  Even if you re-caulk this joint, in just a few months the caulk discolors and turns black again.  The problem is that water does seep through grout joints and gets the drywall damp.  This constant wetness with repeated showers every day doesn’t allow anything to ever dry out. (Please also see the value of having a good quality Bathroom Exhaust Fan)

The bottom line is that drywall (and this includes moisture resistant drywall) should never be used behind tile in wet areas (showers and tub-shower combinations).  The preferred method is to use something like Hardi-Backer or concrete board, though with these products it is important to correctly build in the proper vapor barrier as without a proper vapor barrier water vapor will migrate through the wall and under certain temperature conditions, the dew point (inside the wall assembly) causes condensing of this vapor inside the wall (on outside walls).   Done correctly these products will work just fine.  I have seen too many installations in which Hardibacker and concrete board was used but with the improper techniques that did not follow the manufacturer recommendations and industry guidelines.

R.L. Master Bath in process 00817

One of our Shower Projects using Wedi Board

We prefer “Wedi Board” as a tile substrate in showers.  The “blue board” insulation that makes up the core of Wedi Board provides a continuous layer of insulation.  The benefit of this is that this closed cell insulation is 100% waterproof, but it also provides a “vapor stop” to keep water vapor from entering the wall cavity.  This is especially important in a shower located on an outside wall, but also helps even if the shower is on an inside wall.  The beauty of this is that you could actually install Wedi Board in a shower and not tile the shower at all (not that you would do this) – and take showers for years with just the Wedi Board in place (no tile) and you would have a 100% leakproof shower.  This means that by tiling over the Wedi Board, you are simply providing an aesthetic look to the shower but not relying on the tile itself to do the waterproofing of the shower.  The tile does add a layer of waterproofing protection, but the real heart of the system is in the Wedi Board behind the tile.  Compare this to the common practice of tiling over drywall and you get the idea that you have a totally different shower by using a product that is meant to function in the shower.

The Wedi Board/ Wedi Shower system includes special bonding agents (referred to as “wedi caulk” though is much more than caulk) that waterproofs the seams in the corners as well as the joints where the 3×5 board pieces join together. This binding of the pieces throughout the shower also help keep the whole system acting as one unit behind the tile, helping to keep tile and grout from cracking.

Scott Hall