Mantel Overhaul Part II: In with the new tile

We left off on this mantel overhaul more than a few months ago when Blake had demoed the old tile. Due to some unforseen circumstances (and some foreseen ones as well) we had to let that one sit unfinished awhile before we could make more progress. After all, season ski passes don’t just grow on trees. It also seems like all our insurance policies, memberships, and registrations come due in July/August. Then there was this unpleasant suprise that seemed to come out of nowhere:

Cracked windshield, courtesy of a trash truck flinging a rock in our direction

We also became pretty distracted with painting the kitchen and just life in general. The new mantel got pushed to the backburner for awhile.

We had quite the hunt for new fireplace tile. Since we’re frequent shoppers at Home Depot and Lowes, we’ve had many opportunities to check out their tile supply and discover they didn’t have what we were looking for. After some quick Googling, we found some local flooring/tile specialty stores, so we set off on our mission for the perfect tile. Blake was far pickier than I when it came to choosing tile. I was pretty much satisfied with anything that matched our color scheme while he wanted something with good color, texture, pattern, and uniformity (or lack thereof). He wanted that special tile with the “It Factor.” After a few unsuccessful stops, he finally found the tile that he could give the ole “two enthusiastic thumbs up” at a place called A World of Tile. The only problem was that they didn’t have it in stock. So we waited a few more weeks for it to be ordered in. Then, the tile store’s wet saw wasn’t working properly, so they couldn’t cut it down to the 8 inch tiles that we wanted. Blake had to drive to another place in town to have it cut, and we had to wait almost another week for that. At long last, he picked up the tile and was able to get to work.

But before Blake could install the new tile he had to take care of the gaping hole surrounding the fireplace that was the result of demo-ing all the old tile.

He installed DensShield (similar to HardiBacker) to provide a foundation for the tile to adhere to (first installing 2×4’s for added support). He then used thinset to make anchor/adhere the tile in position, waited a few days for it to dry, and then applied the grout to fill in the gaps between the tile. Here’s some pics to provide more details:

Installing 2x4's to anchor the DenShield

DensShield installed and ready for tile

Thinset to make the tile stay in place

Applying thinset to the back of tile before placing it

Placing the bottom tile first with spacers

Top row of tile: making sure it's level

Working from the outside-in for the top row of tile

Once all the tile was in place, it looked like this:

Tile in place, ready for grout

Grout (it came in powder form - Blake added water to make it into a paste)

Blobs of grout, ready to be smeared into joints using a rubber trowel

Grouting complete, drying (it looks darker because it is still wet)

Grout dry (notice how much lighter it is - blends much better with the tile)

Before: Old gray ceramic tile didn't complement the warm earthy tones around the rest of the room

The before close-up: gray ceramic tile

This was actually our first rodeo with installing tile. Didn’t Blake do an amazing job? It looks like a professional did it. We’re definitely encouraged by the outcome, and down the line when we completely gut and remodel our master bathroom (and our half bath, and our guest bath), we’ll have confidence when it comes to the tiling part. Heck, we’ll probably even get a wet saw to cut the tile ourselves. That won’t be for quite sometime though, because we’ll have to get a city permit (we’re talking a major remodel – knocking down walls and moving doorways) and store up some serious cash before diving into that project.

Of course, Blake didn’t work alone. I was at work, but we happened to be dog-sitting for my parents. Sailor helped out by getting into things and being an enthusiastic spectator.

Playing with tape and making a mess

Getting tired of watching Blake work...and wanting him to come play with her

Sailor's had enough....It's about time to be finished with this project!

Next up is building the full-surround white mantel. We’ve already drawn up plans and bought most of the materials. Hopefully we’ll finish that project in the next few weeks!

Our doors get love handled

I’m pleased to announce we have finished the upstairs door revitalization project! Before we started, our upstairs hallway looked like this:

But after removing the doors, painting them a crisper shade of white, and giving the brass hardware an upgrade, the hallway now looks like this:

Instead of buying all new doorknobs and hinges this time, we decided to give re-finishing the existing brass hardware a shot. It was a much more affordable solution. Even if the project went awry, we’d only be out about $20.

Of course, being the home improvement novices that we are, I did plenty of research beforehand to make sure that nobody nothing would be harmed in the process. I took inspiration from Young House Love (of course) here, and Pink Toes and Power Tools here and combined their instructions to make it work for us. Here’s how we did it:

1. After removing all your door hardware, gather your supplies. Here’s what we used:

  • Nitrile gloves
  • Super fine (grade 0000)  steel wool
  • Klean-Strip Liquid Sander Deglosser
  • Rustoleum Universal Surfaces Metallic Spray in Oil Rubbed Bronze (ORB)
  • Rustoleum Painter’s Touch Ultra Cover in Matte Clear
  • Old washcloth and cardboard box

Supplies: gloves, steel wool, de-glosser, and ORB paint

2. Sand the hardware with extra fine steel wool to make the surface a little rough and give the paint something to stick to. I found the extra-fine steel wool was enough to remove the glossy sheen without leaving any deep scratches on the surface.

3. Use a liquid de-glosser to remove any oils and debris. The bottle’s instructions said to use a coarse, lint free cloth. I used an old washcloth to wipe it on in a circular motion. Make sure you wear gloves for this step.

4. Allow liquid de-glosser to dry (the bottle says to wait 10 minutes, but we let them sit overnight.)

5. Poke the screws, knobs, and latches through cardboard box so they are in an upright position. This allows easy access to all surfaces while spraying. We just laid the hinges and latch plates on an old drop cloth to spray paint since they were relatively flat.

6. Spray paint with 3-4 thin (very thin – can’t emphasize this point enough) coats of Rustoleum Universal Surfaces metallic spray in ORB. Be sure to turn locks and hinges between coats to spray all surfaces evenly. We waited about 15-20 minutes between coats. Be sure you’re in a very well ventilated area, because this spray paint gives off strong fumes!
***Note: Some instructions suggest using a coat of primer prior to painting, which we skipped because the Rustoleum Universal Surfaces is both a paint and primer in one.

Hardware after just 1 coat of ORB

Hardware after 3 light coats of ORB

7. After the paint has completely dried (we waited about 24 hours), spray the hardware with 1-2 light coats of clear coat spray. We used Rustoleum Painter’s Touch Ultra Cover in Matte Clear.

8. Once the clear coat has completely dried (again, we waited about 24 hours), re-install the hardware and re-mount the doors in their frames.

It turned out pretty well. The only change I would make is to use a satin clear coat finish instead of matte (but matte was all Home Depot had). We like it so much that we decided to upgrade our front screen door knob in the same manner. Then we just have our master bath and closet door hardware to refinish and the whole house will be free of brass knobs.

In other news, we took a little time off last weekend to head to Steamboat and enjoy the fall foliage. It was nearly at peak. We love living in Colorado!