Emily Winters: Bathroom Renovation, Day 9

It was all about the walls on Day 9, and because we really only had half a day to commit to working on the room we wanted to make the most of it. The newly tiled shower walls were ready for grout, the still-drywalled walls received some cosmetic updates, and the windows went bare. After spending four days installing the subway tile, we could taste how close we were to having a fully-functional shower again. Bring it on, grout.

Preparing to grout!

Keep on reading to see all that we accomplished on Day 9!

True story: The walls in the bathroom were kind of a mess. You couldn’t really tell in my walk-through video or in any other “before” photos, but there were clear signs that over the years, shelves have been hung and removed, hooks were installed and then fell out of the wall, trim had been replaced, and none of the associated holes that remained were patched very well. Band-aided as they were, we knew a little skim coating and patchwork would help to repair problem areas.

This plan to refinish problem areas really was no big deal; in fact, I believe we did some of the patching/skim coating on the last day of shower tiling, and by the time we got to work on Day 9, the compound had dried and I was able to sand down any uneven spots reasonably quickly. (I did this by hand instead of with a power sander, by the way. Hand sanding the sensitive, lightly-coated areas allowed me to carefully judge how much pressure I was applying and to make sure and not over-sand any areas … too much sanding would have made the smooth areas concave again, and that meant I’d be back to the skim coating bucket to re-apply more coats of compound.)

Wall patching.

I also rolled some primer onto the freshly patched walls to prepare it for a future coat of paint (the same color paint that’s already there, since I had some leftover in the can, read: $0).

Wall skimming.

The ceiling had a little work done too. Wall skimming can be compared to getting a facelift, yes.

Ceiling skim coat too.

While I was at it, I ripped off the window trim too. Back to being demo-satisfied. I couldn’t be happier to see that trim go.

Removing window trim!

I left the window trim in the room installed during demo day just in case the trim was the reason the room was insulated. I had nightmarish moments about removing the trim and causing the whole second story to be drafty for however-many weeks we would be working on the bathroom, but last time I was at the store I remembered to pick up a new can of spray foam in case it was needed. Turns out, I was lucky to have bought it; both bathroom windows were noticeably drafty, especially in the corners and around the sill, so we filled in gaps with the foam until we could no longer feel air blowing into the room, and left it to expand and dry overnight.

Adding spray foam to insulate around the windows.

And then we got to the fun part, the grout.

Pewter gray grout was the color of choice in finishing the subway tile shower. In reality, it was very close to the mortar color that we had worked with, so you’re not going to see a dramatic difference between the mortar and the grout, but I’ll hone in on the technique we used in grouting. It worked well. We moved fast.

Before I could actually begin applying the grout, we needed to clear out a little bit of mortar; there had been some spots where the mortar squeezed through the tiles and dried, and in those spots, we worried that the grout would have trouble latching on. To break up the problem areas, I considered buying one of the grout remover tools from the store for <$5, but what ended up working better (and more effortlessly) was using Pete’s newest toy, a Craftsman multi-cutter with a carbide circular blade.


The gaps between our tiles are 1/8″ and luckily the blade for the multi-cutter was narrow enough to fit in between the tiles without causing damage to the tiles themselves. (Truth be told, I tried the multi-cutter on some scrap pieces of tile before getting near the finished shower, and tap-tapping the running blade against the finished tile edge didn’t leave any marks, so I figured we’d be pretty safe.) We were careful to only put the tool about 1/8″ deep so as not to disturb the mortar that held the tiles in place strongly, really only letting the blade shave down the mortar that was even with the tile so that the grout would have somewhere to sit.

Clearing out excess mortar.

When the potential problem-areas had been cleared, I cleaned the tile well in preparation for grouting, using the shop vac to remove any loosened mortar and debris.

Cleaning out debris.

And then we got grout-crazy. Following the instructions right on the grout bag, we mixed up a small batch and got started:


With the grout float in one hand and the hawk in the other, I worked my way over the wall, smushing grout into the spaces, and wiping off the excess at a diagonal to the tile lines. (When it comes to grouting, the most common bit of know-how I’ve encountered is to wiping it off diagonally, because it keeps the edge of the float from gouging into the smooth lines of grout.)

We did choose to use a sanded grout because our lines were 1/8″ thick; according to the brands we were looking at, non-sanded was safe to use up to 1/8″, and sanded was recommended for 1/8″ and wider. We fell kind of in the middle here, and easily could have used either, but chose sanded because it seemed like it might be more durable for the long haul.


Going through the entire shower applying grout only took about an hour; Pete and I took turns in order to rest our grouting arms and mix more for each other to use. Like with the mortar, we only mixed in small batches (probably enough to do 20 sq. ft. with each batch to keep the grout really fresh), so we had to mix more on 4 separate occasions, or just about every 10 minutes.


About a half-hour into grouting, we also began to also slowly wipe down the areas that were drying with a damp sponge to clean the surface of the tile and to remove additional excess grout from the lines. With another hour devoted to carefully cleaning the tiles with the sponge, we were left with defined grout lines (and dirty faces).

Cleaning the grout lines.

After a few more hours of drying, the grout bag instructions asked us to go over the tiles once more with cheesecloth. I used a thin rag to clean off the remaining thin layer of grout that was covering the surface, and then left the room alone to cure overnight.

With the walls sanded, and the grout drying, we felt like a lot of progress had been made in a very short amount of time: Soon we’d be able to shower again, soon we’d be able to paint the walls, and next we’d be able to start working on the floor!

Grouted walls!

Finished grout!

Check back soon to see the progress!

Catching the home improvement bug at an early age, Emily Winters is a now a devoted DIYer living in Rochester, NY. The projects she covers on her blog Merrypad range from painting a wall to building a deck, so it’s only natural she landed at DIYNetwork.com. You can follow Emily on twitter at @merrypad and like her on facebook at facebook.com/merrypad.

29 Responses

  1. I love that you've tiled in a soap nook there. As a tall person, having a bathroom renovation done with a tiled in soap holder is a brilliant idea. I did this once when I was Tiling a bathroom in Aldinga
    and it worked brilliantly well.


About Emily Fazio 


I caught the home improvement bug at an early age, and now I'm a full-time DIYer living in Rochester, NY. The projects I cover on my blog Merrypad range ...

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