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September 2021
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Lightyear Sunken Bath Episode 14 Done

The LSB is in the history books. Here is a recap.

Here is the view from the doorway into the bath from the master bedroom. Note on the left is the hinged door. In the case where someone might be using the toilet and someone else rushed in, it would give kneecapping a new meaning.6a00d8345237e469e201157245f42f970b-800wi

The tile is tired and the ‘tub’ is a sunken nightmare. Notice the window (single pane double thick tempered) in the back wall that looks out into the storage area that the client had enclosed sometime ago. That outside door faces east and the long wall faces south. It made this room hotter than hell most of the year and cold the rest.


Here is the view from the same spot.
We removed the tile, filled in the sunken tub area, installed a new glass block window, insulated, skim coated, installed a jacuzzi tub, surrounded it with solid surface, installed a Jeeves Heated Towel Bar,(which was the only item not obtained locally in either the Orange or Blue stores) installed grab bars in the shower/tub area, and with the extra space on the front side of the tub created built in shelving and a magazine rack for parking pleasure. Also with the installation of a pocket door, ‘kneecapping’ is a thing of the past. We also installed a tall mirror for last minute inspections. Just to the left of the tall mirror are two switches. These are to shut off the power to the jacuzzi when not in use. The controls are way too  convenient to small children.

Jacuzzi, Solid Surface and New Glass Block.

Jacuzzi, Solid Surface and New Glass Block.

Back wall and storage area


We also had the door to the sort of storage/dog area to address. Since the bathroom had so little storage and we knew early on that we would be installing a water heater for this room and the bath on this end of the house, we decided to parcel this space, insulate, drywall and tile it.


We installed a bi-fold door that closely matched the existing doors in the rest of the house.


Vanity Area Before

The only change to the vanity area was the replacement of the light fixtures, installing new faucets to match the brushed nickle finish of the new shower toys, and replacement of the cabinet pulls.




There it is.

Lightyear Sunken Bath Episode 13 Details

The LSB is down to the bits. Major work is complete.  We are down to the details.
The glass block although only a 6×6” unit adds enough light so you can find it without needing a flashlight.

New Throne with Light and reading rack

New Throne with Light and reading rack

The toilet is an American Standard Cadet model. It is a low flush, comfort height, extended bowl with one of the fastest flushes I have seen.

Pocket Door. Adds much usable space to the room.

Pocket Doors add space

Shower Front
Here we opted for a shower massage shower over the simple head provided by the manufacturer.

Shower head with natural lighting

Also we installed a curved shower curtain rod.
Shower Back
On the left or long wall is a 24” grab bar. On the right side of the window is a 12” grab bar. On the right is a 54” high Jeeves Heated Towel Bar.

Tub and floor details

Early Morning
Since the long wall faces east and gets the morning sun, here is a sample of the glass block display.

Morning Light through Glass Blocks

Morning Light through Glass Blocks

Lightyear Sunken Bath Episode 12 Solid Surface Installation

Before and After
Here is where we started and here is where we are finishing.

Before and After

Before and After

In our last episode I was working on the access panel for the jacuzzi. Having sorted that out, I spent time finishing up the skim coating and priming and painting in anticipation of the solid surface.
Tuesday Morning.

Morning Light

Morning Light

Painting is done on the soffit ceilings and the walls up to a few inches behind where the solid surface will go.
Here are a couple of the lads from Pro Tops Inc. setup and cutting the large side panel.

ProTops lads assembling walls

ProTops lads assembling walls

On the left is a portable swamp cooler as the temperature was over 100. With the canopy it is a pleasant place to work if you have to work outdoors in Arizona in the summer.

The big panel has been installed and they are building the template for the back panel. They built the sides of the three glass block openings and attached them to the panel before installing it. Slid Right In.

Long Wall installed. The lads are building the template for the back wall.

Long Wall installed. The lads are building the template for the back wall.

The templating system that they use consists of 1/8” luan ply and hot melt glue to measure for the panels. Works slick. When you are working on material that has no room for error, it is important to get it right.

Here is the finished product.

Finished and done

Finished and done

Here is the access panel for whoever may have to work on this in the future.

Finish Access Panel

Finish Access Panel

It is mechanical and all mechanical things break down eventually. The guy who will have to fix this years down the road will thank me. So will the client not having to tear up the bathroom to fix a pump or leak.

Drywall Skim Coating - Inside Corners

In remodeling you sometimes decide to bridge the new work to old or existing work. Matching or changing your wall surface becomes a consideration. This is a short guide on skim coating existing walls to match the new construction.

The previous wall surface is a heavy knockdown texture. Basically what happens is that the walls are taped and second coated, and then taping mud is thinned and sprayed on the walls with a texture hopper, and after a few minutes, it is ‘knocked down’ with a taping knife resulting in a textured wall. It is a cheap finish system and all too often is done badly.

This is the alcove where the toilet sits in the Lightyear Sunken Bath Project. In this case we decided to make the walls smooth. This has just about every thing you can run into when remodeling with drywall between old and new construction.

The left of this photo shows the edge of the drywall that covers where we installed a pocket door. The back wall shows where we installed a glass block for light and replaced the piece of drywall we cut out previously. You can also get a good idea of the ‘knock down’ texture.
The right side shows where we framed up the new partition between the toilet and the shower with the opening for the open shelf unit.

Throne Alcove with New and Old work.

Throne Alcove with New and Old work.

Here is the beginning of taping this area. We use mesh tape for the flats, and paper tape for the inside corners. Taping on texture has its own issues. When you feather your mud, the knife running over the texture telegraphs and creates ripples in your mud coat.
When taping inside corners on these areas, mud and embed your tape, and wipe down the new flat side first. This creates a guide area for wiping down the other side and give you a clean smooth corner.

Taping cracks and establishing Inside corners

Taping cracks and establishing Inside corners

Here the process is a bit further along with the introduction of the open shelf unit and the metal bead. This unit is trimless, so I installed ‘L’ Bead along the outside edges of the shelving unit. Not shown in this photo is a piece of mesh tape applied diagonally just below the high side of the bead. This strengthens the joint, minimizing cracking, and reinforcing the gap made by the bead and the drywall. We also taped the flats and installed the corner bead.

Wall and Shelf Detail

Wall and Shelf Detail

Look at the bottom of this photo and notice the grey triangular area. This is where I did not cut through the corner deep enough when I removed the old drywall prior to rebuilding this.

Here is where I have prefilled this area thinking that I had gotten all of the loose paper removed. Bzzt! not so fast. You can see the bubbles from a bit of the paper that had separated. You have to remove these and fill them in. If you do not, succeeding coats of mud will bounce, and look bad. You can also get an idea of the texture filling with the splotchy area outside of the triangle.

Paper Detail

Paper Detail

Here is where I have taped the flats and the corners. You can see the diagonal line of where the two ‘L’ beads do not match up perfectly. This will be fixed on succeeding coats. The magazine rack also gets taped. If it is an inside corner it gets tape.

Reading nook detail

Reading nook detail

The most important part of skim coating is taping the inside corners to provide clean sharp angles.

Inside Corner Taping

Inside Corner Taping

Once your corners are done, you can then begin the process of skim coating to smooth your walls.

Wall Skimming

Wall Skimming

Lightyear Sunken Bath Episode 11 Access Panel Follies

The tub we have installed is a 36” Jacuzzi Espree model. This presented a number of challenges such as planning and sizing the
finish materials to trim out this unit. The walls are going to be covered completely with solid surface material from the top of the tub
deck to the bottom of the soffit. The soffit was built wide enough so that we will have a clean vertical line between the tub and the soffit.

It is designed as a drop in tub for those having bathrooms the size of 2 car garages and want to build platforms to display it. Why the hell you want to have steps to get into a bathtub, whose primary claim to fame is the therapeutic bubbling is beyond me, but hey, it keeps folks employed building displays for them. Now most of my visitors do not have bathrooms that large and in some cases like me, have houses that are barely larger than two car garages.

By now if you are following along, we have mounted it in a more traditional manner, (being surrounded by three walls.)

One of the things that I have learned in doing remodeling is thinking about working on things later. Electric tubs are a poster child for this thinking. Stuff breaks and requires access to repair it.
So for this project we are framing in an access panel. I talked with the solid surface guys and we had decided to put a panel across the whole thing with screws to be able to access the pump and motor down the road. Later that night I was thinking about it. Putting an access panel all the way across would mean that I would have an unfinished base trim detail in this area. So I made the panel surface smaller, providing blocking for the screws for the panel, the gap for the upper trim piece, and enough space at the bottom to be able to run the baseboard in this area. This allows the panel to be removed woithout damaging either the walls or the floors.

This is the front view. The back side is an ugly mess as I had to trim the track to clear the hoses and pipes on the top, and the stand, bracket and plumbing on the bottom.


Here is the left side showing the gap across the top for the reveal piece of solid surface. This also shows the pump housing that sticks out enough so the solid surface guys will have to router out the back side of the panel for clearance. This is one of those details that let you know that the product was designed for ease in manufacturing rather than ease in installation. sigh… another remodeling surprise!


I also provided a space to get into the back of the tub should it be necessary for servicing the jets or lines on the wall side.


Lightyear Sunken Bath Episode 11 Water Heater and Tub Installation

Tuesday and Wednesday had me taping up a storm to get ready for the installation on Friday. Thursday had me taping and painting the closet for Friday. I wanted to get the closet done so that I could paint before installing the water heater. Because I am basically lazy I don’t want to try to paint around 500 pounds of water heater.
So here we are Friday morning.


I mentioned previously that the floor sloped. I also built a platform for the water heater to get it off the ground and level. Here that is.


This is basically 26” square. The back to front drop from level is almost an inch. The side drop is a little less than a 1/4 inch. I bevel cut 2×4’s, screwed them together, and used simpson anchors and blue screws to attach it to the floor. The top is a plywood deck with a piece of 1/8” hardboard masonite material and ‘power grab’ glued it to the plywood.

I hope nobody tried to pick this up before I am dead or read this post, because it is one of those deals that will make them swear and go crazy trying to pry it up.

Chris and Vern from Exclusively Plumbing showed up and the installation proceeded.
First up was dry fitting the tub. Slid right in and surprised Chris. He mentioned and I know from bitter experience that this is not usually the case. Vern and I discussed the details and double checked everything while he was doing the rough in.


Some tubs come with a drain kit. This one did not. So while Chris went for parts, Vern installed the water heater and capped off the manifold that had been feeding this end of the house. Joe the electrician installed the wiring and we fired it up. One of the nice details was applying trims to the penetrations on the water lines.


Here is the light installed. It is a lot brighter than this photo.


Chris installing the drain kit for the tub.


This is why we built a form to keep this area clear of concrete.

We also installed an inline water heater for the Jacuzzi.


This was a weird deal as the cover had to be removed in order to get the nuts back far enough to slip into position. The plus to this unit is that it has a flow control switch, which means that if the water is not flowing, it is not on.

We have Bubbles!!!


Next thursday or friday the solid surface lads will be here to install their stuff. Meanwhile I will be taping and skim coating the walls, installing doors and trims and painting.

Todays brain fart… I can’t count the number of Jacuzzi style tubs and hot tubs I have installed, but I have never actually used one. Maybe when I win the Powerball, I will get me one.

Lightyear Sunken Bath Episode 10 – Water Heater and Tub Prep 2

Having gotten the drywall hung it was time to tape. I always tape coat my flats and corners before installing corner bead.
It works out better for me. I have a tutorial with the long explanation
here. I am using 45 minute ‘hot mud’ ‘speed set’ for this as there is a lot to do and little time to do it in. Speed set is also moisture resistant and is preferred to tape tub and shower walls. The plumber and electrician are coming Friday. The closet needs to be painted by then and the tub area needs to be sealed for the solid surface guys who will be coming out to measure as soon as the tub is in.

Here is the ceiling in the water heater closet. The ceiling edge is covered with a 1/2” piece of ‘L’ bead to provide a clean line. This area was originally a privacy area with a block wall and a sloping sidewalk. It got some stub walls and a roof, which was attached to the original roof eave which led to ‘interesting’ details (the first photo shows you the ceiling line) to work around to make this come out.

Notice that I have bagged the sub panel and covered the outlet. As you can see, just in time by the glob of mud on the electric panel. Filling the electric panel with drywall mud or touching live wires with a metal bladed taping knife will piss off your electrician and generally ruin your day.

The tub area gets some corner bead on the outside corners, as well as coating. The small windows are finished as much as they will get as the solid surface will be wrapping the exposed areas.


The large block window gets corner bead to square it, and will be filled and finished coated to make it flat for the solid surface application. Here I have also bagged the window. 6a00d8345237e469e201157042de41970c-800wi

The inside corners of the tub area are sealed and will be primed but no further mudding will be done here. It is not necessary.

Lightyear Sunken Bath Episode 9 – Water Heater and Tub Prep 1

In our last episode I discussed blocking prior to drywalling. Since we are installing a water heater  to provide water for the Jacuzzi, and fixtures on this side of the house, which included tying in the hall bathroom (an in progress change that made sense and did not add significantly to the cost), next is getting ready for installing the water heater and setting the tub.

Coordination is important for running these projects especially when acting as your own contractor in terms of getting the professionals like the plumber and electrician to work with you. For example on this project we have an electric water heater and an electric bathtub (i.e. Jacuzzi) I choose to have both on site during this phase as if there is a problem it can be solved without everybody having to make extra trips. When the electrician installed the panel and was testing it, he discovered that one of the new breakers was bad.(It happens)

We had already partitioned the space outside of the bathroom proper to provide a space for the heater and some storage.
By Monday I had the door between the bathroom and the new water heater and storage area removed and relocated in its new location, and had three of the walls drywalled and first tape coat on.

Over the weekend I tracked down a light fixture for this area as well as some other materials. Monday I framed out the opening into the storage area, drywalled the ceiling and archway, as well as the tub area.


The tub area was drywalled with M/R waterboard(green board) and screwed off. The majority of the new construction is steel stud which can’t be nailed. The f;at seams are covered with mesh tape, the inside corners are paper tape and the outside corners are covered with metal corner bead.


This is the long wall with our glass blocks in place, and the soffit in the foreground at the top of the photo. These openings will be wrapped with solid surface. What you can’t see in this photo is the plastic wrap that I covered the face of the blocks with. This is to make clean up easier after the soldi surface is done.


Here is the back tub wall drywalled. Notice the archway for the pocket door has some narrow drywall at the top and along the right side. Because this is getting a bifold door, the rough opening dimensions are narrower that a standard framed door opening.


On the left side of the new archway are two electical boxes. We are
installing a Jeeves Heated Towel Bar. The bottom box is the power for
the towel bar, the upper is for the timer. They are sold separately, but if you go this route it is a good idea as it takes time to warm up and you don’t want it running all the time.

One last detail is the width of the soffit. It is 36” finished. This will provide a straight vertical line for the solid surface between the ceiling and edge of the tub when it is installed. The soffit was originally designed to carry the electricity and water lines for the tub. In discussing this with the plumber we eliminated the waterlines, which saved time and money. The electric lines are up there as it was shorter than alternatives.

Lightyear Sunken Bath Episode 8 – Blocking

The key to any successful remodeling project is planning. Once you have your parts selected, and have made the various choices and tradeoffs, especially for DIY’ers, before you start the rebuilding process, review what you have and where it is going. This  will help you to have a successful project.

One of the most important aspects of any project is providing blocking for the various things that will be attached to your finished walls. Bathrooms are probably the most involved rooms in providing blocking for towel bars, grab bars, backing for various things that will be mounted on the walls. There are amazing anchors made for hollow walls, but since you have the walls open, providing solid blocking takes little extra time and will pay big dividends later.

Let’s take a quick tour around the LSB project.
This is the wet wall for the control valve, spout, and shower head. As I mentioned in Episode 6 I designed this wall to fit the new tub, and to get as much storage into it as possible. The studs are on either side of the water center-line to allow the plumber an easy way for connecting the shower. The fiberglass insulation in this wall was recycled from the long wall as it has been replaced with the foam board that you can see on the right side of the photo. It is a sound control measure, as bathrooms are second to your kitchen in noise.


The left side of the wall has a built up corner so that there is solid backing for the shower curtain rod that will be attached to the solid surface after it is installed. The outlet on the wall is for two switches we are installing to shut off power to the tub when not in use. One is for the pump, the other is for the inline heater. Despite the tub having a dry pump feature and the inline heater not operating when there is no water present, it is cheap insurance as the controls for the tub are at little hands grab height.

Moving along to the long wall, I left the original 2×2’s in place, because they were solid, and worked around them. The glass block frame I made out of 3/4” plywood and added a 2×2 to the top and bottom to act as a stop for the assembly and to provide nailing for the drywall. I added blocking below it horizontally to have an attachment surface for the drywall and to stiffen the wall so the solid surface does not come down in a few years.


That’s the top half. Let’s look at the bottom half. Here we provided blocking for the grab bars that we are installing on this wall. They seem high now but will be at a convenient height when the tub is installed. These blocks are attached to the vertical studs with 3” screws drilled in at an angle top and bottom. when the drywall is glued and screwed, the solid surface applied and the mounting brackets for the bars are installed, you will not be pulling these off the wall without a come along or a shot of adrenaline to the heart.

The framing on the glass block side is different as the two openings are made for specific purposes. The lower one will allow access tto the back side of the tub should it ever becomes necessary, The upper one is a future shelf unit for the other side of the wall.

Moving along.  to the glass block wall. We are installing a Jeeves Heated Towel Bar. This requires an electric outlet and solid blocking for the unit itself. The outlet for the heater is bleow this photo. The electric box you see is for the timer to turn the warmer on and off.


Everything that will attach to the walls will have a solid surface to attach to. A little planning now and you won’t have to investigate the wonderful world of hollow wall anchors.

Lightyear Sunken Bath Episode 7 – Doorways and Bonding

Most of my work is done as a solo act. I work better this way. However there are times where you need someone on the other end. This weekend my daughter gave me a hand moving and installing the doors on this project. She had recently gotten back into town after a few years elsewhere, and was up hanging out with the old man.

Here she is removing the trim  prior to moving it to its new location. This opening will framed in for a bifold door for the utility storage room


Here is that door in its new location looking out.


Here is the door from the flip side. Trim will be a challenge.


So you don’t think that the hinge lobby has gotten to me, no project of mine would be complete without ….. A pocket door! A lot of builders hate pocket doors. Most of them don’t have anybody on their crews who can read a level, or understand that a pocket door is not a shim and trim operation. It takes more time, but is worth it in space gained.


As I mentioned previously, I mostly work solo, which is why you see pictures of the work and none of me. It’s not about me. However this weekend my daughter managed to snap a couple of pics for those of you dying to see the man behind the camera. I am standing on a bucket and am not 7 feet tall.


Here is the flip side. Happy now?


We also ripped out one of those aluminum patio/arcadia doors and replaced it with this number.


And that’s how we spent some of the weekend. We spent the rest pigging out and watching movies.