Back, Back, Back it Up

Backerboard, not the most exciting step of the bathroom reno, but certainly a crucial one. Here is what the bathroom was looking like before we got to the backerboard install. MMM, nice and toasty with lots o’ insulation. Just how we like it.

Tile removal bathroom
Bathroom Sans Tile

For our bathroom size, we got (4) pieces of 5ft x 3ft x 1/2 inch backerboard, and it looks like we will even be able to return one. Huzza! Here is Jay measuring the first piece, to go in around the window opening.

How to install backerboard
Measuring Backboard

We opted to go with the 1/2″ backerboard this time around (vs. 1/4 inch last time) for a little more stability for the tile , but we quickly realized this stuff was pretty dense and pretty hard to cut through! We started with a normal razor blade, but Jay soon opted to use a more heavy duty blade to cut into the board. Here he is doing the initial score on it, which helps to start the break in the board.

How to install backerboard
Cutting the Backerboard

Other than the cutting, the first few pieces were pretty straight forward, and went in with out too much of a fight. By the time we were wrapping around the other side of the window though, we had to start shimming and paying especially close attention to how each board was sitting in relation to each other. One thing we learned on the first tile install we did on the last house, is that your backerboard is an essential piece to how the finish product will look. If there are any inconsistencies in your board, it will show big time with your tile. Jay worked really hard to make sure all of the corners met perfectly, and that everything was flush and level. If the boards are not even at each seam, than your tile will not sit evenly, and you’ll be able to see it popping up, since it won’t lay flat. Not good.

How to install backerboard
Shimming Backerboard

In addition to the seams where each piece of backboard meets, another problem area is where your backboard meets up to the wall. Once again, if this area is not completely level, your tiles will pay the price brotha! Jay had to trim out some of the extra wall materials so that the board sat level with the wall. It’s really just trial and error. Keep trimming until the board is able to sit at exactly the same level as the surface adjacent to it. We had some shims already installed on the studs from the last install – but you may need to shim with small pieces of wood if your boards are different.

How to install backerboard
Trimming Backerboard

After all the main pieces were installed, we had to create some holes for the plumbing. Jay made some measurements to spec out where the plumbing was prior to installing this piece, but after it was up, the holes didn’t perfectly align (of course!) ;), so we came back in with a drill to make some extra holes. We just used a normal spade drill bit for this step, but a cautionary tale, you probably want to use a more abrasive drill bit, since this one is pretty much toast now. A diamond circular drill bit, like this one used for our cord fix a few months back would work great. We borrowed that from a friend that time around, but we’ve now made yet another mental note that we need to just go out and buy one already. :)

How to create holes for plumbing in backerboard
Drilling in Backerboard

Now the backerboard is ready to be taped and mudded – and then – tile!! Woo to the hoo.

9 thoughts on “Back, Back, Back it Up

  1. Hi! We have a bathroom waiting for us to tackle. I notice you took have a window edge kind of sticking out. How did you cover that wooden edge in the last picture? Did you use plastic? Plastic and backboard? Deck mud? Or some totally different option? Thanks for the help!

    1. Hi Marie! We actually just left it exposed and then came back through and painting all the trim with semi-gloss paint. Since we’ve always lived in older homes, the whole window in the bathtub dealo has become pretty routine, and we’ve never had an issue with water getting under it. As long as you paint it so that no wood is exposed, and caulk around the edges – you should be good!

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