Gilles' Outlet

December 13, 2009

Sealing Grout on a Countertop

Filed under: Tiles — Gilles @ 1:30 am

Grout lines on a tiled countertop are sealed to prevent staining.


Skill Level: 1 (Very Basic)

Time Taken: About 30 minutes

Grout is a porous material: it will absorb most liquids. This makes grout extremely prone to staining, specifically in damp, high traffic areas like kitchen or bath countertops.

Once grout has been stained it is sometimes possible to clean it with a powerful acid based tile cleaner. Often, even these harsh chemicals cannot get rid of stains soaked in grout and the only solution is to remove the grout and replace it. This can be avoided by treating grout with a grout sealer.

Grout sealers are chemicals designed to cause surfaces to repel liquids like water or oil. This prevents grout staining because contaminants can no longer sip into the grout. For this reason, it is wise to seal grout in damp areas like showers: this makes it significantly more difficult for mildew to grow on grout lines.

There are various grout sealers on the market. They differ by:

  • The type of solvent used: water or mineral spirits (this is similar to paint),
  • The mode of operation: some sealers form protective coating on the grout while others penetrate the grout. Penetrating sealers resist surface abrasion significantly better than sealers which form a protective coating,
  • Location of use: interior, exterior, damp areas like showers …,
  • The kind of stains the sealer protects against: sealers typically protect against water based stains but there are sealers formulated for enhanced protection against oil / grease stains. These sealers are typically used in food preparation areas like kitchen countertops,
  • The expected length of the protection. This can be as low as 6 months and as high as 15 years, depending on the traffic, the kind of cleaning agent used to clean surrounding tiles…,
  • The appearance left: some sealers do not leave any visible finish, others make grout lines look shiny.

Tools and Materials for this project:

  • A pint of “Aqua Mix Sealer’s Choice Gold”,
  • A grout sealer applicator bottle.

This specific sealer is a water based, penetrating, no sheen finish with an expected protection of up to 15 years. It is recommended for use in damp areas like showers or bathrooms.

At about $30 a pint, this grout sealer is not exactly cheap so I am trying to waste as little as possible. The sealer applicator allows me to apply just the right amount of sealer with great control. This reduces drips and ultimately saves money.

Left: The applicator is essentially a bottle with a little brush at the top, cut at an angle. The sealant is placed in the bottle and soaks the brush.

This applicator features a “flow control” cap: the more the cap is turned to the right, the more liquid flows to the brush. This is useful when sealing vertical grout lines, where the sealer tends to flow faster, drawn by gravity.


Right: After filling the bottle, I adjusted the flow and started to “paint” grout lines with the brush. I applied with long strokes, starting on one side of the grout line and finishing at the other side.

There was a very small amount of sealer applied on the tiles surrounding the grout lines. This will need to be wiped later.

On the picture, it is easy to see where the sealant was applied: the surface looks wet.

The manufacturer of this sealant recommend to wait at least two hours before doing a “water test” and seeing if another coat needs to be applied.


As indicated by the label on the sealer, I wiped  all excess after about 5 minutes using a clean paper towel. There were a few spots where the sealer did puddle so I made sure to clean those too.


Once the sealer dries, I will apply a bead of caulk around the sink and the faucet. This will complete the countertop in this bathroom.

Tools Used:

  • Grout Sealant Applicator 

Materials Used:

  • Aqua Mix Sealer’s Choice Gold
  • Paper Towels


December 6, 2009

Installing a Storage Rack in a Bathroom Vanity

Filed under: Carpentry — Gilles @ 5:23 am

A rolling storage rack is installed in a bathroom vanity. Faucet supply lines are tied up to the underside of the counter top.


Skill Level: 2 (Basic)

Time Taken: About 30 minutes

The sliding rack to install. This “ClosetMaid In-Cabinet 3-Tray Pull Out” was purchased from the discontinued section of Lowes for about $25 (Reg. $60). From top to bottom:

  • The rack,
  • Two heavy duty, full extension sliders,
  • Paper template and hardware for installation.

This rack is designed for kitchen cabinets and not for bathroom vanities but in our house, we have kitchen cabinets as vanities in bathrooms so there was a chance this would work.

Left: The vanity of interest. Doors have been temporarily removed to facilitate access. I have also setup a fluorescent light. Vanities have to account for plumbing and rarely offer sufficient storage. My task is to add storage space using the rack.

I started by reading installation instructions and taking some measurements. It first looked that the rack would best fit on the left of the vanity.

Right: The kit comes with a cardboard template for easy installation. I marked determined the centerline of the template and marked it with a pencil.

Left: The cabinet has a face frame so I measured the opening and calculated the centerline of the opening.



Right: I marked the centerline on the bottom of the cabinet with a pencil. This can later be removed using an all purpose household cleaner like “Simple Green”.

Left: I aligned the centerline of the template onto the centerline of the cabinet. After precisely locating the template, I held it in place with masking tape.

Right: I positioned sliders as indicated on the installation instructions. I did not fasten or drill anything.

I want to perform a dry run and see if the rack will fit and operate properly before I commit to installing here.

Left: I installed the rack over the sliders, still without fastening anything. It seemed to fit fine BUT …


Right: … the rack hit the hot water supply stop valve. Clearly this is not going to work. Not drilling or fastening anything has paid off.

I decided to try to install in the right side of the vanity.

Left: I repeated all the previous steps in the right bay of the vanity. This time, the rack had enough clearance to function properly or …

Right: … does it? Flexible water supply lines somewhat conflicted with the rack. I decided to move them out of the way.

Left: I rolled of plastic plumber’s perforated tape. Plumbers sometimes use this to hold pipes securely. Since it is made out of plastic, it does not damage pipes when thy rub on it.


Right: I cut a piece of the tape and secured it to the underside of the counter tiled top with a 1/2’’ wood screw.

The counter top is tiled by someone who decided to use 1/2’’ OSB as a substrate for 1/4’’ hardibacker and tiles.


Left: I secured the other side of the plumber’s tape.


Right: Flexible hoses are now held close to the countertop. Note how I was careful to avoid kinking hoses. I also ensured that the bend radius of those hoses was very large, to avoid damaging them.



Left: With hoses out of the way, I marked where sliders would be screwed to the bottom of the cabinet and pre-drilled all holes with a 1/8’’ diameter drill bit, as requested by installation instructions.


Right: I secured sliders to the bottom of the cabinet using the provider screws and my impact driver.

I removed the template and cleaned up the saw dust.


The tray was installed on sliders. There are four metal tabs (one at each corner) which need to be bent to secure the tray to the sliders. The manufacturer request those to be bent for a permanent installation.

I did not immediately bend those because I plan to add shelving to the other side of the vanity and in doing so, I may need to remove the tray temporarily.

Tools Used:

  • Tape Measure
  • Pencil
  • Speed Square 
  • Drill & 1/8’’ drill bit
  • Impact Driver

Materials Used:

  • ClosetMaid In-Cabinet 3-Tray Pull Out 
  • 1/2’’ Wood Screws 
  • Plumber’s Perforated Plastic Tape 
  • Masking Tape

Installing a Toilet

Filed under: Plumbing — Gilles @ 4:19 am

A closet flange is cleaned. A new wax ring is installed. A toilet bowl is set in place, leveled and fastened securely. The tank is hooked up to the water line and the fill valve is adjusted for optimal water level.


Skill Level: 2 (Basic)

Time Taken: About 45 minutes

In addition to the toilet, tank and seat cover, this project requires the following materials. From left to right:

  • A flexible water hose:input 3/8 O.D.,
  • A wax ring, with hornet and hardware,
  • A box of toilet plastic shims


For a professional, finished look, we will also need a decorative cap. This device covers bolts holding the toilet to the flange. There are two parts:

  • A spherical cap (left) to provide a finished look, 
  • A snap ring (right) onto which the cap attaches to.

The snap ring typically has an “up” side. Installing the ring upside down will prevent the cap from snapping to the ring.

Left: The starting point of the project: a toilet flange.

Before tiling the floor, the toilet bowl was removed. A rag was stuffed in the flange to prevent sewer gases from entering the house. I also added masking tape to keep grout and other debris away.


Right: I peeled the masking tape and removed the rag.

Left: I scrapped the flange with a putty knife to remove any leftover material like old wax. This took about a minute. It is difficult to see on this picture but the flange is flush with the finished floor. This is important to ensure a good seal.

Too often floors are tiled with little consideration for the height of the finished floor. The flange ends up being lower than the surface of surrounding tiles. This condition causes the toilet to leak with all the consequences that this has.


Right: I inserted the bolts on each side of the flange. It is required to use new bolts each and every time a toilet is installed. For this reason, they typically come in the same package as the wax ring.

Left: Securing a toilet to the flange requires a few pieces of hardware and it is important to install all parts in the correct order. From left to right:

  1. Thin plastic ring designed to hold the bolt vertically during installation,
  2. Plastic ring to hold the decorative cap,
  3. Washer,
  4. Bolt.


Right: I snapped the thin plastic ring on each bolt. They hold bolts vertically to facilitate installation.

Left: Bolts installed and held by the plastic rings. Those bolts need to be as vertical as possible to thread properly in the bottom of the toilet bowl.


Right: A wax right with a hornet (the black plastic piece visible on the left). The hornet guides waste down the pipe and reduces the possibility of leak. The manufacturer produces this “deluxe” model with almost twice as much wax as regular models. It costs a little more but this is well worth it.

For optimal results, the manufacturer of this ring recommends the ring to be at 70F at the time of installation. This ensures the wax has the right consistency and will create an optimal seal.

Left: I installed the ring on the flange, hornet down. Some people prefer to put the ring on the toilet. Personally, I find it difficult to move the toilet around with the ring without loosing the ring or damaging it.

Right: I took the bowl and sat it in place, making sure the bolts threaded in the holes manufactured for that purpose. Toilets are heavy awkward shaped objects. I like to pick up the bowl right behind it, where the seat cover typically attaches.

It is important to drop the toilet in place and press it in the wax only when it is perfectly placed. If the toilet is pressed in the wax in a wrong position, the wax ring will most likely have to be replaced before a good seal can be achieved.

I checked alignments and when everything was proper, I sat on the throne to press it in the wax.

Never re-use a wax ring, they are single use items.

Left: I checked for level left to right …


Right: … and back to front. The toilet was level on both directions BUT it was slightly rocking. This is typical for toilets to rock on tile floors.

When a toilet rocks, the seal produced by the wax ring can get broken and cause leaks.


Left: I threaded the flat part onto the bolt being careful to place the side marked “up” pointing up.


Right: I then placed the washer and threaded the bolt. The bolt is threaded by hand, just enough to be in contact with the washer. It will be tightened later. I repeated this operation on the other side.



Left: I used an adjustable wrench to tighten bolts. It is important to tighten just enough to avoid breaking the toilet, or worse, breaking the flange. These bolts are not set very tight: just a few lb/ft.

The procedure is as follows:

  1. Tighten about 1/4 of a turn on a side at at time
  2. Tighten about 1/4 of a turn on the other side
  3. Verify that the toilet does not rock
  4. Repeat steps 1 to 3 until the toilet does not rock

Tightening a side faster than the other side should be avoided. It cal lead to the toilet being off level and worse, cause the porcelain to break.


Right: After a few iterations of the procedure above, I realized that the floor was uneven at the toilet would always rock no matter how much I tighten the bolts.

I determined the low point: on the right side of the bowl, close to the front. I inserted a plastic shim, pushing it in gently until the toilet was no longer rocking. I checked for level on both directions and made the necessary adjustments.


Left: I turned bolts 1/2 of a turn more to squeeze the shim slightly. This will hold it in place.

The toilet stopped rocking so the shim was cut flush with a utility knife. I then pushed the shim slightly in to allow the caulk to hide it.



Right: I snapped the decorative sphere on.

Left: Sometimes bolts are too long and the decorative cap won’t snap onto its base. When this happens, I trim bolts with a hack saw. It is imperative to be careful not to slip and ding the porcelain. This can be tedious.

Right: Now that the toilet is fastened properly, I turned my attention to the water supply. I removed the compression fitting on the stop valve.

Left: I connected the hose to the tank. This connection gets tightened by hand. Do not use a wrench.


Right: I tightened the other end of the hose on the stop valve by hand and then made about two turns with an adjustable wrench.

Left: I turned the water on at the stop valve and checked for leaks. The tank filled.


Right: The inside of the tank, seen from above. There are a few important parts:

  • The fill valve (on the left with a purple cap) lets water enter the tank and stops it when the tank is fills up to a predefined level,
  • The flush valve located in the middle drains the water from the tank to the bowl when the flush lever is triggered.

Now, I need to adjust the fill valve to make sure that the tank contains only the amount of water it needs. Allowing more water in the tank wastes water. Regulations currently require a toilet to discharge a maximum of about 2.6 gallons of water per flush.

Another view of the inside of the tank from a different angle. On the flush valve (the white pipe in the center of the picture) a sticker indicates the right water level in the tank.

The black part on the background is a float. As water rises in the tank, it floats on water and slides vertically on the grey column. The trick to adjust the water level is to slide the float up or down to make sure it cuts water exactly when the desired level is reached.

This is actually more difficult to explain than it is to do. Installation instructions of toilets typically describes the procedure so be sure to adjust according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Once the level was adjusted, I installed the tank’s cover. The chrome flush level at the top of the tank got hooked up to the flush valve chain. When the flush level is pulled, the flapper (blue part at the bottom of the flush valve – see previous pictures) gets pulled up and releases water from the tank.

I later applied a bead of 100% pure silicone caulk around the base of the toilet.

Tools Used:

  • Putty Knife
  • Level
  • Adjustable Wrench
  • Utility Knife
  • Hack Saw

Materials Used:

  • Toilet Bowl, Tank, Seat Cover
  • Flexible water hose
  • Wax ring (typically contains hardware)
  • Plastic shims
  • Decorative cap
  • 100% Silicone caulk

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