Painting & tiling…it’s more than brushes and trowels!

As we begin the week, we are a few brush strokes away from completing the interior painting—and it’s looking good! And had it not been for the great preparation work the Newman Drywall crew did in recent weeks (see March 4, 24 and April 1 postings), I’m sure it would have been a bigger chore than it was.

But even before anyone raised a brush or laid a tile, there was lots of work—agonizing at times!—reviewing colors, types and manufacturers to find the right paint and tile for the job.

If you bought stock in paint swatches this past year, quick—sell! Now that we’ve settled on colors, I’m sure the value of paint-swatch stocks will plummet…


We looked at this white…


…and that white…


…and, well, here’s an off-white.

There are, not surprisingly, thousands of color variations and if you have Nancy’s eye for it, you see—and feel—the differences. I do, too…sorta…but through the process, I’ve become blind to the nuances of so many variations. Thank goodness Nancy sees more clearly than I do on this front!

Ultimately, we already have a lot of ‘color’ that will fill our rooms—art, books, furniture. And the floor will be a deep earthy red elm. So we agreed to keep the walls, ceilings and cabinets all fairly neutral…shades of—you guessed it—white. Emoji

And once we’d made the decision, the brushes and rollers went flying in many directions!


Painter Eric Gehrke is back (he helped us with some exterior painting last fall), and Nancy’s not shy about jumping in as time allows. But wait…what was that about ‘jumping in’?

NAN in paint

Yep…she’s maybe a little too enthusiastic about the work at times, as captured here by friend and volunteer-painter Sara Lubinski (thanks Sara, for the picture AND for helping paint!).

To be sure, there’s more to choosing the paint than just the color. One of our preferences was to go with a health- and environmentally-friendly low or no-VOC (volatile organic compounds) option. And then there’s also durability, ease of application, and, of course, cost. Consumer Reports and other online research led us to Behr brand latex paints (found exclusively at Home Depot). We’ve found this to be a great-value, high-quality interior paint that looks terrific!

Tile selection also goes back months as Nancy scoured the Internet for available materials, both new and old as we watch for things that we can reuse or recycle—and one never knows what you might discover…

craigslist tile capture-1102_1387-1

You know how some people have Ikea kitchens? Well, we have Craigslist bathrooms—that is, Craigslist led us to a supply of surplus marble tile that compliments the Craigslist-acquired marble counter tops we found for each of the bathrooms.  Good materials…good price…good-looking bathrooms!

Tiler Bryan Ostby, from nearby Fountain, MN, went to work laying the marble in the upstairs bathroom. Below, you see it against the gray primer that draws out the darker veins of the marble (the finished wall will, indeed, be a shade of this gray). Brian is all smiles as he sees the bathroom floor taking shape. He also did a great job of laying a herringbone-patterned slate-tile entryway we selected for just inside the east door.


As with so many aspects of this project, few things are ‘standard construction’. Such is the case with the shower system and tile installation in the first-floor bathroom. One of the experiences Bryan brought with him was his familiarity with Schluter Systems,  a tiling installation design we’d been considering that allows for a smooth transition between adjoining shower and bathroom floor surfaces; simply put, we wanted a “roll-in” shower—after all, the first floor is designed for one-floor living, including handicap accessibility should that be necessary.

Together with Schluter-Ditra, an underlayment floor substrate, and Schluter’s Kerdi-Board wall panels, the design provides the basis for a fully waterproof and vapor-tight assembly. Just what we wanted!

Unfortunately, like most drain installations, Schluter’s linear floor drain is not necessarily designed to be mounted in an inaccessible floor system like ours. It’s nobody’s fault—it just is!

It’s important to remember that our on-grade substrate floor design has three 4-inch layers of EPS foam insulation—with a special air-barrier membrane sandwiched between the top two layers—covered by two ½” sheets of plywood…but there’s no basement or crawlspace for accessibility underneath the floor. Dropping this drain system into the floor meant we had just under 5 inches of wood and foam to work with before risking a penetration in the air barrier…a tricky proposition.

Bryan felt fairly comfortable with the notion of cutting into the substrate to insert Schluter’s trench-style drain; the real challenge was figuring out how to actually connect the drain to the drainpipe without having access from below. The normal installation would require access from below or laterally to tighten hose clamps that would typically be used to seal the connection of rubber hose between the drain and drainpipe, but without that access, this wasn’t going to work.


After his weekend consultation with a plumbing colleague, Bryan and I (above) assessed a couple possibilities and finally agreed on an approach that would use a combination of PVC fittings, a spacer and a compression coupling that we believed would make a firm connection. Still, we calculated it would be tight and when assembled would require about 4-1/2 inches of the 5-inch depth available above the air-barrier membrane…close, but we believed doable. So Bryan went to work carving out a good inch of insulation from around the drainpipe, wide enough and deep enough to lower the new assembly into the floor without cutting into the taped seal around the drainpipe at the air barrier:


Following some last-minute pondering, Bryan was able to complete the assembly, move on to positioning the Schluter-Ditra floor substrate into place, laying the marble floor tile, and finally laying the drain assembly channel in place. Success!


Next up, tiling the shower floor and walls—all in good time!

  1. I love your herringbone slate tile entry! You’ve inspired me to replace some old vinyl with that look but my local home improvement stores do not carry anything like your tile! Where can I find it?! So glad I happened upon your post, I’ve been wanting to replace the entry flooring but just wasn’t sure what look to go with, this is it!

    1. Michelle, we looked hard to find slate tile that fit our budget and ended up purchasing 12″ x 12″ square tiles at a local store, then cutting them to 6″ x 12″ for the herringbone pattern. The tile installer cut them in no time and it worked like a dream. Check local tile stores for best pricing.


Lanesboro, Minnesota
Climate Zone 6 (cold/moist)
Latitude: 43° 44' 18'' N
Longitude: 91° 54' 48'' W

House Size

Net Treated Floor Area: 1,514 SF
Gross Square Footage (House only): 2,210 SF

Building Envelope

Roof: R-99
Wall: R-61
Ground: R-53

Windows & Doors

Glazing: U-0.10 BTU / hour / sq. ft.
Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC): 0.48”
Frame: U-0.19 BTU / hour / sq. ft.

Modeled Performance

Specific Primary Energy Demand (Source Energy Demand): 12.1 kBTU / sq. ft. / year

Specific Space Heat Demand: 7.0 kBTU/sq. ft. / year

Peak Heating Load: 7,047 BTU / hour

Space Cooling Demand: 0.44 kBTU / sq. ft. / year

Peak Cooling Load: 3,625 BTU / hour

Pressure Test Goal: Whole House Air Changes Per Hour (ACH) = 0.4 ACH 50


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