How can I let my kids help in a remodel and teach them handyman skills?

Asked By: PPatterson09 on Wednesday, March 11, 2009
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Answer I am remodeling our bath and was wondering how I can incorporate my children in the process. I would like for them to learn household skills that they can use later in life. Since I am a widowed, single mom, I would like to teach them handyman skills like their Dad would have. We are re-tiling the tub surround, tiling the floor and putting in new bath fixtures. My boys are 8 and 12.

This is a very interesting question. First of all, remember, safety always comes first. So make sure you have them where safety glasses if you are going to be doing any kind of tear out, chipping or removing tile and cutting. 

Since you said you are going to be re-tiling the tub surround, I would assume that old tile has to be removed. The wall surface that the tile is insalled on can be green board drywall, cement board or plaster. Depending on the wall surface, the tile may be easy or difficult to remove. So, you will need to plan on using the right tools for the job. 

You will need a good flat bar or flat stone chisel and also a great tool is a 5 in 1, which you can get at any local tool store or Home Improvement Store. Plus you will need a hammer and a rubber mallet plus as mentioned above, safety glasses and you should pick up some dust masks.

For safety:

Safety Glasses             Dust Mask           Jersey Work Gloves

safety glasses dust maskjersey work gloves


Hammer       Rubber Mallet     Flat Bar     5 in 1      Flat Stone Chisel                                             

hammer rubber malletflat bar5 in 1 tool flat stone chisel


Now that you know what safety items and tools that will be needed you will need to show them how you will do the work. Have them watch you closely and ask questions. You canstart by taking the flat bar, 5 in 1 or chisel and holding them as flat to the wall surface as possible, using your hammer or rubber mallet, tapping them underneath the edge of the tile and see if you can get it to pop out.

Like I said earlier,  this will either be easy or hard. If the walls surface is plaster, then the tile will probably pop off pretty easy. If it is green board drywall you really do want to avoid as much as possible, digging into the wall surface, because the tile may pull chunks of drywall out and this will result in a lot of patch work or in replacing the drywall board entirely.

If it is cement boad then it will depend on if they used thinset mortar or mastic, to attach the tile to the wall. So, the tile may pop off or chip off in pieces. With cement board, you wont have to worry about replacing it, but just make sure you remove the tile completly. 

If by chance the tile was installed on regular drywall, then be sure to check the entire wall surface after you remove the tile for wet or soft areas. Usually you will find these in the bottom area of the drywall. If this is the case then you will want to replace the old drywall with at least the green board drywall, but cement board is what I would recommend using. Hopefully, you will not have to replace it.

Now, you can see why the safety items are very important since chips of tile or sharp edges open up the possibility of getting cuts on your hands. Make sure all of you wear long sleaved shirts and pants to increase the safety of the job.

When installing the tile, you will work from the bottom up and make sure you have the right tools.


 Tile Spacers       Tile Cutter       Tile Nippers      Spreader   Grout Float   

tile spacers tile cutter tile nippers mastic spreadergrout float


Besides these items you will need to keep a few damp rags and a bucket of water around as well. This is the more safe part of the job and probably the one that the kids will love doing because they can see the results of their work as they move along.

I would make this a joint project, and even though it may take a bit longer to do the job, you can make it fun and rewarding for everyone.

The spreader is used to spread the tile mastic or thinset mortar onto the wall. It is notched so that it makes it not only easier to spread but also will allow you to spread just the right amount of mastic or cement onto the wall or floor.

You can rent the tile cutter if you do not want to buy it yourself, however if you are going to be doing the walls and the floor and if you think you might have more projects to do in the future, then invest in a tile cutter. The cutter will be needed to make the tile fit the wall properly.  The hand tile nippers are used to trim off edges or clip off around fixtures where the edges will be covered.

The spacers will make your life a lot easier and they will ensure even spacing between the tile. Wall spacers come in the 1/8" size and the floor tile spacers will be 1/4". Sometimes you will not need to use these if you are really good at being able to keep the spacing even. If you can't do this, then I would recommend using the spacers. 

The float is used to force the tile grout into the grout joints and smooth the grout off. Wet rags are used to clean the excess grout of the tile surface after the grout has set up for a while. You can also use the grout float to wipe of the excess tile as you are moving along. The grout float has a sponge base so it can absorb water and it has some give, that makes it easir to work with the grout.

There are a couple of great videos that will help you see first hand how to install the tile. The first one will show you how to install the wall tile. This video will show you more then what you may need to know because it also shows how to install the wall board. If you need to do that as wll then this will be a great help. However if you are only interested in the installation of the tile, then just watch that part.

Click on the link to watch the video.

Installing Bathtub Wall Tile

And for the floor tile, click on the link to the following video.

Installing Floor Tile

Well, this should help you and it might not only end up being a lot of fun for your children but also a great experience for all of all of you.

I hope this helps. Rick

Rick Maselli is Founder and Editor of




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