With the floor tile checked off the bathroom list, we wasted no time moving to the wall! Eager to get our plumbing fixtures in place, it only makes sense to do so after all the tiling is so complete; the thought of grouting behind a toilet is our idea of a terrible, horrible time.
THE NIGHT BEFORE. We applied a thick line of silicone caulk along the tub, using painter’s tape to keep things mess free. Tip: Dipping your finger in water before smoothing the caulk will prevent it from sticking to you, and your results will be cleaner.
DAY ONE. We rolled out sheets of rosin paper to protect the new floor tile, and we firmed up that all of our ledger boards were, in fact, perfectly level. This was super important, since we’d be starting at the base of the room and building up from there (more on that in a second). A small amount off, and our tiles would slowly shift downhill – not good!
By far, the hardest part was doing ALL the math before getting started. Ugh, the math! Because we were starting 100% fresh in this room, we even took into account the baseboards we’d be installing. We measured and re-measured every wall, we weighed the pros and cons of starting with the tub line or the baseboard line, and we played out every scenario – good and bad – depending on which wall we started on. (Did this keep me awake at night? Yes!)
You might remember that we chose 4 x 12 matte white subway tile from the South Cypress Storka line. We waned something larger to play with the smaller hex we chose for the floor, and I think the 4″ height provided a little more give no matter where we started – but again, we purposely chose (5″) baseboards that would align the best with the tile and the tub height. All this to say, there was no accidental planning – everything was thought to death. Ultimately, we realized that we could – thank goodness! – work left to right, with a full tile as the base. This would leave an almost 3″ height around the base of the tub, which we were happy with.
You’ll notice that we haven’t been using spacers – another decision we weighed for, oh, far too long. Our contractor told us that we didn’t need them, since the tiles had slightly rounded edges and the teeniest, tiniest bump out on every side. The manufacturer, on the other hand, recommended an 1/8″ spacer, which we were hoping to bypass. Personally, we love a small grout line, so I asked my friend Daniel – who better! – what he thought, and he promised me that we could skip the spacers. The grout line would appear larger than you see in these photos, since it will also sit in the easement on the edges of each tile. So, sold! Less work, and small grout lines. Win, win.
By the end of day one, we had finished only the smallest wall to the right of the door and most of the vanity wall. It was this outside corner that gave us fits:
DAY TWO. We started fresh on the second day by first focusing on this corner. We Googled and YouTubed every possible solution for an outside corner, and you know what? There are no less a hundred ways to do it! In the end, we decided to miter the corner – leaving only a small space for grout or caulk – and although it took us a good hour (or two?) just to do this corner, it looks pretty good! By no means is it perfect (perfect from far?), but a mix of exhaustion and time spent had us calling it ‘done’ and moving on.
Because we were dealing with so many tricky cuts around the plumbing, wall corners (inside and out) and the windowsill, I found it was almost easier and less stressful to back butter my individual tiles before applying them to the wall. When we were lucky enough to have a huge chunk of bare wall, I’d mortar a large area, but more often that not, that wasn’t the case! By mortaring each tile, I wasn’t worried about dry cement on the walls while we double checked math and worked on the wet saw. (I also kept a trash bag on my bucket of mortar to keep it going longer!)
Speaking of tricky cuts, we had some intricate details that Scott would carefully draw out and cut with the wet saw. Finishing caulk will fill in the gaps, but I was impressed with how close he was able to get!
We chose to stop at a 4′ height around the room, capped by bullnose tiles. We debated a black pencil liner (like Dana’s bathroom), but we nixed it to keep the focus on the hex border we spent for-ev-er working on. By the end of day two, we finished the vanity, toilet and window walls. Hooray! It. Was. Exhausting. Our marriage survived, so I guess that’s all we can ask for. (Ha!)
The shower tiling – which will go tub to ceiling – has only begun. We got the first row down and level (with spacers to leave room for caulk), and once we get past the soap shelves (I can’t say niche anymore, it’s too odd coming out of my mouth), it should be easy – I say as a I knock on wood!
We’re waiting on some extra bullnose pieces, and fingers crossed they’ll arrive by tomorrow. Our goal is to finish tiling Saturday so we can grout on Sunday. Also on our ambitious Sunday list? Putting up the baseboards! And caulking! We will see, but I think we can do it!