Bathroom tiling

And, now by popular demand…a post about our bathroom. Shush, my mother and David’s mother totally do constitute popular demand. At least on this blog.

Anyway, it turns out that we are bad home improvement bloggers because we have apparently failed to find any before pictures of the bathroom. So, I will just have to  give a brief description of the super awesomeness that was our bathroom when I bought this house.

The bathroom is wee and windowless, and really just not the main selling point of the house. When I moved in it was painted bright, bright yellow with one coat of badly applied, shiny paint. It was streaky, with poor coverage and looked really awesome with the cool-colored, faux-slate, stick-on tile floor.

We also had our very own version of the cheapest possible big box store vanity. It looked a lot like this model. It probably actually was this model.

"Shaker" vanity from Lowes. List price $57.

It was complimented by the cheapest possible faucet too, so that was pretty.

Possibly my favorite part about the previous bathroom was the places where the poorly aligned, stick-on vinyl tiles were nailed down in several corners.

Because, you know, if your adhesive flooring starts to  peel up, don’t replace it with one of the many extra tiles you have stashed in the basement, or even glue it down or something like that.  No, the obvious answer is to nail it down. Like you do.

So, one of the first things I did after I moved in was paint the walls purple (“Vintage” by Behr), since the streaky yellow just wasn’t doing it for me. Sadly, though, we only have the one bathroom, so tiling projects that render one toilet-less for multiple days never really sounded like the best idea.

That is until our awesome next door neighbor left us in charge of her house while she went to visit friends and family in the UK. With (relatively) easy access to an actual flushing toilet not our own, we thought we should take advantage of the situation and start destroying things.

We ripped out two layers of vinyl flooring, the old vanity, the toilet and the baseboards that inexplicably did not match the baseboards in any other room in the house.

The vinyl came up pretty easy, but it did leave a bit of sticky adhesive and paper backing stuck to the plywood underlayment. It was really fun scraping and scrubbing that up.

Unfortunately, we found a little bit of water damage in the plywood by the corners of the tub and around the toilet. For some reason, the join between the floor and the bathtub had been sealed with a piece of wooden trim. I am sure you can imagine what a great barrier the WOODEN trim made for all the little drips and splashes that inevitably escape the shower curtain.

Luckily, the damage was pretty isolated and minor and not anywhere near to penetrating the full underlayment. So, we just scraped, bleached and patched the damaged areas with something called “Floor Patch.”

Once we had the plywood as clean and smooth as we were ever going to get it, we put down some “wonderboard,” a super heavy sheet of crumbly cement held together with a mesh of nylon fiber. This is supposed to be a solid, inflexible support for the tile. Apparently tile does not like bendy floors.

If you google information on how to install tile, you get a bunch of videos with manly contractor types demonstrating how easy it is to cut down the cement fiber board. You just score the board with a utility knife and then snap it.

This is true (though it eats through blades like crazy), but they never show you how annoying it is to, say, cut out notches for air vents or the toilet drain or anywhere where you can’t just snap the full sheet down to size. This part sucks. A lot. I mostly ended up smashing the cement and then cutting away the fiber.

I really kind of wanted to just screw the wonderboard to the plywood since that seems to be what lots of people do on the internet “how to” videos. But, this guy assured me that if I did not use thinset under the boards in addition to screws, my dog would catch on fire. We don’t actually have a dog, but we are awfully fond of our cat, so I decided not to risk it.

After the wonderboard was mortared and screwed down, I taped the joints with alkali resistent joint tape and “mudded” them with more thinset. Then I finally got to work on the tile.

Laying out the file

Dry fitting the tiles.

The tile is “octogon and dot” from Daltile. It comes in square foot sheets held together with glue dots between the tile. I had been eying the penny round tile that is so trendy for bathrooms right now, but it’s surprisingly pricey. The octagon and dot tile was only about $2.50 a sheet at Home Depot, but the penny tile starts around $6 a square foot and goes up from there.

Penny tile. Isn't it cute?

I might have sprang for it since we have such a small area to tile (~24sft). But, I kept reading that penny tile is really difficult to install so that all the little round tiles actually line up all the way across your floor.

Since this was our first tile project, I decided to use the much cheaper and, hopefully, easier octagon and dot tile.

Happily, we were able to do all the tile cutting we needed to do with just a cheap snap cutter since our bathroom is basically just a plain rectangle with no inside corners or tricky curves.

And, I was able to lay the tile out so that I only had to cut through the larger octagons, which is lucky since I think cutting the dots sounds tricky.

Spacers between the sheets of tiles

Spacers between the sheets of tiles helped only somewhat to make the gaps between the tiles even.

Laying the tile in the thinset was still a bit of a painful process. I found it really difficult to get the sheets spaced evenly in all directions. Tile spacers helped somewhat, but it was still a frustrating evening of smooshing tiles a little to the left, then up, no down, no right.

David eventually had to rescue me from myself after I lost. my. shit. around 1 am. He took a turn smooshing tiles around (surprisingly hard on the finger tips). Then I had a final go at them, by which time it was 2 am, and we called it good enough, dammit.

After all that I think it come out pretty well.

The tiled floor with gray grout!

The tiled floor with gray grout!

I got the idea from Vanessa over at This & That to use grey grout with the white tile. I think it looks pretty great. Plus, I cannot imagine trying to keep white grout looking good on the floor. So, not happening in this house.

After the pain of laying the tiles in the thinset, grouting was a super easy. Especially since I went with premixed grout. I’m sure it’s much more economical to mix your own grout for larger projects, but we only needed a single gallon bucket of premixed grout for our tiny bathroom, so it felt worth it to save the hassle.

You just smoosh the grout in the spaces between the tiles with a rubber “grout float” and then scrape the excess off the top of the tiles with the edge of the same tool. After that, you just wipe the floor with a big wet sponge and clean water until you wash off all the grout haze from the tops of the tiles.

The actual timeline of all of this has all blurred together in my head already, but I can now see why my super handy friend calls tiling “not just a project, a way of life.”

The internet assured me that I could do this tiling project in just a few days. A day to rip up the old flooring, lay the underlayment and tile. Then 24 hours for the mortar to set, and you can grout, right?

To that I say, “ha!”

Maybe if your old flooring comes up perfectly, and there is nothing to scrape up, and you find no water damage to repair, and you have a secret technique for cutting round holes and notches in cement fiber board, and you choose not to use thinset under the cement fiber board, and you don’t need to stop and patch and paint the wall where you ripped out the old vanity, and if you are smart enough to tackle this project when it is not literally 100 degrees outside, causing any outdoor aspects of the project to sap your will to live, and you know what the hell you are doing, then, maybe, maybe you can do such a project in a couple of days.

I do believe that a pro could do the job in just a couple of days, but it actually took us more like 4-5 day to get to this far. Then it was another couple of days before we had a totally functional bathroom again.

Ugh, just typing all of this up has exhausted me again. More bathroom updates later. Right now, I need a nap.

This entry was posted in Bathroom, David thinks I am insane, Home Improvement. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Bathroom tiling

  1. Jeanne says:

    We are just getting started with our tile in the “water closet” area (3×6) and using the very same octagon dot Daltile in sheets. I am going to use gray grout instead of the white I had planned on. We did the large area in cork lamenate and it looks real nice. Yes, my husband has a few choice words for making the tile fit the small space….but I don’t think you can say them on the “net”. (ha)
    Anyway, it has taken us 6 days to do all the flooring…so don’t feel bad! Oh yes, ….I have 6 cats in the yard!

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