I’m not the Chuck Norris of tiling. Not even close. Although I may pretend I could roundhouse kick a pallet of marble, I would end up probably face down with a twisted ankle and an overextended groin muscle. So I gotta admit that I was really intimidated by this tiling project. The fact is….tiling an entire shower is a big job. A really big job. A really big job that I have never done before. I’ve done lots of floors. Four different backsplashes. Two fireplaces. But no showers. And the last time I attempted subway tile, my thumbs swelled up like two keilbasa’s attached to my hands. I wish I were kidding.
Do I think anyone could do this? Yes. I honestly do.
Do I want to do this again anytime soon? I need probably another year to recover. Then maybe.
Am I super proud with how it turned out? Youbetchabottomdollah.
So here was the plan….we demo’ed the bathroom, installed new backer board, waterproofed everything, and now we had to put the new tile back in. The walls of the shower and the curb would be getting a honed marble subway tile. Honed is not shiny whatsoever. And this particular tile does not have a built-in-spacer. A lot of subways do…but not this kind…it was a straight edge with a sharp corner. The floor was also honed marble but in a smaller herringbone pattern. The floor tiles came in sheets of 12×12 which makes it really easy to install.
Here is the shower as we started…
First thing we did was lay everything out and sort it. Obviously I’ve said this before when it comes to the tile process…I just like showing this photo…
Now normally what you do is install a ledger board. It will give support to the first row of wall tiles allowing you to tile the walls first but still have the wall tiles butt down onto the floor tiles. Basically you want the water to be able to run off the wall tiles straight onto the floor tiles and if you tile the floor first, then you have to walk on it and potentially ruin the tile job you just installed. So you install wall first….on a ledger board. I didn’t do that because we were being filmed and I needed to have 24-36 inches of tile done so that the camera wasn’t getting a rear end shot the entire time. I didn’t want to install a ledger that low because it would have messed up my waterproofing and so I took the calculated risk of putting the first row of tiles on the floor.
Marble (at least this tile) is crazy heavy and I only wanted to install about three feet of it at a time because I didn’t want it to sag or pull away from the wall. So my plan was to tile three feet, then 24 hours later, the camera man came back and shot more installation video, and then I would do another three feet. And then another three feet. Etc. Etc. until the shower was done. Not that three feet is something small….it would take about two hours per foot…so that’s six hours per day.
This is about where I was when the Home Depot people filmed me installing the tile. You can also see that I did the niche and a portion of the floor. I had to do those also for the video but they ended up not using that footage. Everything was done out of normal order just because we were on a tight scheduling time frame. I’m sure that it would have taken a pro much MUCH less time but I probably would have complained about something if I hired this out.
It was really nerve-wracking to have to explain how to tile while tiling and keeping it short and sweet. I am not a very concise person….I tend to ramble especially when I’m nervous so this was a real challenge.
On the tiling day, they had a handheld camera (you can see him peeking out of the closet below) and they also mounted a camera above the doorway. Every time I tiled, I had to go in there, press the start button and go to work. Then when I was done, I pressed it off.
Being filmed also meant that I had to wear the same outfit for the entire project. That means that every day I tiled (it took me about a week to do it all), I wore the same black shirt and the same jeans. Jeremy would watch the boys for me after a certain point in the day and I went into the bathroom and put on the same dirty and heavy clothes. By the end of the week, the jeans weighed like two tons with all the marble dust and dried mortar on them.
Here’s the real kick in the literal pants….it ALL washed out. Yup. I can wear those jeans like they are brand spanking new. (well, they were never new….I bought them at Goodwill). Isn’t that shocking?!
The biggest part of the tiling job that had me stumped was the niche. I just couldn’t source a honed piece of solid marble without it costing a small fortune. Finally I decided to take a risk and hone a marble threshold myself and cut that in half. It was under $20 and the honing actually WORKED. Once that was installed, we were able to center everything else around it.
After Will ate dinner, he would sometimes come in and sit on a bucket and talk to me. I found about seventeen million photos on my phone later of the project, me working, details, and a bunch of selfies. I know he is just four and probably not the most engaging conversationalist but that little dude made my nights so much less tortuous. I hate working alone and I had a hard time in my “marble coffin” because I couldn’t even hear what was going on with the boys. I just missed them a lot.
Also…the kid takes pretty decent pictures of action 🙂
I was really picky about the tile I used because I have seen some tile jobs where they didn’t pay attention to the color variation and the patterns. I tried to make it as random as possible but not have a big gray spot or a big white spot….just a really solid mix.
Now time for the weird moments….the floor….I was installing that after the curb was dry….and it was getting the herringbone. Since the space wasn’t perfectly square, it was crazy to have to cut an angle into tiles that laid on an angle. It was nuts. Honestly I was in full adrenaline mode that I don’t know how I did it.
Cutting out for the shower head…..just cut little “piano keys” and then knock out the ones you don’t want to create your little hole.
The edge was a last minute decision. Somehow in the chaos we completely forgot to order the edge tiles so we had those rush delivered and I think they are super simple and just what the bathroom needed.
The spacers. OH dear the spacers. It took both Jeremy and I a full two hours to remove all the spacers one Sunday afternoon. The boys were down for naps, Will was playing with the neighbors and we looked like we had major arthritis afterward. Our hands were so gnarled after using the needle nose pliers for that long, it was crazy. BUT we had perfectly spaced tiles and they were ready for grout!
Last but certainly not least is our drain situation. Most standard pipe drains are round. This 2″ version on the left is pretty standard. But I wanted to do a square drain for two reasons. One – I didn’t want to make round cuts….too hard! And B – I didn’t want a round drain with a square shower head. I thought it would complement the shower head if the drain was also square. So I bought this adapter kit.
The first thing you do if you want to make the switch is take the top plate off the round drain.
You need this bit because it fits in the round hole…
Then you fasten your square adapter kit to the round drain with the two screws.
This entire thing gets twisted into the drain pipe so that the top of the adapter kit is flush with the top of the tile. I would even say that it wouldn’t hurt if it was slightly lower….but not higher because you will be walking on this thing and you don’t want it to hurt your toes.
Then you tile around it. It actually is a lot easier to do the square cuts. Grout like normal.
Then you can pop the square drain plate over the entire thing and add sealant (not pictured). It’s super easy. Just be warned….I don’t think Home Depot carries these yet in oil-rubbed-bronze. I don’t know why. I have written a letter. Not really but almost.
Here’s a little fun fact…I didn’t take any photos of me grouting. If you want to watch the finished video of the tiling process….here she is….
Oh and that is me demonstrating grouting for the video….but the grouting and sealing process was already complete. So here’s a little secret….we staged it with toothpaste 🙂 That’s right….I am smearing white toothpaste on my new tiled wall. Isn’t that funny?!