Sunday, March 6, 2011

Tiling... weekend one

After completion of the shower demo and cement board installation, we were ready to tile. Our adventure started with a tiling class at Home Depot on Saturday morning and didn't end until about 9pm on Sunday evening. You'd think we finished, right? In our defense, there was breakfast with my parents, exercise, showing off our work to the neighbors, and of course take-out thrown in that time. But the bottom line is, we're really slow.

The Home Depot class was worthwhile because you get to practice with someone else's supplies. We found that laying a few tiles at the store gave us just enough confidence to get started.

If you'd like a really detailed tutorial I suggest google or youtube to find instructions from experts. I just want to share some tips for other tiling newbies like us.

I'm hesitant every time we do something new because I want to make sure we do it right. We usually watch a youtube video, argue discuss the best method, and stare at the project for a while before we get going. This weekend, after a bit of staring, we sealed the seams of the shower and got about a third of the tiling done. As I type, our shower looks like this.

You might be wondering what the blue tape is all about. Oscar (our HD tiling expert) said it might help the tiles stay in place. This may be true but I'd like to note two things. 

First, I went overboard on the silly tape.

Second, the thinset should definitely hold the tiles to the backerboard and if it does not, its not mixed thick enough. We heard lots of people say the thinset mortar should have the consistency of peanut butter, but I would say it should feel a little thicker than that. Not quite like cement but close to it.

Also, that big mess of tape on the right? It was one of many attempts to hold a corner shelf in place. More on that later.

I found it helpful to lay the tile out on the floor before putting it on the shower.

Its not necessary but rather than try to do math, I laid out the tile to see what kinds of cuts we'd need to make. We only needed to cut about 7/8 of an inch off one side. Normally its recommended you start in the middle and cut both sides so the tile looks symmetrical, but with less than an inch off big tiles, we made it easier and just trimmed all 7/8 off one side.

After we had our plan of attack we used fiberglass mesh tape and thinset to seal the seams of the backerboard. This is an important yet straight forward step that helps create a water tight seal before you lay the tile.

There are many methods that'll work to keep the tiles level while tiling a shower. Since this was our first try I don't know which is best. We put batten on the walls and start with the second row of tile.

 This allowed us to focus on leveling the batten without having to worry if the tub is level (its not). The trick is to make sure that the top of the batten is no more than one tile length high at the low end of the tub. This way, you won't end up with a big space at the bottom. At the end, we'll remove the batten and tile the first row, cutting the tiles a little shorter if needed to compensate for the slanted tub.

I recommend using something smaller than a 2x4 for the batten. It was just what we already had at home. Be sure to leave the nail head out of the wood a little bit for easier removal. Also, put the batten up on all three walls first. We didn't but should have - its very nerve wracking to swing a hammer next to the tile you just slaved over.

Matt let me do the honors of the first tile.

After that we just worked away. We got most of the back wall finished on Saturday. On Sunday we decided to try one of the "hard" pieces and put up a shelf.

The directions on the box basically say, "Apply thinset and stick shelf to backerboard." So, we followed the directions. As you can see, it didn't work as planned. Even though we mixed the thinset pretty darn thick, the heavy shelf kept sliding down the wall. I wish we had a great solution for this, but we don't. Do you have any good tips???

After our shoulders got really tired, we tried to hold it with painters tape (rookie mistake). We finally rigged up a way to hold it in place using pieces of 2x4, a roll of mesh tape, and a couple of shims.

The shelf feels solid now. I know there is an easier way to install those shelves, so its back to the drawing board google. 

After lots of sitting in the tub holding the shelf in place, we called it a night. We'll try to put in a couple hours of tiling this week after work. Our ambitious goal is to be able to grout next weekend.

And though its hard work, when I think back to what the shower looked like before and how great it feels to do the work ourselves, I think it will be well worth it. Here's another look at our progress this weekend.

Hopefully we'll have lots more work to share by the end of the week. If we come up with a better solution for installing a shelf we'll be sure to post.

What has been your biggest challenge when tiling? Have any ideas for the shelf installation?

Update: For the next step in our bathroom model click here.

These tips are shared at The Stories of A to Z and The DIY Showoff.
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  1. Your bathroom is going to look great! I found your blog at the DIY Showoff. You have such great ideas and I'm your newest follower! I'd love it if you'd follow me back:

    I also had a home decor binder when I was younger and I totally subscribed to Martha Stewart Living! Hahaa :-)

  2. We're going to be redoing our showers soon, and these are great tips! Just came across your blog and I'm a new follower.

  3. Wow! So impressive that you are doing all of this yourself. You're amazing.

  4. Great tips! I can't wait to see the reveal! :) Thanks so much for linking to the DIY Project Parade. ;)


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