Shower Tile, Phase I

Well, tiling didn’t go as fast as planned (it never does!), and Nik really had a ton of work work to do this weekend, between submitting edits for a publication he’s in the middle of, applying for jobs (which apparently require 16,453 different documents that I’m sure no one on these hiring committees actually wants to read ), and making lesson plans for the new upper level microbial ecology course he’s teaching. I’m trying to help where I can so he doesn’t have a nervous breakdown – but almost 10 years out from college, I just don’t have the motivation and work ethic that Nik still does to do that much work work outside of 8-5 M-F! He’s really committed to getting these things done and done well, which is awesome for him and it makes me proud to have such a driven and hard working husband. But unfortunately, the timing of all this work is bad news for our shower progress!

This is not to say that we didn’t get anything done on the long holiday weekend, but my lofty goals of finishing all the tiling and even getting the grout done certainly were not reached. While Nik was getting some writing done on Saturday morning, I started visualizing how the tile layout should be. We had a few obstacles to work around such as the niche, the faucet hole, and considerations such as the width and height of each wall. From past tiling projects, we’ve learned that it rarely works out to start blindly and hope for the best. When this is done, you’ll undoubtedly end up with a space that needs a 1/4″ more tile to cover it, or a tile that needs a circle cut right out of the middle of it for a spigot. Basically, Murphy’s Law applies if you choose to wing it.

So I decided I’d made some to-scale drawings of the shower walls, with all the trouble spots drawn exactly in place:

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Then I cut out little practice tiles (also to scale) and essentially tiled the drawings:

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One issue was the height was 76″, and our tiles are 12″ tall, plus the 2.75″ bullnose at the top, and 4″ of decorative tile somewhere in the middle. Not an even 76″. To make it add up, we ended up deciding that the very bottom row of tile would be cut 3″ lengthwise to make it only 9″ tall. Using my practice tiles was actually very useful, and guided a number of decisions about which rows would have the staggered start, where cuts would be around the faucet, and how we could do the niche with as little headache as possible. Once decisions were made, I started drawing cut lines on all the tiles for the back wall. Nik took a break to cut all these tiles, and that was Saturday.

Sunday we got some of our new fancy mortar mixed up (it has a higher latex content, so is more flexible and supposedly has the best grip for heavier tiles) and started laying tile.

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We got about 80% of the back wall laid, up to the decorative strip, then we ran out of mortar and decided to stop there. On Monday, I got all the tile cuts for the right wall traced out and Nik cut them and then we started laying this wall. The mortar didn’t behave quite as well this day, and we had to add more water a few times to keep it pliable.

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I think we were also moving slower because not only were we having to think about the levelness of the tiles on this wall, but we also now had to ensure they were lining up with the already-laid back wall. This wall also had some major concave curvature going on with the cement boards for some reason (I’m thinking it has something to do with the questionable stud work in our house’s framing), which made some of the tiles appear to be dramatically different thicknesses. We did our best to minimize the problem areas, but there’s certainly going to be some weird grout lines on this wall. It is what it is!

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We’re going to keep slowly working on the tile over the next few weeks. I decided rushing isn’t worth it, and the other things Nik is working on are much more important than getting our bathroom back a few weeks earlier. It’ll happen when it happens.

I also got around to lining the drawers of our vanity the other night, so we’re about ready to start using it again. It’s going to be weird walking in the other direction to use the  bathroom again after walking down the hall to the guest bathroom for so many months!

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