Tile On

10 Jun

After designing our new house for more than a year, we thought that we had nailed down every aspect of the renovation. Frankly, we anticipated that the renovation project would be a turn-key affair, requiring little intervention on our part. We figured that the months that we’d be out of the house would be a good time to get out of the country and travel, since we’d otherwise be holed-up in a little condo at the north end of town.

None of this has remotely reflected reality; frankly, we’re currently suffering from chronic decision fatigue as a result of the ongoing nuances that have to be resolved every day or two. Specific placement of electrical outlets; how the window casings will interface with the crown molding; location of the doorbell chime; size and routing of the downspout, now that the vent for the range hood has consumed more real estate on the back of the house than anticipated. It never ends.

A great example of this is the bathroom tile. During our design of the bathrooms, long before we had a contract with a GC or excavated the first shovelful of dirt, we had specified the tile we would use and established a design pattern for the tile layout in each bathroom. What more could we possibly need to do? As noted in the initial post on bathroom tile, plenty, just to begin installation. We worked through multiple design updates based on the actual room measurements after drywall was installed, then scrutinized grout color. However, we still weren’t done, at least not in the guest bath. We had to address joint size and precision.

The wall tile in both bathrooms needs to be cut down from 16″ x 16″ to 8″ x 16″ for the the pattern we’ve specified. No problem in the master bath. But in the guest bath, all four sides of the the tile has a microbevel edge. It’s barely noticeable, but will, in fact, have an effect on the final product, since cutting the tile in half produces an 8″ x 16″ tile with three beveled edges and one strait edge. The solution we’ve arrived at is to manually bevel the new edge, then grout to the top of the bevels between tile. Since we want to to keep the joints tight (1/16″ wide), this actually means that the tiles themselves will be 1/32″ apart, so the distance between the two bevels will be 1/16″.

The GC wanted to make sure that we actually reviewed what the finished product would look like, and so prepared a mockup on a wall in the guest room:

In response to a suggestion that a larger joint size potentially should be considered, another mockup appeared, this time in the back of the closet:

Dueling joint mockups!

Here’s a closeup of the 1/16″ joint size. The whole point of this approach is to de-emphasize the interstitial spaces between tiles and highlight the stone itself. This goal is definitely accomplished with the initial mockup:

In contrast, the mockup of 1/16″ joints (which translates to 1/8″ grout lines between the beveled edges at the surface) resulted in grout lines that were too large. You can’t really discern this from the pre-grout mockup, since you notice only the the distance between the tiles below the beveled edges at the surface.

However, after the tile has been grouted, the thicker lines are much more noticeable.

We ended up approving the 1/16″ visible joint (for a 1/32″ joint between the tiles themselves). The risk is heightened visibility of any irregularities due to the manual cutting and beveling, but the mockup demonstrated the skills of Mario, the tile craftsman, so we’re hopeful for a result that meets our expectations.

Meanwhile, in the master bath, tile begins to be laid on the shower and bathroom floors. In the bathroom proper, the tile guys also have applied the electrical floor heating element.

The tiles begin to spread eastward. In the shower, placeholder buffers define the long Kerdi drain, which will be tiled in the middle.

Here’s a closeup, and another episode of anxiety-inducing stress. The plumber assumed that cement backer board would be applied to the west wall (the stark crimson/magenta wall that Mason has correctly identified is actually readily discernible, contrary to my assertions . . .). However, no backer board is needed, and we’re happy with a little extra space in the shower. As a result, though, the shower fixtures are not centered. We almost lost it.

However, as noted in the photo below, this is one of those rare instances where the mistake actually results in a better outcome than if the design was correct. Namely, there’s exactly 16″ from the edge of the shower to the center of the drain and fixtures. So, we need precisely one tile from the beginning of the downward slope at the shower entrance to the center point; the additional space is addressed on the west side by a narrow strip of tile, but not a little sliver. If the plumbing rough-ins had been installed in the center, we would have had a sliver at the shower entrance and at the west wall, which would have sucked, from a aesthetic standpoint.

The floor tile continues to migrate across the master bath:

Tile has now been installed along the length of the drain, effectively camouflaging the unit (the black spacers are just there temporarily).

In the guest bath, floor tiling also moves forward. The electric mat also has been installed.

Flooring essentially is complete in the photo below (the tile was selected to appear as an inverse of the white wall tile with grey veining). The joints, which are 1/32″ were spaced using the large ends of razor blades (you can see one laying on one of the tiles and another nearby in a joint between tiles . . .).


Posted by on June 10, 2012 in Bathrooms


2 responses to “Tile On

  1. mom

    June 11, 2012 at 10:11 am

    what funky stuff are you planning to do in the shower that you need a suctioned handle on the floor?

  2. fan of your mom

    June 11, 2012 at 7:32 pm



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