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03.24.14 / Sometimes DIY Sucks

I seriously considered not writing this post. But it would have been dishonest. For me, this blog is all about sharing my ideas, passions and home with the hope that they will inspire others. It’s never my intention to show perfection or a glossed over view of DIY and renovating. (Although, I’ll be the first to admit to loving good eye candy.) It’s easy to leave out the bad stuff online but in real life it’s impossible. We’re human. We make mistakes. It happens.

And it happened to us this weekend.

Processed with VSCOcam with m3 preset

I picked up the noir hex tile for the bathroom floor last week and the plan was to lay it this past Saturday. An early morning phone call on Saturday skewed our plans. A family member was in the hospital (it turned out to be nothing serious, thank goodness) and our help was needed. Persons we love in the hospital trump DIY projects so Saturday was shot.

No big deal. Steve said he would lay it Sunday afternoon while I tended to the kids.

tiling sucks 2

On Sunday, I helped Steve measure and snap a chalk line on the floor to get things started then I stepped aside to keep an eye on the kids since no one was volunteering to babysit. (Where are all the volunteer babysitters when you need them?!) When I checked in on him later, things were looking good. He was two rows in from the longest wall and working his way around the plumbing fixtures for the tub.

tiling sucks 1

I took a few progress shots then Steve said, “Now’s not a good time.”

Oops. He was on the verge of pissed and I could tell. Everything seemed par for the course from my viewpoint. The tile reminded me of scaly reptilian skin and I loved it. But Steve said the tile mats weren’t lining up well. He was doing a lot of eyeballing, using spacers occasionally and removing individual “trouble” tiles and placing them by hand when necessary.

Now I should mention this wasn’t our first tiling rodeo. We’ve tiled several floors and walls over the course of 10+ years of homeownership. I should also mention that Steve is an engineer and a bit of a perfectionist. He would rather not do something at all than do it half-assed. What he considers mediocre work is probably more like meticulous to others. In this way, he is so much like my dad it isn’t funny. You know that line about women marrying their fathers? There might be some truth to it.

A while later I was making dinner when Steve started unloading buckets of tile in the front yard. Loud scraping noises were coming from the bathroom. I knew something was up and I knew it was bad. I also knew that asking questions wasn’t going to make anything better so I waited until there was a break from the scraping before I peeked into the bathroom.

tiling sucks 3

Five hours into laying the floor tile, this was our progress. One step forward. Two steps back. As I had guessed (I wanted to be sooooo wrong), Steve had pulled up all the tile and was scraping away the thin-set.

In response to my meek “what happened?” he replied, “I failed.”

I left it at that while he went outside to scrub and salvage the used tiles covered in thin-set. Later on when he was able to talk about the incident, I learned that something went awry in the third row of tiling and the 12″ x 12″ tile mats weren’t matching up properly. I never actually saw the third row so I have no idea if it was really that bad or just Steve’s version of bad. (Two very different definitions of bad, btw.)

At any rate, we were back to square one. I asked if I could help him work on it after the kids were in bed for the night and Steve pointedly stated, “I’m not stepping foot back in there today.” Um, okay. Me neither then.

For the rest of the night, Steve was so down. He was mad at himself more than anything. I reminded him it was just a bathroom we haven’t used for two years anyway but, I have to admit, I was a little disappointed, too. Not in him, but I had anticipated sharing a tiled bathroom floor on the blog Monday and that clearly wasn’t happening.

Feeling defeated (I know because he said it more than once), Steve called up our contractor friend – who’s just as meticulous as Steve – to ask for guidance. He was *sort of* happy to hear that something similar had happened to our pro friend. (Just to be clear, that’s pro as in professional contractor not as in professional friend.) And he was more than happy when our friend offered his hands-on help for this upcoming weekend.

So, yeah, many projects don’t go the way we plan – even projects we’ve done before. Like this one. Sometimes DIY sucks. But for some strange reason we keep coming back. We went to bed last night feeling like we wasted an entire day of our lives. I can think of a hundred other things we could have done yesterday that would have been way more fun than un-tiling a bathroom floor. Scraping my fingernails across a chalkboard comes to mind.

Have you experienced any failed projects that took the wind out of your DIY sails and left you feeling completely defeated? How did things shake out? Luckily, we were able to salvage the tile so we’re hopeful we can forge ahead with the help of our friend. But until next weekend, we’re shunning the bathroom and putting it in timeout. It probably won’t even notice. It’s been in a perpetual state of timeout for the last two years anyway. Grrrrrr…

P.S. – WOW!! You guys are really into laundry hampers! I wish I had accidentally received 2,000 of them to give away. Haha. Click here to see who won the one extra hamper I do have.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

60 Comments

24.March.2014

Boo! That sucks big time. Hope you guys can regroup and find some positive energy for another go -around this weekend.

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24.March.2014

big huge bummer…I hope that this particular tile works out for the (2nd) install, as I love it and am considering it for my son’s small bathroom. kudos to your husband for asking for advice/help!

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Happy Monday Dana. This is just another reason HouseTweaking is a must read for me on a daily basis. I love how honest you are and that you try to be transparent with your readers. DIY isn’t all “pretty brass fixtures and gorgeous statement lights” all the time and I love when bloggers share the downs as well as the ups. I know I have had a many o bad DIY day. I hop Steve doesn’t give himself too much of a hard time. The things you guys have done to the Underdog thus far is nothing short of amazing. Everyone, especially him, is entitled to a bad day. I know you guys will get back on track and it’ll be looking amazing in no time.

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24.March.2014

Aw, what a bummer! We had a bathroom floor fiasco a while back. We laid a heated bathroom floor (hex marble) and in our excitement we didn’t realize we had to wait approx a month before “turning the floor on”. We turned it on too soon and the thin set that the heating cables were in, dried up and shrunk causing a horrible cracking sound…the floor had hollowed out. Talk about stressful…having to chip out all the thin set without nicking the heating cable.
Hopefully you’ll be right back on track this weekend!

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24.March.2014

Wow. Steve sounds like my husband when he’s DIY’ing and it is not going well. A man of few words…

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24.March.2014

Oh yeah, I am living with something of a mess right now. I am a former DIY-er married to a man who … isn’t. Maybe that’s why I read blogs like yours; my nose is pressed against the window watching you tackle your impressive projects. I hired painters to come in and get it done fast, but they messed up and I had to let them go. Now my house is in a half-way painted mess (to me) but husband wants to just live with it for a while. It’s so hard.
Oh well!
I bet that tile will be beautiful when it’s re-done. And this episode will quickly fall behind you.
And spring will come and I can get the painting finished and open the windows and all will be well.

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24.March.2014

Sad to report but this weekend was a bust here too. I attempted to stain my bathroom cabinets and even though I followed every prep step known to man something went way way way wrong. They are still propped up in row in the foyer and receive the stink eye from me each time I walk by. Then all the trim I painted in my bedroom is now bubbling and peeling off in many places. Ugh. I am so bitter -_-

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Yeah, I have lived through this on more than one occasion. The husband and I are both crazy perfectionists and have scrapped many projects halfway through. He also will not start things until he thinks he can make it 100 times better than it could be. Probably why our house is not completely done ;) The tiles are great, and I know that bathroom will look fab soon enough.

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24.March.2014

Loved the title! I chuckled when I read it. It’s not that I’m happy about your floor fiasco but because I have been there multiple times. I’m know your bathroom with look amazing unfortunate it will just take a little longer. You are extremely talented and lucky to have a husband that will take on that job. I don’t think my husband would do that, even though he used to be contractor. Chin up!

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This is crazy because I just published a post [for thursday] where I basically said the same thing. My mistakes included wrong sized toilets among other things and not being meticulous like your husband. I wish I was a little more like him in that area!

There are so many times I think the same thing. That I curse the time where I thought I could do something on my own. Where I may be in over my head just a bit. I guess grown ups need cool down/time outs as well because that always helps for me.

And google.

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24.March.2014

The tile will be all the more beautiful and appreciated when you share the results now. I hate it when DIY causes marital tension. No fun. Sorry another go at it has to be made. Hoping the second time goes better! Thanks to you and Steve for sharing!

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25.March.2014

I pray for the day I can even has a chance to make a DIY mistake.! I’m bedbound and no longer am able to do any of my passions. If you’ve got good health you are a wealthy person! We have money but it does no good when you can no longer enjoy it. I lay in bed and daydream of installing beadboard, planting my garden and running on the lawn with my grandchildren. It will be ok. Your bathroom will be done before you know it, and I’ll be so proud of you and Steve:). You are a good, solid team and find joy along the way! Enjoy the journey, it is the most fantastic experience!!

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25.March.2014

Oh my! We have all had those DIY/reno moments! Mine included pulling up carpet and staining the concrete… yeah that didn’t work out so well! Now I have a lovely fake wood floor! Thanks for sharing your struggles! Although it’s hard, it’s always nice to know that others go through it too!

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Oh, Dana. How I can relate. My husband installed our laminate flooring and I tried not to hover but…the pattern came out like a puzzle and I’m still not sure what we’re going to do to fill the gaps to the doors. Sometimes I feel like I’d rather just pay someone else to do the work than create stress. I’m sure Steve will get it done to his liking (and yours too!) and all will be forgotten : ]

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Having just had the pretty much worst week of DIY ever behind us, I’m so glad that you wrote this post! It’s nice to feel that we’re not alone and that things even in Blogland – as perfect as they may sometimes seem – don’t always go to plan.

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25.March.2014

but, what happened exactly? not to be intrusive, just helps to know . . .?

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25.March.2014

My husband and I are both engineers. Our bathroom remodel (gut of a 1948 original) is just barely out of demo. To say we are obsessing over 16ths of an inch is an understatement! Good luck with this upcoming weekend.

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25.March.2014

Oh yes. I can completely empathize with you on this. SO MANY of our projects fail, so it helps to have the week to take a break and regroup before tackling it again on the weekend. Good luck this next go-around!

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25.March.2014

Argh – how frustrating! We recently painted our kitchen and even tho we both like the color, it just doesn’t feel right for the space so we’ve decided to re-paint. It’s an easy fix, I know, but the tough part is finding another large chunk of time – time that hasn’t already been designated for other DIY jobs. I know it’s not on the same scale as your bath tile issues, but I do feel your pain!

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25.March.2014

Ditto to what Rachel said- what exactly happened? Is it that the tile sheets didn’t match up? That happened to us when we tiled our backsplash and we ended up using spacers and cutting the mats into smaller pieces to fit them in. We decided to grout with a similar color rather than contrasting color, so as not to make the blemishes more obvious. People compliment us all the time on it- they don’t see the bad spots the way we do. Good luck with finishing it and keep in mind that the small imperfections will be visible to you only- not to anyone else.

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replied on March 25th, 2014

Taylor, I’m not exactly sure, to be honest. I dry fit most of the floor initially. Even then I would get to a point where the patterns didn’t line up from one row to the next. The rows were straight as an arrow and I was using spacers, so I’m guessing there is variance in the position of the tiles relative to the mesh backing. I was so ready to just get moving, I decided to start laying them and “manage” the spaces while I installed. That was not a great decision. I’ll take another stab at it this weekend. Hopefully I can learn something that saves someone else the joys of scrubbing off thinset from tile in 30 deg weather.

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replied on March 25th, 2014

Thanks for your hard work!

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replied on March 29th, 2014

Steve, I sell tile in Cleveland. We have many mosaic sheets that require you to stagger the tiles to make them match. Not saying this is the case here, but it could be. We try and tell our installers that before they try and lay it down. Even the best installers have trouble with these sheets. Stay strong.

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25.March.2014

This is my FIRST comment on any blog EVER!! Giving up my comment virginity here… we had the same thing happen back in November. Very same tile too! We’re living parallel lives I guess. On a good note, our bathroom is the bomb now. Despite near wanting to blow our brains out in the process. On another note, where is your watch from in the previous post? I must have…

Love your blog btw and good luck with the reno :)

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replied on March 25th, 2014

It’s a leather Fossil watch probably 10+ years old!

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25.March.2014

We used tile mats for our shower and they were incredibly frustrating. We never got it perfect and ended up grouting white to match the tile so I could live with it. I originally wanted gray grout with white tile… Looking back I kind of wish I’d used tiles maybe like the ones in your shower (larger tiles) or hired a perfectionist. :-) You have really look close to see what I see, of course!

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25.March.2014

Maybe it will help to know that stone hexagons are the hardest tile to install. (We own tile stores in Michigan and Ohio.) You have to hand set quite a few because the grout joints and tiles can vary ever so slightly, throwing off the pattern. I agree with his decision to take a break and tackle it after a while. Good luck. :)

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25.March.2014

That is such a bummer… but it is better to do it right than to look at that crooked tile everytime you’re going to the bathroom or bathing your kids.

My biggest DIY failure was when I painted a table and then we put yellow tinted sealer (I should pay closer attention) on it. It didn’t show right away, but I’ve been staring at a yellow streaky table for the last 6 months.

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Are you kidding?! THAT is the fun part…the fails. All woven into the weft and warp of the homes story! Looked good to me FWIW…I have faith in youse guyz.

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25.March.2014

As I’m reading this, I’m sitting in a freezing cold house because the contractor cut through one of the boiler lines in our bathroom, which is completely gutted to the point of seeing the dirt crawl space under the house. The project that was supposed to be easy, is now WAY more involved and it’s added a huge burden to my shoulders because we are supposed to be listing this house and finishing projects, not adding more. Sigh. Plus, Ohio weather is drunk and needs to go home. I’m so over this cold weather!

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25.March.2014

I have a huge HUGE multi pane mirror sitting on top of a dresser in my front room that is cracked and chipped beyond recognition. It took several months of planning, drawing, cutting, etc… to turn out a royal piece of poo. I didn’t take into account the size of the darn thing and how it would eventually cripple under it’s own weight breaking every single one of the mirror panes. It’s so bad.

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25.March.2014

I love your honesty!!! Been there done that too many times to count.

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25.March.2014

I tried to paint an old bookshelf in a gorgeous turquoise color. I still don’t know what exactly happened because I used a primer, but somewhere around the second coat the entire paint job just started peeling up. It was terrible and ruined the bookshelf right there. I was so defeated that I got rid of the bookshelf. Not one of my finer moments.

http://jax-and-jewels.blogspot.com

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DIY…it always starts out with such high hopes! You’ll come back to fight another day though and the satisfaction of having done it yourself will eventually overcome the sting of setbacks, and seemingly wasted time!

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The more tiling I have had done, the more I realize how much of an skilled craft it is. And even a lot of “pros” suck at it. I always notice how bad something is tiled when I go to a restaurant or a store for instance. And when the tiles are differently sized on a grit as well, that just adds to it all. I notice the same with small glass tiles. They are not the same size which means the grout ends up looking a little uneven to the perfectionist eye, even when the tile is set up perfectly. I have it on my bucket list to learn how to tile. I am going to do the tiling myself in our master later this year. Wish me luck!

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replied on March 25th, 2014

I’m glad I’m not the only one who mentally inspects tile jobs in Mexican restaurant bathrooms.

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25.March.2014

I’m married to that guy too. I’ve seen the very same behavior, quiet frustration, annoyance, wipe the slate clean and start over. Perseverance, it’s a good thing!

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25.March.2014

It is SO REFRESHING to see the ugly side of DIY – I am married to a general contractor (he works for a small construction firm) and oh boy, I can tell when he has had a bad day. I have learned to walk away and ask him when things have calmed downa bit! I truly suck at DIY so when we do projects I am usually the go-for girl and I do what he tells me. Hopefully the next time you post that floor it will look spectacular!!!!

Thanks for sharing Dana!

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25.March.2014

That sucks! I’m glad you posted about this, it’s interesting to see the communication during these difficult diy times. Having a professional friend doesn’t hurt and best of luck with tiling 2.0 next week;)

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25.March.2014

He’s not the only one that failed this weekend. I tried to hang some doors and failed miserably. I actually told my wife I was adding “absolutely no hanging doors, ever” to our post-nuptial agreement (doesn’t really exist). Ended up with two empty door frames and one very crooked door with a newly broken door frame. I phoned a contractor friend and am just going to pay for it now since I can’t face it again. I’ve never had much luck hanging doors… It would be nice if there were some better tutorials out there. Anyway, good to hear I’m not the only frustrated DIYer. Those little tiles are a bugger and have been the cause of a lot of frustration in our house too. Good luck.

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25.March.2014

Awwww this is such a bummer. I really like to lay tile but in our mountain house, we had five bathrooms that needed tiled floors and a few that needed tiled walls too. By the time I got to the last bathroom in our basement, I must have run out of steam. It still pains me to go down there and see how uneven it looks – both against the walls and the leveling itself. To be fair, the walls weren’t even which was a huge pain, but the large rectangular tiles just would not stay flat so the floor looks ridiculously wonky. It’s a rarely used bathroom but man oh man, I should have ripped it up and not grouted it because that made it even worse. Ohhhhhh DIY…LOL.

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25.March.2014

A month ago we spent 8 hours in a crawl space with a space heater, a hair dryer and boiling pots of water trying to thaw frozen pipes only to realize that the cleaning lady had accidentally switched the valve in the shower head in between settings and the pipes were not actually frozen. Someday we’ll laugh about it. Someday.

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25.March.2014

Keeping it real is part of what draws a lot of us to your blog. Perfectionism is hard! A little perspective from the outside: Steve–practically single-handedly–nearly gutted that house and rebuilt it (on top of a demanding full-time job plus travel), with floor teamwork and other couples tasks as you could, pros for roof and ceiling support, and your great electrician-in-law. But seriously, just LOOK at the befores and afters for the spaces you’ve completed. I’m in awe. My husband, a veteran house rehabber, is in awe. None of that takes away the frustration when things go awry, and undoing what you’ve just done so you can start over is the worst.

Final message: Please don’t hesitate to share what doesn’t work. Too many people nowadays feel they don’t measure up when they see perfectly styled homes and air-brushed celebrity photos–unrealistic and harmful standards. More than ever, I think, it’s important to keep it real for real people living real lives. Thanks!

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Yeah, that totally sucks. Sometimes I think all the tiles that have mesh backings are imperfect – we had to deal with it for our penny tile bathroom (I tore multiple rows out on that one and couldn’t salvage most of it) and then again with our hex floor bathroom (did lots of wiggling to get those to be perfect). And while it sucks in the moment, it is amazing how you forget when it’s done. I actually forgot about both of those until this post! Good luck Steve (and you too Dana for having to be nervous while he’s working on it)…

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Thanks for the reminder that not all projects go as planned. I can’t tell you how many of our DIY projects have felt more like Disaster It Yourself projects. The trick seems to be to take it in stride and keep moving. And know when to leave the husband alone to be frustrated!

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replied on March 25th, 2014

I know when to leave him alone…and he knows when to leave me alone. It’s all good ;)

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25.March.2014

I have love/hate relationship with DIY. They can be totally frustrating, time-consuming, and costly, and that moment when you realize it’s not going to work totally sucks! BUT, when they do turn out, it is super rewarding, so I think that’s why we all keep going back to it! I’m sure it will look amazing when it’s done.

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25.March.2014

We just picked up the Biltmore Polished Hex in 2×2 from the Tile Shop yesterday, and are attempting our first DIY tile job. Big gulps. Did we bite off more than we can chew? I’ll be anxiously awaiting your next post(s) on this and what worked/didn’t work. We have some time before the tiling starts but decided to have everything ready to go before jumping in. Thank you for your honesty! Good luck, can’t wait to see the final results!

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25.March.2014

YES! Our worst DIY fail was the weekend before we moved to the US from the UK. For some reason (that I can’t remember AT ALL now, several years later), we decided to put a slate floor into the entrance hall, in order to be more attractive to renters. Except, the removal guys were coming on the Tuesday and DH was moving on the Wednesday, with me and the 4 kids following him the following Monday.

So, the slate floor looked sh*t. We argued the entire time (nerves and worries got the better of us!) and we moved out and paid someone to fix it 3 weeks later.

We look back and laugh now. At the time?!! Not so much!!!

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25.March.2014

That sucks!
We had tile issues up the wazoo here. The bathroom floor was a carrera marble basketweave mosaic with black dots. And the black dots liked to pop off that mesh mat or twist and turn and do all sorts of funky things. Staring at the pattern was enough to make your eyes cross.
In our other bath, we tried using grout booster and had bloody fingers and hands (and lots of swear words and tears) from trying to chisel the dried grout off the miles of subway tiles. Awesome.

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25.March.2014

Trust me, hex tiles are a serious pain to install. We hired a contractor to install nearly the same tile in our master bath 2 months ago (we used white) and the contractor had a really hard time with it. It took him FOREVER!!! It still doesn’t look perfect but it’s good enough for me. I love the look of hex tile. Once you get past the issues with the install you will love it!

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26.March.2014

I had the same issue when I laid hex tiles in a sheet. I was on a time crunch (or so I thought. Looking back I could have had a houseguest without tile on the bathroom floor. Worst things have happened) and was on the home stretch of the 11 day marathon bathroom gut and rebuild. I gave up and laid the floor slightly off. I still have dreams of demo-ing it and laying it straight. And I mean literal dreams-then wake up disappointed that it was a dream. So in the end be glad you are doing it right. And that you have two bathrooms! :-)

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26.March.2014

My contractor, who is my brother in law, had the same problem with my marble hex flooring for the guest room. He kept saying that the tiles would not fit together. I think it is a hex tile thing. It’s not Handy Hubby’s fault. I think the hex tile takes a lot more time, and you need to buy extra sheets of tile because they don’t all fit right. The end result is fabulous though. It might not have happened this weekend, but you will eventually get the floor you want!

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26.March.2014

Ugh…so sorry. It sounds like one of my many DIY failures. But it’s awesome that you are sharing the good, the bad and the ugly here on the blog. Thanks for keeping it real ;)

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26.March.2014

Wish we could all show up on your front lawn and literally pat your husband on the back for all his hard work. I know that this particular DIY didn’t go as planned, but as others have pointed out, all the work that the two of you have accomplished in your home is amazing! I hate that he felt so defeated and again, wish we could all affirm him in person, but for now… the comment section is all we have. So please let him know that we’re fans of him just as much as we are of you!

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26.March.2014

That sucks! Hope it all works out because I love that tile!

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26.March.2014

We had issues with our hex tile too!!

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28.March.2014

Dana, I love how you know how to handle the situation when Steve is frustrated. Either walking away and not saying anything or just helping him clean up the tile afterwards. It has taken me years to learn that it only makes it worse when I try to “help” my boyfriend or ask him “helpful” questions, like “why don’t you try it this way”. This post could save a lot of fights for many couples.

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02.April.2014

[…] have floor tile in the kid / guest bathroom! It took two tries along with the help of a friend with more tiling experience than us to knock it out. We need to […]

01.May.2014

[…] The door is the original back door to the main house. John frosted the glass for privacy but it still lets in light from the main living space. The floor is white hex with a black hex border. (Steve and John shared horror stories of installing hexagon floor tile.) […]




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