We 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 address a few wall and corner tiles in the far right corner and we haven’t grouted yet but I couldn’t wait any longer to share our progress – especially since this project proved to be more difficult than we had anticipated. The floor tile was in as of Sunday and I would have shared images sooner but The 2014 Plague had me down and out the last two days. The last few days have felt like weeks but things are finally returning to normal around here.
We had family in from out of town so I took the kids to visit them while Steve and our contractor friend, James, tackled the bathroom flooring. As much as I want to be an active, hands-on participant in this bathroom project, often it’s more helpful if I’m the one keeping the kids occupied and out of the way.
I thought I would share the tiling tidbits that Steve found most helpful when laying the hexagon tile. Some of the tips are basic ones you’ve heard before but were easily forgotten in the heat of the #epicfail. Others come from the experience of our friend, James. Maybe you will find them useful.
*First, don’t rush! Steve was in a hurry to get going the first time around because the project had been postponed from the day before and he had to be at work the next day. It’s imperative to have a good game plan and be patient. You’re better off with a really nice half-tiled floor or wall than a shoddy “finished” job.
*Work from the center out. Define your reference line based on where / how you want your tile to hit in the most critical areas. Mark off a second line perpendicular to the first. Essentially, this breaks the room up into four quadrants. Start where the two lines intersect and work your way out, constantly checking your reference lines and adjusting as needed. For this project, Steve focused on perfecting the entrance and visible floor-wall seams. He wasn’t as concerned with tile that will eventually be hidden by the tub or vanity.
*Inspect and dry fit everything. Steve did dry fit the first time he attempted to lay the hexagon tile – but only partially. When he discovered there was an issue with the tile sheets matching up correctly, he assumed he would be able to “make it work” as he went along. James suggested inspecting each box of tile before dry fitting. Upon inspection, one box contained tile that was 1/8″ smaller than the rest of the tile with tighter gaps between the individual tiles. And wouldn’t you know, that was one of the two boxes Steve started with the first time around?!
*Mix up small batches of thin-set. Mixing up a large bucket of thin-set might seem like a time-saving step but, actually, it could be detrimental to the whole “don’t rush!” mindset. In the grand scheme of things, it really doesn’t take that much time or effort to mix up smaller batches of thin-set as opposed to one big batch.
*Be clean with your trowel. This takes time and experience. Steve admits to slathering on a bunch of thin-set then forging ahead. But you really only need to trowel on a little more thin-set than what’s required for the current tile sheet you’re working with at the moment. Also, be aware of your reference lines when troweling and don’t wipe them out completely.
*If an individual tile needs adjusted, it’s easier to make the adjustment after the sheet has been laid. Just trace the outline of the tile with a utility knife, cutting the backing in the process. Shift the tile into the proper position. Use spacers or even small pieces of cardboard to hold adjusted tiles in place. This works for tiles that are thinner as well. Cut the tile out, pull it up, back-butter it and then place it back at the same height as the rest of the tile. Steve guesses he had to adjust ~1 tile per sheet due to spacing and height issues.
*If you have help, let someone else cut the tile. This saves time running back and forth between the wet saw. If your tile and layout allow, hand-held tile nippers or scorers can save time and energy, too.
I called Steve a few hours into the job to see how things were going. Just from his tone of voice, I knew it was going well and I was able to breathe a huge sigh of relief. When a DIY project isn’t going as planned, it helps us to take a break, take a step back, start over, get back to basics and enlist experienced help if possible. We’re so thankful James was willing to help us out. (FYI – We’re compensating him for his time with dinner and concert tickets.)
I hope you learned something from our tiling snafu. We sure did. Next up? Grout!
images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking