...because home doesn't happen overnight.

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The bathroom floor has grout! The grouting process went smoothly and was a welcome “easy” step after the tiling fiasco. Steve says he would install tile all day long if the only thing involved was grouting.

I took some pictures to share with you. They’re under artificial lighting because it’s (big surprise) extremely dark and gloomy here today. We’re going to DIY a boat soon. KIDDING. I thought about waiting to shoot on a sunny day but I couldn’t! Still, these images are pretty spot-on for what the floor looks like in real life. It has some variation and variegation which gives it a natural, organic vibe. Just try to imagine white subway tile on the walls instead of that garish pink-red and be aware that almost everything has a pinkish / purplish tint to it from said walls.

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That’s the view from the hall looking in at the bathroom floor. The plumbing fixtures on the floor (left-hand side of this image) are for a claw foot tub. The rectangular hole is a heating / cooling register and you can see the toilet drain.

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And that’s the view looking back towards the hall. The plumbing fixtures on the wall are for the sink vanity. As you can see, there is a short hall that juts off from the main hallway and leads to a linen closet and this kid / guest bathroom. The door to the bathroom has been leaning against the wall waiting to be hung for over a year!

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This close-up shows the little imperfections in each tile. They look old and worn. I think they’re beautiful.

I’m not going to go into great detail about the grouting. There are enough resources out there on the inter webs and I don’t think I’d be saying anything that hasn’t been said already. A few things about our grout though…

Steve and I were at odds when it came to choosing a grout color. He was leaning towards medium to dark while I wanted something lighter to contrast with the noir hex. But I didn’t want white since I knew it wouldn’t stay white for long. So, of course, we googled a bunch of images of “black hexagon tile” for inspiration. We ended up choosing sanded grout in whisper grey. The grout lines are ~1/8″ as predetermined by the mesh sheets of tile. The tile is travertine – the same material as our mudroom / dining room floor – and requires sealing BEFORE grouting. This is a critical step which keeps the porous tile from absorbing the grout and it also helps with grout clean-up.

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We used a sealer specifically for travertine that we had leftover from tiling the mudroom floor. Steve rolled it on with a foam roller then buffed it lightly with a terry cloth to avoid pooling. It had to dry for an hour before grouting.

Once the sealer was dry, it was grout time. Instead of mixing up the grout with water, we used a flexible grout admixture. (We’ve actually used it for most of the grout in our house but I don’t think I’ve mentioned it.) Supposedly, the admixture prevents shrinking & cracking and improves strength, bonding, color and stain resistance. Since we used this technique in our master bathroom and the grout is still going strong with no cracks or stains 2+ years in, we figured it couldn’t hurt to use it here, too.

I think the sealer did help with clean-up afterwards. We didn’t have to use a grout haze remover – just water – to clean up. It took about five rounds of sponging with a clean, wet sponge to remove the grout residue.

We still need to seal the entire floor now that the grout is in. That will probably happen this week.

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Steve and I both LOVE how the black hexagon floor turned out. Yes, it was such a pain to lay and in the heat of the moment we may have questioned our choice of tile but…BUT!…we are so glad we stuck with it. The final result is just as dreamy as I had envisioned. My favorite part is that it looks old but it isn’t.

What do you think? I can’t say a black hexagon floor is something I’ve always wanted in my house. But now that it’s here I don’t know why I never thought about one before!

We partnered with The Tile Shop for the bathroom floor. They kindly gave us the tile of our choice and necessary tiling supplies. All labor, opinions, images and mishaps are our own.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

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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.

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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.

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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

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

bath prep 1

This past weekend we prepped the unfinished bathroom for tile. Steve mudded, taped and sanded the seams in the cement board. Then he shop-vac’d the entire room and cleaned everything with a damp cloth. (Where I come from, shop-vac is a verb.)

Per the suggestion of a friend who also happens to be a self-employed contractor, we decided to try a new waterproofing product (it’s that hot pink stuff you see above) on the shower walls. It’s called RedGard and can be rolled onto surfaces before tiling to create a waterproofing barrier and prevent cracks.

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Some say this extra step isn’t necessary. (We didn’t use this product in the master bathroom because we hadn’t heard of it yet and things are just fine in there.) For us, it’s peace of mind. Plus, we like trying out new products along the way and sharing our experience with others.

The cement board in this bathroom was installed at the same time as the drywall in the rest of the house – which we hired out for. And while the rest of the walls turned out great, the cement board installation in this bathroom was a little wonky. I’m guessing it was the last room to be finished at the end of a long day and was completed in haste. The seams were less than perfect but not enough for us to rip everything out and start over. Steve asked our contractor friend what to do. He suggested mudding, taping and sanding the seams then applying the RedGard. So that’s what we did.

Steve rolled two coats of RedGard over the cement board. The stuff is really thick and stinky. For better control, he used a small roller. This method worked well but the RedGard can also be troweled on if desired. Steve wore a respirator during application while the kids and I spent most of the *mild* day outside. We turned on the bathroom ventilation fans and opened the windows to help dissipate the smelly fumes. Still, it was pretty stinky the day of application.

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The RedGard turns from pink to red when dry. It dries fairly quickly. See how it’s more red in the image above and pinker in the very first image of this post? That was the time between starting the first coat and cutting in around the window to finish up the first coat. The color is just as garish in real life as it is in these pictures. If not more so. Steve’s vision was screwed up for the the rest of the day after staring at the red-pink walls. The boys were relieved to learn this was NOT going to be the final color of their bathroom!

With the bathroom prepped for tile, we started thinking ahead. The original plan for the room was to use the same skinny subway tile we have in the kitchen for the shower walls and a continuous 36″ high tiled wainscoting around the rest of the room. For the floor, we planned to use carrara marble hexagon tile.

But right at “go time” we were second-guessing these choices. We hemmed and hawed over whether or not to do the tile wainscoting throughout the room…mostly because we knew it would be a lot of work but I also worried it might look too busy. But the more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea of having mostly tiled walls to wipe down from the kids’ splashes and messes. We decided putting in the extra time now for the wainscoting installation would pay off in the form of easy cleaning down the road. Not to mention, the wainscoting will serve as another “layer” in the room and you know how I feel about layers. So tile wainscoting it is!

Then we got to thinking about the floor tile. I love, love, LOVE the marble we chose. But my kids love, love, LOVE to not pee in the toilet. We have two boys and our toddler just started showing interest in potty-training. Need I say more? I knew the white marble wouldn’t last one day in this house without becoming stained. (We have light-colored penny tile in the master bathroom but it’s ceramic and isn’t easily stained like marble.) And I don’t really feel like being a slave to a bathroom floor, no matter how pretty it is.

I wasn’t on the computer two minutes before I found this noir hexagon tile. It’s tumbled travertine and it’s slightly less expensive than the marble we originally chose. We have a travertine floor in our mudroom and it has held up really well to all the mud, dirt, rocks and food my family throws at it so I know the same material will work great in the kids’ bathroom. And can we talk about the color of this tile for a hot second? From a distance it reads black but upon closer inspection there are variations of charcoal, blue-black and jet-black. The color gradient gives it a natural, organic feel. It’s soooooo goooooood. So good we changed our minds. Noir hex it is!

We’re (im)patiently awaiting the arrival of our noir hex order to swap out the carrara we have on hand. Since the floor tile needs to go down before we can begin the wall tile, our progress in the bathroom has come to a screeching halt. So goes DIY home improvement!

In the meantime, I went ahead and created an updated mood board for the bathroom.

 

Kid/Guest Bathroom

 

1 – barn wall sconce We have the same light over the sink in our master bathroom. We like it so much we’re using it in the kid / guest bath, too. Even though the two bathrooms will feature different finishes, keeping the lighting the same offers some consistency.

2 – imperial bianco 2″ x 12″ subway tile We used this tile for a minimal backsplash in the kitchen. Again, incorporating the same tile here provides cohesion throughout the house which is nice because this bathroom will serve as our main bathroom once finished (eek!) and it’s located near the kitchen.

3 – stainless steel first aid cabinet I bought this metal cabinet eons ago. We’re planning on cutting through the drywall and mounting the cabinet between the studs (recessed so that it’s flush with the wall) for hidden storage in the bathroom. I haven’t decided if it will hang above the toilet or on a sliver of wall next to the sink. Probably next to the sink?

4 – noir hex! Most everything else in the bathroom will be white or wood-toned so I’m banking on this tile for some high contrast.

5 – tork brass dripping mirror I like adding circles to boxy rooms so I’m thinking a round mirror will go above the vanity. I like the thin brass frame of this one but I’ll probably wait until most of the fixtures are in place before I finalize the mirror selection. As much as I like softening sharp lines with rounded edges, I wouldn’t be opposed to a rectangular one if it “fits.”

6 – cognac vanity with marble top We bought this vanity over two years ago on sale at Home Depot. I can’t find it available anywhere now. We bought it for the inexpensive price, open frame and clean lines. I’ve read it’s a pain to assemble and install so we’ll see how it goes.

7 – claw foot tub with wood base Do you remember the claw foot tub we found on craigslist? It had four feet when we bought it, three feet when we got it home and now it’s down to two. (!) The plan is to DIY a simple wood base and forego the claw feet all together. I have a feeling we’ll be flying by the seat of our pants during this project as I haven’t come across any detailed DIY’s for wood tub bases. It might not work out but it sounds fun so we’re giving it a go. We’re trailblazing!

We’re itching to whip this bathroom into shape. Whenever we’re in the middle (or even beginning stages) of a project, it feels like a major waste of time (and, honestly, a complete drop in confidence) to take a step back and reassess our plans. But sometimes it leads to changes that make more sense in the long run. That’s how I feel about our decision to switch up the floor tile in the kids’ bathroom. It’s a good change.

Do you find yourself second-guessing every step of a project? Does it help or hinder you? We’ve seen it go both ways for us. Sometimes taking a second look at plans reaffirms our original decisions which gives us a boost of confidence to forge ahead. Other times, we doubt certain aspects and end up completely paralyzed which usually results in the project getting pushed further out.

Oh, home improvement, why are you so addicting?

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking