Week Six of the One Room Challenge™ has been all about tiling the walls. (You can check out past week updates here: week one, week two, week three, week four, week five). Because I’m an overachiever, or maybe just really confident in our skills to figure out how to accomplish the look I’m going for, I ambitiously opted to tile our entire bathroom. That includes the tub surround and all four walls. And did I mention we’d never tiled before?
Excuse the mess in all these photos – this isn’t glamorous work.
The all-over tile really helps to elevate the subway tile. And, I’m very particular about my tile transitions and wasn’t entirely certain of a way to end the tile around our tub, given it’s location in the room in a way that felt elegant.
We have been tiling non-stop since Friday night and since taking these photos knocked out most of the final wall. Serious props to my husband, Cory, who kept us going on tiling, despite me nearly throwing in the towel more than a few times.
In the original room, the window trim butted right up against the wall, which would make tiling around it really awkward. We ended up sourcing new trim that was 2 1/4” wide instead of 2 1/2” wide that allows for just enough space to slide the tiles behind the window trim for a much cleaner and more intentional look. They don’t, however, make rosettes that are 2 1/4” square, so we ended up using the table saw to slice 1/8” off each side of the rosettes to line everything up nicely. This whole issue gave me some anxiety, but I’m so happy with how we managed to make it work.
For the tile, these are some of the things we’ve learned:
- Subway tile comes with built in spacers (called lugged tiles), but I really wanted the grout lines to be more visible, so we used 1/16th inch spacers on the built in spacers, achieving essentially a 1/8th inch grout line.
- Start with a super level first row, otherwise you’re going to be fighting to keep your lines straight up the wall. We nailed straight ledges into the wall using whatever we had around (leftover drywall edges, old door trim, etc.) to support our first row. We also started with our second row and are going back to add the real first row after all the tile work is done.
- We have an old house and our walls aren’t perfectly straight and that’s a bit visible in the corners. Given that, to start each new row of tile, we marked the center of a new tile with a China pencil and placed that dead even between two tiles below it and then worked out from the middle of the wall to the edges. This means our edge tiles aren’t all consistently sized from row to row, but our grout lines are running straight.
- Don’t assume that if you use your spacers that all your corner tiles are going to match up. We did and were surprised when we got to the shower head wall and started tiling from the bottom up, staying in line with the tiles on the front of the tub when the row above the apron of the tub just didn’t line up with the tiles running across the tub. Hard to explain, but constantly be measuring that all your corners and edges are indeed lining up.
- If you don’t want to chip your tiles on the tile saw, make an initial 1” cut on one side of the tile, then flip it over and make the full cut through the tile. We learned this fast when we were chipping tiles left and right.
- We used both thinset and tile adhesive in this room. Make sure you’re using the right adhesive for the right surface. Thinset is messy and since we were mixing it ourselves (instead of buying premixed) you had some wait time to let it set, etc. On the drywall we used tile adhesive, which comes premixed and goes a long way. We found the tile adhesive to be a lot easier and tidier to work with. Just make sure you wipe down the tiles fast, because it’s hard to remove the adhesive off the tile edges and face.
All in all, while this was an insanely huge task, I’m so happy we stayed on the path to tile all the walls. Given how inexpensive subway tile is, the cost to do all the walls is still very low (I think we spent ~$350 on subway tile) but the impact is huge. I know it’s a tile that’s everywhere, but given it’s historical roots, I do believe it will stand the test of time. Especially applied in a way that is so immersive and detail oriented, it really takes the room to the next level.
What’s really going to finish off these walls is the grout (we’re going with a medium grey) and crown moulding. I know crown moulding is an unusual choice in the bathroom, but I believe it’s going to pull together all the rooms we’ve completed in the house as a cohesive story. Plus it really blends the traditional with the modern in this room.
In addition to tiling, we also painted the door, replaced the door trim, replaced the window trim and painted the crown moulding.
Lest we forget that we have to reveal this room NEXT WEEK. Which means we have a ton to accomplish before then:
- Build the niches (which requires a last minute trip to Floor & Decor in NJ, ugh.)
- Run the final row of tile along the bottom edge (we’re about halfway done)
- Grout all the walls
- Caulk all the edges
- Install the crown moulding
- Seal the grout
- Install the light fixtures and fan
- Hang the mirror
- Install the shower curtain track
- Install the vanity and hardware
- Plumbers are coming Monday to install all the fixtures
- Style the space
Well, this is going to be a sprint to the finish line!
Don’t forget to check out all the other participants here.