I had never planned, thought about or installed a single ceramic tile in my life before I set about to tile my basement bathroom.
I take that back. I did paint a tile once. Just one.
I think it was at one of those vacation bible school weeks in the middle of summer. You know, where your Mom just needs to be "uncrazy" for a few days so she drops you and your 4 sisters off and then screeches out of the parking lot? Or was that just me?
I digress. The point is, it was new to me. But so what. Tiling a floor or a shower is the quintessential DIY project. If you can't do this one then you might as well hang it up. Bob Vila won't even look you in the eye if you haven't tiled at least one floor in your life.
Like the other posts on this blog, this is not intended to show you step by step how to tile a bathroom, there are plenty of resources better than mine at walking you through the details.
This is about where I tripped up. I read the books, I did the research and these were the top questions or problems that I ran into. If I was to advise a newbie just before they embarked on a tiling project - this is what I would tell them.
#1 - A Tile Saw - Buy One or No?
Buy one! What the heck did you think I'd say? Rent one? Please, get that sh*t out of here.
Look, if you're just tiling on the weekends and a couple of weeknights, like I was, then you're going to need it for quite a while. Renting or even borrowing is not going to cut it.
But don't worry. You don't need to buy the $300 pimp daddy tile saw. I picked up this Ryobi version for about $95 and it worked great. Not only for my basement bathroom but my Dad borrowed it for his master bathroom tiling job, no problems at all.
Honestly, I look down from my high horse at Ryobi tools, but this little tile saw was great.
#2 - Patience, Hope You Got Some
You know how in the olden days people who set tile were called Artisans?
Well "artisan" is just the old timey way of saying "someone that's willing to go crazy slow and take their time to get something done right".
That's what you're going to have to be - a new age artisan.
You're going to have to go slow if you want it to look right. Study the books, use the techniques, spend the right amount of time prepping.
I would say that I was tiling my basement bathroom, in one form or another, for about a months worth of weekends. (Don't worry, it's well worth it.)
#3 - Thin-set Consistency is Critical
Use your tiling trowel to "draw lines" in the thin-set so it will bond, then you lay the tile down and give it a little nudge. NOT TO HARD HE-MAN! You don't want stuff squirting all over the place.
You've got to get the thin-set thickness right. If you screw it up then you might as well dump it and start over, your tile won't stick correctly.
Read and follow the instructions to the letter. If they say wait 5 minutes and then mix again, then wait 5 minutes. Not 4 minutes, not 6 minutes… 5 minutes.
Do not wimp out on me and buy the pre-mixed thin-set. I tried it and it wasn't as good, plus I felt like a total nerd buying pre-mixed.
#4 - Inconsistent Grout Line Color
Grout is the equally goopy stuff that gets crammed in between the tiles once they've set. Remember earlier when I said that thing about patience? Well... after you grout your tile, you're supposed to wait a certain amount of time before you go back over it with a "slightly" wet sponge to remove the grout haze.
So... uh... I didn't want to wait. And it looked dry. And I was a newbie in the world of tiling and I had waited long enough dammit!
I took my sponge and started cleaning off the grout haze (way to earlier). Then I saw some extra grout so I wet my sponge a bit more and used it to really clean out the excess grout. It looked perfect at that exact moment... and then it dried.
Some of the grout dried one shade of grey, some of it dried a lighter shade of grey. It's not horrible, but it's noticeable, especially to me. The grout hadn't cured and the excess water altered the color.
Be patient, and don't use too much water when removing grout haze.
#5 - Marking Tile Layout Lines for your Basement Bathroom
Do you need to snap lines to help you align the tile on the floor?
This is a major hassle, but yes, especially if you're an amateur tilest (is that a word?). Maybe Tom Tile Master can do it without lines but for me it absolutely saved the day.
Here's a good article on how and why to mark tile layout lines.
I strongly advise doing a "dry layout" of all the tiles. It's a bit of a pain but it will save you time and frustration in the end, I promise.
I thought I had planned my basement bathroom tiling perfectly. But then in the dry run I noticed a problem where my last row of tiles would have been really skinny.
I went back and redid my lines to even out the issue, savings countless hours of bad language and throwing things.
#6 - Use a Ledger Board When Tiling Shower Walls
The best advice I can give is to set up a temporary ledger board at the bottom of the shower wall. You leave space to fill in the very bottom row of the wall as the last row.
Screw in a piece of wood or trim so that the top of the board is same height as the top of the first row of tile plus one spacer.
Make sure it's level and that it's a perfectly straight piece of wood.
Now set your first row of tiles directly on the piece of wood (with no spacers underneath). This way the weight from all the rows of tile has something solid to rest against (the temporary wood ledger) while the thin-set is curing.
I could not find my photo of this technique but here's one from Bungalow Chronicles. (guys, I hope you don't mind me borrowing your photo)
The Bottom Line
It's a labor, but it's a labor of love. You'll feel old world. You'll save new world money. And all of your friends and family will be impressed.
It's a skill you'll be able to use throughout your house and for the rest of your life. You CAN do it!
Cheers - Jason
More Tiling Links:
- Great post from Katie at Bower Power from when they tiled the floor of their basement laundry room.
- Here's the book on tiling that I read, I thought it was pretty good.
- Check out some more posts from the bathroom page.
- Do you need power tools? Check out ReconditionedTools.com.