This post is about some special discussion on measuring and planning when a window is in the shower followed by some ramblings for tile choices and how they “fit” into the layout. Many people pick their tiles based on design or decorating skill. But when you are re-tiling your shower, chances are it is easier to redo just about any other part of the bathroom to match your tiles. Therefore, one can pick pretty AND practical tiles. I got lucky.
First, there is measurement to consider. For some, the area of the shower and the size of the tile are totally independent; after all tile can be cut. However, if one can nudge their shower to be a couple inches bigger or smaller to avoid cutting tiles, why not plan accordingly?
First lesson: The back of your shower is predetermined. The sides are flexible and cane be chosen based on the width of your chosen tile – but once the backerboard is up, the size is determined. When planning for the sides, we should not have forgotten about our corner grout line. The tiles ended up kind of weirdly overlapping and our carefully-measured shower sides were just ~1/2″ too short since that corner grout line took up more space than I expected (and I sawed 1/2″ off of the 2×17 tiles that spanned the height of the shower). For our 3/16″ tile, the corner line is ~3/16″ + thicknesses of the field tile because of how they line up. Thank goodness for the power tile saw and caulk – but save yourself the grief.
Since the tiles on the left are too far over, it was also annoying because I ended up with a super skinny tile on the righthand side (which were also a pain to cut):
The window deserves separate discussion on its own. I really wanted to take it seriously since I’ve had some pretty sketchy experiences with wet wood in bathrooms (helllllo $298/month room in Pittsburgh). The ceiling literally fell in while I was in the shower:
I escaped to my cousins for memorial day weekend while the landlord fixed that guy back up. That right there is pretty much my best story ever, so it’s all down hill from here, readers. Now, obviously, the window sill wasn’t a matter of life and death like the photos above (glad I wasn’t brushing my teeth right then!), but between this and the mold in my rental house in Berkeley, I wanted to make sure this sucker is sealed up tightly!
I’ve seen people handle windows differently online. The trick is to decide before you put up the backerboard so that you can get the backerboard in the right places (ie, over the window frame). You’re also virtually guaranteed some ‘L’ cuts so make sure you have a power saw (recommended) or patience and good edges with a carbide rod saw (not recommended for ‘L’ cuts). Here are two bad options: just ignore it and decide to let the wood rot and tile right over the window. 702 Park project has a lovely image of what that looks like down the road, about 6 images down the page in that link. They cleaned it up and replaced it with a tiled/marble frame not made of wood. Here (if you are patient) is a video that framed a window with marble entirely. Another good option if you don’t fear wood in showers like I do is the method Mary and Jay used at Lemon Grove Blog to add a marble sill but leave the wooden frame, painted over with semi-gloss paint (thanks for the info, Mary!).
As you can tell from above, we took another route of tiling right around the frame, removing all wooden window sills – so now the “sill” is a continuation of the tile. There is a nice diagram here about how to deal with the backerboard – you can read about our specific choices of supplies in the backerboard posting. Here is a concise online tutorial I could find on this method, but nobody knew what “deck mud” was at the our local hardware stores so I just did my best with thin set to angle the bottom tiles back toward the shower and there will be a fair amount of caulk. I did take them up on the taping tile up idea though:
So, since the actual tile being used should influence some backerboard specifics for the measuring-inclined, here are some of my thoughts about which tile to use. I relayed a lot about picking tiles here. Then note that I had bought these particular tiles before I knew what Fireclay tile was. For the shower, we picked a 4.25″ ceramic field tile called “Pepper White” by Dal (which you cannot see the speckles on in any pictures) because:
- We liked it.
- It had matching quarter rounds. Many tiles, especially those made out of weird materials don’t have matching quarter rounds. We needed quarter rounds for the window and all around the edges due to how our backerboard was not flush with the wall. I didn’t want to have any alignment errors stand out because of a sudden color change. Unusual tile materials and mosaics are less likely to have matching quarter rounds. Also, the quarter rounds for this project cost basically as much as the field tile (~$150 for the quarter rounds)! So, if you know you need ~90 quarter rounds, keep it mind that they charge by the piece for these special shapes.
- It was >35% recycled. But I can do better next time this way.
- It was made in the USA. Those freaking quarter rounds were not though.
- It wasn’t a solid white – I figured the freckles would distract from any of my alignment errors. Judge for yourself
- It was cheap. (And it’s clear why. The Fireclay tile in our kitchen make these Dal tiles feel badly about themselves.)
- It fit well with the house – it’s not a modern tile in a not-so-modern house. I like these stripy contemporary, wood-look-alike tiles, but it would look weird here with all of our real wood.
- It fit well with my wooden bathroom counter top – we are going for a sort of rustic look here. At least that’s how I’m going to explain these grout lines!
- The tiles are still whitish so they should match nearly everything for a long time – what is the 2014 equivalent of pink tile anyway?
Here are the unexpected benefits.
- The 4.25″ tile plus our 3/16″ grout lines spanned the height of the shower perfectly, even when I had to consider the measurements of the silly window. This was luck. The height of our shower was chosen to be exactly 1 field tile + 2 grout lines + 2 quarter rounds.
I don’t really want to spoil this, but it makes more sense with the picture. I didn’t want an awkward half-height tile above the window, hence the choice of the total height.
- Stray thinset that dries on these glazed ceramic tiles scrapes off quite easily with a putty knife. Remember that bit about learning from my mistakes? This is not true for all pricier materials. And with the quarter rounds, some of the thinset was not wipable while wet since I had to tape the quarter rounds into place.
- The tiles don’t scratch with sanded grout.
- The tiles cut easily with our power tile saw…which it was $80 to buy or $26/day from home depot to rent. This project spanned at least 4 weeks so buying the saw was the right call!
- The tiles were sturdy enough were you can pry them off if, after the thinset dried, you determined rearrangement was necessary…
The next step of the process was mixing thinset and actual sticking these carefully-chosen tiles to our carefully-measured backerboard!
Did you miss out on part one on how to put up backerboard?