Tile Torture

I thought I was making things easier by picking a super common, timeless tile design: subway. Turns out it’s made for more than a few headaches.

Slight change of plans in design

Right before we were about to place the order for tile, we changed two components of the design:

  • Floor Tile Size: As much as we loved the original 3"x12" tiles we had selected for a dramatic herringbone look, we decided to save a bit of moolah and switch it up to the 12"x24" size of the same tile. These big boys were half the price, easier to install, and still achieved the look we were going for.
  • Subway Color: Picking the tub sparked the first moment of “oh crap” with our design. The shift to porcelain made us realize our super bright white subway tile was going to create an unintentional contrast, making the tub look dingy. I was so bummed to have to revisit the design plan — there are so many decisions we have to make, it can be disheartening to have to make a decision again. Turns out this is a common issue, and Daltile now has a line of colors specifically designed to match with Kohler plumbing. We decided that sacrificing the bright, bright white would be better than looking like a mistake. Keep this mind for future: Color K101 = Kohler White.

Meeting the King

Despite what we learned was a common problem/solution, no one actually stocks K101 on hand. We had to order the shower tile, and of course it didn’t arrive when we were scheduled to start.

When placing the order for the subway, I forgot about the bullnose tiles for the edge of the shower. (Bullnose tiles are used on the edge of tiled walls, and are slightly curved to connect to the wall seamlessly.) If no one stocks K101 field tile, they definitely won’t stock specialized end pieces. We did not have time to order them.

Diego researched and found a mysterious figure named the Bullnose King, who promised to give our tile the rounded edge we’d need.

We went for it, and ended up with nicely rounded tiles that unfortunately had a gross porcelian-exposed edge. Of course he wasn’t going to reglaze them — why didn’t we realize this wouldn’t work? Diego attemped to paint them, which really didn’t look that bad, however like the shower tile color, we didn’t want it it look like a mistake.

In the end, we ended up going for the Schluter edge, which is a metal edge that rests under the tile to create a clean line and finish the edge. Luckily, we didn’t waste the tile we had bullnosed, cutting it to use for smaller pieces, but the little experiment cost us $100.

Left: Work of the Bullnose King / Right: Shluter Edge

I feel like we found a good solution for this, but with this and some other things, it can feel like a momentary let down. We feel like we’ve considered every detail and when it doesn’t turn out as planned it’s a bit of a bummer. We will keep trying to get creative.

Backsplash Backlash

I really dislike the look of a bathroom backsplash. I totally understand the reason for them, and the importance at that, but an extra few inches of counter top or two rows of tile looks really silly to me.

Our bathroom presents a few interesting challenges:

  • A layout that features a vanity and toilet along one wall asks for the backsplash tile to run the length of the entire wall
  • A freestanding dresser-like vanity begs to have the backsplash tile run all the way to the floor.

You’ll notice fully-tiled walls all over interor design blogs and Pinterest these days. They look epic and luxurious, and now I also understand they are epic projects with epic price tags.

We’ve put up some waterproof dry wall, plan to caulk the heck out of the counter top, and are just going to run with it.

Tile begins…finally

I’ve mentioned before that we decided to hire professional help with the tiling work for the main reason of time. It’s our only bathroom, and we needed to get it done as quickly as possible (and well).

After shopping around, meeting folks, and getting vastly different estimates (giving our project budget wide eyes), we finally settled on a man to help us out. His number fell in the middle, and he was willing to help us out as soon as we needed it.

Des and Diego wrapped up what they were working on so the tiling could begin last Friday. They’d need 3–4 days, we’d stay with friends in the meantime, and we’d even have some buffer time before Diego’s birthday (the following Friday).

Our start date shifted by 1 day, then 2, and then finally toilet came off and it was time to get started with the floor. It’s been an interesting process to follow specifically because Diego, who’s been a part of the whole process at the house, will send me periodic photo updates throughout my work day.

First with this:

Laying the floor tiles out on the patio and drawing the cut lines

Then with this:

Cutting tiles, preparing for installation. And yes, the toilet is on the patio!

And then THIS!


I’m sure in the grand scheme of things, a start only a few days late is common, and a win. Should we feel that same way about a job that extends beyond it’s estimated timeframe? That’s a story for another day!