Tiling the master shower

You’ve already seen how we tiled the floor in the master bathroom. The next and more intimidating task was to tackle the walk-in shower. We needed to tile the walls, the “curb” that you step over to get into the shower, the shampoo bottle niche and the floor. We were confident about tiling the walls but the niche and the floor seemed a bit more challenging. Read on to see how we did.

We screwed a 2×4 into the wall to serve as a flat base for the first row of tiles to rest on. The we installed a white metal edging piece (which is really just to make the edge of the tile look finished). Then we started installing the first row of tiles, using spacers to keep them evenly spaced. I’m glad we used the 2×4 as a base because gravity definitely would have pulled them downward before the thinset had a chance to dry and adhere fully to the wall.

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The 2×4 is screwed into the wall temporarily to serve as a flat surface for the tile to rest on while it dries

We finished almost one entire wall on the first night. Jeremy used special drill bits to drill holes in the tile for the shower head and handles.  Most of the tiles were full pieces (thank god!) but as we got toward the inside corner we knew we’d have to cut some to fit. We got into a nice flow where I would measure and Jeremy would cut the tile, then I would install it. I used painter’s tape to keep some of the tiles from sliding around (gravity is strong!).

On the second day, we finished the top of the first wall and started on the wall with the niche. It was easy enough but we waited until the third day to tackle the niche.

By the third day, we were ready to tackle the hardest part of the tiling project: the niche!! Tiling the niche is much harder because of all the 90-degree angles. Ours has three separate compartments which  means even more corners to deal with. Jeremy used the tile saw to cut the edges of the tiles at a 45-degree angle so they would come together to form a perfect right angle. You can see what I mean in this photo:

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45-degree cuts in the corners of the niche.

We had 12 corners in total, so he had to do a LOT of those tricky cuts. We purchased a darker gray tile (for some contrast) with a bullnose edge for the walls of the niche from The Tile Shop in Tenlytown. That store has beautiful tile but it’s quite expensive, so we only go there for hard-to-find finishing pieces like bullnose. It took a long time to install the sides of the niche but we were very pleased with our progress, despite the slow down!

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Sides of the niche are in place!

On day 4, we were ready to tile the inside flat wall of the niche with sheets of mosaic tile. We purchased these beauties from Floor and Decor for $10 per square foot. The pattern comes attached to a mesh sheet to allow for easier application, but we still needed to use the tile saw to cut it exactly to size. To get the edges to look nice and clean, Jeremy had to cut tiny pieces for us to fit into place, almost like a puzzle. And it was challenging–we had to throw away our first attempt because it was about half an inch too small. But eventually we got it right for all three sections of the niche and were so happy. UNTIL I LOOKED AT THIS PHOTO.

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The pattern is going the wrong way on the bottom niche!

Turns out, we accidentally cut and installed the pattern facing the wrong direction on the bottom section. UGH. Luckily we realized this mistake before the thinset dried, so we sadly pulled the tile off the wall and went to bed feeling silly and defeated.

The next day, Jeremy correctly cut the last bit of mosaic tile and I installed it. we were FINALLY done with the hardest part of this project. Jeremy quickly moved on to cutting and placing all the mosaic tiles for the floor, and we both worked to install it on the shower floor. We were careful to install it following the subtle slope toward the center drain. We also installed tile on the sides of the curb.

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The corrected bottom niche, shower floor, and sides of curb

The next day, we installed the curb itself. We bought these solid white marble curbs from Floor and Decor. We wanted to do a miter cut at 45-degrees but we decided against it because of how challenging that type of cut is. We went with a square edge instead, and once it’s grouted, caulked, and the glass wall is installed I don’t think anyone will notice the lack of miter cut at the corner.

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Olive showing off our new shower curbs!

I don’t love how dark gray the shower walls turned out. I was expecting it to look a little more white then they turned out to be. We actually tried to buy a different tile from Home Depot but they have horrible quality control and we gave up on that option for annoying reasons I won’t go into. When I saw the above photo I felt really annoyed at how gray the tiles look. Sigh….for our next master bathroom maybe I’ll be more thoughtful about the shades of carrara marble.

The next day, Jeremy sealed the marble with a liquid sealer. After 24 hours, we were ready to grout! It took us about 3 hours to grout the entire room over 2 days. Grouting is easy but a little messy. Jeremy and I got into what I like to call “teamwork magic” mode, where he applied and grout and I wiped away the excess with a sponge. It allowed us to keep moving across the room and waste little time. We were like a well-oiled grouting machine! When we were finished, the shower looked much better! The white grout nicely contrasted the gray tiles and even pulled out some of the white undertones. And the grout made the niche and shower floor look AMAZING.

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All grouted up and looking real pretty

So that’s it for now! Our vanity is being delivered next week (WOO HOO) and we are getting a bunch of quotes for the glass shower door/wall. While we wait, we are going to switch gears and focus on finishing the new tiny powder room on the first floor.

 

Tiling the floor in the master bathroom

As a reminder, this is what the room looked like before we started on our quest for a master bathroom:

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After a contractor roughed in the plumbing, we demo-ed the walls and trim and laid down cement board. We installed and painted the greenboard walls. And now it is time to tile the room! We got several quotes from handymen for tiling our master bathroom, and they all came in around $2,500 for labor alone. We decided to keep that money and try to do it ourselves, instead!

The first step was for Jeremy to install the heated floor pad. I’ll let him tell you how he did it in his very first GUEST APPEARANCE on this blog! Read on to hear it from his perspective:

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I watched many videos about how to install the heated floor and it seemed simple enough: just lay it down and wire it up.  And it really was that easy.  For example, laying the mesh has a lot of instructions: don’t put it within 6 inches of a toilet ring, don’t put it under heavy/permanent objects (like a vanity), etc. etc. One thing I tried really hard to figure out was where to put the heating element so when you’re using the toilet, your feet are nice and toasty!  I even squatted over the toilet area just to see where my feet would land.

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Estimating where the heated floor should go near the toilet

After laying out the mat, the instructions recommend chipping out the floor to fit the larger wires, such as the temperature senor.  This was easy enough with a screwdriver and hammer.

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I chipped out some of the floor for that thick black part of the wire to sit in

The sticky tape that came with the mat did not actually stick to the floor so I used a glue gun instead (also recommended in the instructions) so it won’t move when I apply the thinset.

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Heated floor mat all glued down

It’s very important to remember during installation to NOT CUT THE METAL WIRE!  If the wire is too long for your room, you need to use it anyway. The product comes in different sizes, so it’s important to purchase the correct size for your room.  If you overbuy, you’ll have a lot of leftover wire to run around.  In our case, it was only 3-4 feet and I just ran it along the shower.

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I also used this nifty gadget that the manufacturer of the heated floor pad makes. It’s a $25 simple plastic device that you connect to the heated floor wiring. It makes a very loud noise if you accidentally cut a wire during installation.  Basically it screams if the electric current is interrupted in any way, letting you know that you’re screwed! It’s important because if you damage the heating element as you’re installing it or tiling over it, and you don’t know about it, you won’t know it’s broken until the tile has all been installed…and then you’re just out of luck.

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Installing the Loud Mouth device

After the heated floor pad was installed, it was time to wire it to the thermostat to test it out.  There are a LOT of wires and it was daunting, but they all have their place. There are 3 from the circuit breaker, 3 from the floor and 2 for the temperature sensor. I hooked it all up, turned on the circuit breaker and held my breath–hoping it would work!  The thermostat first read the floor at 67 degrees so I cranked it up to 80.  Soon enough, it was heating up to 72 degrees and I could feel the floor wasn’t cold anymore.  It’s been off ever since because the instructions say to wait 4-6 weeks after the tiles are installed to use it.  (Something to do with messing up the curing of the thinset and grout….something I do NOT want to mess with).

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THANK YOU JEREMY FOR YOUR FIRST EVER POST!! For those of you interested in Jeremy’s daily home renovation adventures, please follow us on Instagram @usagainstthehouse. I just gave Jeremy the password to our account and he is constantly posting to Instagram stories. Now back to installing the floor tile….

After the heated floor pad was down, it was time to install the floor tile! We selected 6” x 12” bianco carrera marble tile, and decided on a 90-degree angle herringbone pattern (which is slightly easier than the pattern we followed for the kitchen backsplash–it requires way fewer cuts in the tile).

We mixed the thinset mortar in a bucket and got to work. Being careful not to disrupt the heated floor mat, I installed the tiles on the floor. While I laid the full pieces of tile, Jeremy cut all the pieces that go around the edge of the room. We purchased a wet tile saw from Amazon to get the job done. It was the least expensive saw large enough to cut through a 12” tile on the diagonal. So far it’s worked well with our thick marble tiles.

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Jeremy cutting tiles on the front porch
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Laying down the tiles

By the end of our first night laying tile (about 2 hours of work total), we had completing a quarter of the room. By the second day, we were already much faster and better at cutting and installing the tile, and completed another quarter of the room. OR SO WE THOUGHT!

On the third day, I noticed that some of the tiles I laid on day 2 were not laying completely flat next to each other, with one or two corners popping up. This problem is called “lippage” and basically presents a permanent toe-stubbing hazard if left uncorrected. I was very frustrated to pull up the tile and try again, but that’s what we had to do! Jeremy pried off three pieces of tile and then we chipped away the thinset below to create a newly flat surface, then re-installed the tiles. Luckily, Elizabeth had volunteered to help on the third day so we got past this speedbump pretty quickly, then moved on to install more of the floor.

Predicting that we would face the same lippage problem, I purchased this tile-leveling system on the third day of installation. And it works like a charm! It seriously helps to prevent lippage and keep the floor completely flat and toe-stub free. Oh how I wish I could turn back time and start the project with these incredible little devices! Every time we laid a new tile down using the levelers, I cried out in joy at how perfectly flat and smooth they were next to their neighboring tile.

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Almost done tiling the room!

You can see the tile leveling system in action here:

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Those plastic things are part of the floor leveling system

You can watch our progress over four days here:

This is what the room looks like now. Jeremy sealed the marble yesterday so it won’t easily stain. The only thing left to do is grout and then our vanity can be delivered and installed!!

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Our marble floor in all it’s glory!