Bathroom: the new shower tile

As you might recall, the last image I shared of the bathroom looked like this:

It’s exciting, and exhausting all at the same time!  We went on to remove the small tub so we could replace it with a deeper, wider version but we needed a new one, like, NOW.  Once we took that wet drywall out the timer was ticking to get a shower back in there. We have a small, old, kinda scary, shower in the basement but it isn’t in an actual bathroom (no sink or toilet anywhere in sight).  This is really our ‘only’ shower. So we started checking out our local big box stores for in stock tub options.

Our local Lowes Canada had a tub in stock, ready for us to bring home immediately, and it fit the size, shape, and budget.  It was from their Style Selections line, which I believe is their brand line, but don’t quote me on that. It has a deeper soak than the one we have and is wider as well.  Perfect.

Aesthetically this tub works too.  Clean lines, not decorative and ready for tile!  Which is what was coming next, except I threw in a little detour.  Even though this was a surprise project with no budget I still wanted to do something that was unique and solved the functional needs that I always wanted to address.  With a family of 4 using this shower, there is a lot of stuff.  We had a large caddy that hung over the shower head, you know the ones. It held all the things, but it got really caked in soaps, was hard to clean, and didn’t look very pretty.  The shower nook is the obvious solution;  a built in shelf that holds all the bottles.  However, two walls of the shower are exterior walls which means, no nook.  You have to place a nook between studs within a shower wall (or frame out a few studs if you want a bigger one) but for an exterior wall that means messing with the insulation that is there, which you don’t want to do.  So, we built the nook out instead.

This essentially means we built a wall in front of the exterior wall so we can build a shelf. We had enough room for the extra depth, and because this was a new wall I could make the nook as long as I wanted! Not a nook, but a full length built in shelf.  I love it.  So much storage space, and a cool design feature.  From a budget perspective we had the extra expense of purchasing the framing lumber, but that cost was minimal for the function and design feature we get in return.

We are using a simple glossy white 8×24 inch wall tile for the majority of the shower.  The large size is modern and clean, but most importantly it creates less grout line.  This is ideal when it comes to cleaning and keeping that minimal look.  Then I had to select an accent tile to fill in that shelf.  Black matte hexagon tile it is.

Before the tile went in we were very meticulous with preparing the walls first.  We didn’t want another water issue melting the drywall again.  We actually skipped drywall altogether and used Hardie Backer cement board instead.  This was installed on our newly framed wall, and on the other two shower walls where we removed the drywall.  In the corners and all edges we used a water proofing membrane installed with thin set mortar to seal any areas where the cement board met.  This creates a water tight canvas to attach the tile to. And now we tile…

One of the most important things you can do before you begin installing your tile is design the layout.  Don’t just start with a full tile and hope for the best!  You might end up in some sticky situations with a line of tiny tiles you can hardly cut, and an uneven look. Come back next week when I will be going over an easy tile layout tutorial.   We even went as far as to design the nook height so the tile would install as simply as possible. Then we got started.  Matt suggested we start with the inset tile in the shelf area.  The layout we designed worked much better if the field tile came up to meet the accent tile, rather than vice versa.

Then we moved on to installing the field tile and things really started looking goooood.  We had already determined our layout so we started with a full tile at the tub and fit three heights ending at the lip of the shelf.  This was planned so we could run the tile on the two adjoining walls straight into the nook without cutting a corner at the bottom.

We did cut a corner out of the top tile, because making the shelf two tile heights tall was too high.  It wouldn’t give me that long, linear look I was going for, plus it would be useless space.  Without a second shelf, no bottle is tall enough to need that height.

As for the tile pattern, we chose stacked.  I like this pattern and it works well with large tiles as you don’t have to worry about lipping.  Lipping is when the tiles don’t form a uniform or level surface, for example in a brick pattern of larger tiles the tile ends can be come off the wall more that the middle of the tile beneath it. Tile thickness can vary slightly from tile to tile and this is more evident in larger sizes because of how they are manufactured.  Large tiles need to be installed in a stacked pattern or a 3/4 brick pattern (not a 1/2 brick pattern).  SO, stacked it is for us.  Easier install, and the look I want anyway.

For the shelf itself we used the same white tile.  We could have had a solid surface cut to fit, which would be the most functional way to finish the shelf, but it would have been a extra expense not suited to our budget. Ready cut solid surface for shower edges were too wide for this shelf, so having one custom made would have been costly.  It means I have to commit to keeping the shelf clean (the grout lines might get soaps build up) but its a decision I feel comfortable with.  The tile is large enough that there aren’t many grout lines, and I am happy with how the white plastic tile edging finishes the edge.  The photo on the right above shows us using clamps to hold the upper tiles while the mortar dried.  The photo below shows the white tile edging at the shelf top and bottom.

Using the tile as the shelf also gave us the advantage of creating a bit of a tilt in the shelf.  Its not perceptible to the eye but the tile is levelled to tilt away and down from the back and corners of the shelf.  This helps water run off back into the tub instead of pooling on the shelf leaving areas that can get dirty over time.

On the outside edge of the shower tile we used the same edging we used on the white tile in the kitchen; black.  I just love the contrast, especially paired with the black accent tile.  And then there was grout

We used bright white to grout the field tile, and black to grout the accent tile.  The black grout didn’t get quite as black as I had hoped.  I was really looking for a less of a contrast between the grout and tile, more of a uniform textured feel, but I can always adjust it if I can figure out why the grout isn’t as black as it should be.

It is looking so gooooood. And as soon as the fixtures go in and the grout is dried, its functional again!!  I really wanted to go with black fixtures in this space, check back to see what we ended up with…

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