Good things come to those who do their homework – Lawrence Bill finishes his retro flooring project using penny rounds from Modwalls

It’s coming up on the one-year anniversary of RetroRenovation.com — and what’s especially exciting, is that reader projects are coming together — you are sending in “after” photos! Yes, we all know it takes that long for the decorating gods to deliver us their solutions. Here’s an update from Lawrence Bill and his floor-tiling projects: 

Hi Pam,

After months of agonizing, second-guessing, and hard labor, the retro renovation of our master bathroom floor is now complete. See attached pics for the before-and-after comparison. I must have looked at hundreds of different tile designs, and ordered a dozen or more samples, before my wife and I settled on a vanilla-colored penny round, which is not period accurate but feels of the period, if you know what I mean. We couldn’t be happier with the results. This tiny bathroom, which only a few weeks ago was practically unusable because of a foul-smelling carpet and other plumbing issues, has been transformed into a thing of beauty. The transformation took quite a lot of work. The subfloor had to be removed, and one of the joists that runs like a spine through the middle of the floor essentially had to be rebuilt because The Plumber came in after the builders were done and cut right through the joist in order to get the toilet drain in. (Bad, bad, bad plumber. The floor sagged for more than 50 years because of this. Now it’s much stronger and on the level.) My only caveat about penny rounds are that they are challenging to install, and best left to the professional. (I had a guy here in Lawrence named Brad Howard do it, and he did a fantastic job.) I spent a week painstakingly sealing the grout myself. What a pain. But I think it was worth all the effort. We’ll see how the floor holds up.

Thanks for all your input, advice, patience and inspiration.

“Lawrence Bill

Bill, it looks spectacular! The round in contrast to the square is inspired. You made a great choice. And, I don’t even think it’s fair to say it’s not period-accurate. I think we just don’t know how soon penny rounds started to show up – I know I’ve seen them from the 60s… A couple questions:

Where did you get the tile? Modwalls?

YES. This after trying samples from other vendors, Modwalls had the color my wife liked best.

What color is the grout? Fawn beige like the tile?

The grout is a modified latex that exactly matches the wall tile color, which is called “Sahara Tan”. How I do I know the color name? An old-timer at a local tile store recognized the color and remembered what it was called.

Sanded grout?


And, what about the green bathroom?

I thoroughy scrubbed and re-grouted all the bad tiles, etc. and the bathroom looks much, much better. We decided that the tile wasn’t that bad after all and not worth the time, hassle, and expense to re-do it. We can live with it fine. For now. Who knows, a couple of years from now we might decide to renovate it.

Sounds like a good decision, Bill. If it’s in good shape – always best to live with it a while. Thanks for sharing, Bill! Hmmm. Did I get those kitchen pics yet? What else do you have hidden in that jewel of a house of yours? 🙂

  1. Karey says:

    Your bathroom looks great! What color are you shower/wall tiles? I have a similar color in my bathroom. Yous gives me some ideas what to do with the colors.

  2. karmi_woolfe says:

    Lawrence Bill — I don’t know if you have room for a clock radio in there, but I saw this on ebay and thought that it would really pick up that penny round theme. Take a look! MID CENTURY EAMES 50’s 60’s RETRO WESTCLOX ALARM CLOCK Item number: 400002134060

  3. fclodomiro says:

    Loooved the bathroom, especially the penny tiles. Would you be so kind as tell me something about the lamps or where did you find them?

  4. karmi_woolfe says:

    Bill — thanks for the encouragement that “AFTER” can actually happen! It’s good to know that others go through the endless research and sample requesting that I have gone through. The floor looks great! I think the penny rounds mirror the texture of the glass in the window! Great job!!!

  5. nancy says:

    Bill- I can’t tell you how much I appreciate all your help! Thanks! I am going to use 1″x1″ Moon Beam Daltile for the walls w/ an accent wall (behind sink- Crisp Linen), a blend of the 2 as countertop, & the floor the Marble Square Random.

    Thanks again! Hope mine turns out as great as yours.

  6. Lawrence Bill says:

    Thanks Nancy. I’ll try to answer your questions, though mind you I am not a grout expert. But I can confidently say that yes, unless you are using an epoxy grout, which is unlikely, you should seal the grout, and seal it well. I used a product called Aquamix, but there are others on the market that are probably just as good. Why sand? Well, it depends on the tile you are installing. If you’re going to put down marble tiles you probably wouldn’t want to have any sand in your grout. But for most ceramic and porcelain tiles with widths greater than 1/8″, sanded grouts are the way to go because if you used a regular wall grout or something it will eventually shrink and crack. You don’t want that. The grout I used is a latex modified grout, which means that an acrylic latex is added to the cement mix to help improve the flexibility of the grout once it has hardened. Tec makes what most consider the best grout on the market. As for the walls, typically wall grout doesn’t have sand because the spaces between the tiles are too thin. So basically, your decision to use sanded grout is really based on the width of the grout line. What tile are you planning to install?

  7. nancy says:

    Bill- You bathroom looks great! Work you should be so proud of! Enjoy!
    Now for the questions- I am getting ready to tile my 50’s bathroom. I had read that everything needed to be sealed after completed. Why sand grout? Would you do that on the walls also? Did you seal yours & what product do you use for that?
    Sorry for all the questions but after all the research it is great to share those 50’s secrets.
    Great Job!

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