Kate installs her affordable retro bathroom floor tile

mosaic-tile-floorKates-bathroom-graphic3There hasn’t been much talk of my bathroom remodel since I posted some of my finalized design decisions in February. But I have been hard at work!  Believe it or not, the remodel has been in full swing since mid May — when my husband and I suffered through three days of difficult demo.

pink-ceramic-tile-retroYes, we did a gut remodel, and I spent June putting in drywall, concrete board, getting the wiring done, etc. All of that hard work on what I like to call the “unpretty parts” has been worth it, because now it is time for the exciting part — installing pink tiles. With tile, trowel and mortar in hand, and knee pads on (a must) the installation of my Merola University pink mosaic ceramic floor tile has begun. As you will recall, we discovered and profiled this tile pattern — which is available in several color ways — because it’s been around since at least the 1970s — made in the same factory — and is easily accessible at Home Depot — and relatively affordable, currently at $9.26/s.f.

This post will not give you how-to or DIY instructions — that is for the experts (I did my own, extensive research). What follows are the highlights of my floor tiling experience thus far — along with a few things you may want to consider if you are going to be installing a mosaic ceramic tile floor of your own.

laying-tile-floorInstalling mosaic tile is not for the faint of heart. A few tips on getting started:

  • Make sure you figure out the best tile arrangement for your room. There are plenty of places to read about how to do this, but basically, you need to find the center of your room and work from there.
  • Take into account the possibility that your walls might not be totally square… and where you want your tile cuts to be. My goal was to have no tile cuts along the outside structure of the shower, since that area is most visible upon entering the bathroom. This took a little figuring, not only because it was difficult to find the center of my room, due to all of the jutting walls, closet and shower — but also because my initial center lines had to be adjusted to make sure tile cuts fell where I intended.
  • It was much easier to figure out the tile layout inside the shower itself since it was a smaller rectangle shaped area.
  • Once the first row was installed in each direction, putting down the rest of the floor went fairly quickly.
  • Make sure your mortar is not applied too thick. You don’t want to fill the space between tiles where the grout will go — because then you will have to scrape it out — a pain, especially for random tile patterns. To minimize this problem, trowel mortar at a 45 degree angle to get the proper thickness, then knock the ridges back down with the other side of the trowel. That way the ridges of mortar don’t fill in the grout lines when you press the tiles into place.
  • Make sure to lay your tile out in the direction you will be installing it to assure it goes in the right way. Somehow I ended up with two sheets of tile that are backwards. They are hard to spot, but I know where they are — which is one of the hazards of DIY renovations.

tile toolsThen came the fun part. Cuts. Lots. Of. Cuts. Cuts were not fun for the following reasons:

  • After a while, the tile nippers kill your hands.
  • When you nip tiles, they sometimes explode everywhere (safety glasses are a MUST).
  • Figuring out the pattern — which color/shape of tile goes where — took a lot of concentration.
  • It took me just as long to make the cuts and install the cut pieces as it did to put down the main bathroom floor (once the layout was established).

pink-mosaic-floor-cutsHere’s a close-up of some of my tile cutting and piecing fun. The worst tiles to cut were the 1 inch x 2 inch tiles that needed to be cut lengthwise. I used a scoring tool to score the tile lengthwise — not an easy task with the textured glaze — and then silently prayed while trying to snap it. One out of every five tiles was cut as intended. The other four exploded. Not fun at all.

pink-mosaic-tile-floorThe outside wall of the bathroom had a lot of cuts. It took forever. Before starting this batch of cuts, I asked my adorable husband Jim to remind me exactly how much this tile makes me happy every time he heard me complain about cuts taking forever, tiles exploding and how badly my eyes were crossing from figuring out the pattern. By my estimate — he had to remind me about 342 times throughout the day.

retro-mosaic-tilesIn the end, the tile floor turned out amazing. I love it so much it isn’t even funny. It makes me giddy and I find myself going to “peek” at it several times a day to make sure that it is really in my bathroom.

retro-mosaic-tile-floorThere is still some serious grouting to do. (Right now I’m debating between using SpectraLock Epoxy grout or traditional grout and it is stressing me out.) So this floor is far from finished, but so far, it is pure love.

pink-ceramic-tileOf course there is plenty more to tile — like the 800 pound pallet of pink B&W tiles that are sitting in my garage waiting to be installed — but for now, basking in the joy of a pretty pink floor is making me happy. Stay tuned, there’s much more pink in progress.


Readers: Which projects are you hustling to finish before summer is over?

Link love to Kate’s resources for this tile:

Follow all of Kate’s stories about her master bathroom remodel — click here

CategoriesBathroom Tile
  1. Allen says:

    Yes indeed. Its hard to get all those i’s dotted and t’s crossed. The Merola Tile is my absolute favourite that is in production today. It looks so…right.

  2. dtrix says:

    Way to go! It looks great. I just got done grouting our kitchen back splash this weekend. It was my first grout job ever and I used a urethrae grout called QuartzLock2. It was surprisingly so easy!


    I highly recommend it. It is pricey, however, for a DYI it was well worth it. The color is consistent because it is premixed. No time wasted having to stop and mix more. It was SO EASY to use. You basically open up the container stir it a bit and it is ready. Put the lid on when you are done and come back and finish the rest another day. I did a lot of research and the only thing that was tricky was not going too far before you clean the tile ( you don’t want the urethane to dry on the tile or it leaves a film). Youtube it for a demo if you are interested in using it. Best of luck. ps I promise I don’t work for them . It really was a great product! 😉

  3. Sarah g (roundhouse) says:

    Oh goodie! I’m so glad everything is correct and on track for you. Both my bathrooms and the recent re-do at my moms had the baseboard tile so this all makes sense now.
    I’ve installed a few mosaic tiles and I find that if you buy a ceramic cutting wheel for a dremel tool ( if you have one, if you don’t they always come in handy) and that works really well for small precision cuts. Especially when the little tile needs two cuts ( like cutting a rectangle out to fit around a corner for example). Much more control than the nippers offer.

  4. Sarah g (roundhouse) says:

    Grouting seems so wrong at first. It’s as if you are about to dirty and mess up the tedious tile work you’ve just completed! But after you get over that, grouting becomes the fun part!

  5. Rebecca Prichard says:

    Wow, good job! I do good research and make good design decisions, but I pay someone to do the work.

  6. Chaucea says:

    *hugs and kisses and cuddles your tile floor*

    Yes, yes, that pink tile is definitely something to love and adore! Its beautiful! 😀

  7. Chad says:

    Kate, it’s great to see the stages of a project where the progress is visible! I’ll live vicariously through you. And I totally sympathize about researching everything in excruciating detail. Reminds me of how long I spent obsessing over the placement of a wall separating my bathroom from a closet. And the funny thing is, no matter what you pick it’ll be great.

    As for my project, I thought I was going to do a little cosmetic work, have the floors sanded, and move in. Instead I’ve found that my hundred year old plumbing and wiring are shot, the roof is shot, the windows are shot, the new bathroom was so poorly installed it was unsalvageable, and while I’m stuck with all this I should modernize the layout – no more 12-inch-deep 19th century closets. My next project is leveling the floor in a room that hangs over the back yard so that I can have insulation blown in. But as for what really needs to be done before fall (not by me) is the chimney. I’m grateful that no one has died; as it is currently, gas boiler fumes don’t make it out of the house, and I can’t turn the heat back on until I fix it.

  8. MsKittyMuses says:

    Wow Kate, it’s beauuuutiful! I keep bookmarking all of your stories on this adventure because A. my husband and I are looking at having to remodel our main bath and install one in the basement, and your DIY is inspirational, since I want to do as much of it ourselves as possible and B. I’m determined to convince my husband that he really DOES want a pink bathroom, at least for the basement! He’s already agreed your floor looks amazing!

    I know you don’t want to give out any advice on your DIY, but do you have any particular websites/resources that have been crucial to you in your research? I’ve done lots of drywall and small plumbing projects, but tile makes me nervous! I know if we can manage to do it ourselves though, it would save us $$$.

    Keep up the fantastic work!

  9. Kate says:

    Thanks Ms Kitty Muses!

    Yay for your husband liking the pink floor! If he won’t do totally pink you could easily put in this pink floor and do white or beige tiles on the walls (since both colors are in the floor itself). That way you can have your pink even if he won’t go totally for it.

    As far as tiling resources, I’ve found johnbridge.com and floorelf.com to have a lot of good information, as well as answers to specific questions that might arise in the comments/forums. Also, go to the library and check out a few books on how to do tile work. I read several books first (can’t remember the names) and then used the websites listed above to answer my questions…

    Good luck!

  10. MsKittyMuses says:

    Thank you so much!

    There is so much info out there on the webs, it’s hard to filter down what’s relevant and helpful, and what’s people just kind of winging it. We’ll definitely talk to people at our local stores when the time gets closer, but I want to have some knowledge going into it so I know what the heck I (and they) are talking about. We’ve also found a local used book store that’s great for finding how-to house books. Tiling will be the next on our list!

    I appreciate it!

  11. pam kueber says:

    And be sure to Renovate Safe. Work with your own properly licensed professionals to determine the materials in your house including all the layers so that you know what you are working with so that you can make informed decisions.

  12. Charles says:

    Looks awesome, Kate! I went to do my first solo measure for my Interior Design internship today, and it was in a late ’50s Big Brothers/Big Sisters. The bathrooms had this EXACT (vintage) tile on the floors! One of the employees said that you probably couldn’t get tile like it today, and I had to share your story. 🙂

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