Kate finishes installing her B&W pink bathroom wall tiles — finally!

pink-tile-bathroomKates-bathroomMonday afternoon felt like Christmas morning at my house. Why, you ask? Because after 90+ hours of work — planning, cutting and adhering — my B&W pink ceramic wall tiles are all finally installed. When the very last tile was put into place, the happy dancing commenced. The pink tile makes it the space “glowy,” as Pam would say. And after having the floor covered up to protect it from mortar spills during the install, it finally came out of hiding to meet the wall tiles. Let me tell you — I am in love. 

kate-pantsTo commemorate the moment, I set up a tripod and snapped a few photos of myself acting like a weirdo. As soon as the photo shoot was over, those pants went in the trash. I have this bad habit from art school of wiping my hands on my pants, which has produced a lot of “designer jeans” over the years. These bad boys were encased in mortar and nearly stood up on their own. Yuck. I had also tossed the drywall jeans. So, better figure a clothing budget into all the 84 costs to consider for a bathroom remodel, if you’re doing it DIY.

pink-ceramic-tilesAnyway, back to the bathroom. Prior to this marathon wall tile session, the only vertical tile installations in my repertoire were two, small, one-inch tile back splash jobs in my previous and current kitchen. So, given the size of this job, before beginning I researched tile installation as much as possible — trying to anticipate the unique challenges that may be encountered on my job. In reality, I’ve found that while it is great to do a lot of research to prepare for a job like this, you really do learn the most from actually doing the work. That being said and knowing what I know now, I was an absolute nut bag for attempting this tile job as my first foray into full bathroom tiling.

pink-ceramic-tile-bathroomWhile installing wall tile was not as physical a strain lifting heavy pieces of drywall and cement board, figuring out the tile layout took me a day and a half of straight mental work. I’m a very visual person who is not a math expert, so doing the tile layout meant a lot of sketches. I measured and counted tiles, obsessed over the exact size of the grout lines and how their size affects everything, and agonized over how to make the transitions around all the corners in the bathroom. After finally deciding on a pleasing layout and getting the guide lines drawn on the walls, my brain was reduced to mush.

pink-retro-bathroomOnce the layout was finalized, it was time to start putting up the full tiles. The seven-feet-high walls of of pink tile in the shower felt like an endless job. At one point, I thought I might die in there before all of the tile was installed. Tiling a shower plays games with your head.

shower-niche-pink-ceramic-tileSee that niche? It took me a solid six hours to do just this small section of the shower. The inside of the niche was especially difficult. The slightly sloped angle (which allows water to drain out) made for difficult tile cutting. Proudly though, I managed to keep all the grout lines in line. Impressed?

ceramic-wall-tiles-bathroom-closetOver Labor Day weekend, when I originally hoped to finish installing the wall tiles, I realized that the wood trim around the windows, door and closet needed to be installed before I could put in the tile near those spots. This necessitated my deciding just how I was going to frame the closet. I then had to take measurements and head off to the store to find acceptable trim for the job. During the trim shenanigans, I also accidentally hit my finger with a hammer, causing another slight delay until the throbbing slowed enough to continue.

closet-tileSo far, the closet opening is looking pretty good. Making the door for this closet terrifies me, but there is still plenty of time to figure that part out as it is not essential to finish before we can start using the bathroom.

end-of-tile-wallThe wall end-caps, the top of the partial wall, and the shower curb were difficult and slow going. It took me another whole day to do these areas. Making sure the everything was straight and that the curb sloped correctly were nerve wracking and very time consuming.

shower-curbpink-ceramic-tile-shower tile-backsplashNow the only “hole” in the tile wall is where the vanity will be built. It was helpful both in planning the vanity and for tile layout purposes, to draw the outline of the vanity directly onto the wall. Doing this made it easy for me to see where the tile backsplash should go.

b&w-pink-tilesHere are a few tips that I learned by tackling this project — for anyone thinking about attempting something similar:

  • Do spend the time agonizing over the layout. It is a lot easier to redraw lines on the wall than to remove tiles once they are adhered. The layout is, in my opinion, the hardest part of tiling.
  • Set a low row or two of tiles for the length of the wall, making sure they are level and then let them dry overnight. This will create a good base for all of the tiles above to sit on.
  • As you go, make sure to check that each new row of tile is level and plumb  — maybe not every tile, but every row. This helps prevent your suddenly realizing that your whole wall went crooked somewhere.
  • Try to make the wall as flat as possible. Lumps and humps where cement board seams meet or drywall bows a bit, happen. Do your best to keep things flush and flat.
  • Buy, borrow or rent a tile saw. You will need it.
  • Even if your tile has lugs (bumps on the edge that act as spacers), buy and use the plastic “x” spacers anyway. I bought a box of 1,200 spacers for $6. It was money well spent.
  • Pre-mixed mortar is more expensive, but saves time — says the girl who spent “only” 90 hours installing wall tile.
  • Make sure to buy extra tile. I bought 20% more 4.25″ square wall tiles than I needed, as well as extra specialty pieces like bullnose and cushion edge tiles. Some tiles will be chipped or broken in shipping and mistakes happen. Plus if 20 years down the road you need some replacements, you’ll have spares.

garage-cleaned-upI’m totally jazzed that the tiling portion of this bathroom remodel is over. Since all the tile is on the wall instead of on a palette in the garage, my husband Jim can actually park his car in there again. That makes me months early on my promise to have it cleared out before the snow flies.

Now, on to grouting.

Readers, have you attempted to tile bathroom walls before?
What tips do you have for others?

Categoriespink bathrooms
  1. Chris says:

    Kate and Pam — seriously, I think the two of you need to approach one of the t.v. stations, either HGTV or TLC — DIY or the History Channel (maybe best?) and have YOUR OWN SHOW!!!!!!!!
    You could be all cute and fun in your vintage clothing — you could showcase time capsule houses and EDUCATE people about how wonderful it is to love the house you’re in! You already have a guaranteed audience of loyal viewers. Maybe you could make it cool to protect our funky bathrooms and kitchens and not rip them out.

    All in favor say “AYE!”

      1. MidCenturyMac says:

        I love the idea of someone hosting a show on HGTV or another network that celebrates these wonderful homes and their original features as well as a show that educates people and familiarizes them with these awesome structures and how much better it can be to cherish what we have more and run out to the Big Box stores less!!! Goodness knows I would watch it and record it as well simply for reference purposes!!!

        Pam, you and Kate would be my first choice of course but anyone with a true love and appreciation of the subject matter would I’m sure, do us all proud!!! Save the Pink Bathrooms!!!!

        1. Chris says:

          Probably the best one out there now is Rehab Addict — but she focuses on Victorian era and very early 20th century homes. I’d love to see her post WWII counterpart.

          But maybe Pam and Kate and the loyal following on this website will inspire someone to do that!

  2. gscienechick says:

    Wow, it looks fabulous, but I totally understand how much work that was. That’s a lot of cuts! Luckily, you have another bathroom, so you can take your time. We only have 1.5 baths, and in the interest of time/function, we would absolutely need a pro to get our main bath done in a timely manner.

    1. Kate says:

      Yes, we are lucky to have more than one full bathroom. My last house had one bathroom that needed to be remodeled. I did a much simpler, quicker job there, with a pre made vanity, only tiling the floor and buying a fiberglass tub/shower that I had someone else install. Had to shower at a friend’s house for a few days and did the whole floor except around the toilet so I could take up the toilet, finish the floor quickly and put it back down. That was a whirlwind few weeks! I had to do a quick remodel though, since the bathroom was not usable when I bought the house and I needed to move in right away! This time, I have plenty of time on my side at least.

  3. Brian T says:

    I redid a bathroom 18 months ago, with maybe 2/3 that amount of tile and detail. (Only I got by with a manual tile snapper and nippers — no wet saw.) My advice echoes Kate’s: Get your walls as flat and smooth as possible. Don’t assume that the adhesive will even things out, and don’t assume that imperfections won’t show because the flatness of the tile will cover them up. My only regrets: the one little spot where a tile was rocking as I put it on, and I can still see that place, though most other people would have to hunt for it. Also, on the floor, I didn’t mix the tiles from various boxes, and there is one patch where you can detect that a certain box’s dye lot was slightly off. Not a huge deal, since the pattern is variegated, but it is something I would account for if I were doing things over.

    1. Kate says:

      No tile saw? GAH! Originally I was going to do without, but then dad offered his on loan, so I thought, why not. I’m so glad I used one! Would have taken me forever to make all those cuts without (says the girl who spent 90+ hours installing tile WITH a tile saw to help). 😉

      1. Brian T says:

        In my project, the worst part was chipping off the old mastic. The original owners had used plastic tile (and had painted the borders …). The entire room’s worth of tile came off in about 15 minutes but chipping away that mastic took two weeks. It was the most boring and tedious step of any project I’ve ever done. Putting up the new tile felt like a breeze after that.

  4. Cynthia says:

    You’re a rock star, Kate. That niche in the shower? I have one of those, too. Except mine…well, the tile guy put it in for me. And he did all the other tile in my shower, too. 😉 I have a new respect for that guy…and the utmost respect for you! Awesome job!

  5. Hunter says:

    Hi. I’m looking to redo some plastic tile in our homes hallway. It is green plastic from the 50’s I believe. However, I need the corners which I can not find anywhere. the size is the normal 4″ by 4″ but then it goes around the corner 1″ does anyone know were I could get these?

  6. Aleta says:

    Kate, your hard work has paid off! your beautiful pink bath is gorgeous! I am totally impressed and can’t wait to see it finished with your decorating 🙂 Just wow – fantastic!!

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