Floor Tile at last!

Last week the progress finally felt like it was moving forward at more than a snail’s pace. I had scheduled a lot of time to be home (woooooo) which helps in the progress department.

Monday night I picked up tools and made sure I had all the supplies– and then spent the evening with my second family (one of the many) playing games and catching up.  And then I set some tiles on the subfloor to pretend I accomplished something (#honestproject).

I picked this tile from Lowes. I loved the large tiles, the color, the variation in the tile, but the shimmer in it nearly scared me off. I got over it, purchased the tile, and don’t even notice the shimmer on the floor. Whew. Crisis averted.

 

Tuesday night I installed the backer board for the tile. It was, of course, more complicated than I hoped and the pros say to put it down with mortar and screws (I wasn’t initially anticipating the mortar part). So getting the last wonky spots by the tub leveled with shims and floor leveling compound and then getting the whole thing covered in backer board took the evening.

Wednesday night I started on the tile. This is my first time tiling (which kind of surprises me) but I suppose you have to start somewhere. They make it look so simple on HGTV. And it isn’t rocket science, but as I spend the entire long evening getting so few tiles in place, mostly learning to use the tile saw, and figuring out some complicated cuts. It makes me appreciate the pros and that I am far from being a pro!

My sister recently tiled at her house, so they loaned me their tile saw and tools and I am so grateful to not have to buy my own! My brother in law warned me that since they had bought the $90 saw, the blade guard is trash and doesn’t work so the saw sprays water at you while it cuts. Okay, that sounds harmless. And it was harmless but not without its own particular charm. Mind you, it isn’t just spraying water at you – it is spraying tile dust water at you. So by the end of the evening, your hair has the same texture as straw, sort of cemented together in tile dust. Your entire front is soaked, and you have to clean your safety glasses off after every cut. Fancy.

And still, I’m so grateful for the loan of the saw so I didn’t have to rent or buy one (and believe me, I would have bought this same saw because of the price).

The trickiest spot is that heating vent, that would have been mid-tile which wasn’t working (ask me how many tiles I broke trying to make that work).  And of course, it was the first line of tiles while I was getting used to the saw and its nuances. So I did a thin row of tiles along the edge and incorporated the vent as the second row (on the edge) so as to make the cuts around it. Live and learn.

At 9.30 pm, I realized my mortar was setting up fast and I might need more — and of course, the Blue Store closes at 10. Sigh. So I drop everything, run to the store for more mortar, meant to pee there and forgot, and was home by 10 to continue. I think it was around 11 pm as I stood on my deck, a torchiere lamp lighting the tile operation, being sprayed in the face with tile water and dust, moths fluttering around my head, mortar goop all over my whole body, cringing as I used that loud saw, hoping the neighbors had fans in their windows to muffle the racket. I just had to laugh at myself and the whole situation. Yup, this is the definition of insanity or tenacity. You decide.  I finished up around midnight– and by finished, I mean I put things away because I was half done with the bathroom and it was past time to go to bed. Of course, I couldn’t shower because there was freshly installed tile that I couldn’t walk on… so I slept filthy and showered in the morning when the mortar was dry.

 

Thursday evening I finished up the tile. It felt like I was getting the hang of it and I made more complicated cuts with less trouble and less broken tiles. I finished up shortly after 10 pm. Wooooo! It really looks great. I’m not saying there aren’t imperfections and I guarantee this won’t be my best ever tiling job, but I am saying I like the tile a lot. And I like the idea of one day having all the things we love about bathrooms like floors and walls and sinks and toilets. It is going to be so great.

I was planning to go with a lighter gray grout that would contrast with the darker charcoal tile but in the end (with some coaching from a friend) I went with the matching charcoal grout which was merciful with my newbie tiling job.

I started Saturday with a trip to buy a new toilet. There are a lot of toilet options out there ya’ll. I wanted a dual flush toilet (less water for pee, more for poo) because I’m on a septic and it just seems like the thing to do. There were so many options when it comes to buying a new toilet. So I compared some prices and features, read some reviews, and ultimately got this one.  The only thing I didn’t do on purpose was the elongated bowl — I’m not opposed to it, I just didn’t pick that on purpose. They really should let you test drive toilets in the home improvement stores. I’m sure they have them up on a high shelf for a reason, but it would have been nice (and the most awkward thing ever) to sit on them and see how the height / seat / bowl feels (I mean if I had no shame).

 

So I bought the toilet and then grouted the tile around the toilet in case my dad would be able to come help me install the toilet. I wanted everything as ready as it could possibly be since I’m now going on Day 4 without an indoor working toilet and I’m getting a little desperate.

 

Blessedly my dad and Grandpa came over in the afternoon for a couple hours and we had to modify the flange assembly to the proper height now that the floor was in. And in this case when I say “we” I mean my dad for the most part. He’d done all of the previous flange fitting stuff and was into the details and I was not. I’m so grateful for his help! I want this toilet on right so I never have to think about it again or find it is rotting out the subfloor with a bad connection. Grandpa watched baseball for the most part and was the first to inaugurate the new toilet moments after it was installed.

I finished grouting the rest of the floor on Sunday and man oh man am I loving the new floor and the new toilet. The toilet does feel almost dangerously tall after my last short toilet was installed under the tile and at an angle. This one is tall and level and doesn’t rock at all. Amazing. First world upgrades my friends. This is living.

There are lots of youtube videos and lots of tutorials online if you’re thinking about trying to install tile yourself. As with everything, it is work — but on the other hand, it isn’t rocket science and it is a whole lot easier than floor leveling and plumbing. I will also say that it hearkens back to dreaming within my means. I can’t afford to hire a professional right now but I can afford to learn a few things. Not such a bad thing, notwithstanding the midnight tile sawing and being sprayed in the face.

 

A few tips I didn’t see other places, if you’re thinking about tiling:
  • If you use a cheap saw that sprays tile water at your face, go ahead and start the project wearing a hat. It makes the clean up afterward about 100 times easier. Obviously, as with any power tools, you should already be wearing safety glasses.
  • Clip your nails before you start. Maybe you’re like me and can’t find your nail clippers because your whole bathroom is scattered around your kitchen, but if you have shorter nails, there’s less room to get them jammed full of mortar and you’ll spend less time trying to pick them clean and cringing at how bad they look at work the next day.
  • Be prepared to be very messy. If you are tiling your only bathroom, you basically tile yourself out the door and then have to wait for the mortar to set — meaning you should either dash over to a friend’s house for a shower or sleep gross (I chose the latter because it was the middle of the night).
  • Rags. Get out lots of rags. I found it super helpful to have a couple wet wash clothes for wiping mortar and rinsed them regularly throughout the evening. It goes without saying your clothes will get messy.

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