Tiling the shower, part 3

The wait is almost over, and soon we’ll be enjoying the shower in our own bathroom. All we’re waiting on now is the door.

To see how we got to this point, here’s part 1 and part 2.

When we last left our heroes, the bench was finished, and all the walls were patched and ready to go…

As far as tiling jobs go, this wasn’t too bad. The floor and walls were almost all square (only two diagonals on the floor), and only the two plumbing fixtures to cut around. A simple wet saw works fine. All the tiles for this project came from The Tile Shop.

The floor and bench top were tiled first, using the 1-inch mosaic. I started by cutting everything and laying it out before mortaring (as you should always do). The mosaic was a tumbled stone, and to add a little character, we decided to replace several stone pieces per sheet with a purple glass. To this end, after I had everything laid out, we strategically placed the glass on the stone, then I marked each stone piece to be removed, and finally, popped the stone pieces out using a small flat-head screwdriver. It was well over a hundred pieces that had to come out, so it was kind of tedious and took longer than I had planned, but the end result is nicer than if the floor was just the stone.

When we were ready to set the tile, I used the mortar that was recommended on the box, which was a powder mix (not pre-made) containing a latex additive for additional strength. I’d definitely suggest a latex additive (especially with the smaller tiles), since it gives you a little ‘wiggle room’ because the dried mortar is just slightly elastic, so if something settles or shifts, there’s a lesser chance of tiles starting to pop out. I know using this specific mortar cost me a little more, but this was a project that I was not about to take shortcuts on.

After the floor had dried for a day, I started cutting for the walls (wall tiles were ceramic, about 10 x 13). I didn’t follow a specific gameplan; just cut and mounted a few rows at a time, slowly working my way up and around. By only doing a couple rows at once, you let the mortar dry and provide a more solid base for the rows above. It might work out to do one full wall at a time, but I didn’t want to have the weight of twelve rows of tile pushing down on a bottom that still had wet mortar. As you go, constantly check the tops for levelness – you don’t want to get to the end of a wall and find out that you’ve lost an inch downward. I also used a piece of duct tape between each pair of tiles for some added stability while drying. Not necessary for a horizontal application, but that pesky gravity will want to bring down everything that you’re not only trying to keep up, but keep perfectly level and square.

About 2/3 of the way up, we added a decorative strip, consisting of some mostly purple glass to match the floor (and the paint color on the bathroom walls).

Ready to grout.

When all the tile was up and had dried for a couple days, we were ready to grout. If you’ve never grouted vertically, believe me when I tell you it’s lots of fun. I’ve done it before for a backsplash, but nothing quite on this scale. I think almost as much ended up on the floor as I got in the gaps. It’s really finding the exact consistency – too dry, and it’ll crumble and fall; too wet, and it will ooze down the walls.

Pretty much the same strategy for the grout as the tile. I did the floor first, let it dry for a day, then worked on the walls. Again, find something that contains a latex additive (most of the grout at Home Depot or Lowe’s will be okay; they may say something like “polymer-fortified”). I won’t get into the details of how to do the grouting, but suffice it to say, it’s a messy process, and cleanup can take a while.

Once everything’s clean, let the grout dry for a least a couple days before sealing. I used a more expensive sealer for the same reason mentioned above. A small foam brush (usually found in the paint section) works pretty well for the application. After the first application dries for an hour or so, repeat, a few more times if desired (I did three coats on the walls, two on the floor). I let the sealer sit for another day, but I don’t know if it’s necessary.

The last steps were installing the hardware and applying some caulk. I used silicone caulk (won’t crack like acrylic, and totally waterproof), and did a bead along the ceiling, the floor, and each corner.

Grouted and ready to go.

The finished bench.

The decorative trim.

Enjoying the fruits of his labor.

The door should be here any day, and then I’ll be putting some wood trim around the door and glass block openings, then we’re done! I’ll have one more post with the fully completed project in a couple weeks!

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