Master Shower: Seven in a Series, Wall Tiling.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

3x12 subway tile installation shower wall
Oh, DIY master bathroom shower renovation saga, I have not forgotten thee.

Last we left off, I had finally finally finally gotten that floor drain and hex mosaic floor tile down.  Whew.  The sense of relief that washed over me (ahhh ha ha, shower pun)...that drain....that drain installation plagued me.  

So I was impatient to get rolling on the wall tile because that meant the end was nearing.  Righty-o!

But wait.  I had to wait.  Why?  Because the tile mortar on the floor was not set, like a week later.  Omg. Yeah.  Right?!

I stepped into the shower one day, felt a squish and a shift and I nearly cried.  No air movement in there and it was winter, not particularly warm in the house.  

Eventually it set, jeez louise, and I cheerleader'ed myself back into a tiling tizzy. 

Then, ha, I discovered what a pain in the a** subway tile is to install.  Oooooohmg.  You wouldn't think, it's just a simple rectangle, but it is a Pain In The A**

Holy sh*t is it tedious.  You gotta incessantly check for level every three damn seconds.  Row after row after row after row....It feels like it's never ever ever gonna end! 

Why did I do this to myself?!  Haha, glutton for punishment I suppose!

So, designers, friends, sure subway tile is timelessly attractive, it's also quite affordable, but know you are psychologically torturing your installer by spec'ing it.  Sleep well, *cough.*

All right.  Let's do this.

Ok!!  First I installed those uh what are they, metal tile edge* thingies....ah, no, not plural, just one as I decided sitting on the can gazing at that wall one day that ending the shower tile at the pocket door was probably going to look bizarre as I planned to tile to the ceiling.

Sooo, I opted to tile that entire wall.  Yes, I am ridiculous.  I nearly went further than that...

adding metal tile edge in shower
Gosh dang it!  So close and yet so far!  Just butt-join a shorter piece and hope no one sees the seam.  See how to cut it here.
Those tile edges are only eight feet long so I had a connection dilemma.  I figured if the seam was near the ceiling, that'd be less noticeable.  Indeed, this is true.

Easy install, just line it up where you want it and screw it in.  Screws are better as nails could wiggle back out. 

As you remember, I bought some 3x12 glossy white subway tile from the ol' Floor & Decor joint.  Going for contrast against the matte floor. on the wide wall, I found center and drew a vertical line.  Next I offset six inches on either side (double check your actual tile dimensions), drew two more vertical lines.  These were my guidelines for the entire installation.

Because the shower base is slope-y, as it should be, you can't rely on your floor for a level first course start.  At first I started smack center which was right for my layout but wrong due to that slope.  Doh, oops.

See, your very first course of tile is your most important course.  Yeah no pressure.  If it's off, the whole thing is off and once it's dry, it's set and you're screwed.  Take your time and get it right.

Granted, per usual, I started late in the day which is always a bad idea.  But, I forced my brain to patiently take its time.

using laser level to start wall tile at floor
Lots going on here.  Refer back while reading the info sprinkled throughout.

Hence, I went from the corners and figured out the first horizontal line to follow, sparking up the spiffy laser level to show me the light.

Thank holy goodness gracious for that spiffy DeWalt laser level, thank you Janette.  If you don't have one, you can certainly get one* but you can also go with a regular level.

Oh, the layout, yeah, I did figure that in advance using AutoCAD.  I know, I'm sorry, I keep using tools you might not have.  But, you can map this out by hand too.

And trust me, truuuust me, I considered so many different versions:  half offset, a third offset, no offset, all those but vertically, a pattern....I made myself nuts.  In the end, I went with plain old typical.

Do I regret it?  A little bit.  On the whole, I stress because there's always another way and what if the other way had been better.  These what-if issues torment me constantly.  Constantly.  How I get anything accomplished, I dunno.

Sigh, heh. 

Ok.  End of day one and I've got one row stuck.  I was feelin' good, real good.  This was progress and I like progress.  A lot.

setting subway tile first row course
Iiiii know, hardly seems any progress but this took a very long time.  Most important course, ya know.

And again, yes, I used that laughably expensive pre-mixed tile mortar because I wanted to hold onto some semblance of sanity.

Beeecause, who knew, there'd be a ton of cutting involved.  hahaha, it's just a darn freakin' shower with straight walls but man, it's amazing how much cutting still follows.

Beeecause, with each corner turn, I cut the tile to fit the long wall, leaving the remainder to turn the corner onto the short wall.  Nearly every cut had to be custom because the shower framing is freakin’ not square as I discovered.  This is important info later.

Yeah!  Omg.  Sanity tested.  

Day two, day three, day one hundred and seventy four ninety two trillion, more rows.  Do not forget to buy those tile spacers,* by the way.

subway tile going up the shower wall
Day two end.  Yeah, no joke.  I didn't have a lot of available free time to do this either.  Mike was getting anxious now, "when ya gonna be done, babe?"  Although, he still claimed he was staying in the hall bath.

vertical guidelines for tile installation in shower
Ah, here's another view on how those three vertical lines were my guidelines.

Then I reached the niche.  What a what-if non-regret. 

The vertical wall surface, I did the hex mosaic to break things up visually then lined the inside with the subway.  Got some pencil tiles* from Menards, did a frame around it.  Lots of math.  Ok, woot, moving on. 


wall niche tile installation
Don't forget to angle those bottom tiles so water drains into the shower, doesn't pool there.  Do pre-made shower niches* come pre-angled?  I dunno!

My math was incorrect.  

In retrospect, learning is 20/20 right?  If I ever do this again, if, I will wait to cut out the niche once tile starts up the wall to ensure math accuracy.  

I ended up with what I loathe seeing:  the field tile did not line up.  

field tile layout to niche edge
Dooooooooohhhhhh I was so upset with myself!!  Oh math.  Why must you torture me so.

I, therefore too, was forced to extra suffer for it because cutting those tiles in miniscule slivers was a bitch and a half and then some.  Lots of tiles and spirits were broken.

tiling around shower niche with cut subway tiles
Those two tiles at the bottom surrounding the niche took forever and day.  Forever.

In retrospect, some of my wistfulness, if you will, stems from doing this tile work for the next owner, not us.  Black tile or a spike of yellow or an atypical layout, that’s me; a white brick layout, not really me. 

Sigh.  Heh.  Alas.  It's fine.  I don't hate it.

master bathroom shower renovation with subway tile installation
So. Many. Tiles.

Sorry to run on kind of a bummer note!  Please come vote for me (and share as it’s a one-time vote) in the Amara Interior Blog Awards (voting has ended) anyway, please!  Mwah, thank you!

Have you just joined this master bathroom shower saga?  Start the story here!  Or, jump to the next in the series here!

*The laser levels, tile spacers, pencil tiles, and pre-fabricated shower niches are Amazon affiliate links.  Mwah, thanks!  Please see the "boring stuff" tab for more info.

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