If you’ve never done tile before, listen up… It’s not as much fun as the TV shows make it out to be. When it’s finished, it’s lovely, but until that moment, it’s messy and a tad stressful. Tiling a floor is cake compared to tiling a wall, and in hindsight I probably should have chosen an acrylic surround to save time and money. With all that said, this tub might last my lifetime and that’s a good thought to have.
Before I began any tile, I had to waterproof the shower walls. There’s a couple different ways you can go about this. One is a polyethylene uncoupling membrane that mortars to the cement board and creates a physical barrier between the tile and the board.
From what I’ve seen, this is the method that is really pushed by TV shows. It’s also, consequently, the most expensive. I know it does a great job, but there was another system that struck my fancy a bit more.
I went with a product called Redgard. I got it at Home Depot and it was 50 bucks for one gallon at the time of this writing. Yea, it’s pricey, but it was miles cheaper than the polyethylene membrane system when you factored in all of the other things that went with it.
This stuff just paints on. Seriously, you just paint it. It goes on pink and dries red. Once it’s dry, you have a thick rubbery membrane that is very waterproof. It takes two coats to make sure the cement board is sealed, so the first coat is applied with a roller left to right, and the second coat is applied up and down. This way, you can seal the board in two different directions. Make sure you have good ventilation as this stuff can leave you trippin’ something awful.
I actually painted the Redgard over the lip of the tub so that there was one continuous membrane from the base of the tub to the top of the cement board. I bought two gallons of the Redgard and had to open the second gallon to finish off the tub, so I used the remainder of what I had on the floor.
After waterproofing, I took to tiling the large porcelain tiles in the tub surround. The greatest amount of difficulty I had came in cutting these tiles. I tried using my buddy’s score and snap tool, but with the 3/8″ porcelain, the line was very apt to drift and rarely snapped it straight. So, I borrowed a wet saw from a contractor friend of mine that he wasn’t using.
When I first tried using the thing, I had an awful time. The tile wanted to pull to one side of the line and never cut square. After examining the blade, I quickly determined it needed replaced. Here’s a key point I feel I’ve said 20 times in this blog: sharp tools make all the difference. After changing the blade, it worked flawlessly.
Mortaring the large tiles on the wall was only a pain because of the type of mortar I had to use. The tiles required a 1/2″ thick bed of latex modified mortar. I imagine the latex was essential so that the mortar could flex a bit to deal with the large size of the tile… but that’s no scientific observation.
Towards the end of laying the tiles, I settled on just back buttering the tiles since I wasn’t good at all at mortaring the wall. I also might have had too thin of a mix.
When it came to the holes that needed cut out for the shower handle, spout, and shower head, I used a 1 3/8″ diamond tipped hole saw. For the large hole, I made a series of holes with the 1 3/8″ and it came out pretty good. In the video, you can see how horrendous the process was, though.
After the tile was done on the wall, I jumped right in to the floor. I used a glazed ceramic classic design that features diamond and octagon shapes. The tile is glued together in 12″ x 12″ sheets which made the process a quick and somewhat enjoyable process. When it came to making cuts in the tile, it got a little more difficult. Sometimes I was just able to cut out certain tiles by cutting the rubberized glue on the back side of the tiles. Other times, I had to make scary rip cuts on the wet saw. There were times I felt my fingers were too close for comfort just holding the sheets on the sliding table of the wet saw.
Now that the tile is finished, I’m going to quickly finish out the wood trim in the bathroom and install the toilet and vanity.