Creating kitchens and baths for finicky customers since 1993

backsplash features inset metal tiles for accent and texture

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Has it been ten weeks of ceramic tile?

Floor tile, wall tile, kitchen backsplash tile -- seems like that's all I've been doing for more than two months now. When you do kitchens and baths for a living, you have to be prepared to do some serious ceramic tile work. Lately, however, it feels like I spend more time trowelling thinset, cutting tile, and floating mortar than anything else.

full bath with tile floor and walls
It started way back in July with a major bathroom overhaul. Everything went into the dumpster, including the drywall. After about two weeks of prep (and some serious help from my son!), I added a full-height ceramic tile tub surround and a new tile floor. The floor was interesting because the tiles didn't "match." They varied in shade from very pale to an earthy brown speckle.

I'd had a nice break before that with a full kitchen for a very nice family. The big bath job was done during the delay while the kitchen cabinets were measured for granite countertops. After those tops were installed, I returned to add in a fancy tile backsplash with glass insets in a Rubik's Cube pattern (sans the colors). fancy backsplash tile with glass insertsThat was a few weeks ago, and it was the last time I can recall installing tile on my feet.

For a great change of pace, I had a tiny bath makeover. It was only a powder room, but that small space got a whole new look with a modern tile floor laid over the original mosaic-over-concrete. This half-bath originally featured a wall-to-wall vanity that seemed to fill the whole room. After the new tile floor, a tidy pedestal sink and new toilet made the small room feel much larger and look decades newer. My customers were so pleased with the results that they've started planning for a similar re-do for their upstairs bathroom. Since that tile is laid over a wood floor, the install for new tile there will use more typical methods.

new bath tile laid over old bath tile I'd never done tile-over-tile before, and was pleased with the results. Oddly enough, the very next job required the same approach. This was a big old house in a very nice neighborhood. It was a lovely home, but in many ways hopelessly dated.

The homeowner was on a tight budget, but wanted a new look for his two 40-year-old bathrooms. Leaving the original tile floors in place and using them as "subfloors" saved a lot of money. With some solid help from my youngest son, we transformed those dreary old rooms in less than three days. My son must have done a good job -- the customer gave him a tip!

master bath tile makeover Somewhere in between all that I spent a day kneeling on a kitchen floor installing 12x12 tiles as fast as my brother-in-law could cut them. It was hot that day and I was sweating from the humidity, so some of that job is just a blur to me. Since he did all the grouting himself, I'd almost forgotten about that job. My poor knees remember it well, though. I also remember tiling inside a pantry closet that was shaped like something you'd find in the video game Tetris. I did that one mostly by feel.

This week started with a new ceramic tile floor in a 70's-era sublet condominium. The tear-out was easy because the toilet had apparently been leaking for years, so the original concrete-base tile floor had almost completely lost its bond with the wood subfloor. I think I set some kind of re-do record on that job, just because everything went right.

That job really set me up for a fall on the next bathroom, started on Thursday. Man, was I over-confident! The old floor was every bit as strong as it was Year One, and the new tile floor was designed on a diagonal. So the tear-out was incredibly exhausting, and the new work involved at least twice as much cutting. I have to admit, however, that the results are pretty impressive. With luck, I'll finish that bathroom on Monday. Maybe I'll be able to put away the tile tools for a few days after that. We'll see.

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