I’m definitely tired of using a port-a-potty at the Millie’s Remodel house. It’s high time we get the bathroom floors tiled so my plumber can install a toilet! Come along with me today as I install the cement tile floors in the bathrooms.

Millie's Remodel: Cement Tiles in the Bathrooms

Millie’s Remodel: Cement Tiles in the Bathrooms

If you remember my last Millie’s Remodel update, I shared the only working bathroom was the port-a-potty in the front yard. I was definitely done with sharing it with my subcontractors and the MAILMAN! Ugh, I lost track of how many people were using it.

After installing the waterproofing and uncoupling membrane, both bathrooms were ready for tiling. Hooray!

You might remember I shared the mood boards for both the main bathroom and the powder/laundry room.

Main Bathroom Moodboard

Powder/Laundry Room Moodboard

Being able to finally install the tiles is one of my favorite stages in a home renovation. Especially because when the Lili Cement tiles I ordered arrived, and I couldn’t wait to see them installed on the floors. I should mention, Lili Tiles is one of the Millie’s Remodel sponsors. When the company contacted me, I was thrilled with their bright-colored tiles and the variety of shapes and patterns. Frankly, it was tough to choose just two tile patterns.

Variety of tiles on the floor

Here are some other things I love about the Lili Cement Tiles: Each tile is handmade! You can watch the process here. And if you want to see more inspiring photos of Lili Cement tiles installed in a variety of spaces, follow Lili Cement Tiles on Instagram! Plus, I love supporting small companies, especially one founded by a woman.

Lili Cement Tiles on Instagram

Okay, now it’s time to show you these beautiful cement tiles installed. Go ahead and watch this video to see them in the Millie’s Remodel bathrooms and watch how much fun I had installing them! Seriously, it was more fun than you can imagine.

What do you think? Do you love the patterns? Think they work for a mid-century modern beauty? I can’t pick my favorite because I love the subtle star pattern in the Vegas 3 tile installation.

Lili Cement Tile Vegas3 houndstooth pattern gold and black tiles

But, I’m equally excited by the classic navy diamond pattern in the Mia 4 tile installation.

Lili Cement Tile Mia 4, Navy and White diagonal box tiles

However, what is making me jump for joy, is the toilet and sink hooked up in the powder room. I could have kissed my plumber when he showed up to install the toilet and sink in the house.

Lili Cement Tile Mia 4, Navy and White diagonal box tiles

Time to say goodbye to the port-a-potty. See you soon with another Millie’s Remodel update!

Disclosure: Thank you to Lili Cement Tiles for sponsoring the Millie’s Remodel project. I was sent complimentary products in exchange for mentioning Lili Tiles in my project. All opinions and ideas are my own. As you know, I’m very particular about the brands I work with, and Lili Cement Tiles is a brand I’m happy to recommend!

If you want professional-looking tile floors (regardless if you want to do it yourself or hire someone), you must read this article to find out what tiles to buy, how to avoid cracked tiles, and risk a finished tile floor that is less than professional-looking.

11 Must See Tips for DIY Professional Looking Tile Floors11 Must-See Tips for Professional Looking Tile Floors

I’m here to tell you, YES, you can lay your own floor tile and achieve professional-looking results if you learn a few tips and tricks. First, can I share a secret with you? Seven years ago I thought I had to hire a tile installer when we had our mudroom tiled. I wish I knew then what I know now because I would have kicked that installer out of my house immediately. I still have to look at some of the issues he left behind pointing to a less than professional looking tile job. (Insert Angry Face Emoji!)

But, I completely understand if you still want to hire a professional tile installer for any number of reasons:

  • No time
  • Don’t have the tools
  • Physical disabilities (tile-setting is tough on the back and body)
  • No desire to install tile

Did I miss any reasons? If I did, leave me a comment below letting me know why someone wouldn’t want to embark on a DIY tile flooring project.

Before we get to my tips, I want to give you a little education on tiles. Especially if you had problems previously and thought it was your fault the tile job didn’t look professional. Believe it or not, your issues may have been caused by cheap or poor quality tiles. Say what?!

How to Spot Poor Quality (Cheap) Tiles:

Did you know those tiles you are saving a boatload on may not be quality tiles? Did you even know there were inferior quality tiles? Yes, it’s true. A few years ago I hired a tile installer to help me tile some of the bathrooms in the Saving Etta project. (Yes, I could have done it myself, but I’d still be tiling if I did everything myself.) When I first met the installer, he asked me about the tiles I had purchased. I showed him the boxes and he opened several to inspect them. This is what he was looking for to determine if they were cheap tiles:

  • Color – Pull tiles from several boxes (if possible) and check to see that the color is consistent for one color tiles. (Obviously, if they are supposed to vary in color and pattern that’s okay.) Regardless, you should always pull tiles randomly from several boxes when laying tile.
  • Size – Pull random tiles from several boxes and stack them together. They should be identical. Poor quality tiles can vary up to 1/8″ in size. This will cause issues especially if you are using a small grout joint.
  • Printing – Many ceramic or porcelain tiles are printed to look like real stone today. Take a close look at the surface. Is the printing evident? Do you see small dots like a printed newspaper photo? If you can’t see them easily, the printing was well done.
  • Thickness – In addition to the overall dimension of the tiles, you should check the consistency of thickness.
  • Warping – Are your tiles perfectly flat or do they bend? See below for a picture of two 4″ x 12″ tiles that show some bowing in the center of the tiles.

(To eliminate accentuating this defect, you wouldn’t want to install these tiles with a 50% offset (shown below). Instead, a 25 or 33% would be a better staggered joint pattern.)

bowed tiles at 50% offset shows shadows and lippage

  • Wedging – Square and rectangular tiles should be cut square. Out of square tiles could would impact your tile job and show up especially in the grout joints.

Typically you can expect good quality from tiles that are labeled as Standard or First Grade. Second grade tiles will have more variations in appearance. Independent tile shops are the best place to purchase good quality tiles. They typically sell to designers and tile installers, but also sell to the general public. Granted, you will likely pay more. But, you know the old saying, you get what you pay for.

Picking Tiles:

Tiles are tiles, right? Wrong, there are many tiles that would not be suitable for a floor. And some tiles are not good for high traffic areas. Finally, some tiles are not a good fit for showers. How can you tell which tiles are best for use in specific areas?

Floor Tiles vs. Wall Tiles:

Floor tiles must be strong enough to handle walking on and an occasional dropped item. Did you know there’s a rating for tile strength? It’s called a PEI rating.

A PEI of 1 is ideal for walls. PEI of 2 is best for bathrooms and kitchens. And a PEI of 3 is appropriate for all residential applications. Meanwhile, PEIs of 4 and 5 are applicable for commercial and heavy commercial applications. When shopping for tiles, they may not have the PEI rating displayed, but there should be a notation if they are acceptable for floors and walls. If you don’t see a notation, ask a salesperson or check with the manufacturer.

Avington Black & White Cement Tiles from TheBuilderDepot.com

How Slippery Are Your Tiles?

Floor tiles must meet certain criteria for COF or coefficient of friction (basically how slippery the tile is.) But, different areas need different COF values. Let’s talk strictly for residential purposes (because commercial and business sites are a whole other beast). Floor tiles in a bathroom with a shower or tub must meet a greater than .42 DCOF test.  Tiles that score less than .42 would only be appropriate for areas that will be kept dry or walls.

Polished tiles tend to be more slippery. Tiles that have texture usually score better on the DCOF test, but depending on how textured, they can be harder to clean.

Are marble and natural stone tiles good for floors?

Oh the beauty of real marble! I know, I know, I love marble too, but would it be a good choice for your floor? This depends on several factors. The first being the use of the room. If using in a kitchen or room with a lot of traffic and opportunities for spills, you’ll want to steer clear of marble and stone products that can wear or stain easily. Of course, you can seal your tiles, but the upkeep will be a lot more than porcelain or ceramic tile. But, if you are okay with your floors showing off natural wear and patina, go for it.

Porcelain vs. Ceramic – What’s the Difference?

Porcelain tiles are stronger and more dense than ceramic tiles. They don’t absorb as much moisture as ceramic tiles (Porcelain tiles must be tested and absorb at 0.5% or less to be certified porcelain.) Because they absorb less, porcelain tiles are more ideal for shower floors or areas that stay damp or humid. While porcelain tiles will usually be stronger, thicker, and less porous, they can be tougher to cut and more expensive. Ultimately you can use ceramic tiles on your floor, as long as they meet a 3 or higher PEI rating (as discussed above).

How Many Tiles Should I Order?

Typically most tilers would suggest you order anywhere from 15% -20% extra for your job. If you are using small tiles, you can order as little as 10% overage. Usually, I order 15% because it’s better to have a few left over to keep on hand should you ever have to replace a tile. Besides, it’s a real pain if you run out of tiles mid tile job.

Know Your Finished Height:

If you are picking out tiles, be sure you know the difference in height of adjoining rooms. Choosing your floor tile can mean the difference between perfectly matched floor levels or the need for a transition strip (or worse, a step up or down!) Luckily there is a transition strip for most floor differences.

Tools:

(I’ve included affiliate links for your convenience. I earn a small percentage from a purchase using these links. There is no additional cost to you. You can read more about affiliate links here.)

I’m a big advocate of having good tools. Having a good tile cutter means the difference between flying through a tile job or having it drag on for an eternity. A good tile cutter also reduces waste because they cut tiles cleanly.

When possible, I prefer cutting the majority of tiles with a scoring tile cutter. It’s quicker, a lot less messy, and clean up is as simple as brushing off the platform.

Occasionally I’ve run into tile that resisted cutting on my scoring cutter (thick porcelain tiles usually fall into this category). For those tiles, I use my wet saw. A wet saw can also cut angled and corner cuts into the tiles. I’ve used the same inexpensive wet saw for years, but when it dies I’ll upgrade to a bigger wet saw.

Recently I started using an angle grinder with a diamond blade for more precise intricate cuts or to knock off a small amount. It works faster and is less clean up than the wet saw for those intricate cuts.

Finally, if you are tiling a shower, you’ll inevitably need to cut a hole in your tiles around a pipe. For that task, I use a drill with a diamond hole saw.

My Tile Cutting Tools:

Now it’s time to learn my top tips for a professional-looking tile floor. If you are a newbie and want to learn the basics of tiling, you’ll find these two lessons helpful: Learn How to Set Tile

and Learn How to Grout.

Okay, let’s learn how to get those professional tile results that will even fool the pros!

11 Must See Tips for Professional Looking Tile Floors:

Over the years I’ve taken several courses on tile setting and worked directly with several professional tile setters. From each experience, I’ve learned a lot and now I want to share the things I’ve learned with you so your next tile job comes out beautifully.

In my video you’ll get to see the progress at the Millie’s Remodel project as I tiled the kitchen floor. I decided to incorporate the tiling tips I’ve learned into the video for you.

Watch the video for the tips and how I install floor tiles:

You can also watch the video on YouTube if you prefer (especially if you want to click on the links to the other videos I mention).

1. Flat and Sturdy Subfloor:

Like building a sturdy house, your foundation is super important. When you walk on your floor does it flex, bounce, or squeak? If so, you need to solve these issues now. Use a level and rest it in several different areas (and directions on your subfloor). Are there low spots, high spots, or a slope? If you have dips or valleys in your subfloor, you can’t get a good tile job that will last. If your floor isn’t sturdy and flexes, you will have cracked grout, or worse cracked tiles.

As specified by the TCNA (Tile Council of North America), you want no more than 1/4″ difference in 10′ and no more than 1/16″ within 12 inches. If your subfloor isn’t flat, you can learn how to level your floor here.

If you have a wood subfloor, make sure your wood substrates have the manufacturer’s recommended spacing (typically 1/8″ gap between plywood sheets.) Backer board or uncoupling membranes should be laid onto the subfloor before tiling.

Never tile directly onto new concrete. In fact, keep reading to learn why I use uncoupling membranes and how to prevent your tile job from being ruined by expanding or contracting concrete.

2. Consider Using an Uncoupling Membrane

In another previous post, I shared how to apply the orange Schluter Ditra waterproof membrane before tiling. The Schluter Ditra material also acts as an uncoupling membrane which prevents cracks in your tiles and/or grout.

After taking the Schluter workshops, I will never tile a room without an uncoupling membrane again. As a bonus, their membranes are waterproof. No more need to worry about water soaking into your subfloor and causing mold to build up.

3. Use a Good Tile Cutter

Using good tools will help your tile job go smoothly and it will keep your tile cuts from looking like a jagged mess. If you can’t afford to buy good tools, look into renting some, or ask a fellow DIYer if you can borrow theirs. (Always clean their tools before returning them. Nothing irks me more than dirty tools.)

4. Layout Tiles Ahead of Time

If you’ve heard that spending time doing the prep work will save you time in the long run, nothing could be more true than when tiling. Before I start any tile job, I always lay out my tiles first. I dry lay them out to see what I’m dealing with. First I layout a run of tiles along the length of the room and position the tiles to avoid having to cut a small sliver of a tile at either end. Then I layout a run along the width of the room making adjustments to avoid the same situation.

If I have printed tiles, I separate them into piles by their individual print design. Then when I pull tiles later I pull from different stacks. I also step back to make sure two of the same tiles aren’t next to each other (like in the example below thanks to that so-called professional I hired).

Nothing screams rookie tiler louder than two printed tiles being installed next to each other. And in the same orientation!

5. Leave an Expansion (or Movement) Joint

Despite what you might think (especially if you have perfectionist tendencies), you do not want to cut and install your tiles tight against the wall (or other objects in your room like columns, pipes, or walls.) You must leave at least 1/4 inch around the perimeter of your room or around immovable objects. Not adhering to this rule can lead to your tile floor popping up or tenting (See this article for a photo of tenting tile.) Additionally, you need to install a movement joint in any interior room at every 25 feet in each direction. However, if this room is exposed to direct sunlight or heat, you’ll need an expansion joint at every 12 feet in each direction.

6. Use Recommended Trowel Size

Tiles come in all shapes and sizes and therefore they require a variety of trowels. Be sure to check with the specifications on your tile to find out the trowel size. Or ask your tile shop representative for their recommendation. Using a too-small trowel with large tiles would cause the tiles not to adhere to the surface. And too big a trowel with smaller tiles will make it difficult to level the tiles.

7. Back Butter Large Tiles

When tiling a floor with large tiles, back buttering is a must. Typically I’ll spread the thinset mortar onto the floor and trowel through it. I’ll use the excess to scrape a thin layer over the back of the floor tile. This accomplishes two things:

  1. It keys mortar into any voids on the back of the tile.
  2. It ensures full coverage on the back of the tile.

If you don’t back butter large tile, you run the risk of having air pockets behind your tile which can sound hollow when walked on or cause the tile to pop up.

8. Use Leveling Spacers

Leveling spacers are a relatively new product, but I will never tile a floor without them again. I’ve tried several brands but prefer the wedge-shaped leveling spacers. The wedges are inserted into the tile spacer and ratcheted tight to bring tiles to the same height as the adjacent tiles. You can see how they work and how to remove the spacers in my video above. (It’s a lot of fun removing them as you’ll see!) Using leveling spacers virtually eliminates lippage on tiles.

wedge shaped tile spacer leveling two tiles

9. Clean Thinset Off Tiles

Anyone who has had to clean dried thinset mortar off tiles will never make the mistake of letting it dry on tiles. When tiling, keep your area clean. Be sure to clean off any mortar on surrounding tiles. In addition, make sure to clean thinset that squeezes up between the tiles. You want to make sure you have enough room for grout to set on top of the mortar.

10. Use Grout with Sealant

Grouting is the final step for any tile job, but if you didn’t add a sealant additive to your grout, you will need to seal the grout after the fact. I don’t know about you, but the last thing I want to do after tiling a floor is hand paint sealant on all the grout lines. And if you skip sealing all together you’re going to hate keeping the grout clean.

11. Plan Your Transition Pieces Ahead of Time

One thing that will truly set your tile floor job a notch above is using sleek transitions. Personally, I prefer using Schluter profiles strips for my floor transitions. There are a variety of finishes, sizes, and styles. Some of the profile strips are laid under the tiles for a stronger bond. Others are installed after the grout has cured. In the Millie’s Remodel kitchen, we had a big change in height between floors. I ended up using the the Schluter Reno-V profile which has an L shaped piece that slides under the tile edge during installation. (You can see the way it works in my video.)

However, in the Saving Etta house, I used simple Schluter Schiene profile strips between tile and wood flooring.

How to Speed Up Your Tile Job:

It helps to have a helper when tiling. Once you mix thinset or grout, you’re on the clock. Both will harden within a set time. If you have a helper, you can give your helper the task of cutting tiles or changing out your dirty water buckets, or mixing more thinset mortar. Speaking of mortar, never mix more than you can spread before hardening. As an experienced tiler I try not to mix more than 1/3 of a 50 pound bag of mortar. Otherwise, you’ll be left with a big boulder of thin set when it hardens.

If you can’t get a helper, make sure to fill multiple buckets with clean water before you begin. It also helps to cut some of your perimeter tiles ahead of time.

Tip for Working with Grout: You can slow the curing time of your grout if you set your mixed grout into a second bucket filled with ice water to slow the curing process. I show this in more detail in my grouting tutorial.

Best of luck tiling your floor.  I know you can do this.

Today we’re prepping to tile in the kitchen and bathrooms. Having seen firsthand how much damage water can cause to a home, I want to show you this tutorial for How to Waterproof Floors!

Waterproofing Floors in Any Room

Renovations are finally moving forward at Millie’s Remodel. This is the point where I feel like we already hit rock bottom and now we’re finally on the rebound. You might remember we used a self-leveling concrete in the kitchen last week. Now it’s time to waterproof the floors to prevent damage from ever happening again!

Last year I took two Schluter classes and learned about waterproofing, uncoupling membranes, and tips and tricks to keep your tile job looking flawless for a lifetime. What I learned over the four days blew my mind. I learned why and how shower systems fail. But, most importantly, I learned how to properly prepare surfaces for tile using waterproofing membranes. Today we’ll just be talking about waterproofing a floor, but I’ll have another tutorial for you soon so you can learn how to waterproof walls too.

Materials:

(I’ve included affiliate links for your convenience. I earn a small percentage from a purchase using these links. There is no additional cost to you. You can read more about affiliate links here.)

Why should you waterproof a floor?

Before we get started, I want you to fully understand how waterproofing a room can actually save you money and save you from the headache of having a leak in your home.

If you have a kitchen or a bathroom, chances are you’re going to have a leak in your lifetime (or your home’s lifetime) if it hasn’t already happened. One of the best things you can do is to install waterproofing materials so water can never damage your floors or floor framing again. I believe so strongly in the Schluter products, that all the properties I’m working on (including my own) will have Ditra installed on the floor before tiling.

By using the Schluter Ditra uncoupling and waterproof membrane in conjunction with Kerdi band around the perimeter of the room, I can waterproof the entire floor. Which means I don’t have to worry about rot or mold happening. Any little leaks will sit on top of this membrane until I see it because the water will rise instead of seeping into your floor or walls.

Ready to get started? Let me show you how to waterproof any room in your house!

For your convenience, I made a video to help show how to install Schluter waterproofing products and how to fully waterproof a room!

Instructions:

  1. Cut open your roll of Ditra and roll it out onto a scrap piece of wood or something you can cut on.
  2. Measure the room you want to waterproof and transfer the dimensions onto your Ditra membrane. Use a straight edge and a sharp utility knife to cut the Ditra. You might need to make a few passes with the knife to cut completely through the Ditra membrane.
  3. Test fit the Ditra in your room. Cut out a hole for your floor vents by pressing your knife through the membrane where the vent is and remove the material up to the edges of the duct. Cut the rest of the pieces to fill the room. Do not overlap the Ditra material.
  4. Now it’s time to mix the thinset. When using Schluter Ditra it’s highly recommended to use the Schluter All Set. This mortar is specifically manufactured to cure against the waterproof membrane. Read the instructions on the packaging and mix your thinset as directed.
  5. Use a wet sponge and clean water to clean and wet the subfloor. Spread the thinset onto the floor using the Schluter Ditra trowel. Make sure you have good coverage on the floor.
    Then use the notched trowel to comb through the thinset at a 45° angle.
  6. Lay the Ditra membrane on top of the thinset and use a smooth float to press the membrane into the thinset. In the beginning, you should roll back a corner of the Ditra to make sure you have full coverage onto the backing of the membrane. Place the Ditra back down and use the float again to make sure the membrane is pressed into the thinset.
  7. Use a wet sponge to clean out any mortar that has squeezed out the seams or edges.
  8. Once all the Ditra has been installed into the subfloor, you’re ready to seal the perimeter and seams. Grab a Kerdi corner piece for each corner of the room. Using the Kerdi trowel, apply thinset mortar to the inside corner of the room. Use the notched side to comb through the thinset. Place the Kerdi corner into the thinset and use the flat side of the trowel to embed and scrape along the Kerdi.
  9. Now you’re ready to install the Kerdi Band on the straight sections of wall. Be sure to cut your Kerdi band so it overlaps the corner pieces by at least 2 inches. I like to pre-fold my Kerdi Band by creasing it in the middle so it’s easier to install in the corners. Apply the Kerdi Band to the wall and floor using the same technique as the corner.
  10. Clean up any excess mortar leaving a smooth surface for tile installation.
  11. Now it’s time to complete the waterproofing of the room by sealing the seams between the Ditra sheets. Cut your Kerdi Band so it overlaps any perimeter band by at least two inches. Apply the thinset over the seam, use the notched trowel to create ridges in the thinset.
    Then embed the Kerdi band into the mortar and run the flat side of the trowel over the band to smooth the thinset and embed the band.
  12. Clean up any excess and allow the thinset to cure before tiling.

Once the thinset has cured you can tile your room and rest easy knowing this room is waterproofed and there’s no way the subfloor will rot from a sneaky little leak. Or a big leak if you have kids that like to splash out of the bathtub. I know this risk all too well from my own boys.

I hope you found this tutorial helpful and you’ll consider using Schluter waterproofing materials before you renovate your next “water” room.

Disclosure: I was provided with some Schluter materials for this project. I was not told what to write. All opinions are my own. I am particular about the brands I represent and will always let you know when you are reading a post with complementary products or a sponsored post.

Saving Etta: Kitchen Tile UpdateSaving Etta: Installing the Tile Backsplash & a Mistake I’ll Never Make Again

Last week you got to see how the range hood was installed (and how I averted disaster during the installation.) Today I’m sharing more kitchen updates. We’re going to dive into tiling a backsplash and one mistake I’ll never make again.

Before we get started, I want to give a big shout out to my sponsors! These brands came together to help me save Etta and I am incredibly grateful.

(I’ve included affiliate links for your convenience. I earn a small percentage from a purchase using these links. There is no additional cost to you. You can read more about affiliate links here.)

After hiring tile setters to lay the bathroom and mudroom floors, I chose to save some money by tiling the backsplash myself. After all, I consider myself fairly experienced at installing backsplashes after I tiled three walls in my own kitchen and wrote a tutorial to help you learn to tile.

Fall Decor in a Rustic Farmhouse Kitchen | Pretty Handy Girl

Light Fixture Installation Woes:

Shortly before tiling, my electrician joined me late one night to finish installing the light fixtures in the kitchen. My sons and I had already installed all the recessed can lights. But, I let my electrician handle the remaining fixtures. Especially because I was on a tight deadline to get the house finished and on the market before the holidays.

electrician hanging pendant light

This guy standing on plywood at 9pm at night, is my knight in shining armor. Harvey has been my electrician for over six years and he’s helped me solve electrical problems on multiple occasions.  The thing I love most about him is he always pushes me to take on the smaller electrical projects myself. When I wanted to hire him to install a switch for an automatic door activated light in our pantry, he explained the process then left me with these parting words, “Call me if you get stuck.”

Most light fixture installations are straight forward and simple, but we had several issues with the lights I ordered for the Saving Etta house. One of them was missing parts to attach the hanging hardware to the canopy that attaches to the ceiling box. Harvey sent me to a nuts and bolts store. I kid you not, it was an obscure hardware store I never knew existed in Raleigh. Walking through the door, was like walking back in time. Picture Michael J. Fox stepping into the soda shop in Back to the Future. The gentleman working the counter looked at my light fixture parts and started searching through aisles of fasteners, nuts, bolts, screws, and who knows what else. Ultimately he found a nut that would work for our light. Hallelujah.

The gentleman took my credit card and I nearly laughed as he ran it through one of the old carbon copy credit card machines. If you’re too young to know what this is, I leave you this video for your education. For the rest of us, enjoy a trip back in time.

Back at the house, Harvey had finished installing the pendant light over the sink. But, something looked off. The pendant shade wouldn’t hang level no matter what we tried. Ultimately, I took it down and replaced it with a modern geometric pendant and pendant light kit from Lowe’s. In my opinion, the light is perfect for the modern farmhouse look I was envisioning for Etta.

Plygem mira window with facet pendant light and subway tile

Countertops:

After the cabinets and range hood were installed it was time to call the countertop fabricators. The owner arrived and took measurements, then he sent me to look at slabs in the local granite and stone warehouse. I took my youngest with me and we watched in awe as a huge robotic arm lifted giant slabs of quartz and granite for customers to view. You can join us as we are looking through the slabs in my Facebook Live video:

Can I share something with you? I’m not a big granite fan, although I saw some amazing slabs at the warehouse. Instead of granite, I chose a marble looking quartz. The quartz is called Carrara Venatino from Cosmos. I think Cosmos has it manufactured especially for them. If you like the countertops, you can see if there is a Cosmos distributor near you.

Liberty Lombard - cabinet drawer pulls

The countertops are one of my favorite finishes in the kitchen. I almost wish I had used them in our own kitchen instead of the recycled glass quartz countertops. My only complaint about the Carrara Venatino is it tends to scuff easily. Belt buckles and rivets leave gray lines that look almost like pencil marks on the edges. It’s not a huge deal as they seem to wipe off with a rag and some cleanser.

Tiling the Backsplash:

The backsplash turned out beautiful and definitely attracted a lot of attention in this open concept kitchen. I used Jeffrey Court 4″ x 12″ white subway tiles from Home Depot. The subway tiles have a timeless classic look and the larger size meant the install was a little faster than standard 3×6 subway tiles.

subway tile backsplash being installed

There were two particular evenings I stayed crazy late. I had to bust my butt to finish the tiling. Pretty Handsome Guy came one night to help, and brought Jersey Mike’s for dinner (see if you can spot my ingenious use of the trash as a faucet cover). The hubby got a crash course on using the wet saw and after about a dozen practice cuts, he finally got the hang of cutting tiles. (He still has to pick up some more skills before he can have the name Pretty Handy Guy. Have I mentioned he’s not the handy person in this marriage?) But, without his help I might still be tiling that backsplash! (Okay, that might be a bit of an exaggeration.)

Tiling can be a solo job, but it really helps to have one person cutting the tiles and the other one setting them. Especially because the thinset will eventually harden. At least the hardening process was slowed by the cold temperatures inside the house and out. (We still didn’t have the gas hooked up for the heat yet.)

The second night I worked by myself until about midnight. By the time I left, I was cold, tired, and sore. Climbing up and down on top of countertops is tough work. But, also rewarding as you can see by this progress after the first evening.

installing subway tile with spacers

Installing Open Shelf Brackets:

Having open shelving in the Saving Etta kitchen was a no brainer. In my own kitchen I have two open shelves and I love them! For my shelves, I installed corbel shelf brackets after the tile was installed.

DIY Aged Chippy Paint Technique | Pretty Handy Girl

I was planning on doing the same at the Etta house. But, shortly before tiling I stumbled across a tile setter on Instagram who had installed the shelf brackets before tiling. Thinking this guy was a professional and knew what he was doing, I decided to try doing the same thing. After all, it would be easier to locate the studs and blocking before tiling. Truth be told, I had added blocking in the wall where the shelves were going to be mounted, and took a picture before the drywall was hung. (Smart, right?!)

Continuing my claim of having smart ideas, I decided to put a paint stick behind the shelf bracket before securing it to the wall. This would insure the bracket would be at the same depth as the tiles. In theory it seemed like a good idea. Can anyone guess what my mistake was?

Subway tile next to shelf bracket

There were actually two issues. The first was I failed to allow for mortar thickness. Depending on the size notched trowel you use, the thinset can add anywhere from 1/8″ – 1/4″.  I guess I can be thankful at least I put something behind the brackets or they would have been horribly recessed.

It wasn’t until I began grouting that I realized the second issue with installing the shelf brackets first: sloppy cuts.

tile around shelf bracket

Cutting tiles is not like cutting wood. Where it’s fairly easy to cut shapes in wood, it’s not that easy with tiles. Making perfect 90˚ cuts into tile is tough. As you can see above, I had one tile that needed to be notched. The small leg on the right kept breaking. So I ended up piecing the tile around one of the brackets.

Next came the challenge of grouting around the brackets. After much mental exercise, I chose to put white caulk around the brackets to minimize the cut lines. The caulk hides some of the imperfections, but it still bugs me that they don’t look perfect. In DIY, there are plenty of opportunities to be creative and it also provides plenty of learning opportunities.

I will never make the mistake of tiling around brackets. Next time I will tile first and install the shelf brackets afterwards. (In case you are wondering, these are the brackets I used. They are sufficiently strong to hold shelves with glasses and dishes, but I wouldn’t use them to hold super heavy items like hand weights.)

The next day I finished tiling around the range hood and was able to grout the wall with the open shelves (but needed to wait for the newly set tiles to cure overnight.) By the end of day three I had completely tiled and grouted the backsplash!

counter protected while installing shelf brackets

Despite the few cut tiles around the shelf brackets, I am pleased with the backsplash. I’m keeping you in suspense with the rest of the kitchen reveal until Friday. But, here’s a close up of the tiling around the brackets. It looks okay from a distance, which is all that really matters, right?

White subway backsplash open reclaimed wood shelving

Stay tuned, the next Saving Etta update will be the full kitchen reveal and I can’t wait to share it with you!!!

Disclosure: I worked with Jeffrey Court for Home Depot on this project. I was provided with the subway tiles for the kitchen backsplash. I will always let you know if I was sponsored or compensated. You should also note that I’m very particular about the brands I work with.

Saving Etta: Floor Tile Update

Saving Etta: Tile Flooring Update

Welcome back to another Saving Etta update! If you’re just joining, this is another progress report on my efforts to save a house built in 1900. The finish line is looming close, so be on the lookout for more updates to come. To get the back story and learn more about the Saving Etta project, you may want to start from the beginning.

Saving Etta - One Woman's Journey to Save a House Built in 1900 | Pretty Handy Girl

(I’ve included affiliate links for your convenience. I earn a small percentage from a purchase using these links. There is no additional cost to you. You can read more about affiliate links here.)

I’ve been dying to share the tiling update, because this is one of my favorite finishing materials to select. But, before tile installation, we completed a few tasks after the drywall installation update. All the walls were primed and sanded.

Then I had a lull in subcontractors on site, so I started painting some of the walls myself (and with the help of some friends) while we had none of the final flooring in. While this may have seemed like a good idea at the time, in the future I’ll wait until after the floors and trim are installed to paint. The first reason was I lost my painting subcontractors after they completed the priming and sanding. They moved on to another job and I never could get them back. Then there was a lot of touch up work needed after the flooring and trim carpenters finished. This meant I had to ask my interior painters to do a lot more touch up work than normal. All this to say that I have a new motto: “Vive y aprende.” Or Live and Learn. (Working with a fair amount of hispanic subcontractors has been great for boning up on my Spanish vocabulary!)

While I painted, I mulled over the benefits of hiring a tile installer versus laying the tiles myself. Originally I wanted to host workshops to teach local readers how to tile. Unfortunately, as the weather began to cool off, it became clear that I was running out of time to finish this house. I chose to outsource tile installation in the bathrooms and mudroom. But decided to install the laundry room tile and kitchen backsplash myself. I’m so glad I chose to hire a tile setter for the bathrooms. Not only did it save time, but he discovered potential issues that I wouldn’t have caught.

As soon as I could schedule the tile installation, I put it on my calendar and then scheduled the wood floor delivery during the week of tile install so the wood floors could acclimate in the house. Installing tile before wood floors made sense because wood is a lot easier to cut and manipulate than tile. But, it’s still important to account for the finished height of the wood flooring to eliminate a variety of floor heights (some variation is inevitable, but you can try to minimize the differences if you plan ahead.) With this in mind, we had to choose a variety of underlayment (backer board and uncoupling mat) thicknesses depending on each floor tile thickness. Most of the rooms we used 1/2″ PermaBase for the underlayment. But, the laundry room tile was extra thick and the only solution was to use an uncoupling mat which is thinner than any cement backer board I could find. (Here’s the full tutorial on how to install cement tiles!)

Installing uncoupling mat in laundry room

Now that you’re up to speed, ready to see the tiles I chose for the floors? Great, because I can’t wait to show you! Before we continue, I need to tell you that I worked with two generous tile material sponsors. These companies believed in my mission to save a historic house and graciously agreed to send me materials for the Saving Etta project.

While at Haven two years ago, I was introduced to Jeffrey Court’s Home Depot product line of tiles. They have a great variety of tiles for all different styles. Because I wanted to stay true to the historic nature of this 1900 house, I chose small vintage hex tiles for two of the bathrooms.

Downstair’s Bathroom Before:

The tubs for the upstairs and downstairs bathrooms were recommended by a designer at Wilkinson Plumbing Supply. They are a Bootz brand tub that is fiberglass but has a coating to make it feel like cast iron. I like how they sound like cast iron when you knock on them. They are also supposed to hold heat better than a standard fiberglass tub. The Bootz tubs are as lightweight as fiberglass and also lighter on your budget!

The shampoo niches I used are from here. The window over the tub is another Plygem Mira window with obscure glass. In hindsight, I wish I had ordered two more obscure glass windows for the other bathrooms. Instead, I installed some privacy film to cover those windows. (I’ll be sharing about this process in a later blog post.)

downstairs bathroom pre-tile

And now, I’m excited to show you the floor tiles we installed in that downstairs shared bathroom!

Downstairs Bathroom Floor Tile:

black stripes in small white hex tile field on bathroom floor

Don’t you love those stripes? I worked with my tile installer to create a striped pattern using Jeffrey Court Gardenia and Black Out Porcelain Mosaic Hex Tiles.

Jeffrey Court Small White and Black hex tiles in bathroom

Since this is a shared bathroom, I wanted it to have a basic unisex feel. Ultimately, I love how the stripes look like a rug on the bathroom floor. Apparently so does everyone else because we get lots of compliments on this floor.

Upstairs Bathroom Before:

The upstairs bathroom also has a tub, but this bathroom has two exterior walls. This meant we couldn’t install a shampoo niche because we had to leave room for insulation in the walls instead.

upstairs-bathroom pre tile

Remember how the downstairs bathroom has a unisex style? Well, this bathroom was my chance to insert some femininity into the design!

Upstairs Bathroom Floor Tile:

I still used the vintage hex tiles, but added a flowery look using Jeffrey Court Floral Terrace Mosaic Tiles.

Floral Terrace small hex tiles installed in bathroom

My tile installer was so thankful the flower pattern comes pre-assembled. He told me, he’s had to pick out and place the flowers in hex tiles on other jobs and that it’s a tedious task. Kudos to Jeffrey Court for making his job easier (and going easier on my budget.)

Jeffrey Court Tiles Floral Terrace on Bathroom Floor

Master Bathroom Before:

The master bathroom is the only room with a stand up shower. This meant I needed to coordinate the floor tile with the shower floor tile and wall tiles. (I’m going to keep you in the dark on those other tile choice for now, but stay tuned!)

master bathroom pre-tile

Ready to see this amazing floor? I’m so in love with this tile that I plan on using it in my own master bathroom.

Master Bathroom Floor Tile:

Check out this stunning tile from The Builder Depot. The official name of it is: Carrara Venato Polished Hexagon Nero Strip Marble Mosaic Tile, but I prefer “the most stunning hexagon tile I’ve ever laid eyes on!”

Beautiful marble outlined black white hex tiles in master bathroom

I fell in love with this tile when I saw it in one of our local tile showrooms, but the price was way out of my budget. When I saw my friends at the Builder Depot had it in their selection, I jumped on it immediately.

The Builder Depot Carrara Venato Hexagon Nero Strip Marble Mosaic Tile installed on bathroom floor

Aren’t you in love with that hexagon tile?

Laundry Room Before:

Long before I bought the Saving Etta house, I’ve longed to use black and white cement tiles somewhere.

laundry room pre tiling

Luckily, this laundry room presented the perfect spot to showcase Avington Tiles from The Builder Depot. Before you rush over to order all the cement tiles they carry, I need to warn you there is a bit more labor involved to install them. In particular, you have to seal them thoroughly before you can grout. This could mean 5-6 coats of sealant before it is no longer porous. (Here’s all the information you need to know about cement tiles and how to properly install them.)

Avington Cement Tiles laid in laundry room

I was glad I chose to personally lay this tile, because it took a little more time during installation. This freed up my tile installers to finish the bathroom floors, mudroom, and to start on the tub and shower surround tiling.

Black & White Avington Cement Tiles in Laundry Room

Mudroom Before:

This is the room that gave me the biggest challenge design-wise. That chimney you see in the background is the original 1900 chimney. I fought with almost all my subcontractors to keep it in the room. For this reason, I didn’t want a tile floor that would compete with the original beauty of the old brick. Other requirements for this tile were for it to be durable, easy to clean, and not show dirt.

pre-tiling-mudroom-floor

Ultimately my own mudroom played a big role in tile choice. We have dark gray tile in our mudroom and I love that it hides dirt fairly well.

Mudroom Floor Tile:

When I saw the Jeffrey Court Castle Rock tiles, I knew I had found a modern looking tile that would hide dirt and would also not compete with the chimney.

mudroom jeffrey court castle rock hex tiles

One of the things I love about this tile is that it has approximately twenty different printed patterns. Why does this matter? It matters because the tiles look more realistic when two patterns aren’t side by side (telling the world that they are printed instead of naturally occurring.) Despite the multitude of pattern, I separated all the tiles into piles with their twins. Then I made sure the installers chose from different piles as they installed them on the floor.

Installed Castle Rock Hex tiles gray in mudroom floor

Was it worth the wait? What do you think about all my floor tile choices? Any favorites?

Disclosure: I was provided with building materials from Jeffrey Court and The Builder Depot for the Saving Etta project. This allowed me to put in tiles more fitting with Etta’s history. I’m grateful for their support of this project. Despite their sponsorship, I was not told what to write. All opinions and ideas are my own. As always I’m very particular about the brands I chose to work with and you will always be notified if you are reading a sponsored or compensated post.

Tile-setting-withouto-thinset-mortar

You may remember years ago when I installed Smart Tile adhesive tiles in our laundry room. Well, truth be told, they weren’t looking so smart after 3 years and a water leak. I had a few leftover marble subway tiles from our kitchen backsplash and decided to use them to freshen up the laundry room. While I was at Lowe’s I decided to try Mussel Bound tile adhesive used for tile setting without thinset mortar. I figured this would be a good place for a trial in case I didn’t like the product.

smart-tiles-peeling-off

To remove the Smart Tiles you are supposed to use a hair dryer or heat gun to soften the adhesive. The tiles on my wall were already peeling off and they came off very easily.

peeling-off-the-smart-tiles

There was some minimal damage to the drywall, but if I had used the hairdryer it probably would have come off cleaner. To minimize any issues, be sure to clean your wall with a mixture of TSP (Trisodium Phosphate) and water using the instructions on the package.

Wipe the walls clean with a damp sponge after cleaning.

clean-wall-adhesive-with-TSP-trisodiuom-phosphate

Ready to start tiling with less mess?

Materials:
(Contains some affiliate links)

materials-mussel-bound-tiling

Optional: Grout Shield

Instructions:

Before you begin, layout your tiles and spacers to determine the height you desire for your backsplash. Transfer this height onto the wall around the sink. Read more

Mosaic Tile Coasters | Pretty Handy Girl

Want an easy and inexpensive gift idea to give out as a hostess gift for those upcoming holiday parties? How about Mosaic Tile Coasters? They are quick and easy to make. Last month, for my Lowe’s Creative Idea I created a unique lamp shade with mosaic glass tile. I had some leftover sheets and decided to make these coasters with the leftovers. Follow along to learn how to make another great Lowe’s Creative Idea.

Materials:

Mosaic Tile Coasters | Pretty Handy Girl

Instructions:

Begin by cutting your mosaic tile sheet into coaster size squares.

Mosaic Tile Coasters | Pretty Handy Girl

Trim off any excess mesh. Read more

Make Your Own Mosaic Tile Lampshade | Pretty Handy Girl

Want to make a lamp shade that will bring some style and bling to your home? All you need are a few mosaic tile sheets, a lamp shade top piece, and some thread. In no time you’ll have a beautiful Mosaic Tile Lamp Shade!

Materials:

(I’ve included affiliate links for your convenience. I earn a small percentage from a purchase using these links. There is no additional cost to you. You can read more about affiliate links here.)

Instructions:

Cut up the lamp shade to expose the top ring.

Make Your Own Mosaic Tile Lampshade | Pretty Handy Girl

This is what you should be left with:

Make Your Own Mosaic Tile Lampshade | Pretty Handy Girl

Lay out your mosaic tile sheets. Cut the mesh to the height you desire for your lamp shade. The lamp shade I created was small, therefore I only needed a 6 inch height to cover the lamp bulb.

Make Your Own Mosaic Tile Lampshade | Pretty Handy Girl

Lay two sheets of the tiles side by side and stitch the two sheets together at the seam from the mesh side.

Make Your Own Mosaic Tile Lampshade | Pretty Handy Girl

Wrap the tile sheet around the lamp shade top ring and trim the excess tiles off.

Make Your Own Mosaic Tile Lampshade | Pretty Handy Girl

Stitch the open ends together. I found it easiest to slip a paper towel roll into the center to support all the tiles while stitching it.

Make Your Own Mosaic Tile Lampshade | Pretty Handy Girl

Stitch the lamp shade ring to the top of the mosaic tile tube. Loop the thread through the tile mesh and the lamp shade ring around the entire circumference.

Make Your Own Mosaic Tile Lampshade | Pretty Handy Girl

Your lamp shade should look something like this:

Make Your Own Mosaic Tile Lampshade | Pretty Handy Girl

Attach your lamp shade to the lamp and admire!

Make Your Own Mosaic Tile Lampshade | Pretty Handy Girl

Lights out…

Make Your Own Mosaic Tile Lampshade | Pretty Handy Girl

…and lights on. I love the shadows cast by the tile lampshade.

Make Your Own Mosaic Tile Lampshade | Pretty Handy Girl

Enjoy a unique and beautiful lamp shade in your home. The mosaic tile lamp shade adds a touch of class and bling to our mudroom.

Make Your Own Mosaic Tile Lampshade | Pretty Handy Girl

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Want more creative lighting ideas?  Subscribe to the Lowe’s Creative Ideas magazine:

Fall14-Blogger-Subscribe-Banner-392x140

Or view more creative ideas from the Lowe’s Creative Idea bloggers !

There’s also a magazine app so you can have inspiration on the go! And, don’t forget to follow Lowe’s on Pinterest or on Instagram!

PHGFancySignDisclosure: As a #LowesCreator, I was provided with a Lowe’s gift card to purchase supplies for this post. I was not told what to write. All ideas and words are my own.

Pretty Handy Girl's Guide to Tiling a Backsplash: Part 2 - Grouting

How did you do yesterday with the How to Tile a Backsplash: Tile Setting tutorial? Not too bad, right? Well, today will be a very gratifying day. Today I’m going to show you how to grout (and seal) your tiles and finish off your kitchen backsplash. You are going to love the end result.

(I’ve included affiliate links for your convenience. I earn a small percentage from a purchase using these links. There is no additional cost to you. You can read more about affiliate links here.)

Materials:

  • Grout (Used: Mapei UltraColor Plus Rapid-Setting Sanded Grout color: Frost)
  • VanHearron’s Grout Once
  • Two buckets (same size or one larger)
  • Water
  • Ice
  • Grout Float
  • Spatula
  • Rag
  • Buffing pad
  • Sponge
  • Basin filled with clean water

Prep work: If you are working with a natural stone tile, you may want to seal the tiles before grouting. I sprayed StainGuard5000 on a dry clean rag and wiped it onto all the tiles. Then buffed it off after five minutes.

Instructions:

If you are using a rapid setting grout, you might want to slow the “setting” process slightly. I learned this trick from our local tile shop: Start by filling one bucket with ice water. Nest the second bucket inside the first. Read more

PrettyHandyGirl's Guide to Tiling a Backsplash - Part 1: Tile Setting

This is the tutorial that I’ve been anxious to share with you! How to Tile a Backsplash! The reason I’ve been anxious to share is for two reasons!

1) The backsplash and tiling truly makes my kitchen feel luxurious. In addition to the cork flooring, it was one of the things I REALLY wanted to have in our kitchen. And this is definitely a project that anyone can take on (with a good tutorial.)

PrettyHandyGirl's Guide to Tiling a Backsplash - Part 1: Tile Setting

2) The source of my tiles is a best kept secret! I found the supplier online after researching and searching for affordable marble subway tiles. TheBuilderDepot.com was a site I stumbled across in my search. After contacting them and discussing my project, a response came immediately with ideas for my backsplash. My contact, David, was there for me throughout the process and gave me lots of ideas and tips along the way!  He even sent me a photo of my tiles before shipping them.

Venato Marble Subway Tiles from TheBuilderDepot.com

But, here’s the best part, in one of our email conversations I learned a little more about TheBuilderDepot and their company’s history. I want to share his email with you because I think it’s wonderful how they run their business:

We started our business in 2008 with $12K in sales and because of the financial meltdown and housing collapse banks told us we were crazy starting an “ecommerce” marble business.  None of them would loan any money, not even $1K.

Last year we grew to a $2.4m company (this year we are on target to double), employing locals and making an impact in the way consumers buy luxury natural stone.  Our vision was to offer a quality that is second to none, buy direct from Italy and quarries around the world, pay cash for everything buying 30,000 to 40,000 sq.ft. of product at a time from the quarries to keep costs low and quality high. 

 We have no debt as a business (that was not a plan but has worked out well) and avoid traditional marketing channels that are heavy on costs.  Basically a no frills marketing strategy. 

People think we are crazy when, if we cannot supply something or another supplier offers a better more affordable solution we refer them to a competitor.  We do not need the sales as we never anticipated growing this big, we are just interested in people creating pretty rooms with natural stone.

Part of the success is we ask what people are planning, then come up with some ideas of our own.  We are really passionate about Carrara.  The only company that separates into two collections.”

A company that has good business practice is worth supporting!

As mentioned in previous posts, when choosing companies to work with, I make sure to select brands and companies that I can stand behind. I have always maintained strict criteria when selecting companies to work with, and The Builder Depot goes above and beyond my criteria:

Before you source your next tile job, check out TheBuilderDepot.com. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised ;-).

Ready to get messy? Let’s tile that backsplash!

Prep-Work: Read more