Built That · DIY Tutorials

How to Plan a Bathroom Full of Tile

It is week 4 of our Jeffrey Court Renovation and this week proved to be the most intense for us.  We expected the wall tile phase of this project to be a beast so we made sure to prep, plan, and double check every detail at every turn so that our beautiful 4×12 tile would make the statement we were after.

I decided on a stacked design instead of a traditional offset knowing well that the lines would have to be as perfectly straight and squared up as possible or it would bother me until the day I die!  A laser level would be our best friend for this type of layout and I can not see myself doing another tile project without one.

We gathered our Fresh White tile boxes, essential tools, and full bellies (so that hanger wouldn’t get the best of us while working together) and started on the layout.

Essential tools for us included:

  • 1/4 “ trowel
  • thinset
  • Laser level
  • Regular level
  • Wedge spacers
  • 1/16” corner spacers
  • Mallet
  • Long screw driver (for prying tiles off for corrections)
  • Rags
  • Bucket of water and sponge
  • Gloves
  • Music!

First thing is first, PLANNING IS EVERYTHING for a project this size.  This tile was going to be going on 3 walls from floor to ceiling and 3 more walls 4 feet up.  It sounds like a massive undertaking because it was, after all this is a tile competition 😉 Brainstorming our way backwards covering all of our bases and checking off every possible outcome helped the tile install itself go much easier and quicker.  

I wanted the very first full row of tile to be placed at the base of the shower pan.  The first issue with this is that it would leave about a 3 inch gap underneath that first row and just above the floor tile.  Fine, we would have to go back in afterwards with cut tiles to fit and finish the bottom.  The second issue of that first row being initially off the ground as we installed meant we needed to place ledger boards at the exact height to serve as temporary bases while we worked.  We were able to do this diligently with my bestie of a laser level.

Once thinset is mixed, the clock starts.  There is a bit of pressure to use the material before it dries up, while trying not to rush the project because that’s how mistakes happen.  With the stacked design I was double checking every couple of rows to make sure all of the corners were matching up, that the lines were level, and rows plumb.  As a result we mixed half a bag of thinset at a time.  Doing this saved us material and allowed me to be precise on my design non-negotiables.

Another priority for me was cleaning as we went during the install.  We spent 5 days total installing the Fresh White tiles on all the walls and thinset can get EVERYWHERE and dry up hard as a rock if you let it.  After every round I went in with a bucket of water and sponge to wipe everything down and scrape up even the tiniest bits between the tiles.  This will also help when it comes time to grout so that it goes on evenly and without obstrucitons.  And remember our Potpourri Medley hexagon floor tiles are still only 1 week old at this point so we wanted to keep those from being ruined as well.

One other thing I took into consideration when finalizing placement of the tile design was where I wanted full tiles to sit inside the back shower wall.  This is the first wall that your eyes land on when you walk into the bathroom.  I knew I wanted this wall to be the starting point and would determine how the tile wrapped around the rest of the room.  We measured and dry fitted the 12” tilesall sorts of layouts before deciding that 2 full vertical rows centered on the 35” wall with 5.5” sides looked the most balanced.  Like we did with the floor tiles,I wanted every detail to look thought out and planned. 

With the shower walls up we moved over to the half walls.  Here comes the laser level again, which worked like magic wrapping around the corners giving us a perfect guide.

Slowly moving our way around the room we could see that the floating vanity was going to need to be placed at a strategic height that would not only be comfortable for us but also match up with a row of tile.  Once again we measured (repeatedly) and got the vanity/sink up so that we could tiles around it just right.

This week was long and laborious but well worth it.  The wall tile install was a challenge but the planning and prepping made the process go much smoother than it otherwise would have.  Next week we grout and its that much closer to coming together!

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