I don't want to do a tiling tutorial. I am not an expert and there are lots of great tutorials out there. Instead, I will share a few tips and things we learned along the way and of course, some glossy tile-rich photos. On with the show!
Tip 1 - Be sure to prep your work area well before starting. It is a very messy job! Thin-set gets everywhere and is messy - at least when I'm involved. Be sure to cover your shower base, put down some drop cloths on the floor and have a bucket of water with a sponge ready for cleaning on the go. This was a critical step.
Tip 2 - Be sure to fully plan your tile layout before you start. You will have thought of this when purchasing tile but really take the time to lay it out. Decide where you need to center the tile, how you're going to install it (brick pattern? stacked?), what height to put details, etc. I laid it out on the floor in our living room and started making decisions. This step is important for so many reasons but it helps to ensure you don't end up with weird slivers of tile anywhere including along the sides or at the ceiling. It also helped us decide what height to put our listello detail to avoid it running where we had plumbing fixtures.
Tip 3 - Be prepared and read up on certain details. We thought we had until we had thinset drying on the wall and we realized we didn't know exactly what to do in the corners. We improvised and used our best judgement but it would have been nice to think ahead and plan for this. We ran the tile almost to the corner on the back wall and left a grout width sized space on the side walls. This gives us the cleanest look from the front (where you will see it most often).
Tip 4 - Give yourself lots of time to get this step done. There is definitely a learning curve and if you want to make things precise, it's going to take some time. Our first session lasted about three and a half hours (including set up, mudding the taped seams of our backer board, installing our schluter strips, tiling and clean up) and this is what we finished. Not very impressive but we were happy with our work and starting is the hardest part. We ran into a few trouble areas where the shower pan wasn't completely flush with our tile backer board so those became tricky spots and were a bit of a time sucker. Just give yourself lots of time and be patient- you'll get there.
Tip 5 - Plan ahead and buy extra materials if you're worried you may not have enough. Our second tile session ended after 2 more rows as we ran out of thinset. This was just poor planning on our part but it never hurts to buy extra and return any unused supplies. It's much easier than running out when you're mid-project.
Tip 6 - When in doubt, use a spacer. These things are genius- best invention ever. They are super helpful to keep things level and equally spaced - especially when working with little tiles. We also taped two together and used them side ways to create the correct amount of space between our shower pan and the bottom tile- worked like a charm! (You can see that in Tip #3's photo)
Tip 7 - If using a small mosaic tile for a detail, know that you won't finish your tiling in one session. The tiny mosaic tiles work best if installed and then left to cure for 24 hours before installing tile above them. They squish together easily if you aren't careful since they are on a mesh backing and the weight of the tile above them will likely cause unlevel areas.
Tip 8 - Test your cutting tools on off cuts and spare pieces. We had borrowed my parent's wet tile saw to make cuts and it worked well for us. It wasn't going to help us for our plumbing related cuts though. We decided to purchase a tile cutting bit for our Dremel to help us with the detailed cuts. We weren't sure if it would work but it was perfect for the job. Shayne and his dad tested it a few times on some off cuts and then went to town on the real thing. It was great for cutting through the tile like a jigsaw or drilling through the tile to make a starter hole. Highly recommend it!
Tip 9 - Think about your exposed edges. Make sure to pay attention and place cut ends in the least conspicuous spots. Also when planning, be sure to think about how to finish your exposed edges. Some tiles have bullnose pieces available to nicely finish any outside edges. In our shower, we decided to use Schluter strips to give a clean modern look. These strips are applied using thinset at the beginning of tile laying and then the tiles are laid over top of them, fitting into the finished side lip. It helped to finish off our edges and prevented cut tiles from showing. (The schluter strip is the band of metal along the tile edge).
Tip 10 - Admire your work! Tiling is a hard job!!
We are so happy with how it's looking so far! The ceilings feel so much taller in there with the tile to the ceiling. It instantly expanded the room. It feels so great to have it coming together- I may have done a few happy dances and maybe a few happy squeals. Next step- grouting!
Have you ever tiled before? Any tips to share? Any one else despise the feeling of thin set on your hands and finger nails?