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Bathroom Reno 101: The Tile is IN!

July 25, 2017  —  Written by Julia Marcum 

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It’s been a little while since we checked in with the girls’ bathroom, but the tiling is this close to being done so I thought we were due for an update!

In our last update, we shared the tile combination we were planning on using for the space–this very budget subway tile (it’s on sale!) and ceramic chair trim and then we splurged a bit on the cement floor tile, but now that it’s in–I love it more than I even thought possible. Can we just ditch the vanity and toilet and stare at the tile all day instead?

A good quality wet-saw (we have and love this one from Kobalt!) will make the job infinitely easier and give you precise cuts which means a lot less waste and frustration. We also opted to use pre-mixed mortar to lay the tile which helped the job go a lot faster (and meant running upstairs and outside to get more mortar was not even a thing).

In our case, we were advised to lay the wall tile before the floor tile due to it being a level basement concrete floor underneath, and the softer nature of the cement floor tiles we were laying. We’ll be adding some sort of baseboard or vinyl quarter round to bridge the gap. Mostly, but not always, you’ll want to lay the floor tile first and then the wall tile so that any water that drips goes onto a horizontal tiled surface, instead of continuing down vertically which can cause mold or damage to a subfloor (especially in an upstairs environment). Some people recommend laying all the wall tile besides the bottom row, and then the floor tile and then the bottom row of wall tile–which kind of makes my brain hurt. Whatever you do, the most important tiling-bathroom advice we were given from the pros we talked to was make sure you cover your water bases.

One thing we neglected to get a good picture of was the in-floor heating. We’ll write more about that in a later post, but since we’re laying concrete tile over a concrete slab in a basement, the floor is very prone to being cold. And not just regular cold, but make-your-ankles-ache-whenever-you-walk-on-it, cold. So we added 10 square feet of heating coil (this one, controlled by this thermostat) on the floor before adding the tile, through the middle area of the bathroom. This will keep the floors warm and pleasant to walk on, especially during our long, cold winters.

Now, as far as the concrete tile goes, we had some extra steps to do before we could grout (hence all the ungrouted tile in these photos). The cement tile needed cleaned thoroughly and sealed a few times.

Above is how the tile looked after it was laid in place. While cement tile is characteristically prone to tonal and color variations, there was some dustiness from mortar there that needed to be cleaned off before we could seal it. We picked up this Tile & Stone Cleaner which is a neutral, PH neutral cleaner safe to use on unsealed (and sealed) cement tile.

We sprayed the cleaner on, wiped it with a sponge and then rinsed it off with warm water and a clean towel. After it was thoroughly dry, it was time to seal.

We used this Miracle Sealants 511 Porous Plus Penetrating sealer and this little applicator and tray we found at the hardware store. You use the applicator sponge to apply it, keep it wet for 3-5 minutes and then wipe it off with a clean, white towel. Before sealing, cement tile is very prone to staining (hence installing it after the wall tile and using only white colored towels to clean it). We worked in sections so that we made sure it stayed wet.

It’s advised to repeat the process at least 3 times, 1-2 hours apart, until water beads up on the tile. Then we’ll repeat it once more after grouting. The good news is the tile looks infinitely better, while still having that smooth cement tile feel.

And even though there are still a lot of little things to do in here before we hang the mirrors and start accessorizing, I am always one that gets re-motivated in a project by pulling out and just looking at the accessories. Chris obliged.

I think I might be done putting a time table on this project, mostly because it keeps getting blown out of the water, but it’s getting grouted today. And we have the toilet. And vanity. And all the faucets. So…I mean, we’re really really close. I think. ;)

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What do you think?

  1. Kirstain says:

    Hi there! I was just wondering how high you installed the wall tile behind the vanity? I might have missed it, but I tried to skim all the gal’s bathroom posts.
    Thanks!

    • Chris says:

      The vanity is a cabinet-style, so it came, preassembled, in one piece. We just laid the tile on the wall where the vanity sits prior to putting it in place, then used a tile bit on a hammer drill to make holes in the tile for our mounting screws. If I had planned it better, I probably would have just measured where the mounting holes needed to be and skipped putting tiles in those places because drilling those holes after the fact was a bit of a bear. But it all turned out.

  2. Danielle says:

    Will the cement tile have to be resealed each year?

    • Chris says:

      We used an impregnating sealer, but will likely add another coat of it every 6 months or so. That may be overkill, but it only takes a few minutes and can be walked on after only a couple hours. For floors like this, we find the impregnating sealers are ideal.

  3. Margaret says:

    I did take a look at other post regarding your bathroom and I must say now it does start to look very nice, keep it up and I cannot wait until I see the final result :)

  4. Kara says:

    The floor tile is stunning! And you can’t go wrong with subway tile. Love it!

  5. Kait Bombardieri says:

    Love this and can’t wait to see the finished product! Can I ask, what color and brand of grout are you using or would you recommend? Wg just installed butcher block counters with tuxedo cabinets and I am using this tile for my backsplash…any recommendations? Thanks!

  6. Lisa says:

    Julia this is looking so beautiful! The floor tile is definitely a show stopper! And I totally know what you mean about blowing the timeline…..we are in the middle of our own bathroom reno and I am done with the schedule because it was just stressing me out! But it will all be worth it in the end :) Can’t wait to see more!

  7. Mollie says:

    It’s a very classic design, but still somehow completely fits your style! Gorgeous use on cement tiles and I love the subway throughout!

  8. I love your tile selection! I have a similarly sized kitchen renovation I’m planning for October. Your wall tile is so inspiring to me! It’s looking gorgeous!

  9. Jennifer says:

    Love what you share! The subway tile is not grouted yet? What color will you be using? I have a very similar project and need to pick my grout color this week. Am leaning towards dark…

  10. Miranda Maye says:

    This is just beautiful! What a bright and happy bathroom! You wouldnt even think twice about not having a window, it’s so cheery. I am excited to see the finishing touches come together!

  11. Nate Jones says:

    Looks great! What did you use for the corner trim? It looks like a skinny long vertical white tile. Is that a thing? Or is it wood trim like quarter round?

  12. Steph M. says:

    Looks awesome and the plaid fits so well with the rest of your home! I really wanted to do a plaid tile in our kitchen remodel, but my husband isn’t sold…yet!! Ha!

  13. Lindsay says:

    Exciting! Curious, which colorway is your floor tile? It looks black/white/ light gray in your moodboard, but here it looks black/white/brown. I’m sure it’s just the lighting or my monitor or something, but is it darker in person than you expected? Either way, can’t wait to see the final reveal! Love your style!

    • Julia says:

      We got the black/white/metal color way. The gray is a nice warm gray that we’re loving.

    • Laura C says:

      I had the same question. The tile sample looks black/grey/white, but the installed floor looks like brown plaid. Weird how the monitor settings are affecting the photos. Brown plaid is not a good look for a bathroom floor.

  14. Mara says:

    Man. I love that sheet tile, but $40 for shipping is ridiculous. Come on Wayfair!

    Are you guys keeping that vanity light?

  15. Lauren says:

    love it! BUT regarding your insta story the other day, what happened to Dana Miller?? We miss her!

    • Julia says:

      She’s doing other amazing things and decided to step away from the online world.

      • Kristy Mayer says:

        I wondered the same thing. Please let her know that her followers miss her (and her amazing style), and wish her all the best!

  16. Lu says:

    The bathroom is looking good… cannot wait when it is finished…

  17. Jennifer Peters says:

    Not my favorite floor tile–I know you guys will make it work though.

    • Whitney says:

      Agreed. But this makes me even more excited to see the finished project because everything you guys do comes out looking polished and nicely done.

      • Lindsay says:

        I have to second that, it looks a bit much right now but im looking forward to seeing where it goes.
        Is the floor uneven or is it just the pattern/camera playing tricks?

      • Julia says:

        The floor is perfectly level, although a lot of these photos I just had to take with my phone, unfortunately. I just got a new lens though so hopefully the next photos will be a lot better for all of you!

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