Disclaimer: we aren't professionals

Thanks for reading our silly little blog! As the disclaimer says, we aren't professionals in either blogging or house stuff, but we try. This is mostly to let our friends and family know what we've destroyed so far in the house. We post irregularly and usually forget to take pictures, so thanks for your patience, and please feel free to comment with your thoughts and suggestions!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Subway tile!

I'm alternating garden and bathroom posts now. Those two projects are pretty much what we are working on, so it is an accurate reflection of life at the Wyatt Ranch, as we have taken to calling our little one-story house with all of its animals.

Here's that list of things that we've done since that last post:
  • Replaced rotten studs and top plate in the shower wall
  • Rewired the electrical outlets, wired for a fan, two overhead lights, and a sconce by the mirror
  • Painted the ceiling white
  • Moved plumbing when necessary
  • Repaired the sub-floor and put down Hardibacker. We will float cork click-lock over it. 
  • Put cement-board in the shower and sealed it with RedGard waterproofing membrane. 
  • Started tiling with white subway tile in a traditional brick pattern. We are using AcrylPro premixed ceramic tile adhesive. Some premixed mortars cannot be used over RedGard, but AcrylPro can. We checked the spec sheets. 
  • Put up sheetrock and have almost finished mudding it
Here's a shot of the wall to the left, looking in from the living room. The sink will be to the far left on this wall, with the toilet next to it (you can see the ring in the floor), and then the shower. We chose a fairly wide shower, at a full 36". We have protected the acrylic pan with its cardboard packaging. The RedGard coats the cement board in the shower. Chris used a thinner version this time because the price difference wasn't too much and the Home Depot guys told him it was easier to work with. It ended up being a little tricky to cut, but nice otherwise.

I had fun and drew a pretty unicorn flying to a rainbow on the cement board. When Chris painted over it, it was still visible. The end.

Then we started to tile! We are going with a simple white ceramic subway tile. We compared options from The Tile Shop, Home Depot, and Floor & Decor. The tiles from Home Depot and Floor & Decor were from identical manufacturers, but the Floor & Decor ones were a little bit whiter. We compared the tiles to our sink and the toilet finish, and decided to go with the whiter tile. It was a few cents less per tile, too, which is nice.

The tile is centered on the wall, and we have a strip of accent tile at the same height as we will install the board and batten later. My goal is to have a continuous line for your eye to follow from the front of the bathroom to the back. It will be about 42" from the floor, and will be tall enough to serve as the backsplash for the sink as well. We will paint it semi-gloss like the rest of the trim in the house.

The window has been tricky to accommodate. In the other bathroom, because we were using natural stone, we could just cut tile to fit and not really worry about exposed ends. We used stone for the entire window surround and sill, butted right up to the vinyl window frame. In this bathroom, the subway tile would have weird cuts on the inside of the window, so we looked for options for the sill and sides. We quickly decided 1x4 PVC trim would be great for the sides and top, and would allow us to tile right up to the edge with bullnose. For sill options, we considered marble, but couldn't find any ready-cut. There were marble thresholds at Home Depot, but they were double-beveled, meaning they would drop off where they met the vinyl window frame. We could cut off the back, and actually would need to rip down the whole thing to go from 4" wide to about 3.5" to make a reasonable overhang. I didn't want to run a 36" long piece of 1" thick marble through a wet saw, and neither did Chris (who would have to do the real work because I don't know how to use the wet saw).

We settled on these marble baseboard tiles, which were about $5 apiece at Home Depot. They were also 4" wide, but it is a lot easier to rip down 1/4" or 1/2" thick tile that is only 12" long. Chris did a great job trimming them down and setting them at an angle to ensure water runoff. The two visible seams are tightly butted and caulked with silicone. We think this will be an attractive and durable solution.

I do wish we had cut more of an overhang, however. The bullnose frames the window nicely, but there is a weird cut at the bottom left of the bullnose tile, and it's very tricky to cut the wall tiles perfectly. This edge isn't as nice as I would like it. I'm still trying to figure out if white caulk will help disguise the unevenness of the cut edges, or if we can just caulk it a warm grey with all the rest and not worry about it.

This is Maui, our very curious cat. I don't know if I mentioned this but in October we got a second cat. He's pretty much the sweetest little fur buddy ever. His tail is incredibly poofy, but he doesn't shed. He eats cockroaches and crickets if they make their way up through the unfinished bathroom floorboards. He curls up on your lap as soon as you sit on the couch, and he hops into your lap when you're sitting at the kitchen table drinking your morning coffee. He plays with Jezza. He's just sweet and cuddly and awesome.

As Maui sticks his face in the vent opening in the wall, have a look at our materials. We have the bucket of AcrylPro, a 4" palette knife, a fine-toothed notched trowel, a box o' tile, and our tile cutter. We got this guy from Floor & Decor for $10. It's a score-and-snap cutter that only works with ceramic tile, but it's way easier than taking everything out to the wet saw.

This picture seems kind of random, but I'm showing the boxes of cork flooring in the shelving unit and the mirror that will go over the vanity. That guy was $30ish from Target. It has a nice metallic finish and provides enough mirror space for party guests who are checking their hair or overnight guests brushing their teeth. Although who am I kidding, nobody has ever done a weekend visit and stayed the night in our house.

And oh btw the mantle is awesome. We still need to figure out trim on the secret doors. It's been 6 months... don't judge. You can see where there is no trim on the corner of the main section. That's where we have run into the trim problem. When you open the door, it folds back into where trim should go. I think we might just have an inconsistency in the trim there. I don't think many people would notice, and having that hidden storage is too valuable to eliminate for the sake of perfect trim. Feel free to disagree with me though :)

The inside of what would be the firebox is painted with chalkboard paint. It makes the sound bar suspended across the top almost disappear! I need to get some sort of filler; I could do plants but the cats would probably eat them and then barf them up, partially digested, on the rug. So maybe just one of those candle racks for fireplaces. I don't know. I'll figure it out when we have finished the bathroom and go back to the trim and do a final coat of paint on the built-in. 

So that's the bathroom progress! We were out of town last weekend for Chris' cousin's wedding (congrats Jacob and Erica!) and haven't really done much since then. We hope to spend a few solid hours tiling to knock the rest of it out. With one person cutting and one person setting tile, we move pretty quickly. 

Then it will be time to:
  1. Grout
  2. Put in shower hardware
  3. Finish the drywall (we're trying to minimize dust while tiling)
  4. Paint and install board and batten
  5. Install sconce light
  6. Put down the cork floor
  7. Install the toilet, vanity, and sink
  8. Install shower doors
  9. Do anything else we forgot
  10. Get started on the laundry room! 
So that's a lot, but we are definitely getting closer and closer to being finished! Yay! 

Have you used subway tile? 
Do you think it's a design staple or here to stay? (I think it's classic)
Did you do white or colored grout?


  1. Hi there! I'm doing a similar project as yours, and was wondering about your use of Redgard under the white subway tile. We have white thinset to prevent the grey coloring from "bleeding through" the white tile - did you notice any ill affects from the deep red color of the waterproofed layer showing through your white tile at all?

    1. Hi! We never had a problem with the redgard bleeding through. We also used a dark gray grout, but the redgard is like a plastic or rubber membrane when it dries. Then you have the additional barrier of the thinset. I think you should be fine, but maybe someone at a tile shop should confirm.

    2. Hi! We never had a problem with the redgard bleeding through. We also used a dark gray grout, but the redgard is like a plastic or rubber membrane when it dries. Then you have the additional barrier of the thinset. I think you should be fine, but maybe someone at a tile shop should confirm.

    3. This is an old post, but hopefully you still get notifications. Have you had any problems so far with using the Acrylpro over Redgard? Thanks!

    4. Hi Bri,
      We actually sold this house a year later, in summer 2014, and haven't heard anything from the new owners. I did just check a lot of forums, and now I'm worried :( Usually we try to do a lot of research beforehand and it looks like we may have missed on this one. The AcrylPro spec sheets did say it was ok, and this bathroom is right off the living room so maybe it's not used as a shower much. It sounds like problems are caused by the mastic not fully drying when placed against a waterproof membrane. Fingers crossed that it's ok but using powdered thinset and mixing it yourself is probably a better way to go.