New tile and colored grout can give a small, out-of-date bathroom a fresh new look.
Leslie Davis of Paper Daisy Design has a keen eye for design and a love for all things DIY. Leslie knows all about laying tile and applying grout, too.
She shares with us how she created a totally gorgeous bathroom for her teen-aged daughter. Here’s Leslie’s thorough tutorial for a full bathroom makeover.
Bathroom Makeover for a Teen
Our daughter’s bathroom was previously lacking in function and style, but with the help of today’s modern tile options the space is now hip and fresh, perfectly fitting for a modern teenager.
Above, you see the bathroom as we found it when we moved here two years ago.
While the room is not small, it was dark, drab and dysfunctional. Soon after we moved in we relocated the pedestal sink to a half bath downstairs, installed a vanity, painted the walls white and called it done, at least functionally.
But it still had not reached it’s full potential, the old tile was tired and the room still felt dated.
The New Bathroom
Here is the bathroom with its new look. It’s amazing what tile and the new colored grout can do for a space.
The hexagon tiles by Merola Tile may seem like an super modern choice, but the pattern I designed using a light matte gray and a darker, glossy gray tile was inspired by a historic restoration of Brooklyn brownstone.
And of course subway tile is a classic, clean choice for any space. Here, laying the Jeffrey Court Allegro flat 3 x 12-in. tiles in a vertical orientation, literally upturns the traditional look.
The gray grout, in Delorean Gray by Fusion Pro, provides a hint of contrast while still keeping the space a calm and relaxing retreat. Today’s teenagers need a calming retreat too, don’t you think?
OK, so let’s see how this all happened.
The Tile Tutorial
Tools and Materials
- Delorean Gray by Fusion Pro,
- Jeffrey Court Allegro flat 3 x 12-in. tiles
- Mesh seam tape
- Schluter Kerdi System
- Cement board
- V-notched trowel
- Kerdi-Shower Kit
- Tile spacers
We began by removing the cultured marble surround. And when I say “we” I mean my husband. He loves, absolutely loves demo. I just step back and let him do his thing when it comes to this step.
Using a crow bar and hammer he removed the old tile and mortar board. Here’s a tip: If the subfloor under the tile is mortar board subfloor, try and get under the mortar board to help release the tiles and subfloor together.
The next step was to run a blade along the tub surround caulk lines before removing to avoid damage to the drywall underneath.
After having great success with the Schluter Kerdi System in a previous project, we were happy to use it again. It is quite easy to install and can be applied directly to the drywall. In our master bathroom shower, we removed the drywall and reconfigured the shower using cement board, which is an option with Kerdi, but the preferred and actually easier method is to simply hang it over drywall.
Using unmodified thin-set and a V-notched trowel, apply fairly fluid mortar to the walls and hang the sections of Kerdi membrane. This process is not unlike hanging wallpaper, but unlike flimsy wallpaper, the membrane is very easy to handle. I actually prefer to use a wallpaper smoothing tool to push the Kerdi into the thin-set.
In the photo above, you can see there was a fairly rough horizontal seam between two sheets of drywall. I applied mesh seam tape and covered the seam with mortar. The tape just helps float out the imperfections. This is the time to fix any areas that are out of level. All seams and corners are covered with the Kerdi Band to create a water tight seal.
To begin tiling, we hung level 1 x 2’s measured exactly the height of the tile up from the tub, plus 2-times the height of tile spacers. We used ⅛-in. spacers so the measurement was ¼ in. plus the length of the tile.
This is the preferred method to starting the tile on the top of the tub. While our tub was actually level, there were places where the tub and drywall didn’t match up consistently around the lip of the tub.
Using a square ¼ x ¼-in. trowel, spread the unmodified thin-set onto the membrane and set the tiles using ⅛-in. tile spacers.
I find it very helpful to run a scraper or putty knife along the bottom row of tiles, or in this case, the level board. This helps prevent seepage between the tile joints.
Continue setting the tiles, checking for level as you go. This half-offset pattern was easy to do and went particularly fast for subway tile because a full 12-in. area was covered with each row. If you plan your design right, you can avoid cutting tiles for more than half the corners.
To create a water tight project, all meeting places between plumbing and the Kerdi membrane need to be sealed with either waterproofing caulk or special Kerdi pipe seals and valve seals.
Once all the shower tiles were set, it was time to work on the floor. To prep the subfloor for tile I used the Schluter Systems Ditra uncoupling underlayment.
The beauty of this product is that it is easy to install, provides exceptional support and reduces movement stress between the floor and the tile thereby reducing the chance of cracking, as well as making it water-proof.
The sheets are pre-cut to fit the room and applied in various manors depending on your subfloor. In our case, the floor was plywood, so I used modified thin-set, spreading it evenly with a V-notched trowel. The mortar should be mixed to a very fluid consistency.
Be sure to check with the detailed information booklet provided for the proper materials to use with your subfloor.
Once the Ditra is set on the mortar, simply smooth the membrane down with a wooden float.
Now I was ready to set the hexagon tiles! But first, I did a bit of a dry run of the pattern to be sure the placement was optimal.
Then I marked the center of the room in three spots and then projected a level line using a laser level on the center of floor to set my tiles from.
For the horizontal line, I started at the tub which was square to the room.
To set tiles on the Ditra membrane begin by filling the “waffles” with mortar. Then, apply additional mortar on top. I like to use a bucket scoop to do this. Then drag your trowel, as you would normally to set the tiles.
Half of the tiles were cut in center of the hexagon to achieve starting edge of the pattern. From there it was not unlike laying square tiles.
Except, they are not “square.” Did you catch that obvious point? Installing hexagon tiles are probably not an ideal beginner tile project, even with the many tiling projects under my belt I found this tile to be a bit challenging. Doable? Most definitely! Worth a little extra attention to detail? Absolutely. The unique hexagon design and pattern elevates the space and makes it totally worth the extra care and caution required to keep the pattern tight and square.
I found it to be extremely helpful to set about one quarter of the room as perfectly as possible and let it cure over night.
The next morning I had a stable base to continue building upon and the tiling process became much easier.
Then finally, I was ready to grout!
The Grout Tutorial
Tools and Materials
- Fusion Pro Single Component colored grout
- Rubber Float
- Two-sided microfiber sponge
- Tile sponge
- Microfiber cloth
- Paper roll
- Grout caulk to match your colored grout
- 2 buckets, for clean water rinsing of sponges
But of course there was a bit of prep for applying the new grout, as well. Be sure to clean out any mortar from between the tiles. I like to use a scraper or a putty knife.
Follow up with a good vacuuming to completely remove any mortar dust for both the floor and the walls.
For my tile projects, I prefer to use pre-mixed Fusion Pro Grout Single Component grout. It comes pre-mixed, which by this time in any tile project is a welcome relief. While it is different from traditional grout, it is superior in color consistency and stain resistance. The application process has a few subtle differences to be noted. These nuances, though, make it much easier and faster grout to use in my opinion.
Assemble all materials needed. I use two buckets because I use two different sponges. This reduces the number of times you have to rinse out the buckets. Make sure to wear gloves during grouting.
Begin by wetting your tile down thoroughly. This is extremely important to achieve proper spreading consistency of the grout. The moisture on the tile helps the grout flow smoothly into the joints and over the tiles.
Using a rubber float, spread the grout, filling the spaces between the tiles thoroughly.
Begin wiping the tiles free from grout, first using a two-sided sponge with the microfiber side.
Then, flip the sponge over and wipe with the other side in a diagonal manner across the tiles.
With the second tile sponge, continue the process of wiping off the grout. Remember to work diagonally.
Wipe with damp microfiber cloth. Gently drag the cloth along the tile, removing any remaining film of grout.
Empty the buckets and get fresh water after a few sections of application. Give the sponges and towel a good rinse at this time as well. Tiles with a honed or unglazed finish or larger grout lines will likely need the buckets to be emptied more often.
And just like that you have a beautifully grouted floor or wall!
A few more grouting tips to remember
- Work in small sections at a one time. The new grout begins to dry/set rather quickly. Once you feel a bit of resistance with the rubber float, it’s probably time to begin the cleaning process.
- If you do find yourself with grout that is dried onto the tile, simply apply more grout to remove it. Easy as that!
- When working on larger projects, it can be helpful to clean the rubber float occasionally to remove any dried grout build-up. Consider doing this about every third time you empty and fill the clean water buckets.
- Grouting a vertical wall and defying gravity takes a bit of practice. I found it was easier to use smaller amounts of grout, about an egg size scoop and push the float up the wall for the first few passes.
- If you find you missed a spot in your grouting, the color consistency of this grout makes touch up easy and worry-free.
- Always use matching grout caulk in transitional planes, like corners of a shower or where wall tile and floor tile meet.
We couldn’t be happier with how tile and colored grout transformed this space. Our daughter is not only happy to have her own space back, but is actually feeling pretty lucky and blessed to call this space her own. I may have to disturb her peace occasionally just to get another glimpse at this cool space!
You can check out the tutorial for how to build your own floating, seamless, cedar shelf on my blog.