How to Tile a Master Bath: A Comedy of Errors

How to Tile a Master BathSo one of the “quirky” things about our house was that some previous owner had thought it would be a brilliant idea to carpet the master bath. Yes, you read that right. Carpet. This seemed like a big no-no to me, and I knew it would have to go eventually. But somewhere along the line, somebody thought it was just silly to deal with cold floors after hopping out of the shower on a cold winter’s morning. And thus, a spectacularly bad idea came into existence.

Well, 15 years later, it wasn’t so much luxurious as gross. Particularly around the shower, where some serious mold was setting down roots. So one day in October we said enough was enough. And went to the hard-wear store to buy some tile.

Tiling the master bath was the first big project we took on in this house. Here’s how we did it, by ourselves.

Step One. Youtube How to Tile a Floor

You might think I’m kidding. I’m not. This was the first thing we did, figured it looked easy enough, and said heck yeah we can do this ourselves. It’s nice to start a project with some (undeserved) confidence.

Pulling up the carpetStep Two. Pull Up Old Carpeting

This was fun in a mildly traumatizing kind of way. We used a couple box cutters and started cutting before we even had any tile to put down. I recommend doing it this way because once you start cutting up the carpet, there is no turning back.

Pro-tip: Keep an eye out for rusty old nails because if, like us, you started this massive project on a Saturday evening, you really don’t have time to go to the emergency room for a tetanus shot.

Pro-tip: Spray bleach on the moldy parts of the floorboards, and let air dry while you shop for tile. Also, check to make sure the structural integrity of said floorboards is still sound. I think we did this by tapping our foot on the moldy bit.

Disclaimer: We really were flying by the seat of our pants with this project. Do your own research (preferably with sources more credible than this blog) before jumping into a project like this.

What a mess

Step Two: Pick Out Tiles

This was more what I expected out of this project than anything else ended up being. We looked at a variety of tiles, checked out a couple different stores to compare prices and ended up going with some good solid, inexpensive ceramic tile that neither my husband nor I felt the need to veto.

Pro-tip: If you and your significant other are going through a rough patch, now is probably not the best time to embark on a journey like tiling a floor. This project will put you both through the ringer; make sure you’re on some pretty stable footing before you begin.

Also, you’ll need to buy any necessary flooring support, mortar, chalk lines, spacers, and any tools you don’t have handy. Expect to spend more money than you thought you would. That’s part of the fun!

Pro-tip: Talk to your friendly neighborhood hard wear store representative to make sure you have all the tools you’ll need for the project. It’s a real pain to have to drive back to the store with mortar on your pants because you realized you need a tile saw.

Bathroom tile projectStep Three: Lay Out Your Tiles

Start in the middle of the room (that’s what the chalk line is for), and work your way out. Use the spacers. Make note of how many tiles you plan to use, and what measurements you’ll need for when you cut tiles down for the outer edges. Chances are high that you’ll need to do some cutting to make everything fit nicely. Draw pictures. It helps.

Lay everything out one last time before you start laying down mortar. I suggest taking a picture or two. This is probably the nicest your new tile floor will look. Enjoy the moment.

Bathroom tile projectStep Four: Mortar

Mix and lay the mortar per product instructions. Make sure you are wearing long pants that you are comfortable throwing away when you’re done. Mortar is like baby poop, it sticks to everything and you really don’t want to get it in your hair.

Step Five: Set Your Tiles

Set your tiles to the best of your ability. Use the spacers, they are helpful but not perfect. Accept the fact that you likely measured something wrong. Make the best of what you have. Try not to stare too hard at the spaces which will end up uneven. You’re going for usable here, not perfect.

Pro-tip: This is hard work. Take a break now and then, especially for meals. Powering through will leave you grouchy and your tiles crooked. I know this from experience.

Step Six: Grout

Once your mortar has had the chance to set, this takes a day or two, then it’s time to lay the grout. This is also hard work. I recommend a pair of knee pads. You get extra points if they’re the kind you used to wear roller-skating. Let grout dry for another couple days.

Pro-tip: Don’t expect to use this bathroom during the drying time. Apparently if you step on a tile while the mortar or grout are curing, the whole project is ruined. Hopefully this isn’t your only bathroom.


Step Seven: Seal the Grout

This is another product you will need to go back to the hard wear store to buy because it wasn’t originally on your shopping list. But you just went through a weeks worth of hard labor to get that floor down, you don’t really want to let your grout get moldy now do you?

Step Eight: Enjoy

See disclaimer above.

Bathroom tile project finished


4 thoughts on “How to Tile a Master Bath: A Comedy of Errors

  1. Congratulations on starting with confidence. I have not willingly started a home improvement project in years. Notice I said willingly. Your final photo looks good thought I guess all’s well that ends well.

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