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


Blue Sky Ceilings – A History

fotor_(24) copy_FotorSo it turns out there’s quite a tradition of blue ceilings, especially on porches, and especially in the South. While I can’t claim that our living room or dining room falls into either of those categories, it did pique my curiosity. So I did a little digging.

The Victorian Influence

Apparently sky blue ceilings were popular with the Victorians, who felt that earth toned walls and blue porch ceilings were a great way to bring the colors of nature into their homes. The blue ceiling was a cheery reminder of better weather even when it was cold and gray out. With Seattle weather being what it is, I can see why this Victorian idea might be relevant today.

Shoo Fly

There’s also a popular theory that blue paint is a pretty reliable insect repellant. The theory goes that insects are fooled into thinking the ceiling is the sky, and therefore not a good place to nest. There isn’t much stock to this sadly, but it is a nice thought.

Haint Blue

The majority of the blue ceilings I’ve seen have been on grand Southern porches. They’ve been popular there for centuries, and the tradition lives on. But there’s a name for that color blue, Haint Blue. A “Haint”, for those who don’t speak Southern, is a restless spirit. And the painting of ceilings, doors, shutters, or window frames Haint Blue is meant to protect the home and its inhabitants from evil spirits. Said to originally stem from the Gullah belief and common European superstition that angry spirits cannot cross water, the color is meant to confuse and trick bad luck from entering your home.

There are some really beautiful examples of historic buildings with Haint Blue porch ceilings, and as charming a tradition this was I didn’t think that was what was going on with my ceilings.

[Garden District- New Orleans, LA]

Ceiling Murals

I’m pretty sure whoever did or had this done did it because they thought it would be beautiful, unique, and artistic. And it is. Someone spent hours painting those puffy clouds up there. It’s kind of cool. There’s a history to it. And like I’ve said before, it grows on you.

Ceiling murals are coming back in style. Their quirky and unique, without being disruptive to the overall style of a room.


Painted Ceiling

Here are some more blue ceilings from around the web for a little inspiration.

Modern Country

Welcome to The Blue Sky House

Photo Aug 04, 6 31 26 PM

A few months after my husband and I got married in 2012, we realized what many newlyweds tend to realize, that we needed more space. The housing market was starting to bounce back so we jumped into the real estate fray, bound and determined to get something good while we could still afford it.  We found ourselves a smooth-talking real estate agent who had helped a few friends find their places, and we started looking.

A few months in, the market was obviously taking off – and there were fewer and fewer houses available. We put a few bids down, but either something in the contract was fishy (one house had been leased out for two years) or we were out-bid. We lucked out when this house came up for sale, our agent told us. It had a great footprint, was well maintained, was located in our ideal neighborhood… So we went to take a look.

I’ll be honest here, my first reaction when we walked in the door was laughter. Slightly bitter laughter, even. Like, you-have-got-to-be-kidding-me laughter. This is why.

blue sky ceilings

Who, I ask, who paints their admittedly gorgeous high ceilings sky blue with white puffy clouds? Did Michelangelo live here? Is this the Sistine Chapel? No.

sistine chapel

And as we walked through the house, it got better. Old peeling linoleum, weird hole next to the fireplace, 80’s chic wallpaper in all the bathrooms, a jungle of a backyard, mismatched counter-tops, more blue sky ceilings in a bright, bright pink bedroom Ugh. No. Wasn’t going to happen.

It’s got great bones, they said.

Everything wrong with it is cosmetic, they said.

It’s in an awesome neighborhood, they said.

We went back to look at it a couple more times before I caved and said yes, OK, let’s do this. Fast forward a month or two and there we were out front, leaning against a U-haul waiting for the current residents to hand us the keys.

The family dallied, chatting, laughing, saying goodbye to their home of the past five years. They took a lot of pictures of the ceiling. I realized they loved that house, those ceilings, because they were pretty special. Their life took place under those ceilings and it wasn’t so much the style that was important but the memories created. The house was it’s own character in their story.  They had to say goodbye.

Now those ceilings are a character in our story. We still have them, two years later. We’ve painted at least one wall in almost every room in the house, but that ceiling is still blue and more chipper than a summer’s day. We’ve deforested the backyard. Tiled the master bath. Welcomed our first child home under that ceiling.

Let me tell you, it grows on you. One day I too will be sad to say goodbye.