I was afforded the opportunity to build my tiling skills with some large format tile work that included a shower niche. Under the patient instruction of our Thomas Schauffler, I learned about planning layout, cutting and leveling large pieces.
This hallway bathroom had seen some wear, and the blue on the walls was a bit loud. With the children growing up, our clients wanted to do away with the "kids' bathroom" look.
We demolished the tile, tub, chipped mirror, and worn vanity, then installed a new tub and vanity. We put up concrete board to back the tile and waterproofed it with a paint-on membrane.
A Thoughtful Start
It was time for tiling, but that didn't mean simply picking a corner and starting. The entire layout had to be planned around the niche. The niche in the backing was precisely the width of a full tile and a grout line on each side, so every tile had to proceed from there. Corners, I learned, should have the appearance of a full tile "folded" into them, i.e. the portion cut off the tile on one side of the corner should be laid on the other side of the corner. Regarding the vertical placement, we planned to line up a grout line with that of the shelf dividing the niche.
With these parameters in mind, we did some measuring, math, and marking and started setting the tile on the largest area so the two of us could work efficiently. Thomas measured, I cut, and Thomas set. We got the back wall set, then split up as the other two shower walls entailed too much planning to keep two people busy. I moved to the wall behind the vanity, and Thomas worked on building the shower niche.
The green lines come from a laser level, a pricey but valuable and versatile tool. Those little yellow wedges at the unions are part of a tile leveling system that works by sandwiching both tiles between its two parts (see picture below). The clips hold the edges at the same level as the mortar dries and are then broken off. To cut tiles, one typically uses a wet saw, equipped with a pump that continuously trickles water onto the tile and the diamond-embedded saw blade.
Thanks to our careful planning and Thomas's meticulous execution, the niche came out well. Once the location of each was mapped out, the holes for the shower fixtures were cut using a hole saw drill attachment, kept wet by a trickle from a sponge. I got the vanity wall done with a little help from (shameless plug) RedBull (even my wife likes the watermelon flavor.)
The floor tiles were set with a 1/3 offset, and our Frank Murillo, another of our craftspeople skilled in tile work, ensured that the lines of the floor coincided with the lines of the shower. With the tile set, we could grout the lines and caulk the edges.
There were many steps between the end of the tile work and the completion of the project. I won't detail them here, but I will give you a look at the finished product!