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Tiling a Bathtub and Shower Enclosure

posted Feb 3, 2012, 8:34 AM by Michael Dekker   [ updated Mar 16, 2012, 6:16 AM ]
I will preface my entry by stating very clearly that this was my first attempt at tiling. Therefore take all my tiling wisdom with a grain of salt. To mangle an overused quote:

Damn-it, Jim! I'm a woodworker, not a bricklayer!

Wet tile saw
I setup my wet tile saw on the bathroom floor and surrounded it by a dark-coloured towel. Cutting bisque/clay tiles leaves them covered with red dust and small tile chips, and if you do not wipe the tile off after cutting the dust may affect adhesion. Of course, keep a close eye on your water level as well, since as you cut tiles and wipe them dry, you have to remember that the water collecting on your towel is no longer in the tile saw's reservoir! After a few hours of cutting and installing, the tile saw can get quite grimy, to the point where the fence was difficult to shift because of all the tile chips on the tracks. Do remember to clean your wet tile saw after every day of use, since the tile dust will dry to a remarkably stubborn layer on your tool. This MasterCraft model was purchased new from Canadian Tire for under $20 during a great sale they had on a few months ago. Knowing I would need it, I picked it up and am glad to report that it works like a charm.

Since my tiles were massive 13" tiles, I installed a horizontal support using a straight piece of scrap and started working upwards. The cutout for the soap dish was easy enough, but when I reached the level of my glass tiles, I started to run into problems. First, the glass block seemed to sink in further than the tiles and when I continued to lay tiles above them, the upper 13" tiles would slide downwards and compact all the glass tiles! After a while of panicked attempts to repair the situation, I could see that I was getting myself further into a hole, so I decided to pin the upper 13" tiles in place by minimally inserting a concrete screw below them, then peeling off the glass tiles, and scraping clean the mortar that was in the gap. At this point, I called it a day and proceeded to cleaning up the glass tiles before the mortar could cure any more (it was starting to get sandy).

When I returned to the project the next day, I discovered my second mistake: I had forgotten to cutout a space for the corner tray at the front of the shower! I had only discovered this error when I returned to the wall on the second day. My compromise was to install it lower, at the level of my support bar which was now removed. My wife also told me afterwards that she had wanted two corner shelves, one at the front and one at the back, however I had not picked up two shelves... Hindsight is always 20/20.

Installing tiles around tub - Looking at tap area  Installing tiles around tub - Looking at front part of side wall

Installing tiles around tub - Looking at back part of side wall  Installing tiles around tub - Looking at back wall