My Love Hate Relationship with Herringbone Tile

Oye. This one was been a doozy. Yeah, I know, I’m supposed to say how easy this is, and that all you have to do is pick up a trowel and you’ll be well on your way to the chicest bathroom known to man. At least that was what I was envisioning when we started this project. Turns out, there were a few more twists and turns along the way 😉 After 12 straight hours of slaving away, this is what we had to show for the tile laying portion of the project. It moved SLOW. Slow as molasses.

Herringbone Subway Tile Install
Herringbone Subway Tile Install

After doing lots of measuring and using the level to make sure we were marking the lines correctly, we decided to start the pattern right in the middle of the tub surround, just seemed like the best place to start. That being said, this did land up requiring a lot more cuts than we had with the conventional, brick laid subway tile, and you are less likely to be able to use the scraps, more on that later. The red line up the middle marked the very center of the tub, which helped us keep the pattern centered. The horizontal line was to keep everything level. In theory … 😉

How to install herringbone subway tile
First Tile!

In addition to putting one line up the side for the border tile, we also used the level to put a line all the way around the tub surround to make sure that the pattern was staying at a consistent height throughout. We did this namely after realizing that our tub was in no way level (lovely) so we quickly realized we would not be able to use it as a guide.

How to install subway tile
Creating a Level Line

On our first house, we had laid down subway tile in the conventional pattern, like brick laying, example here. Very basic. Quite straight forward. I wanted to up the style factor a notch in this bathroom and do a herringbone tile, and although I knew it would be harder than the basic pattern we utilized last time, I thought it wouldn’t take quite so long. For starters, I knew that we did a few things considerably more correct this time around with some of the prep work (referenced here and here), so in all honesty, I thought that would eliminate some of the issues we bumped into this time around. Probably our MOST noticeable boo boo came in the form of a hacked off tile. Since Jay didn’t work straight across, but rather started at the bottom, and had tiles creeping in from both sides, we found that when we went to place one row of tiles, it just didn’t fit. Yikes! Case and point below:

How to install subway tile
A Case of the Misfit Tile

Ummm, yeah. That wasn’t good. After putting our heads together on it (ok, it wasn’t THAT calm, he he) we decided to just let er’ be. With the way this pattern is laid, it was really hard to tell that there was a difference in tile size, unless you took a measuring tape up to it. Jay kept telling me – look – it’s just like an optical illusion, no one will ever notice! 😉 At this point, we were just willing to accept that some things wouldn’t be perfect. After this case of the mis-fit tile(s) we were definitely EXTRA diligent to check every.single.row to make sure it was level on all accounts, since we wanted to avoid reliving that whole kit and kaboodle, if possible.

How to remove mortar from tile lines
Mortar Time

Another lesson learned the first time around is to not to put too much mortar on the back of the tile, since it will seep out and cause issues with your grout. Last time, there were little bumps up in the grout lines, were you could see dried mortar through the grout. This looks really bad in my opinion  so we made a hard core effort to minimize excess mortar this time around.

I’ll be back tomorrow with the play by play on how to actually DO the herringbone tile installation (cuts, etc) and some AFTER pictures! :)

Bathroom Plans: The BIG Picture

Now that I gave you a glimpse of the bathroom floor, I figured I should spill the beans on the overall look we are going for in the room. I’ve been dreaming of this bathroom for a looonnnggg time. The first house was the guinnea pig, and now I’m ready to seal the deal and I think that this time we can make it happen. It helps that this house has more than ONE shower, so we can take more than a week to bust this beast out. My plan is for us to take our time with this one so we can get the right results.

For this home, we are looking for a serene and tranquil bathroom experience. This bathroom is tight and every inch of space needs to be utilized to the MAX. Right now there is just a dingy little shelf that is the only storage location for things in the bathroom and that just leads to obscene amounts of clutter – it’s not pretty. Although the dimensions on this sketch are not 100% accurate (the computer program would not all me to customize all the dimensions) here is an idea of the footprint we are currently working with:

Small Bathroom Layout
Downstairs Bathroom

The sink obviously does not take up that much room, but as you can see, we don’t have a lot of space to work with. Especially since we need to actually ADD storage, because this bathroom is just not functioning at the moment. Here is the mood board I made for the bathroom to give you an idea for the look and feel we are going for. White marble will definitely be the base of the room, with some gold and polished nickel accents throughout the room.

Marble bathroom, antique bronze, polished nickel
Bathroom Mood Board

Right now, the biggest hurtles between our current crappola bathroom, and my swanky vision is a hunka hunka pile of money (mainly! 😉 and a few details that we are still not sure about regarding storage. Since the space is so. darn. small. it is really hard to find functioning storage, that doesn’t take up so much of the footprint that it is intrusive. We’ve already got the tile, mentioned here, so our to-do list for this bathroom is currently looking like this:

  1. Rip out the current tile
  2. Install backer board for new tile
  3. Replace existing sink
  4. Determine storage solution, install storage
  5. Install new tile surround in tub
  6. Install new flooring
  7. Paint baseboard trim
  8. Install final details (lighting, mirror, etc)

Right now, our budget for the space is $1,500, which is way more than we have ever spent on a bathroom, in complete honesty! BUT this is our main house bathroom, and I really want this room to shine, so we are pulling out all the stops (and our pocketbooks) to make it a gem. Consumer Reports estimates that average cost for a mid-range bathroom reno is $16,000 with upscale Masters costing as much as $52,000 (WHATTT!!!!), so if we can make this a space fit for a Grecian goddess for $1,500 buckaroos, I’ll have a smile on my face. Actually, I probably won’t be smiling until the memory of my wallet hemorrhaging is well in my past, but long term, I am pretty pumped about this room’s potential. We will do an entire budget breakdown of the process once everything is said and done. Hopefully, the process isn’t too painful, and hopefully, it looks as gorgeous as the bathroom below when we are done!

White Marble Bathroom Inspiration
White Marble Bathroom Inspiration