My Love Hate Relationship with Herringbone Tile: Part II

So, yesterday we showed you some of the play by play shots of this whole bathroom remodel delio, but for those that want to try tackling herringbone themselves, I thought a wee little tutorial might be in order. Overall – I’d say it’s an 8 on the toughness scale, but by George, it’s a beaut when your done with it!

When I’m starting any project around the house, pinterest is usually the first stop. Lots of inspiration, and often, actually helpful stuff! We found this amazing tutorial on pinterest, and I whole heartily encourage it’s use. Here is a picture from the tutorial that sums up your basic first cuts that will set the stage for the rest of the pattern.

How to install herringbone tile
Herringbone Tile Pattern

So per the recommendations, we got a Speed Square and got to workin’! Overall, these are the tools of the trade that we used for the herringbone cut on the tile:

  1. Speed Square $10
  2. Pencil (cheap!) 😉
  3. Ryobi Tile Saw ($150,  we have this one)
  4. 40 square feet of subway tile $64.00
  5. Mortar $14.37
  6. Grout $9.88
Supplies for tile installation
The Goods

It took a few cuts to get the hang of this whole triangle cutting process, and there were a few tile casualties along the way. That being said, subway tiles are .22 each, so it’s not the END of the world if you nick a few up.  I told Jay he was lucky we weren’t doing marble tiles! 😉 First, we measured out the triangle with the speed square, to cut off the edge.

How to Cut Herringbone Tile
How to Cut Herringbone Tile

Things we realized along the way. You pretty much have to do this cut free hand. We tried using a guide that the tile saw has on it, but it actually landed up creating more issues, with the tiles getting all jagged, and inconsistent on the edges. Here is the line up of the first few that got added to the scrap pile.

How to cut herringbone tile
The Land of Misfit Tiles

Many of these were useful later on down the road, but with their clipped corners and uneven edges, we had to put them on the shelf for later use. As we continued to move across the wall, additional cuts were needed. Once the tile was placed up on the wall, we just used a pencil to mark both where the start of the tile should be, and where the tile should end with the grout line. This helped us to make sure we had a really good guide for the exact line to cut once we had it up on the tile saw.

Installing subway tile
Making the Cut

After you have carefully measured and marked your tile, just line that baby up with the blade and let er’ rip! I practically closed my eyes for this part each time (note – I was NOT cutting), since it made my arm pits a bit sweaty to see Jay’s hand that close to a quickly moving, sharp blade. Happy to say we made it through the bathroom remodel with all fingers intact. 🙂

How to cute subway tile
Cutting the Tile

Jay and I had high hopes of busting this tiling job out in a weekend, and let’s just say it took more like a 2-weeks + 😉 Namely, since once the weekend is over, we just have evenings to work on it, so the schedule gets pushed back quite a bit. Overall, it definitely took extra time, extra patience and extra energy (I may, or may not have actually DONE all these things, ahem, patience) to do the herringbone tile, but it was SO worth it in my opinion!

Herringbone Subway Tile
Bathroom | After

I feel like my bathroom tile is a work of art now. Like a Louvre exhibit. That is either highly insulting to Rembrandt, or highly complementary to my hubby’s handiwork 😉 Here is a snapshot of how it looks all up, sans grout. I’m just so stinking happy it’s done. That mother was a beast! Check out the little niche we built-in for storage. I’ll have a post with the play by play on that soon.

Herringbone Subway Tile
Bathroom | After

And a final shot of the whole shabang. Yes, one tile popped out along the bottom. Jay will pop it back in, soon. 🙂

Subway Tile Herringbone Pattern
Bathroom | After

Now all we have left to do in this room is:

  • Paint
  • Install the new floor
  • Install the trim
  • Grout the tiles
  • Install the new built-in shelf
  • Install new lighting
  • Install new sink


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! 🙂