Ceramic Tile Advice Forums - John Bridge Ceramic Tile

Welcome to John Bridge / Tile Your World, the friendliest DIY Forum on the Internet


Advertiser Directory
JohnBridge.com Home
Buy John Bridge's Books

Go Back   Ceramic Tile Advice Forums - John Bridge Ceramic Tile > Tile & Stone Forums > Professionals' Hangout

Sponsors


Reply
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Old 07-10-2010, 10:10 PM   #1
Houston Remodeler
Pondering retirement daily

STAR Senior Contributor

 
Houston Remodeler's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: Houston Texas
Posts: 27,739
Installing subway tiles, a tutorial, Step 1

This is how I like to set subway tiles. I think it’s a simple method, hard to mess up and somewhat easy on the math. The tiles in these pictures are 3”x12” Carrera marble, but the process works for any sized tiles. Most commonly seen are the classic white 3x6” ceramic ones made by a number of manufacturers. References will be made to both types of tiles.

In this demonstration, the shower is waterproofed with Schluter Kerdi fabric. There are a few ways to waterproof a shower; I prefer this one as I know I can give a lifetime guarantee against leaking.

Step 1 - The all important measuring. Time for some math. Around this forum we rely on the tile man’s axiom: Where you lay your first tile dictates where you lay your last tile. Plan carefully, it’s worth the time and effort.

A- Measure the width of the rear wall of the shower. In this case its 67 inches.

B- Calculate the center of the wall and mark it with a hash mark. In this case it is 33.5”

This is where the size of the tiles you are working with comes into play. I recommend using the story pole method to get some measurements you will need in a few short seconds. In these pictures, I am using 12” wide tiles and 1/8” spacing. If I start with a grout joint at dead center, then I will be left with about a 3.25” piece at the far right and far left sides. The 3.25” is very close to ¼ tile and the look is acceptable to me. This means I can use the center line as a grout joint for the bottom row atop the ledger.

In this pattern the next row up is offset by ½ tile. This means that the far right and far left on the second row will have tiles close to 8.75” I say close to because they will be cut short of the side wall, and that cut edge will be covered by the side wall tiles. Pictures below. Much below.

The object is to avoid skinny tiles at the ends of both the first and second rows of tiles. If you use the center line and find your corner tiles will be objectionably skinny, shift the entire first row of tiles ¼ tile to the right or left, and then see what size tiles you will wind up in the corners. There is a simple reason for the ¼ tile shift; if you shift it ½ tile, then you have succeeded in swapping the first and second rows, in effect accomplishing nothing. A ¼ tile shift is about all you can achieve with traditional 3x6 subway tiles as they are only 6 inches wide.

Once you have decided where your grout lines will be on the bottom row of tiles, and then draw a vertical line on the rear wall all the way up the wall to the ceiling where that grout joint falls, as in the picture below. I like using a black grease pencil / china marker as it shows through the white thinset. You can use an ordinary level, or get one of these fancy self-leveling, digital, rotary lasers for $1200. If you are using an old school manual level, use one at least 4 feet long. The results will be far more accurate than a shorter level, no matter how much your husband objects.

What about the side walls you say? We will get to that in a minute. Patience grasshopper.

In the picture below you can see I also “floated” the walls with thinset to make them smoother, and thus the tiling installation easier
Attached Images
 
__________________
Paul1

For when DIY isn't such a good idea...
Houston TX area Kitchen & Bath Remodeling


http://CabotAndRowe.com
Houston Remodeler is offline   Reply With Quote
Sponsored Links
Old 07-10-2010, 10:10 PM   #2
Houston Remodeler
Pondering retirement daily

STAR Senior Contributor

 
Houston Remodeler's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: Houston Texas
Posts: 27,739
Step 2

Now that you have the first vertical line drawn, do the same for the alternate vertical grout joint. You’ll have 2 lines running up the rear wall, one half tile apart. Since the back wall for most showers is only 5 or 6 feet, these 2 lines are plenty. If you need more, then you can copy the method used for the side walls, listed below in step 6.
Attached Images
 
__________________
Paul1

For when DIY isn't such a good idea...
Houston TX area Kitchen & Bath Remodeling


http://CabotAndRowe.com
Houston Remodeler is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 07-10-2010, 10:11 PM   #3
Houston Remodeler
Pondering retirement daily

STAR Senior Contributor

 
Houston Remodeler's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: Houston Texas
Posts: 27,739
Step 3 optional

If you are tiling the ceiling, transfer the grout lines to the ceiling. Or a center line only if you are doing a different pattern on the ceiling.
Attached Images
 
__________________
Paul1

For when DIY isn't such a good idea...
Houston TX area Kitchen & Bath Remodeling


http://CabotAndRowe.com
Houston Remodeler is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 07-10-2010, 10:12 PM   #4
Houston Remodeler
Pondering retirement daily

STAR Senior Contributor

 
Houston Remodeler's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: Houston Texas
Posts: 27,739
Step 4

Install your ledger boards. Well not quite yet, there is some more math if you are tiling to the ceiling.

You know where your tiles go side to side, by what about up and down the wall? We don’t want any skinnies at the top or bottom either.

Repeat the same method as for the horizontal layout. Be aware that in most cases, the ceiling isn’t as flat as you like your neighbors to think. In the pictured shower the ceiling height is 96” above the shower pan in 3 corners, and ¾” higher in the 4th corner. Since I don’t want that showing, I can hide it by having most of a tile at the top row. That way, as the ceiling gets higher, the tile grows in height, but there is no additional horizontal grout joint. You’ll probably have the same problem. Even if your ceiling is perfectly flat, this is a good idea anyway. You’ll find out later why.

Use the ‘story pole’ method to determine the height. Shift the tape measure up and down to determine the size of the bottom few rows of tile and where the grout joints will line up above the floor.

In the picture below, I screwed my ledger boards into the wall studs through the Kerdi fabric. After the tiles are set a day I can take the ledger down and tile to the floor. The holes get filled with Kerdi-fix, or patched with a 4x4” piece of Kerdi and thinset.

Some people bless their hearts, have a great fear of puncturing their waterproofing that they worked so hard to achieve. These are probably nice, God fearing, regular folks, whom you would never suspect as being so cautious. Trust me when I say a wooden ledger strip screwed into the studs is far faster than cobbling together bits of wood and tile and shimming it to get the perfect height and trying to get it to stay there while you tile.
Attached Images
 
__________________
Paul1

For when DIY isn't such a good idea...
Houston TX area Kitchen & Bath Remodeling


http://CabotAndRowe.com
Houston Remodeler is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 07-10-2010, 10:13 PM   #5
Houston Remodeler
Pondering retirement daily

STAR Senior Contributor

 
Houston Remodeler's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: Houston Texas
Posts: 27,739
Hint #1

When you are about to set the first rows of tile on the rear wall, keep the thinset a ¼” or so above the ledger. This will prevent you from getting thinset on the bottom edge of the tile, having the tile stuck to the ledger, and from having to clean that thinset off later, after it has cured and turned rock hard.
Attached Images
 
__________________
Paul1

For when DIY isn't such a good idea...
Houston TX area Kitchen & Bath Remodeling


http://CabotAndRowe.com
Houston Remodeler is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 07-10-2010, 10:15 PM   #6
Houston Remodeler
Pondering retirement daily

STAR Senior Contributor

 
Houston Remodeler's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: Houston Texas
Posts: 27,739
Step 5

Apply thinset to the back wall enough to set 3 or 4 rows of tile. The purpose is to get them all straight and flat and level before proceeding with the side walls. You may find, particularly when using the classic subway tiles with the built in lugs, that the tiles are slightly taller, shorter, wider than its neighbor, and it takes some doing to get them to look straight as a group.

Use your vertical pencil marks to establish the vertical grout joint for each row.
Attached Images
 
__________________
Paul1

For when DIY isn't such a good idea...
Houston TX area Kitchen & Bath Remodeling


http://CabotAndRowe.com
Houston Remodeler is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 07-10-2010, 10:16 PM   #7
Houston Remodeler
Pondering retirement daily

STAR Senior Contributor

 
Houston Remodeler's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: Houston Texas
Posts: 27,739
Step 6

Most pros prefer to “wrap” the tiles around from one wall to the next. In layman’s terms, the cut off bits from the back wall, are set on the same row on the side wall, making it look like that same tile “wrapped” its way around the corner.

Take the cut off bit from the bottom row on the back wall, and use that as the first piece of same row on the side wall. Install the rest of the side wall from the rear wall to the outside edge of the shower / tub.

If you are using a bull nose at the outside edge of the tub as is done in this example, install that bull nose where you want it, then tile the first row from the back wall up to the bull nose. This will give you your first vertical grout line to draw up the side wall.
Attached Images
 
__________________
Paul1

For when DIY isn't such a good idea...
Houston TX area Kitchen & Bath Remodeling


http://CabotAndRowe.com
Houston Remodeler is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 07-10-2010, 10:17 PM   #8
Houston Remodeler
Pondering retirement daily

STAR Senior Contributor

 
Houston Remodeler's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: Houston Texas
Posts: 27,739
Step 7

To tile the second row, take a tile and mark it at the middle. Set that tile over the grout joint of the first row. When you get to the back wall, the left over bit from the rear wall may not exactly be the right size to fit in. Don’t be alarmed. That’s normal.
Attached Images
 
__________________
Paul1

For when DIY isn't such a good idea...
Houston TX area Kitchen & Bath Remodeling


http://CabotAndRowe.com
Houston Remodeler is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 07-10-2010, 10:18 PM   #9
Houston Remodeler
Pondering retirement daily

STAR Senior Contributor

 
Houston Remodeler's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: Houston Texas
Posts: 27,739
Hint #2

For subway tiles where you are using spacers, I like the hard plastic Tavy Spacers as pictured below. In the corners you can push the Tavy Spacers a little further into the wall to help align the side walls to the rear wall.
Attached Images
 
__________________
Paul1

For when DIY isn't such a good idea...
Houston TX area Kitchen & Bath Remodeling


http://CabotAndRowe.com
Houston Remodeler is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 07-10-2010, 10:19 PM   #10
Houston Remodeler
Pondering retirement daily

STAR Senior Contributor

 
Houston Remodeler's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: Houston Texas
Posts: 27,739
self spacing tiles

If you are using self spacing tiles, you may find the tiles don’t line up so well. You will have to use shims or wedges to adjust the tiles to get them to match the grout joints from wall to wall.
Attached Images
  
__________________
Paul1

For when DIY isn't such a good idea...
Houston TX area Kitchen & Bath Remodeling


http://CabotAndRowe.com
Houston Remodeler is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 07-10-2010, 10:21 PM   #11
Houston Remodeler
Pondering retirement daily

STAR Senior Contributor

 
Houston Remodeler's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: Houston Texas
Posts: 27,739
When this project is far enough along I'll take more pictures. In the meantime, if there are pro's with more suggestions or obvious things I missed, please post them here to add to the knowledge.
__________________
Paul1

For when DIY isn't such a good idea...
Houston TX area Kitchen & Bath Remodeling


http://CabotAndRowe.com
Houston Remodeler is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 07-10-2010, 10:32 PM   #12
madronatile
Tile Contractor -- Seattle, WA.
 
Join Date: May 2007
Location: Seattle
Posts: 1,291
Looks good to me, Paul. Maybe a rare tile for a subway tile tutorial? Get you some 3x6 in D100!
__________________
Matt

www.madronatile.com
madronatile is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 07-10-2010, 10:37 PM   #13
palmbeachmarble
nick
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
Posts: 104
why are you using spacers?
__________________
Nick
palmbeachmarble is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 07-10-2010, 10:38 PM   #14
Houston Remodeler
Pondering retirement daily

STAR Senior Contributor

 
Houston Remodeler's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: Houston Texas
Posts: 27,739
I know, I had a hard time searching the web for the 4x4 alone. My last 3x6 subway tile job was in April 2001

I wanted to use spacers to help DIYers in the pics, I'm not using 4XLT, and I didn't want to grid the entire shower. I like spacers.
__________________
Paul1

For when DIY isn't such a good idea...
Houston TX area Kitchen & Bath Remodeling


http://CabotAndRowe.com
Houston Remodeler is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 07-10-2010, 10:43 PM   #15
ob1kanobee
Registered User
 
ob1kanobee's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2006
Location: Deland, FL.
Posts: 4,064
Nice Paul
__________________
Ben

Rule number one in life: You go with what you got, imperfections and all.
ob1kanobee is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Stonetooling.com   Tile-Assn.com   National Gypsum Permabase


Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Forum Jump

Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Removing a few subway tiles... tileguy88 Professionals' Hangout 8 03-12-2010 01:50 PM
installing crackled subway backsplash in kitchen tekmom Tile Forum/Advice Board 19 03-31-2009 06:37 PM
layout problem. Subway tiles in a shower sdaniels7114 Professionals' Hangout 6 05-24-2007 06:57 PM
Looking for Marble subway tiles ldylvsroses Tile Forum/Advice Board 2 11-11-2006 09:28 PM
Refurbishing Original Subway Tiles spaas Cleaning, Restoration and Sealing 1 06-11-2005 10:26 PM


All times are GMT -6. The time now is 05:59 AM.


Sponsors

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.7.4
Copyright ©2000 - 2018, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
Copyright 2014 John Bridge & Associates, LLC