Crooked walls...oh argh. Help. [Archive] - Ceramic Tile Advice Forums - John Bridge Ceramic Tile


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03-06-2007, 03:38 AM
Finally, after way too many months of living with lath, a contractor has come to prep around my new tub for me. Still no tilers available (well ones who inspire confidence) since the trades are very busy around here (it only took me 6 mos to get the contractor to find these couple of days if that gives you any indication of how hard finding help is).

Initially I was going to redo around the tub and wainscott the walls with 3X6" white subway tile with a white or black chair rail type border. I want the bathroom looking a little more period. After today I am wondering...

As per most old houses (1930) nothing is straight. Since there is no tiler on board we are doing the best we can to figure out what the best route is when it comes to squaring things up. He is having a bit of a problem since he said he'd normally look to the tilesetter to tell him how he would prefer things lined up but since I may be the tiler and I don't know I am no help at all. Since he has more experience than I, I'm leaving it to him to determine what makes the most sense.

Picture a room where the tub back end is on the outside wall and the tap end is going toward the center of the house (perpendicular to outside wall). He measured the room and basically from the outside wall to the inside, the floor slopes downward to the centre of the house. Meanwhile the ceiling slopes the other direction so the measurement from top to bottom differs by nearly .5" from the wall at the front of the tub to the wall at the back of the tub. The tub is as level as it gets given the floor and that we aren't pulling it out which would be too big a deal right now. Contractor has squared it up as well as he can without yanking it completely out and getting into other issues (like plumbing and ripping up subfloor).

He's going to try and square the walls up as best he can so there will be as few as possible odd cuts of the tile. Given my limited experience and having to probably tile it myself, that .5" has me worried.

What I need to figure out is what type of tile or technique could I use to keep that slope from showing up too much? Seems to me if I line everything up with the tub and work up either the corners or the top has to end up crooked and probably more visible because of the type of tile. Then I thought that maybe there is some sort of mosaic or something I can incorportate in some way to fudge the slope. I don't know. I am feeling a bit lost and could use some suggestions of how to deal with this.

Contractor says it's easier to use slate as the edges are more forgiving (visually) and it's less noticable when the walls are off but slate isn't the look I was going for. I've also wondered if I should just do the prep, forget tile and use some beadboard painted with marine paint but I have no idea how that might hold up to a shower (even with moisture barrier and a good moisture resistant backer board).

Help please.


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Tim P.
03-06-2007, 06:14 AM
Good morning Jean,

I'm not a professional, but I play one on weekends ;)

Seriously, I think the pro's will chime in. IMHO, there is no substitute for the proper prep work.

Unless you are tiling to the ceiling, I personally wouldn't concern myself with how the ceiling slopes.

You say the tub dips 1/2" which means your floor dips 1/2" in 5 feet. I think it's time for Deflecto! (

Your contractor is right on about squaring up the walls. Particularly the inside corners should be dead on.

However, I do believe that properly leveling the tub (which will probably entail adding some strength to the floor structure) is a worthwhile investment.

If you don't level the tub you will definitely notice. Maybe nobody else will (I would notice, so don't invite me over! :) ) If you decide not to level the tub, I would suggest larger tiles and don't use a full tile on the course against the tub. I would use something like an 8x8 and use a 8x6 piece at the low point, then taper them to 5.5 at the high spot. Your eye will follow the grout line, so the further the grout line is from the tub, the better. Your eye will also pick up on a full tile, so I wouldn't start with a full tile and taper it down. But that's just my DIY opinion!

Good luck,


03-06-2007, 07:03 AM
Howdy...Your situation sounds bizarre.. A contractor gave you a price and can't do the job?
Sounds like he planned on doing a mud job so that will help with the shower walls. Is it possible to take a picher? I kinda got lost in the explanation shuffle... Maybe I'm froggier today.... ;)

03-08-2007, 03:18 AM
Here's a picture, well a compilation of a couple of pictures. Anyway, I measured all the corners etc. and the contractor has made sure the corners going up the wall are square (same measurement across both at the top and bottom). Now from ceiling to tub rim is where it goes goofy. I've used red lines to indicate the problem. Basically that the front (tap end) of the tub is lower than the back.

So I'm looking for a way to visually hide that slope of .5" which I expect has to be at the lower end of the tub or I'll end up out of line on the corners all the way up the wall. That's where I was wondering if there was some secret like using mosaic or as Tim pointed out, using a larger tile and trimming it along the bottom.

To my mind at the moment, the tub is staying as is because it's more a cosmetic issue than structural (the floor isn't going anywhere anymore) and this house doesn't warrant the full meal deal, just a decent upgrade to usable from it's current state of being a rental for a zillion years.

As for the contractor, he's doing what he can do. I'm basically being 'fit in' as a favour to his in laws who are freinds of mine and we basically agreed to getting the room prepped and ready for tile so at least that part was done and then if a tiler surfaces fine, if not I can tackle it. He usually does much larger more prestigious jobs and the tiler he called just wasn't into it.

I described this problem in the pro forum a few months ago as the tilers I've called either don't want to be bothered with a reno this small or want to charge double. The market here right now says they can take their pick and they are. Just something I have to deal with as I don't happen to have a large new space for them to work in and that is their preference. I can't knock them for that other than it makes it a pain for regular home owners who don't have a million $ job on the go.

So, any suggestions about handling this slope and ending up with a retro type look?

03-13-2007, 02:36 AM
Still hoping for some more suggestions on handling this slope please.

Scottish Tile and Stone
03-13-2007, 05:55 AM
Not much you can do. Did you put a level on the tub? If the tub is out of level, you will have to angle cut your bottom row. Otherwise if you start right off the tub, your tile will be crooked going up.

03-13-2007, 07:50 AM
Hi Jean,
From the pic it looks like the rear is lower than the valve end but, like Scott said, there is nothing you can do to make it straight at this point.
You start your first course of tiles not at the tub but "almost" one tile up like Scott said.. You leave room for your first course to be set in later as a "CUT" row. (Allow for the 1/2" difference)
That course will vary as you go across the row - 1/2". :)
If you were using a 12x12 you wouldn't see that 1/2" as predominately. The smaller the tile, the quicker you'll see the 1/2".. ;)

03-13-2007, 10:25 AM
Repeating what others had said:

1. I would forget about the ceiling being out of level since you're not tiling that high.

2. I would put a level on the tub to confirm exactly how out of plumb it is

3. Larger tiles will help hide angle cuts at the tub, however...

I recommend going with the look you like best and not worrying so much about the look of the bottom row of tile tub. I expect such idiosyncracies from older homes, and I expect most people do as well. What I don't like is bad craftmanship and deteriorated materials. So if the job is well done and you're happy with it, I say enjoy! You can tell everyone the tub was custom designed with a slope to accelerate water to the drain! :suspect:

Good luck!

03-13-2007, 11:15 AM
Everyone has implied this, but no one has said it straight out. The tiles must be installed level. Do not follow the slope of the tub.

And the advice on using large cut pieces at the bottom is good. The farther the first grout line is from the tub ledge, the harder it will be to notice that they are not parallel.

03-14-2007, 12:31 AM
I was wondering this morning if using 4" square tiles on the diagonal for the bottom portion of the wall (next to the tub) would help fudge the slope. So I'd use subway for the rest of the wall but make a sort of border of the square with a trim piece between them and the subway. The purpose of the border being to get myself a good level line to follow and to disguise the slope. Or is there something else...hex tiles around the tub maybe? If there are some shapes or ways to configure things I'd love ideas. My trouble is not having seen a lot of different tile patterns done. Even wondering if I used a larger version, like the 6X8 mentioned vertically and then had a trim piece and then subway...I have no idea how that would look. Would it be goofy?

03-14-2007, 06:25 AM

I don't think the diagonal pattern will hide your issue any better. You'll just end up with progressively smaller triangles as you move away from the drain side.

Doing something different from the rest of the wall in that area might draw more attention to it.

I would start with the largest partial tile that I could get away with under the ledger row on the drain side. They'll get progressively smaller as you move towards the back, but I don't think it will draw the eye's attention too much, so long as the rest of the wall is set straight and level.

03-14-2007, 07:47 PM
Jean --

If I understand what you did, you are using the ceiling to tub measurements to determine the "levelness" of the tub. Problem is that you don't really know if the ceiling is level.

You should beg, borrow, or steal a 4' level and use it to draw a level line across the long wall of the tub enclosure. Then carefully extend the line so that it extends from corner to corner. You can then measure from the line to the tub at each corner and determine the true slope of the tub. Then do the same thing on the end walls, as the tub is not necessarily level in that direction either.

Then let us know what you find.

03-14-2007, 08:12 PM
Hi Jean,

What Jeff said. Let's figure out the levelness of the tub first.

03-14-2007, 10:30 PM
The contractor who did the fiberboard already demonstrated with his level for me and then confirmed with actual measurements. The tub slopes .5" if you draw a level line say 10" up from the tub. The two ends are okay and are now square with the walls.

I was in a tile store today and was told that houses of this era were normally built with a slope in the bathroom floor to help drainage. I guess the tubs were not sloped like they are now so they made up for it with structure. Anyway, they told me that if I found a house with the original install of tub and tile I would see the tiles near the back were cut down more than the ones at the front. Basically the message was to accept seeing the slope or go with bigger tiles so it won't be so noticable (same as you folks were suggesting)

Guess I have to adjust my attitude eh? I hate when that happens. :tongue:

03-15-2007, 06:54 AM
I was in a tile store today and was told that houses of this era were normally built with a slope in the bathroom floor to help drainage.

I love what some people come up with. Help drainage to where, another room? :lol1:

The reality is that your house has settled. Nothing to worry about, but leaves you with the tile layout issues you're pondering. I'm sure whatever you come up with will end up looking great. :)

A neighbor once saw me putting in a bathroom fan and commented "these houses were built in the old days when construction was good - build so well that they don't need bath fans." What this well meaning person was talking about (and still not entirely a valid point) is that the insulation in these homes is rather poor.

03-15-2007, 08:27 AM
Just go ahead and use the subway tile you want. Layout the tile so that a tile with just the curved edge removed is on the low end of the tub, and all will look fine.

And if, for some reason, those cuts bother you when it's all done, just start a collection of rubber duckies and keep them on the tub ledge. :D

03-15-2007, 03:45 PM
Wohaa, rubber duckies! Great idea. When in doubt camoflauge.

Thanks for the assurance. I'm feeling a little more confident today about just going ahead.

03-15-2007, 06:23 PM
Hi Jean,
Just to re - reiterate, your gonna be putting the second or third row up first.
If you fill in with 4x4 on the diagonal, on the bottom where the tub starts, you'll still see the 1/2".. Larger tiles will "Tend" to hide the 1/2".
In the big picture - it really won't matter.... :)
Tile and enjoy your new bath.... ;)