Tiling bathrooms – what to know before your contractor tiles

Throughout our renovation we have done most of our research and shopping online,  however, tiles are the one thing where a bricks and mortar store is where you want to go.

When initially planning out our bathrooms we considered what tiles to use.  We still had a box of tiles left from our former condo renovation.  We were happy with those tiles so why not use them again?  Nothing is ever that easy.  We tried to contact the previous tile store we used but, alas, they were out of business.  We looked online and did find the tiles but could not find any in stock. In fact many online tile retailers represented tiles on their website that they did not actually have in stock.

Tiles in our old bathroom - they were Italian and discontinued

Tiles in our old bathroom – we loved them.  They were Italian and discontinued.

We did some research and found a few tiles places that we checked out.  Classic Tile, located in Brooklyn and Staten Island (the SI store is open on Sundays) has a large showroom and a good selection.  Unfortunately, all the tiles we chose there were discontinued, which we were not able to find out until Monday when the store could call the distributor.  We also could not find them in stock online anywhere else.  Next, we went to Mondial Tiles, a family-run business located in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn.  They have a good selection of tiles and are also counter top fabricators.  The owner, Alex De Meo, was very helpful with putting together a selection of tiles that worked.

How To Plan Out Tiles

The number one rule in renovation:  don’t assume the contractor knows what you want or will make the same choices. You want to be as specific as you possibly can.

When our contractor was ready to tile, we knew we had to make it clear what tiles we wanted where.  Although we did not choose an overly complicated tiling design it still needed some explaining so we drafted a rudimentary illustration.  We also numbered all of the materials on the drawings as well as with tape so they would know, for example, what grout needed to be used with what tiles.  We were totally prepared, right?  Wrong.

When our contractor installed the cement board around our bath, an unplanned alcove was created beside the tub.  We liked the utilization of this previously wasted space but it had not been factored into our tile order.

alcove on the right

alcove on the right

Picking out tiles and the correct square footage is not enough,  you need to make sure you plan exactly how many tiles you will need both vertically and horizontally along each wall accounting for grout lines as well.  Rarely will the tiles line up exactly with the wall dimensions so they will need to be cut somewhere.  These plans should also account for plumbing fixtures, shelving and any other details that you want your tiles to line up with.

What you need to decide is where you want the cut tiles placed.  If you don’t the tile guy is going to make that decision and you may not be happy with the results.  Sadly, we learned this the hard way and on one wall we had about one inch of space left over and did not like the way the tiler solved the issue.  A further disappointment was that the grout line was slightly crooked.  We haven’t figured out how to fix it other than getting them to straighten the line.

Tile line

There is one other spot where the grout lines do not match up (see below), can you find it?

master bath tile

Overall, we are pleased with our master bath tile choices–once we have figured out what to do with the angry inch.  For now, we (me) will just have to dream about baths in the new longer tub with the built-in shelf where all the shampoo bottles will not be falling off the side of the tub.



5 thoughts on “Tiling bathrooms – what to know before your contractor tiles

  1. Sooo helpful! We are about to begin tiling for our bathroom in a few weeks. Also, I feel your pain – finding tiles we wanted was next to impossible for us too.

  2. Pingback: An Epic Week at Brownstone Cyclone – some up some down | Brownstone Cyclone

  3. When something like this happens, it always astounds me and leaves me speechless. My experiences over and over again tell me you can never micromanage a job too much. I’m loving your blog and feeling your pains and frustrations.

  4. Pingback: Plumbing and Bathrooms | Brownstone Cyclone

  5. i did my own tile job and quickly learned that framing, niches and tile selection are undeniably linked for that high-end look. No way that niche should have existed like that. As you now know, down to the last cm and even the spacers that are used. I did have an “oops” with the placement of two of my three niches, but after your first high end shower installation an installer should know these things. In short, this is why there are bathroom (and kitchen) designers. Contractors and tilers are notorious hacks, especially in this city, and the good ones are intentionally kept secret by those who know them. All in all, i think yours isn’t as bad as you think, but you’re right – – when you go for that non staggered clean line look there isn’t any room for error, and the walls need to be in absolute perfect plumb. Contractor bubble levels are simply not accurate enough tolerance wise to do the framing on a high end tile job. They don’t know this because it doesn’t really apply to anywhere else in the house. There is a conflict between wanting / executing a high end look and hiring someone on a cheap or reasonable price in NYC. That conflict is resolved when you …. reno your second house! lol

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