Author Topic: How Hard Is Tiling Really?  (Read 16833 times)

c

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How Hard Is Tiling Really?
« on: January 28, 2013, 07:43:26 PM »
Short Version
What are the odds of me being able to tile my own tub surround, having never tiled before? I would use subway tiles. From what I've read those are the simplest tiles to work with.

Long Version
I need a new tub (yes, need)*. From everything I've read it doesn't look like there's a way to remove the tub without removing at least some of tiles around the tub. The tiles are crazy 80s tiles. I actually don't hate them and would keep them if I could, but I can't find them anywhere and there are other issues. There was a long term leak from the upstairs apartment which must have gone on for a ages before I moved in, so everything is loose and mildewy (over time the pipes under the upstairs apt's tub corroded and due to the slant of the ceiling the water ran down the walls for who knows how long until it burst through in a disgusting sludgy mess).  The tiles don't feel secure at all, there's a tiny gap up and down the corner where the walls meet that's getting more noticeable each month.

I will hire someone to install the new tub as tubs are heavy, the existing tub is a jacuzzi so there's wiring and some kind of motor underneath. I want a professional to take care of the wiring and I don't trust my YouTube plumbing knowledge to do work where I can't see any problems straight away. Also, the contractor will take away the old tub.

My plan is to take a couple of days off work to (Day 1) demo the tile surround, (Day 2) tub is installed by professionals, I put up concrete backer board, (Day 3 & 4, maybe 5) Tile. I am planning on using white subway tiles as I like them, they're affordable and from what I've read they are the easiest for a novice to work with.

I always overestimate my skills with DIY and bite off more than I can chew. I've always come through, but this seems like a big project.

*the tub is really cheap acrylic. It has cracks in it and has become increasingly "springy" over the year I've lived here. I know I can patch the cracks, but it's only a matter of time... Tub was installed in the 80s, was likely builder grade at the time.

Jack

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Re: How Hard Is Tiling Really?
« Reply #1 on: January 28, 2013, 08:52:15 PM »
First of all, it sounds like you need to gut the whole area and check for/repair structural damage. The sponginess could be the acrylic tub cracking, or it could be the floor joists underneath sagging due to rot!

Second, you missed a step between putting up the concrete board and putting up the tile: you need a waterproofing membrane between (either a sheet-based system or a liquid membrane).

Third, you can probably remove the old tub yourself... just cut it into chunks. If it's cracked already, it's not as if the reuse center or anybody else would want it anyway.

Fourth, just because you have a jacuzzi tub now doesn't mean you have to replace it with one, and if you don't then you might be able to avoid the cost of the electrician. (I just removed a garbage disposal and disabled the branch of the circuit it was on; it was pretty easy and I think disabling a jacuzzi would work the same way.) Plus, not everybody likes them so they're not necessarily worth it for resale value purposes anyway.

kudy

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Re: How Hard Is Tiling Really?
« Reply #2 on: January 28, 2013, 08:59:54 PM »
I am looking to complete the exact same project, with nearly the same steps.  One of my anticipated steps after demolition is to repair/replace wood that is water damaged, but that may not have to happen.

I tiled my bathroom floor, but I used uneven natural slate tiles for that project, so there was a much lower risk of me screwing it up.  That project was really easy, and I plan to do the tile on the new tub surround myself, probably also with subway tiles with a mid-row of decorative slate tiles that will tie in to the floor. I am hoping I don't have to pull up too much of my already completed floor, but I haven't done the measurements or research on the new tub yet.

I think if you dig into YouTube, and get a good idea how it's supposed to go, your project will be a success. I have the added pressure to get it done fast, because while the project is underway, we have no shower in the house for 3 people.

I love the idea of cutting up the old tub, but mine is cast iron, so I think the worst step is going to be removing it and lugging it outside - I don't think I'll be able to cut it up :(

Jack

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Re: How Hard Is Tiling Really?
« Reply #3 on: January 28, 2013, 09:19:45 PM »
I tiled my bathroom floor, but I used uneven natural slate tiles for that project, so there was a much lower risk of me screwing it up.  That project was really easy...

I've always heard that slate tile is more difficult because you have to adjust the thinset thickness to compensate for the unevenness of the slate (i.e., the floor isn't supposed to be uneven when you're finished).

I love the idea of cutting up the old tub, but mine is cast iron, so I think the worst step is going to be removing it and lugging it outside - I don't think I'll be able to cut it up :(

Cast iron is brittle. Use a sledgehammer.

(Alternatively: don't replace it unless it's completely irreparable. Cast iron is also good!)

Another Reader

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Re: How Hard Is Tiling Really?
« Reply #4 on: January 28, 2013, 09:38:53 PM »
People pay a lot for cast iron tubs.  What is wrong with the tub?  Can it be refinished and reused?

kudy

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Re: How Hard Is Tiling Really?
« Reply #5 on: January 28, 2013, 09:56:41 PM »
Let me back up and say I *think* it's cast iron. It's metal - maybe it's steel? I wanted to replace it because it has some pretty bad wear in the enamel.  I've done the cursory research on refinishing the enamel, and unless I missed something, that procedure isn't a very successful endeavor, and usually lasts only a few years - maybe I am wrong?

It's not a claw foot or anything cool, just a shallow tub that's rarely used as a tub. The other thought in my head was that I could replace it with something that works a bit better when used as a tub and not just a shower drain pan.

c

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Re: How Hard Is Tiling Really?
« Reply #6 on: January 28, 2013, 10:08:49 PM »
Thanks Jack. I'm planning on replacing it with a regular, non-Jacuzzi tub.

I took out the panel in the hallway wall to look under the tub when the leak was discovered and again a few weeks ago to get a refresher on how it was all set up, I don't see any thing that looks like water got in there at any point. I was checking for leaks in the tub the last time. The tub is balanced on some sort of wooden frame and doesn't have support in the middle, which is where I feel the sponginess when I stand (I'm small, so it's worrying).

The water damage is behind the wall where the pipes are and around the door frame to the side of the tub. When the leak from upstairs was fixed the contractor cut a big hole in my ceiling and we left it open for a few weeks to dry out. He said there wasn't water anywhere else (he was in the building for months doing a major construction project and did lots of small fixes for me while he was here, so I got to know and trust him).

The bathroom was put in in the 80s, prior to that I'm not sure where it was. The apartment was one big room with the kitchen in the back where the bedroom is now, I suspect there was a toilet there too as that's where it is in the one apartment that wasn't renovated when they took the building co-op. When we removed bricks from the back wall during the re-build there windows that had been bricked up around where this would have been.

During the renovation in the 80s they poured a concrete platform type thing where the bathroom is now. This is a complicating factor with the floor tiles when they need to be replaced, but that's the next project. These old Brooklyn buildings are a challenge, nothing is ever simple, so I try do as much research as possible before starting on anything.

c

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Re: How Hard Is Tiling Really?
« Reply #7 on: January 28, 2013, 10:11:36 PM »
kudy I very briefly looked in to getting vintage cast iron and read a few articles about worries about lead. I didn't look into it too much as I decided against for other reasons.

happy

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Re: How Hard Is Tiling Really?
« Reply #8 on: January 29, 2013, 04:49:28 AM »
Tiling with medium sized tiles ( ie tiles about 6"x 6") is not that hard, my family have done their own on numerous occasions. I think making sure what is behind the tiles is solid/square/flat and waterproof etc is the hard part.  Small mosaic tiles are hard to get even, and very large tiles are also hard to lay dead flat.

Tip from my Dad. If you are using plain flat square tiles (I'm guessing thats what subway tiles are), make sure you lay them in the same alignment as they come out of the box i.e. don't rotate them around, which you can do if you take them out and then put them down.

Such tiles look square and flat but apparently  are extruded and cut when they are made, so that the tiles are not actually identical on all 4 sides. If you keep laying with the tiles coming out of the box in the same alignment its all good, but if you turn some of them around randomly they can look uneven.

arebelspy

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Re: How Hard Is Tiling Really?
« Reply #9 on: January 29, 2013, 07:33:35 AM »
The first few times this thread popped up in my unread threads list, I read the subject line as written: "How Hard Is Tiling Really?"

Then one time I barely glanced and read it as "How Hard Is Tilting Reality?" and my first thought was "Not hard."  My second was "This will be an interesting thread to read."

Unfortunately there are no comments in here about tilting reality.

Best of luck in your tiling endeavors, if you decide to DIY, and your tilting endeavors, which are all DIY.
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Landor n Stella

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Re: How Hard Is Tiling Really?
« Reply #10 on: January 29, 2013, 07:37:04 AM »
In our first house we tiled a sunroom with a heat mat under the tiles. We were complete novices, and used big 18" tiles and I found out later that my trowel did not have big enough teeth for that project. It was hard but we got it done, so you should be fine!

We also did the bathroom at our house, doing exactly the same thing you are talking about. Ours was a cast iron tub and we used a sledgehammer to bust it out. Give yourself a few hours to do that or find someone to bribe with beer to help you - even with two of us, we had to take frequent breaks because the bounceback on the sledge was hard on the arms and joints. Watch a few YouTube videos of how to bust out a tub to get the strategy. Basically you have to crack it on a curve first, and then you can use the sledge to bust into smaller pieces.

For tiling, especially the walls, there is a product out there that replaces the thinset and makes tiling walls a lot easier. It's like a sticky mesh. With thinset, your tiles can slide down the wall because of gravity if you don't get the mix just right. This product I'm thinking of allows you to just stick the tiles to it, and there is no wait time before you start grouting. (Google helped me with what it is called: Bondera Tile MatSet, it's available at Lowe's, TileAmerica, and Floor & Decor).

One thing to consider as you are doing the tub surround - on ours, we stopped the tile at the bottom of the shower head spout, but then we had to figure out what to do with the strip of wall from the top of the tiles to the ceiling. I wish we had just continued with the tiles all the way to the ceiling instead. It would have looked better and avoided some issues we had with the joint between the wall and the ceiling.

Norman Johnson

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Re: How Hard Is Tiling Really?
« Reply #11 on: January 29, 2013, 07:44:51 AM »
Tiling itself is easy. I tiled my own shower first time with 4" white squares and it turned out pretty nice even with some of my screw ups.

Thing I learned (so you can learn from me):

-Don't apply too much glue.
-A $20 score and snap tool and a tile nipper is all you need for small tiles. No need to rent a water saw
-Small gaps in between the tiles mean less grout, means less work putting it on and maintaining it
-BUY ALL THE TILE YOU NEED NOW, then buy a couple of rows extra so you can or do repairs if you need to. You would think finding white tiles would be easy, but I got screwed when I went to add one extra row on the top
-You can buy soap holders, etc to add in to your tile work. You may also want to put in a shelf, recessed into the wall where the showerhead is to hold your shampoo, etc.

I found this job time consuming, but easy once you get the first row going and straight.

Good luck!


Nate R

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Re: How Hard Is Tiling Really?
« Reply #12 on: January 29, 2013, 08:45:09 AM »

For tiling, especially the walls, there is a product out there that replaces the thinset and makes tiling walls a lot easier. It's like a sticky mesh. With thinset, your tiles can slide down the wall because of gravity if you don't get the mix just right. This product I'm thinking of allows you to just stick the tiles to it, and there is no wait time before you start grouting. (Google helped me with what it is called: Bondera Tile MatSet, it's available at Lowe's, TileAmerica, and Floor & Decor).

IIRC, that product shouldn't be used in wet areas. Kitchen backsplash? Fine. Tub surround? Not such a good idea.

Johnbridge.com forums has GREAT info on tiling, and using materials and methods that WORK for the LONG haul. (Like NOT tiling directly over drywall in a shower, etc.)

kdms

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Re: How Hard Is Tiling Really?
« Reply #13 on: January 29, 2013, 01:09:47 PM »
I just tiled a backsplash into my laundry area (both wet and dry areas) and it went easier than I thought it would for a first time, but I did make a couple of rookie mistakes:

1. Don't mix up all the grout you need at once -- it actually changes consistency as it gets older and I found that the grout applied right at the beginning set at a different rate then the stuff applied at the end.  As a rookie, I took longer than I should have to do the grouting because I was nervous about making a mistake, and I should have realized that ahead of time and mixed smaller batches.

2. After you've applied the grout and let it dry for the first 20min (or so) according to the instructions on the bag, be aggressive (or at least not timid) about wiping down the grout lines to remove excess grout.  It is far easier to go back later and touch up uneven grout lines than it is to scrape excess grout off the tiles after it's gone rock hard.  I left it too long, and my DH kindly took four hours out of his life to clean up my mess with a scotch brite scrubbing pad....which doesn't scratch the tiles, btw.

Tip:  I used both white subway tiles and a small glass/stone mosaic pattern for interest.  If you want to create a pattern on your wall, treat the whole project as a jigsaw puzzle and lay out the exact dimensions of your wall space on the floor, and then fill in the space with your tiles and spacers before applying any cement to the wall....it's much easier to cut and fit everything together at your leisure, ahead of time, and then your application will go smoothly because you know everything will fit and which tiles need to go where.

Good luck!

Norman Johnson

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Re: How Hard Is Tiling Really?
« Reply #14 on: January 29, 2013, 01:31:38 PM »
2. After you've applied the grout and let it dry for the first 20min (or so) according to the instructions on the bag, be aggressive (or at least not timid) about wiping down the grout lines to remove excess grout.  It is far easier to go back later and touch up uneven grout lines than it is to scrape excess grout off the tiles after it's gone rock hard.  I left it too long, and my DH kindly took four hours out of his life to clean up my mess with a scotch brite scrubbing pad....which doesn't scratch the tiles, btw.

+1. Oh dear god, +1!!!

c

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Re: How Hard Is Tiling Really?
« Reply #15 on: January 29, 2013, 05:09:49 PM »
Thanks, lots of great tips here. NateR thanks for the Johnbridge.com tip, they have some great diagrams on there for what to do with waterproofing, backer board etc. I was confused when I kept reading about the 1/8th gap etc, but the diagrams explain it all very well.

I spoke to the contractor I want to use for the tub and have tentatively scheduled this for the Friday before Memorial Day, pending his quote. I'm going to do all the measuring and cutting of tile ahead of time to be prepared. Subway tiles are really cheap so I'll practice a bit to get a feel for it.

I did wonder about a niche. People seem to really like them, but I'm not a big fan. I'll give it some more thought.

c

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Re: How Hard Is Tiling Really?
« Reply #16 on: February 02, 2013, 09:11:50 AM »
I got the quote back from the guy I want to work with. It's about what I thought. In the great scheme of things it's not a ton of money, but it's still a lot. He recommended changing the shower body, this something we discussed as I had a bad leak which he fixed (for free) when he was doing the back wall for the building. At the time he said the fix was temporary and the plumbing was in bad shape and we'd eventually have to open up the wall etc.

I asked him to quote for a few things, one of them was having him put up the cement backer board. It seems like this is the most important part to of tiling to get right. His quote was a lot and I'm on the fence about having him do it or trying to DIY it myself. On the one hand I could probably figure it out, on the other hand if I get it wrong I won't know until the damage has been done. I realize I could get a cheaper contractor, but I trust this guy and I know his work. I'd rather try something myself than risk working with someone else.

I'm already saving a lot of money by doing the tiling myself and various other things. As this is my first time doing any kind of dry wall etc work other than basic patching and my first time tiling, I should just pay him right?

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Re: How Hard Is Tiling Really?
« Reply #17 on: February 02, 2013, 09:23:22 AM »
I don't think putting up backer board is too hard.  If you've ever done drywall... the concept is similar.  Score it, snap it, screw it down.

The screw holes and seams are then sealed with thinset and a fiberglass tape much like you'd tape and bed drywall.

I wouldn't say I am an expert, but I've tiled 3 floors, 1 tub surround and one entire kitchen backsplash.   All of them made me smile when I was done.

On the wet saw: a cheap Home Depot brand can be had new for $200 or so.  I used the cheap score/snap method for everything except the last job.... and for mostly straight cuts that works extremely well.  But... had I realized I could have had an inexpensive wet saw for all of them for $200... I wish I had bought it years ago.  The cost of the saw is easily in the "cheaper than hiring someone" category.  It isn't the most awesome professional saw you'd ever see... and if you were an actual contractor, it would wear out and be thrown away.  If, however, you're like me and do one tile job every 2-3 years... it seems very usable.