Finn and I were very thrilled to begin putting the subway tiles in our guest bathroom after finishing the floor tile. Yes, we were exhausted and depleted from our time spent on the floor… nevertheless, subway tiles must be simpler to install than that marble floor…right?!
Well…sorta. It was most definitely not a tough installation. However, it was time-consuming. And here’s the thing…both of us are workhorses. I will not stop until all chores are completed, and Finn and I were determined to finish this baby. However, even if you work diligently, it is still fairly slow work.
And there was a great deal of area to cover. We began in the shower, and I had a distinct impression that I was ascending Mt. Everest. I lay the first two rows of tile, looked up at the top of the wall, and felt as if there was no way we could ever “climb” to the top! With ten-foot ceilings in the bathroom and a plan to go all the way to the ceiling, we realized we were in for a challenge right then and there.
Nonetheless, we triumphed! It took two weekends and many evenings after work to complete, but we did it. And we’re really smitten with the bright, clean aesthetic we’ve achieved in this area.
I’m not going to walk you through the process of hanging our 36 white subway tiles since I already provided the full procedure for the floor tile yesterday (and it’s quite similar). Rather than that, I’ll share some of the tips and techniques we discovered along the road. And things I wish I knew before I began tiling our bathroom…
6 Tips for Subway Tile Installation Make Use of Ledgers
As a newcomer to tiling, I was unaware that ledgers were utilized in the process. To ensure that all of your subway tiles is level, you must place a level piece of wood at the beginning of the first row of tile. This will guarantee that every tile installed above that board is straight.
I bought low-cost wood from a store (bringing the measurements of each wall in the room) and had it cut to fit on the spot. Then, before we began tiling, I utilized a drill, screws, and level to install all of our ledgers. Take the time to accomplish this (and double-check that they are absolutely straight) before installing a single tile.
Put on Gloves
My hands were in shambles after the floor installation. The thinset is very drying to the skin, and you can’t expect to keep your hands clean when tiling. It is not feasible. I purchased hundreds of disposable gloves for cleaning the subway tiles. This was a godsend, and my hands feel less scaley and disgusting as a result!
Consider a Tile Cutter.
Our wet saw was the workhorse for our floor tile installation, but for the subway tiles installation, we pulled out a tile cutter. This little gadget is very simple to use and is reasonably priced at just $20! However, my favorite part about it? We could use it at night without disturbing the neighbors (unlike the wet saw, which rattles the whole building), allowing us to work on the area on weekday evenings.
To be honest, we had to use the wet saw for very tiny cuts, curved cuts, and angled cuts. As a result, we left it out as well. However, for 85 percent of our cuts, the tile cutter performed well.
As much as we wanted to jump right in and start tiling, we needed to have a game plan. And when I say “gameplan,” I’m referring to mathematics. Not my strong suit, but fortunately, my spouse is a math genius! Essentially, you want to avoid making any little cuts in the corners (as this would make your job 10000x more difficult), which is why you should design your layout from the start. Begin at a central location (in this instance, the main shower wall) and work your way out. Consider the ceiling and floor as well; you do not want slivers of tile on either end. Finn ended up designing ours in Excel, but a basic sketch and some arithmetic would suffice!
Understand your Spacing
Do you recall how I just said that you should create a plan? That, indeed, we did. However, we neglected to take in one colossal element…the spacers. We were doing arithmetic calculations using our 36-inch tiles and the dimensions of our walls. We completely neglected to add the 1/8′′ spacers (rookie error), which resulted in tiny cuts on our first large wall. Regrettable (and major setback).
Therefore, please keep track of your spacers! And yet another blunder I made? I overlooked the fact that our subway tiles already had built-in spacers. Yes. Most subway tile includes grooves on the sides, which eliminates the need for spacers entirely since the 1/16′′ grout line is created automatically. I totally overlooked this and used 1/8′′ spacers instead. This resulted in quite broad grout lines. Which was great for the space, but it’s something to consider. Click here to read about the 5 Best tips to select the right terrazzo tiles.
Safeguard your Floors
This may seem like a no-brainer, but please safeguard your flooring! We didn’t want to risk damaging our newly placed marble flooring. We lay down cardboard that we cut to fit the space and then covered it with rosin paper. We taped it in place using painter’s tape. When tiling, take care to cover everything in the room, since the thin-set will sometimes fall to the floor, leaving a mess!
Make an Effort to Plan for the Edges
When I ordered my tile, I was unaware that my standard 36 white subway tiles did not include a 36 bullnose piece (bullnose is the rounded edge). Rather than that, the only tile that matched was a 26 tile. This worked out well, but we needed to anticipate how it would flow as both the top ledger and the shower’s side borders.
With these six simple installation tips, installing subway tiles in your home shouldn’t pose a challenge at all.