With DIYing there are always going to be challenges, and most likely mistakes made. It’s part of the learning process and kind of a rite of passage as you take on bigger and more complicated projects. In this case we had successfully tiled the walls of our last shower/tub remodel and thought we could handle doing large format tile, floor to ceiling, including a full shower in our second home remodel.
We weren’t wrong necessarily, but sometimes even the most thorough prep and research doesn’t totally equip you with the knowledge and advantage of experience. All in all this bathroom turned out beautifully, with the full remodel coming in at just over $6000 for the full bathroom remodel which is something to be proud of. But along the way we made a few mistakes that would have been easy fixes if we had just known at the time (pretty much all tile related), and now we are having to have part of them redone. Read on to see our top five mistakes we made in the bathroom remodel, and what we are having redone at the end!
We loved the look of marble slab walls and floors, and were elated when we found porcelain tile that looked like marble in a large format (2 foot x 4 foot). After reading up on how these large format tiles required little to no grout lines and could achieve the look of a large slab, we were sold. We also thought since they were so big and covering so much area at a time that it would cut time off the whole process.
Going back now we would have definitely chosen smaller format tile. The large tile ended up being so much harder to work with. It was super heavy and required at least two people to move and manage it. Because that size tile is mostly used for commercial spaces and is really just starting to be used residentially, the equipment available to home owners to cut it hasn’t caught up. We tried manual cutters and electric grinders and were able to make the cuts – but they were far from perfect or smooth.
But probably the biggest issue with these large format tiles was the inability to make micro-adjustments for things like unsquare or bumpy walls. The large tiles acted like a seesaw on the lumps and bumps of our older walls and floors. Meaning it was nearly impossible to get them level from one side o the other, or from tile to tile. This would have been much easier with smaller tiles.
2. Not Using Leveling Spacers
Unfortunately we didn’t learn about these little gems, self leveling spacers, until after this project was over. We used the old school kind and because of the issue mentioned above, instead of small neat grout lines, in some areas we have large areas of grout. I’m not sure they could have solved all of our problems, but I’m certain they would have helped tremendously.
3. Not doing a full curb with a slope
Initially we had planned to do a curbless, open shower. I basically wanted a big wet room with a drain. Which is a big part of why we wanted, and in a way NEEDED to do the floor to ceiling tile where the shower and tub were going to be. However, as we started the process, we quickly learned that we would not be able to lower the subfloor enough to create a curbless shower – unless we raised the rest of the floor in the bathroom (which was already higher than the bedroom and closet floor, so definitely not a good solution), OR we called in an engineer to sign off on us cutting into the floor trusses. We didn’t want to add the expense and time for the engineer so we accepted that we would have to do a curb.
In my thought process, if I couldn’t have curbless I wanted the flattest curb possible. So where most people typically turn a 2×4 on its short side, we laid it flat on the wide side instead. We also didn’t know that for many curbs you need at least a 1/4″ slope on the top to help water drain back into the shower appropriately.
This resulted in water running down our shower door, off the splash guard and onto the flat curb, pooling, and then spilling over on the floor outside of the shower and running into our closet. To make matters worse, at the time we hadn’t finished the baseboards in the closet, and there was a gap between the door casing and the new tile floor so the water effectively ran straight down to the subfloor, eventually causing mold.
We sealed up the gap and caulked, and stopped the mold, but still had the issue of water running into the closet with every shower.
4. Shower Size
Another outcome of not being able to go curbless was the debate and decision on the shower size/footprint. If we couldn’t have a big open shower, we wanted the biggest shower we could fit in the space we had available. So we made the curb to the largest dimensions possible, and still planned to just use one stationary glass panel, with a walk in entry to the shower.
After getting the curb in and the floor tiled, we realized three things. One, the walk in clearance room between the shower and the tub was pretty small. Two, even with the larger footprint, there was no way water wasn’t going to splash outside of the curb and be left standing in a tiled area with no drain – so that meant we would have to fully enclose the shower. Three, because we maxed out the footprint, our shower was not a standard size – so instead of being able to just purchase a standard shower enclosure (including the black metal grid ones I loved) and possibly installing them ourselves, we were going to have to pay to have a custom enclosure cut and installed. This added around $1300 to our overall budget and sucked big time.
5. Not edging tile correctly
There are a few ways to finish the edges of tile. None of which were taken into consideration before the tiling began. It wasn’t until I walked in to inspect all that had been done and realized there were exposed raw edges of tile in the window sill area and asked how it was going to be finished that the question of edge finishing was even brought up.
Thankfully not all of the edges had been done yet and we were able to get the metal edging before finishing the curb and shower niche. And we were able to purchase a matching pencil tile to edge where the tile ended on the walls. But that still left the window sill…
What We’re having Redone
We used our bathroom as it was for about a year and a half before one of our little girls dropped he squeegee and cracked one of the floor tiles. The hairline crack eventually became a full crack with chips in it. It was also around that time we discovered the mold forming where the water leaking from the curb was running down to the subfloor. So we called in a professional to assess the situation and see what could be fixed.
He could have just done the floor, but he explained to us that the curb really needed to be taller and sloped, especially because our shower head sprayed in that direction. So we bit the bullet and decided to have him redo the entire shower floor and curb, and to chisel out and fix the window sill.
This unfortunately meant we would have to have the shower enclosure uninstalled and reinstalled. We did some negotiating, but said and done it cost us about $2500 for the redo. Thankfully with keeping the budget so low to begin with that still put us less than the normal $10k+ cost of bathroom renovations, but obviously it was a bummer to have to pay so much to redo things that would have been so easy to correct in the first place.
We haven’t spent much time dwelling on it though. Out of all the things we’ve done in this house, this is the only thing we are having to have redone. We didn’t pay for professional help in the first place, so paying for it now is just what it is. I think next time we will probably leave it to the professionals to handle any shower tiling – although part of me is itching to try again now that we know what we are doing!