Bathrooms are the smallest rooms in the house. Maybe that's why we like to update them more often, because we think small means less money and less work? Wrong! Bathrooms might be small but they're actually more challenging when it comes to remodeling. That's because you have to work around all the stuff crammed into this small space. This article offers you bathroom tile ideas with tips on how to complete various projects successfully.
The first tip for those doing it yourself – break big projects down into smaller, more manageable projects. If you're going to tile the floor and bathtub surround, start and finish one of these projects before starting the next one. The sense of accomplishment you gain from the first project will provide motivation to keep going or you can decide to wait until next winter.
Bathroom Tile Ideas & Basic Tile Tips
There's a balancing act between minimizing the number of tiles you need to cut, and getting the best finished look. You should lay out enough tiles so you can see how they'll look once they're installed. The best designs start with a row of tile at the center of the room where someone's eyes will look when they enter a room. While this will require cutting tiles that butt up to walls on both sides, you'll enjoy the results for years.
It's also critical to prepare the surface on which the tiles will be installed. This is essential for every tile floor as tiles will crack when weight is applied and the underlying support isn't firm and level. This might seem obvious but with my handyman business, I've seen lots of tile projects done wrong.
Two tile horror stories I won't ever forget. I share them with the hope you'll see why the subfloor is so critical to a successful tile projects. And for those who have recurring issues with cracked tile, it's time to search for and correct the underlying problem.
- While visiting a customer to discuss future projects, she mentioned some tile repair around her fireplace. I asked about the subfloor which surprised her. Yikes, some of the tile was installed on top of plywood and some on concrete. It's no surprise the tiles spanning the seams between plywood and concrete were constantly cracking.
- Another home in southern New Hampshire had a large open concept kitchen, family room and the tile floor continued through the entry way, up to the front door. They kept getting cracks around the eight foot opening from the entryway into the family room. One of my technicians had replaced the tile but a month later it cracked again. That's because there wasn't enough support under the floor so it kept flexing, which caused the tile to crack. The solution was to add lolly columns in the basement to stiffen the floor.
Know (and Accept) Your Limitations When Working Around Your House
So back to our bathroom tile ideas for your home …
Always buy more tile than you think you'll need. Calculate the square footage needed, add 10% contingency and round up to a full box. This will cover you for:
- Minor errors in measuring the space you plan to tile.
- Bad tile cuts that have to be redone and you will have these so knowing you've got extra tile will make this a non-issue.
- Enough tile for minor repairs a few years down the road when one/more tiles crack. It's much cheaper than having to research and find a boutique tile manufacturer who's minimum charge might exceed $100 plus shipping.
- Extra tile when you decide to extend tile into the linen closet or add a backsplash over the vanity. Yes these decisions happen all the time so better safe than sorry.
When picking your tile design, consider your skill level and patience when it comes to detail. If you haven't done much tiling and other home improvements, stick to a basic design. Want to use a diagonal layout or border in another color? That's when you should consider hiring a professional to avoid costly mistakes.
Bathroom Tile Ideas: Picking Successful Projects
Our goal isn't to provide step-by-step instructions on how to install tile. There are plenty of videos online. If you've found videos you like, please share them by leaving a comment below. We want to help you pick the right project for your skill level and available hours to complete the project in a reasonable amount of time. Many homeowners skip this important step and end up hating their bathroom or worse, believe they can't become DIYers after living with an unfinished project for months or years.
When investing in cabinets, counter tops and tile, natural or neutral colors work best. They're easier to update with some towels, a shower curtain and a coat of paint. Remember the challenge of dealing with the pink and gray tile that was popular in the '50s. If you are living with that pink, you might enjoy the tips at RetroRenovation.com.
Bathroom Tile Tips for Floors
- Pick a larger tile as they're easier to cut, and there will be fewer to measure and cut.
- Avoid diagonal designs which require more cuts – save that for your next tile floor when you've got more experience.
- Start with a row down the middle of the room, the place where your eye goes when entering a room.
- Practice your tile cuts on the least visible wall behind the toilet. If you don't have to make a lot of cuts, we once marked our tiles and asked the tile store to cut them for us, a perfect solution for parents of a 1 week old, trying to finish their kitchen and mud room, so they can more into their new house.
Tips for Bathtub & Shower Surrounds
- Do your research and don't skip steps to make the walls behind the tile water tight (read about backer board). Caulking and sealing your tile are also important to prevent water getting behind the tile where it can support the growth of mold.
- Save on cuts by stopping tiles below the ceiling. Look at the height of your lights above the vanity, and try to stop the tile just below this line (maybe matching the top of the mirror) to avoid lots of fussy tile cuts.
- Remember the design rule for starting tile at the center, working out vertically and horizontally. This will make the tiles level even if the shower base or bathtub are not.
Bathroom Tile Tips for Bathroom Walls
One of my handyman clients wanted to tile the entire 5 by 8 ft bathroom. This expense didn't fit the price point of the condo. So I pulled one of my many bathroom tile ideas out of the hat, suggesting we create the feeling of a tiled bathroom using a tile chair rail. We wrapped the entire room, including the shower. Then we painted the room different colors above and below the tile which was perfect (shown right).
- Tile walls dress up a bathroom and that's great when it fits your budget. Make sure you calculate how many square feet you need before picking your tile.
- Use a row of decorative tile to dress things up even more. Horizontal stripes have been used for years and now designers are putting vertical tile into model homes.
- Get creative and use tile to solve problems, like a tile chair rail creating the feeling of tile, for less time and money.
Bathroom Tile Tips for A Splash Around the Sink
- Add just a hint of tile with a backsplash around the kitchen sink. Sometimes it will be easier to continue the backsplash to the end of the wall versus figuring out how where and how to finish it at the end of the vanity.
- Mix and match textures – porcelain sink, granite counter top and tile backsplash.
- Use natural or neutral colors that are ageless, so you can easily change the look of your bathroom with a new paint color.