Laying the bathroom floor: part 3

No rest for the weary. We’re back again with another installment of our bathroom tile miniseries. You may remember that we started by leveling the floor with plywood and cement board, in part 1, and in part 2 we installed the tile. Now in part 3, we’re going to talk about grout.

We rushed home from Ottawa on Monday (8 hours on the train to Windsor and then a 2-1/2 hour drive from there… next time, we’re flying) and went right back into home reno mode on Tuesday. Well, after Andy worked a full day at his real job. Without even taking a break to hear the latest office gossip when he got home, we started in on grouting the upstairs bathroom floor. Six hours later… 11:30 pm. We were sore and grumpy and too tired for dinner. But our floor looked pretty darn good, I have to say.

You may remember it looked like this, pre-grout:

master bath tile, before grout | Burritos & Bubbly
You can easily see all the lines between the tiles. That means you can also see all the places where we messed up. See how the middle area above has wider gaps ? Yep. Woops. Here’s the thing: every “how to tile” guide will tell you to start at the back and work your way to the door. It seems really simple and obvious, but what they don’t tell you is that laying down tile is a race against your rapidly drying thinset and your aching back, and you’re going to be totally stressed out, and at some point, it will become very tempting to make a new plan halfway through. It will become so tempting that it will seem like that was actually the plan all along. And next thing you know you somehow have reached a point where you started on one side and then moved to the other side and now you have to cross your fingers and hope that everything will kind of sort of meet in the middle. Yes, this is exactly what we did and we messed up big time, so we might as well just admit it and let you learn from our big dumb mistake. It’s so dumb because we really knew better. So if you ever learn anything from us, learn this one thing: don’t do that. Stick to the plan! We actually really lucked out, because our mistake only caused a few really minor gaps between the tiles, and even luckier, they’re all going to be under the tub anyway. Phew! So our big dumb mistake ended up being ok, and now we know not to ever do that again.

(In case you forgot, our urban cottage bathroom plans.)

The other thing that you should know is that grout will hide a lot of sins. It’s like makeup for your tile.

Here’s the same corner after grout…


It looks so good!

Here’s a not-very-good pic I took on my phone while we were mid-project. It really shows the difference between the grouted and un-grouted tiles. (This is not the area we messed up)


Unfortunately we were too busy to snap any in-progress shots of actually putting down the grout. It took both of us. All hands on deck. Andy would put down the grout mixture with the trowel and I would follow behind with a damp sponge to wipe off the excess. We found that it worked best to have a bucket of clean water and a bucket of dirty water, and it was even helpful to have two sponges, so Andy could help me wipe up the grout when he reached a point where he was getting too far ahead of me. We created a sort of assembly line to put a dirty sponge in the dirty water, then switch it to the clean water, use it, and repeat.

We found that no matter how much we scrubbed, there was always a film left on the tiles afterwards, and this is normal. The most important thing is to make sure there’s no big globs of grout left behind because those can be a huge pain to deal with when they dry. After letting the entire floor sit for 30 minutes, Andy went went over the whole thing again with a clean, barely damp sponge to wipe up the remaining film while I followed behind with a clean, white towel to buff it and wipe up any moisture left behind. Now we’re going to let the floor sit for 24-72 hours before we put down two more coats of sealer. (We sealed twice before grouting, as well.)

Like I said, this was a lot more work than I was expecting. I was nearly in tears from sheer exhaustion and sore muscles by the end, but looking at this floor, it’s all worth it.

Our next projects in the bathroom: painting and wainscoting. We’re on a tight schedule to try to get everything done before next Monday when the clawfoot tub is being installed. I predict more near-tears and more aching muscles, but you guys there’s totally a light at the end of our renovation tunnel! (At least this part of it.) Next week we should have a master bathroom again!


P.S. Our tile is 3-inch carrera marble hexagons from The Tile Shop. We love this tile and we love that store!

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