It’s actually Day 24 since the project began, but Halloween costumes and other life-type things interjected. For instance I was ready to start the tiling yesterday, but we had a dinner to go to in the afternoon and Jennifer and the kids were out shopping for last-minute Halloween costume parts so I was looking after the puppy. I also had a few last minute costume parts to work on myself. Such is the way of being a handyman and a dad.
The drywall is now (beautifully, thanks Jenn) done, and I nervously set out to begin the tile. The tub is just under a quarter inch off-level, so I decided to start the tile one row up and fill in the bottom row later (because some of them will need to be trimmed slightly). I made a ledger board out of a very straight piece of laminated pine that I had in the shop, and I cut half-circles out where the tile joints would be, so I could fit the plus-shaped tile spacers in. I screwed the ledger board to the wall using normal drywall screws, making sure it was perfectly level.
Ledger board attached
You can also see that I put a large dropcloth in the bottom of the tub, and then taped a shower curtain dropcloth to the wall. I don’t want to get mortar all over the tub, or to chip the tub if I drop a tile or a tool.
Mixing the mortar was a challenging start, because I had to figure out how to reduce the mix of “50 pounds of mortar powder to 1.5 gallons of water” to a more manageable size. I wanted to work in smaller pieces. I also didn’t want to have to weigh out the powder each time, I’d prefer a volume.
It turned into a nice coincidence that two empty soup cans full of mortar powder weigh exactly two and a half pounds. A bit of math helped me figure out that one and a quarter cups of water plus two cans of powder were the perfect mix. That amount is about enough for six or seven tiles. It fits nicely in an old honey bucket and is easily mixed by hand with a paint stirring stick.
Lesson: Spend the time to find an easy repeatable recipe for your mortar so you don’t have to weigh or calculate every time you want to use it.
I took a deep breath and started tiling. Things went just great. Exactly as planned. I have watched dozens of videos on Youtube, as well as read a number of articles and how-to’s on this, so it all seemed to come together nicely. It seemed to be a bit messier than the professionals in the video (I have little bits of mortar everywhere) but for the most part things are going great.
The size of the batch of mortar means I mix the mortar, wait ten minutes for it to slake (a chemical reaction that helps it harden), put up a half dozen or so tiles and then go wash off my tools and start again. My tools never build up dried mortar, I get a ten minute break to have a drink or consult with a child about a costume, and then I get back to work again. Perfect.
I worked for about 4 hours, with time in between to go to Walmart for some yellow tape for stripes on Wolverine’s jacket, spray paint some rubber boots white for Dr. Horrible, and a few other odds and ends. All in all I was pretty pleased. I have a half dozen tiles left to go and I’m finished the back wall.
Animated progress gif!
The day in seconds
Near the top there were a few tiles that wouldn’t sit properly. There was a very minor correction (a gap was a 64th of an inch too wide so the spacer was loose) and the tile would slide back out of place when I corrected it, so I used electrical tape to hold the tile in position until the mortar set. It’s fine now. I used electrical tape because I had some on hand. Masking tape would have done fine.
Almost halfway done
The almost finished wall at the end of the day:
The end of the day
(Those tiles at the top are all the same colour, it’s weird lighting and me holding the camera at a weird angle to get the whole wall in that causes some shadows, making a few tiles look darker.)
Next comes cutting the half tiles for either side, and then the end walls. Yay! I’m so happy. So far (knock wood, cross fingers) things are much easier than I expected.
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