Hey guys! You may have noticed that I conspicuously left out a tutorial for the wall tile when I redid the laundry/half bath for the $100 Room Challenge.
Normally I’m pretty good at tiling- I’ve done it several times before, and it’s a good beginner DIY project. This one, whether it was a combination of the budget and time constraints or just who knows what- it wasn’t my best work. I’m going to share everything that I did wrong today so you can learn from my mistakes. (All of you tile purists might want to cover your eyes and ears- just pretend you’re me when an ad for It or Insidious comes on).
What not to do when you tile a wall
*Affiliate links included- please see my disclosure here.
Don’t start tiling at the top of the wall
You should always start your tile project the the bottom of the wall (or backsplash, etc) for one simple reason. Your tile needs something for support. The adhesive that you use to set the tile doesn’t work immediately, and although the tile may look pretty set, it will definitely slip without support.
In my kitchen, I just started tiling directly on top of the back of the countertop, but if you are tiling in a space that doesn’t have a countertop you can use for support (like our laundry room) you should screw in a piece of ledgerboard for support. A ledgerboard is just a thin flat piece of wood. Mark a level line on your walls and screw the ledgerboard on the line. You should start your tile job there. This is what it looks like:
I didn’t do that with the laundry room- I started at the ceiling. Why? I was afraid I would run out of tile (remember that $100 budget?). I had a back-up plan for what I would do with the bottom half of the wall if I ran out of tile (which I did, and in the end I ended up just buying more tile), but I wanted tile at the top of the wall.
The result? I had several tiles that slipped, and I had to spend hours going back and forth between my tile job and everything else I was doing in the house to keep putting the tiles back in place. (This was a job I completed over several evenings after work). Take a look:
See how those tiles aren’t level? It’s because they kept slipping down.
It ended up looking okay, but only through the grace of white grout!
Don’t start your whole tile against the wall. Do find the center of your wall and start your tile there.
This is such a rookie mistake I can’t even believe that I did it, but I did.
Because you want your tile to look even, you should actually measure your wall (I am such a terrible measurer that I typically avoid measuring stuff if I can get away with it, but you really should in this case), find the center of the wall, and start your first tile there. That gives your tiled wall a nice, even, centered, finished look.
The night I started tiling that wall, I had a million different things going on. I was making dinner, helping my child with his homework, and tiling the wall all at the same time. So not paying attention like I should have, and I ended up with one side of the tile that has a whole piece of tile, and one side with a cut piece.
See how this side of the wall has the whole piece? The end of that row is a cut piece. I should have started in the middle so that each end ended up being a cut piece.
Is it the end of the world? Not at all. But it does bug me a little bit.
Don’t skimp on adhesive. Or any supplies, really. And don’t spread your adhesive on the tile. Spread it on the wall like you’re supposed to.
With the $100 Room Challenge, you have, er, $100 to do the whole space. The only way that I was going to make that budget work was by using leftover supplies.
I knew it would be close on the adhesive, but I thought I could make it work by skimping a little bit. I spread it on much thinner than I should have. And, I spread it on the tile instead of on the wall, hoping to save adhesive (cover your eyes and ears, tile folks! I’m laying it all out here).
I spread the adhesive on so thin, you can actually see the blue paint through the mesh!
Guess what? That’s part of the reason for the slipping tiles (see above). Also, many of the mosaic tiles didn’t stick, and when I grouted, they kept pulling up. I had to go back and put more adhesive on the individual mosaic tiles that weren’t adhered well the first time. It was a royal pain of my own doing. And I ended up having to buy more adhesive anyway.
Learn from me, people! This is the very first time I’ve ever tried to skimp on supplies and it totally did not work!
Don’t forget to stagger your pattern when laying mosaic tile
If you lay the sheets of mosaic tile with the seams lined up, your eye will be able to follow those seams and they will become very obvious. It’s really important to stagger those seams so this doesn’t happen. If this doesn’t make sense, YHL has a great, detailed tutorial for how they did this with their huge penny tile wall here.
I’ve laid mosaic tile a few times before, and normally I’m SUPER careful about this! But I just wasn’t in this room because I had so little tile to work with and I was trying really hard to avoid cuts. This is the result, pre-grout:
Luckily, white grout made this look much less noticeable, but see how important staggering your mosaic tile pattern is? Imagine if I were laying a tile and grout with more contrast! This would look absolutely awful.
If you’re doing mosaic tile, Don’t use a poor quality tile!
Mosaic tile is just a little trickier to cut. Marble tile, especially, is soft, and prone to chipping. ESPECIALLY for the smaller, precision cuts, you want a thicker, good quality tile that can handle the blade without breaking or chipping.
Luckily, this was a rule that I didn’t break.
I’ve raved about the tile we used several times, but I was just so impressed by it. I bought it on Amazon because it had great reviews and was much less expensive than any marble mosaic tile that I found in store. I have loved it! We’ve used it in our master bedroom fireplace, which had tons of cuts as well as the laundry room. Great tile that I enthusiastically recommend.
Don’t forget to allow room around your outlets to extend your outlets!
Don’t cover the metal flanges with the tile- you’ll need to be able to unscrew and remove these in order to extend the outlets to accommodate the width of the tile. I made this mistake the first time I ever tiled, and it was HARD to fix once the adhesive and tile had dried in place.
On that note…
Don’t forget to buy box spacers for your wall outlets!
For some reason, although I know I need them, I always forget to buy them ahead of time. You don’t want to have to run back out to the hardware store just when you think you’re done, and when you tile, your outlets will no longer be flush with the walls. Thrifty Decor Chick has a great tutorial for how to do this. Here are the spacers that we usually get.
And finally, Don’t forget to thank your lucky stars for white grout and caulk if you do make a mistake! Or if you just get saturated and can’t stand the thought of cutting any more tile. Oh, and Don’t forget that perfection is overrated!
White grout and caulk (or whatever grout/caulk that matches your tile) can make so many minor tiling mistakes disappear, like a magic eraser.
Even with all the mistakes that I made with this tiling project, it still looks pretty good if I do say so myself. A night and day difference from the before!
Not bad, right?
And in case you are interested…
Here the DIY for the natural wall shelves
Here’s the finished laundry/half bath
Here’s the DIY wallpaper tutorial