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Catch the entire tiling story in parts I and II.

When deciding on tile for our bathroom, we knew we wanted simple. Black. White. Black and white together, as we did on our hex floors. Every photo we found ourselves drawn to highlighted classic themes – subway tile, warm woods and brass accents. We’ll get to the latter (we can’t wait!), but when it came to the subway tile, we were a little stuck. Traditional 3″ x 6″? Something smaller? Something larger? A brick pattern or herringbone? We toyed with each and every one of these options, and many nights were spent convincing the other why this would work and that wouldn’t. It was exciting and exhausting all at once, but as soon as we got the samples for the Manhattan tiles from South Cypress, we knew they were The Ones:

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We fell for the pretty matte finish (we’re nothing if not predictable; just like the kitchen!), and after a lot of measuring, we found ourselves with 13 cartons of the 4″ x 12″ tiles in Snow White Matte. We worked closely with the customer support at South Cypress, and they helped us determine our final counts – and when we were in a pinch, they shipped us additional 4 ” x 16″ bullnose tiles quickly! As soon as we were done with grouting and caulking, we pulled up the protective rosin paper so we could finally see how the wall tile played with the floors. We loved it! All the happy emojis, right here.

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We opted for Polyblend platinum non-sanded grout, a super soft gray and a color dark enough to allow the walls to read as tiled, but not so dark that they demanded all the attention.

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We’ve tiled a couple of times before – the entryway and the kitchen – both of which felt much less intense than this bathroom! All said and done, we probably spent 8 or 9 days working on both the floor and the walls, with a few of those days lasting well over 10 hours. You guys, we thought we were losing it at some points, but every time we felt like we couldn’t lay one more tile, we’d crank up Spotify, catch our second wind, and feel giddy over the progress! DIY, it can be such a funny feeling.

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We learned a lot this time around, too! I jotted notes throughout the process, a handful of line items of the things I wanted to share here. We never want to give off the impression that DIY is the easier route – rarely is that the case – but my goodness, we were determined to do this ourselves. (As a treat, we’ve already booked someone to wallpaper our laundry room, ha!) Now that it’s done, we’re happy that we can walk into this room knowing we did thisAnd we survived to tell the tale! Oh, DIY, you funny thing, you.

Okay, ready?

  • Do not freak out (too much) as you mortar and lay the tile. Grout can really save the day! (But, you know, don’t rely on it.)
  • Use spacers when laying mesh tile. Trust.
  • Mix small batches of mortar and grout! The smaller, the better. The anxiety of watching your large, perfect batch dry out while you measure, cut and panic is not worth it!
  • Knee pads are everything.
  • Give yourself time. Lots and lots and lots of time.
  • Get to know your wet saw! Practice making cuts until you’re happy with the results.
  • And the oldie (but goodie) – measure twice, cut once. For real.

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So the best part about cheers-ing to Tile Day? South Cypress wants to give you a helping hand on your next tiling project! (You can do it!) We’re celebrating 3 ways:

  1. Take 10% off any Manhattan tiles with the code YBH10MANHATTAN
  2. Take 5% off any Storka tiles with the code YBH5STORKA
  3. Together with South Cypress, we’ll be giving away $250 towards any tile of your choice! Using the Rafflecopter widget below, enter as many ways as you’d like. This giveaway is eligible for those in the United States and runs through Monday, February 1st until 5pm CST. The winner will be announced within this post and contacted directly. Good luck and happy entering!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 Promotional codes are good for 3 months (!), so grab your samples and start planning now! And as always, thank you for supporting those that allow us to DIY our little hearts out. 

  • zandra (Little Yellow Couch) - January 27, 2016 - 7:17 AM

    Beautiful job!!! LOVE the black floor with the white outline in hex. You are so right about giving yourself plenty of time. When we re-did our bath a few years ago, we had exactly 6 days to demo AND reno. And two of the things on my wish list had to be let go. One was radiant heat under the floor and the other was a soap shelf. You’re going to love yours!ReplyCancel

  • Adrienne - January 27, 2016 - 7:46 AM

    You guys are my inspiration! The room looks so dang good. We have two bathrooms that we either need to retile or paint the tile and I’m terrified.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - January 27, 2016 - 8:56 AM

      I would have never thought to paint tile, but our friends recently did that in their master bath – I thought they had retiled! It looks so fresh and clean!ReplyCancel

  • Bethany - January 27, 2016 - 7:48 AM

    SO beautiful. Seriously, I may or may not be staring at this all day long! I can only imagine the feeling of accomplishment! :)ReplyCancel

  • Megan - January 27, 2016 - 8:03 AM

    I would love the Saison in Tours color for our kitchen. We’ve talked about putting new flooring in and would love something that flowed with the rest of the house’s wood floors without worrying about water damage in the kitchen.ReplyCancel

  • Laura C - January 27, 2016 - 8:04 AM

    Looks great. Love the matte black hex tiles.ReplyCancel

  • Christy G. - January 27, 2016 - 8:04 AM

    Love the white, so classic! Oh South Cypress sells hardwood flooring too. That’s what I need right now…ReplyCancel

  • Justynn - January 27, 2016 - 8:09 AM

    SO MUCH INSPIRATION!

    Looking to start our master bath reno next week & you guys have really help give us the courage to not only DIY but to kill it.ReplyCancel

  • Alex R - January 27, 2016 - 8:20 AM

    this looks so good!!! great job! you’re giving me serious motivation to rip out the tile in my kitchen and replace it…ReplyCancel

  • Nicole C - January 27, 2016 - 8:37 AM

    That Manhattan tile really does look amazing. I could see it working anywhere (like, my kitchen backsplash that decidedly needs to be tiled). I also am digging the wood-look tile for my bathroom – the Saison looks lovely online, so maybe I’ll just have to order some samples. I also loved the story and history of South Cypress!ReplyCancel

  • Hannah - January 27, 2016 - 8:37 AM

    I love love the hex tile you chose and would love to use something similar in all 4 of our bathrooms and kitchen in our 1930s Tudor in Detroit. The flippers we bought our house from put very very generic Home Depot tile in all those spaces and I really want to bring them back to something that would have been more original to the house.ReplyCancel

  • Erin Ellis - January 27, 2016 - 8:51 AM

    I would love the Belleville in my master bathroom! Thank you for the wonderful giveaway.
    ErinReplyCancel

  • Erika - January 27, 2016 - 8:56 AM

    Thanks! DIY is tough, but so rewarding.ReplyCancel

  • emily @ go haus go - January 27, 2016 - 8:57 AM

    Fantastic job! And what a pay-off! I know laying tile can be so mind melting, but so worth it!ReplyCancel

  • Caroline - January 27, 2016 - 9:00 AM

    How cool is your tiling work!ReplyCancel

  • susan - January 27, 2016 - 9:01 AM

    Good gravy that is gorgeous. I called my husband in from the other room to look at it. Beautiful beautiful job you two.ReplyCancel

  • Jacki - January 27, 2016 - 9:20 AM

    Well I’m pinning this because I now know how I want to do my main bath. Beautiful!ReplyCancel

  • emily j - January 27, 2016 - 9:23 AM

    Love the large subway tile! it’s so bright!ReplyCancel

  • Kristin - January 27, 2016 - 9:30 AM

    Kim – it looks SO good. Really impressive. I love the look of the base, and the way the floor looks with the wall tile. Nicely done.ReplyCancel

  • Jess S. - January 27, 2016 - 9:41 AM

    Ohmagoodness could I use this! Hubby and I have been taking on a major renovation of a 100 year old farmhouse for the past 3 months (new roof, windows, septic, electrical, heating system, etc) and we are just getting ready to start the brand new kitchen, which will entail back splash tile AND brick flooring. I need the tile gods to look upon me favorably.ReplyCancel

  • Laura Buell - January 27, 2016 - 9:57 AM

    Y’all. I am so jealous of your tile. I’d do the Manhattan in white because it is classic/classy. Our house is from the 50s and although I kind of love the tile from that era…it’s definitely falling apart.ReplyCancel

  • Cara - January 27, 2016 - 10:00 AM

    The tile looks amazing. I can’t wait for my sample to arrive. Any day now! We are planning on using the subway tile in our kitchen!ReplyCancel

  • Jennifer Kerr - January 27, 2016 - 10:00 AM

    My samples are on the way…Manhattan tile in white and another black matte tile sample. Can’t wait!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - January 27, 2016 - 10:18 AM

      Awesome! Could you imagine the charcoal glossy on the walls?! That could be STUNNING.ReplyCancel

  • Sharon Flasche - January 27, 2016 - 10:02 AM

    I’ve wanted to tile my kitchen back-splash for years but can’t decide on what I want but love the subway tile look so clean and simple.ReplyCancel

  • Anna Kristina - January 27, 2016 - 10:08 AM

    I’m SO EXCITED about your bathroom reno, as my husband and I are planning to do something similar this spring/summer. Your tile looks fantastic!ReplyCancel

    • Anna Kristina - January 27, 2016 - 10:13 AM

      PS We’re totally also planning on the hex + subway tile combo, but probably in all white… although your bathroom is making me contemplate incorporating black. :)ReplyCancel

      • Kim - January 27, 2016 - 10:19 AM

        Maybe you could do the reverse of what we did on the floor?ReplyCancel

  • Mara - January 27, 2016 - 10:12 AM

    That tiling is on fleek! I’d duplicate this same style in my home in a heart beat. You cannot beat classic choices like you’ve made.ReplyCancel

  • Liska - January 27, 2016 - 10:24 AM

    We are in the middle of planning our bath reno now and I’m right in the middle of the tile dilemma. I know I want the same look as you – some kind of mosaic on the floor and subway on the wall and your blog has been a huge help in letting me see how the larger subways look. I also love the black hex but am curious to know how it works in a well-used bathroom — I am afraid it for us it will show water spots and dirt so I’m leaning toward white hex. I love the look of your black hex, but we have really hard water, drooly dogs, and less-than-Marth-Stewart-level housekeeping habits. I fear black is not a good idea for us. Would love to see a follow up post once you start using the bathroom!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - January 27, 2016 - 10:37 AM

      I actually think that the black shows less dirt than white would! I suppose it depends on if your pups have fluffy white fur though. :) We did some research, looking back at some favorite blogs with black tile (Door Sixteen was a big help!), and it seemed that the consensus was that black was a winner. I’ll definitely keep you updated though!ReplyCancel

  • Kristin - January 27, 2016 - 10:41 AM

    I’ve been working with South Cypress too on our remodel and they have been absolutly terrific!ReplyCancel

  • Emily - January 27, 2016 - 10:43 AM

    I too, am a sucker for subway tile on the walls and penny or hex on the floor! We have only one bathroom right now, so it got a quick update with paint and a new vanity over the weekend. Hopefully someday it’ll get an epic makeover! After we remodel the master bedroom and put in a bathroom. :(ReplyCancel

  • Laura B - January 27, 2016 - 10:54 AM

    I’m with you – the Manhattan in Snow White Matte is THE ONE. Our crumbling 50s tile needs a facelift!ReplyCancel

  • Haley - January 27, 2016 - 10:57 AM

    This looks great! The white border is a nice touch.

    I love the Manhattan hex tile in blackReplyCancel

  • Nathan - January 27, 2016 - 11:05 AM

    The 4×12 tiles you used are the perfect addition for our bath, too! We love the white look of subway, but this is an updated version of the classic. We are also looking at a Carrara marble hex tile for the floor.ReplyCancel

  • Jamie - January 27, 2016 - 11:10 AM

    We are looking forward to remodeling our half bath – not quite as big a project as you guys, but our first time tiling! Wish us luck!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - January 27, 2016 - 11:14 AM

      Sending all the positive vibes your way!ReplyCancel

  • Wendy - January 27, 2016 - 11:12 AM

    This looks so amazing guys! I’m dreading our much needed full bathroom gut. Our clawfoot tub leaks into a bucket in the basement every time we shower, our main stack is 100+ years old and needs replacing, and nothing was done properly in the first place! I’m getting so much inspiration from your classic modern look.ReplyCancel

  • Madeline Gigli - January 27, 2016 - 11:14 AM

    The tiling in this bathroom is to die for!!!

    https://blackbeigebrown.squarespace.comReplyCancel

  • erica b - January 27, 2016 - 11:24 AM

    were building out a bathroom this year, so this would be so great to win! I would probably pick some subaway tile or possibly something for the floor in there. i wanna have fun! Your tile looks so great!ReplyCancel

  • Samantha - January 27, 2016 - 11:30 AM

    Love the matte finish and the grout color!ReplyCancel

  • Caroline Bedard - January 27, 2016 - 11:37 AM

    I’d really love the Pier woodlook tile for our kitchen and front hall. But in our bathrooms, I have long wanted matte white hexies for the floors, and now, I see the perfection of the large white subway tiles for the walls. Truly lovely!ReplyCancel

  • Kelsey G - January 27, 2016 - 11:44 AM

    I am completely enamored with the tile you choose for the walls. I am planning on something similar to use in my new shower.ReplyCancel

  • Mary - January 27, 2016 - 11:52 AM

    This bathroom is BEAUTIFUL. Love the classic black and white.ReplyCancel

  • Travis - January 27, 2016 - 12:05 PM

    My wife and I are slowly planning a bathroom reno. I hope ours turns our half a beautiful as yours!ReplyCancel

  • Stacy - January 27, 2016 - 12:24 PM

    This is SO GOOD. I have been eyeing that Manhattan glossy charcoal since you first posted a link to the tile sources. I will definitely be ordering some samples this week!ReplyCancel

  • Rachel L. - January 27, 2016 - 12:24 PM

    beautiful job! i love watching you renovate and can’t wait for the full reveal! we bought a new construction home a few years ago, but the contractors never installed tile behind any of the bathroom sinks and the drywall is starting to get worn down from the water. we would install tiles all around the walls, but it’s hard to find a wall tile we like that will match the large, mediocre, tan floor tiles that were installed. instead, we’re thinking of installing tiles just behind the sink. but will that look weird??ReplyCancel

    • Kim - January 27, 2016 - 1:37 PM

      In your case, maybe you could put up a countertop backsplash?ReplyCancel

  • Sarah - January 27, 2016 - 12:28 PM

    I think I’d pick the same tile you used! Digging it!ReplyCancel

  • susan - January 27, 2016 - 12:36 PM

    the white border in the black floor tiles is delicious! love the jog into the door opening… <3
    thanks for the give-away!ReplyCancel

  • Emily S - January 27, 2016 - 12:37 PM

    I love this look. So clean and beautiful and timeless!ReplyCancel

  • Sarah - January 27, 2016 - 12:38 PM

    Seriously so jealous. Our master bath is in desperate need of a refresher!ReplyCancel

  • erica - January 27, 2016 - 12:44 PM

    THANKS FOR THE TRY. BATHROOM LOOKS GREAT!ReplyCancel

  • Megan S. - January 27, 2016 - 12:45 PM

    I have been dreaming of replacing the blah brown 12×12 tiles on the floor and shower surround for a while. I love the way your bathroom came out using the large white matte subway tile. I definitely want that for my shower!!
    Great job on your bathroom!ReplyCancel

  • Shawna - January 27, 2016 - 1:06 PM

    Love! The black tile on the floor is so gorgeous!ReplyCancel

  • Taylor Closet - January 27, 2016 - 1:16 PM

    I would have to choose the HONEST GREIGE LEAF MOSAIC, love the modern look. Gorgeous!!!ReplyCancel

  • Gloria - January 27, 2016 - 1:21 PM

    This is inspiring me to tackle a small guest bath in my house. I have the tile for it, but have been debating hiring out or not… I’ve almost mustered up the courage. Your bathroom is looking great!ReplyCancel

  • Allison Hodson - January 27, 2016 - 1:48 PM

    You guys…. so GOOD
    We’re planning to use the same subway tile in our kitchen soon. This makes me really excited to get started.ReplyCancel

  • Amanda - January 27, 2016 - 1:48 PM

    That looks amazing! Great job again!ReplyCancel

  • Cair - January 27, 2016 - 2:21 PM

    Oh my gosh, it’s a real room. Remember what it looked like last time we saw it? Of course YOU do, but really, this is so wonderful.

    So loving the hex. So loving the black border. <3ReplyCancel

  • Molly W - January 27, 2016 - 2:23 PM

    Beautiful! I can’t wait to see how you work in the wood tones! We’re hoping to tile in our previously unfinished half story soon (at least I hope soon). I think we’d use this credit toward a non-traditional sized subway tile like you, but maybe something in a moody grey or muted green/blue.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - January 27, 2016 - 2:30 PM

      That sounds so pretty! South Cypress has a color called “Ash” that I bet would be really unique.ReplyCancel

  • Kate S. - January 27, 2016 - 2:49 PM

    Their “Petrified Wood” tile is gorgeous, but, I don’t know . . . I’m loving your bathroom so far. It would be hard to choose anything other than simple black and white!ReplyCancel

  • Sarah @ 702 Park Project - January 27, 2016 - 2:49 PM

    I love a good black and white bathroom! We’ve already done all of our bathrooms, but we have a few fireplaces that need new tile. I’d love to try classic subway tiles on those, possibly with a herringbone pattern!ReplyCancel

  • Mel - January 27, 2016 - 2:52 PM

    Wow, the bathroom is looking so great! Tiled walls are always so nice in a bathroom.ReplyCancel

  • Alex M - January 27, 2016 - 2:53 PM

    Looks so good! Great job! Please come do our bathroom. Love the subway tile :)ReplyCancel

  • Megan - January 27, 2016 - 2:57 PM

    I have black hex tile in my master bath… still need to tile the shower. The Manhattan tile would be perfect!ReplyCancel

  • laura - January 27, 2016 - 3:28 PM

    So beautiful! I can’t believe it! You guys made, like a REAL BATHROOM! It’s got me itching to re-do my bathroom.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - January 27, 2016 - 4:12 PM

      Haha, we can hardly believe it ourselves!ReplyCancel

  • Carrie - January 27, 2016 - 3:31 PM

    We are in the process of demoing our bathroom now! I still have yet to order the tile – and I’d love to get the MANHATTAN 4″ X 12″ – SNOW WHITE MATTE too! Beautiful tile :)ReplyCancel

  • Kali - January 27, 2016 - 3:47 PM

    I love your bathroom! Nothing is better than subway and hex tiles. We are about to under go a bathroom reno…on a bathroom I hadn’t hoped to have to redo. But thanks to a leaking shower pan it is now happening. :(ReplyCancel

  • Megan KC - January 27, 2016 - 5:17 PM

    I love your floor tile!! I would have to choose a creamy subway tile – we are in desperate need of a new backsplash in the kitchen!ReplyCancel

  • Amber - January 27, 2016 - 5:19 PM

    This looks fantastic!! I’ve been digging hex tiles lately and I love the border you guys implemented!ReplyCancel

  • jan - January 27, 2016 - 5:37 PM

    I will always love white subway tiles. Timeless.ReplyCancel

  • Jennifer C - January 27, 2016 - 7:18 PM

    I’m a big fan of the white subway tile. I would love to redo our shower with it.ReplyCancel

  • Misie - January 27, 2016 - 8:25 PM

    looks so awesome! The hot and cold graphic on the shower knob – SWOON!ReplyCancel

  • Sarah Matthews - January 28, 2016 - 8:46 AM

    The Manhattan tiles are gorg and I’m torn between the glossy white and the matte you choose. Your project turned out so well and gives me hope that someday I could tile my own (much smaller) master bath. Their wood tile options are also beautiful and I’m dreaming about pulling up the dirty stained linoleum in our kitchen for something like that. Can’t wait to see the rest of your upstairs renovations!ReplyCancel

  • Shannon - January 28, 2016 - 8:58 AM

    Manhattan in Charcoal Glossy would be our pick!ReplyCancel

  • Breenah - January 28, 2016 - 10:44 AM

    I love the 5th Avenue Turquoise Glossy, but I doubt my husband would ever go for it.ReplyCancel

  • Christina @ LoveInAutumn.com - January 28, 2016 - 10:51 AM

    I can’t believe it! We actually have to gut and refinish TWO (!!!) bathrooms in our newly purchase (foreclosure) condo. So many words in that sentence freak me out, but your posts give me reason to move forward!! :) I absolutely LOVE SouthCypress – and would LOVE to purchase and use their tiles…if I HAD to choose, I would get Barlume (Oceano) as THE focal point in the bathroom. I’d tile the entire shower (long-ways, top to bottom), and have a glass shower door so you could really SEE the shower. LOVE that tile!!!ReplyCancel

  • Christina - January 28, 2016 - 11:35 AM

    I’m a classic, subway tile kind of gal :)ReplyCancel

  • Anitra Sweet - January 28, 2016 - 1:59 PM

    Stunning makeover! Would love to win so we can redo our kitchen backsplash!ReplyCancel

  • jen - January 28, 2016 - 4:13 PM

    I love the small hex tiles! Great job on your bathroom—it looking sooooo good!ReplyCancel

  • Nikki - January 28, 2016 - 4:35 PM

    We’re starting our kitchen reno next month! We have our eye on 3×6 matte white subway tile. Your bathroom is coming together beautifully!ReplyCancel

  • Tanja - January 28, 2016 - 9:07 PM

    I am in love with your bathroom. I want to do something very similar in the bathroom we will be renovating this summer.ReplyCancel

  • Erin - January 28, 2016 - 9:10 PM

    My husband and I are just about to start renovating our new place and we have actually been looking for a great white subway tile for our kitchen and bathroom! I would go with the Manhattan snow white matte tile, they’re perfect! Thanks for the giveaway :)ReplyCancel

  • MELISSA ARNOLD - January 28, 2016 - 10:26 PM

    The room is amazing….the work you guys did is phenomenal and so difficult! Kudos!ReplyCancel

  • Danny - January 29, 2016 - 6:33 AM

    The white Manhattan would be exactly what I’d pick!ReplyCancel

  • Meg - January 29, 2016 - 8:00 AM

    Love the wood look tiles, in particular the Saison 6″ x 36″ Tours. Contemplating them for our basement along with in floor heat, but nervous about how much work it would be.

    On a separate topic, is that your final wall color, or is that just a really professionally done coat of primer? I really love how bright that room is, all of a sudden.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - January 29, 2016 - 9:39 AM

      It’s just primer for now, but we are considering a super bright white! We’re torn between a few colors, but I really hope we can figure out something soon.ReplyCancel

  • Alyssa S - January 29, 2016 - 9:27 AM

    I can’t decide so I just had to close my eyes and pick one!

    Urban Hues 3″ x 6″ – Cloud

    Our bathroom is tiny, so keeping it light and bright is my main goal.ReplyCancel

  • Jordan - January 29, 2016 - 11:06 AM

    It looks so lovely so far! Always exciting to redo bathroom tiles – they can really transform a whole room.ReplyCancel

  • alex - January 29, 2016 - 12:57 PM

    i love the manhattan tiles! our bathroom is in need of some love and its not huge, the white tiles would look killer and brighten it up so muchReplyCancel

  • Kara - January 29, 2016 - 10:51 PM

    Beautiful – such a timeless look. Looks pettable! ;)ReplyCancel

  • Tina W - January 30, 2016 - 1:05 AM

    I’m not sure what I want to use it for, but I know I want the Folia Accent Glass in Tamarind SOMEWHERE in my house!ReplyCancel

  • Danielle - January 30, 2016 - 10:39 AM

    Your floor looks gorgeous! I think the next time we re-do a bathroom we’ll do a similar border…although I imagine we’d use the 2 x 2 square tiles only because it’s fewer edges to grout! I especially love the black and white Nero 2×2 tiles on South Cypress.ReplyCancel

  • Rebecca - January 30, 2016 - 1:18 PM

    ewd <— That was from my cat sitting on my keyboard. I didn't think you'd mine.

    As always, beautiful job. I like the Manhatten Silk Matte. Love it!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - January 30, 2016 - 4:14 PM

      You were right, I love it.ReplyCancel

  • sarah r - January 30, 2016 - 1:29 PM

    love the matte black hex tilesReplyCancel

  • Courtney - January 30, 2016 - 10:46 PM

    I love it all! I am so impressed by all of your hard work- you can’t even tell this was a DIY…which is the best part of any DIY project!

    We are currently renovating our bathroom and would LOVE to work with South Cypress during our bathroom reno journey!

    -CourtneyReplyCancel

  • Laura - January 31, 2016 - 3:27 PM

    We just redid our little bath in large matte white tiles like these. We love it! We would love to use South Cypress in our large bathroom remodel!ReplyCancel

  • alex - February 1, 2016 - 10:45 AM

    this would finnnnnalllllly be the kick in the pants we need/ opportunity for us to get going on a bathroom that desperately needs love!ReplyCancel

  • Amy - February 1, 2016 - 4:55 PM

    I love the black floor tile. It’s what I wanted to use in my bathroom remodel but couldn’t afford it. I used white octogon with black diamond accents instead. The local hardware store has them for super cheap and it still looks great. Only thing is you can see more dirt with the white tile. So that is good and bad, at least I clean it more!ReplyCancel

  • Amy - February 1, 2016 - 4:56 PM

    I love the black floor tile. It’s what I wanted to use in my bathroom remodel but couldn’t afford it. I used white octagon with black diamond accents instead. The local hardware store has them for super cheap and it still looks great. Only thing is you can see more dirt with the white tile. So that is good and bad, at least I clean it more!ReplyCancel

  • yasmara - February 11, 2016 - 11:20 AM

    I just ordered my tile! We are re-doing our master bathroom. The shower floor needs to be re-built (it leaks), so we will probably have professionals do the installation, but this wall tile was a fantastic price, even with expensive shipping. I’m just hoping I ordered enough bullnose! I got the manhattan matte snow white. Loved getting the free samples.

    Our house was built in 1966 and as a nod to its mid-century origins, we’re doing a green marble hex on the floor: https://www.tileshop.com/product/biltmore+polished+hex+2+x2+in.do?ecList=10&ecCategory=ReplyCancel

    • Kim - February 11, 2016 - 11:51 AM

      That’s going to look so pretty! Awesome. And we love our snow white color – it’s not too cold, but it’s a pretty, bright white.

      Hooray!ReplyCancel

  • Jen - February 18, 2016 - 1:29 PM

    Quick question, on the eve of our own master bathroom reno: are the grout lines on your subway tile 1/16″ or 1/8″? They look FABULOUS!ReplyCancel

BACK TO TOP

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Today, I want to talk about the super riveting topic of soap shelves! But seriously, have you ever thought about it? Until we really got to tiling, we weren’t super aware of all the things we’d have to think about. Things like outside corners! Inside corners! Bullnose trim! Tile above the baseboards and tile around the tub filler – and shower head and hand held and transfer valve. To be fair, we didn’t just start blindly, but as thoughtful as we were about every decision, I’d be lying if I told you we didn’t cross our fingers more than a few times.

We fell down the internet rabbit hole on a handful of occasions as we debated which way would work best for us on each task, and not surprisingly, there are quite a few methods to do ev-er-y-thing. The trickiest of all the tricky things, though? Those soap shelves. Never again will we take grabbing the shampoo off of a carefully crafted shelf for granted. Never, ever.

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Any tutorials we found online were brief (with little to no illustration), although this one was the most helpful and extensive. Between what we learned with Lisa and the collection of shower shelf photos we’d amassed, we found a happy medium of what worked for us, so if you ever find yourself in a soap-niche-tiling-situation, hopefully this will help you, too!

WHAT WE DID. Needing to keep the subway pattern the same from left to right, we worked (obviously) from left to right. We continued tiling up the wet wall, so that we could continue on to the largest wall – the one with the soap shelves. Once we made it to the right of the soap shelves, we worked backwards from right to left so that we could get as close to each niche as possible. Once we  reached the point where we could no longer avoid them, Scott would hold the next tile up and mark it with a pencil exactly where the cement board ended. We wanted the tile to be as flush as possible with the edge of the shelves.

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We continued working left to right and, again, right to left until we had worked our way around both shelves. Scott made the cuts very carefully on the wet saw, while I mortared each one into place. We were thrilled with how things started shaking out, but I will say that it was a slow process! At a minimum, we were cutting around the shelves for a solid 2 hours, and this doesn’t take into account the inside of each shelf.

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As we tiled between and above the shelves, we used tape to hold them in place so they wouldn’t begin to shift:

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Not wanting to add any weight to the more delicate pieces while the mortar was fresh, we spent the next few hours working on the bullnose trim around the tub. It was so, so important to level every trim piece, ensuring that the tiles stayed aligned as we built them up.

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Once we had our bullnose borders in place, we went back to the shelves, double checking that the mortar had hardened enough to continue building upon the cut tile. Because we are so slooow, we got the green light to move forward! Scott and I finished tiling to the ceiling in the shower before moving on to the inside of the shelves:

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Above, you’ll see the remnants of each cut tile that surrounds the shelves. As each cut was made, we saved what was left and laid them out in the same continuous pattern. To be honest, we weren’t sure if this would work, but omg we are so happy it did! The remaining tile pieces fit perfectly in the back of the corresponding shelf, eliminating any disruption to the pattern!

With the back of the shelves in place, we moved on to the top, bottom and sides. Each shelf is about 13″ wide by a foot tall, and our tiles are 4″ x 12.” We didn’t want grout lines where any toiletries would sit, so we picked up 4″ x 16″ bullnose tiles with the bullnose along the 16″ side.

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We measured each side of each shelf individually – both length and depth – and we gave the longer tiles a mitered edge where they meet. When installing the bottom tile, I applied additional mortar to the back so that there would be a slight (indiscernible) slope forward, which would keep water from pooling around bottles and settling into the edges. Once grouted, I was a little bummed to see that some parts of the bullnose were still visible – that teeny, tiny edge of orange ceramic. But! I taped around the tiles, applied a bead of caulk, and all was forgiven:

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You can see that we did finish the grout like we hoped, and over the weekend, Scott installed the shower plumbing fixtures, while I finished caulking and touching up the baseboards. I say things like installed the shower fixtures and caulking and touching up like it’s no big deal, but my goodness, it is a big deal! We caulked, spackled, painted, touched up and plumbed for a good 10 hours, but you guys, it’s finally starting to look like a usable bathroom!

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A full reveal on the bathroom tile (plus a few things we learned along the way) is coming later this week – and we’re throwing in a giveaway to celebrate. Hooray!

Sources: Subway tile: Storka Manhattan Snow White Matte 4″ x 12″ // Bullnose tile: Storka Manhattan Snow White Matte 4″x12″, 4″ x 16″  // grout: Polyblend non-sanded Platinum // caulk: Platinum unsanded Color Fast caulk

  • Sara - January 26, 2016 - 9:28 AM

    Your niches are beautiful and you did a fabulous, super-meticulous job – as usual :) Having read about your projects for awhile now, I am 100% sure that you considered all of the alternatives for tiling the tub/shower. I’m curious why you decided not to use RedGuard or Kerdi or some other form of waterproofing membrane under the tile? Thanks for the inspiration, as always :)ReplyCancel

    • Kim - January 26, 2016 - 9:47 AM

      Hi Sara – thank you! We got some similar questions on the last tiling post, but after speaking with our contractor, he insisted that RedGuard isn’t needed in our case, but it would be necessary if we were, say, tiling the shower floor. Because we have a bathtub, there won’t be any water settling onto the surface of the floor that can start seeping into the walls/floor/drywall/Durock. But I definitely recommend anyone to check with their contractor before tiling!ReplyCancel

  • Arli - January 26, 2016 - 9:42 AM

    Looks GORGEOUS!ReplyCancel

  • Kate S. - January 26, 2016 - 9:43 AM

    You really did a beautiful job! I love the light grout color you chose. It’s just enough contrast.ReplyCancel

  • Stacy - January 26, 2016 - 10:29 AM

    Did you do anything to figure out where on the wall the niches would sit (vertically) so you didn’t have any weird tile slivers surrounding them? I want to add niches when I redo my tub surround, but I have nightmares about having to cut a tile down to 1/10th its size to make it fit around the hole in the wall and then having a meltdown when it inevitably shatters every time I try.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - January 26, 2016 - 10:42 AM

      Stacy, YES! Oh my goodness, I literally had nightmares about tiling these shelves leading up to the Big Day. Our contractor had them high enough so that we’d have 4 full tiles leading up to them, but that would mean we’d need a full tile resting on the tub. You’ll notice that we only have a partial tile sitting on the tub, because we chose to have the full tile sitting on top of the baseboards… which lead to a 2/3 tile on the tub.

      And then to prevent a sliver in between the shelves, you’ll notice in the second photo of this post that we added a couple extra layers of cement board. This allowed the tile above the bottom soap shelf from being a sliver – which it sounds like you are worried about.

      SO MUCH TO THINK ABOUT. I got traumatized just typing that out! My advice is: think about where you want the the tile to start, taking into consideration everything from the tub to the baseboards to the bottom of your soap shelf to the SIZE of your tile. It all matters. Now that we’ve survived, it has all been worth it!ReplyCancel

  • susan - January 26, 2016 - 10:30 AM

    Wow. That is exhausting just reading about it! Y’all did a fantastic job.ReplyCancel

  • Julia [Chris Loves Julia] - January 26, 2016 - 10:45 AM

    This looks so very intense and absolutely perfect.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - January 26, 2016 - 10:56 AM

      The tiling job (not the final caulking) was finished the evening before we got to play in the cold together (haha). You can see now why I was so relaxed and happy to be there with you!ReplyCancel

  • Jeff - January 26, 2016 - 11:05 AM

    I am looking at using the same tile (floor and wall for my master bath). Will you be posting a photo of the wall tile against the balck hex soon??? :)

    Everything looks great so far!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - January 26, 2016 - 11:26 AM

      We will, we will! I’m taking photos today for a post this week! Stay tuned, because there’s a giveaway component (and some discounts!) as well…ReplyCancel

  • Kathy - January 26, 2016 - 11:45 AM

    This looks amazing and I KNOW, having just upgraded my kitchen by myself last year, how every inch and possibility is considered before jumping in. It IS exhausting to think about, but it’s true…you never look at these things the same again.

    Is there a reason why you didn’t choose a different tile style/pattern for the back of the soap shelves? I’m just thinking the contrast would have been very nice with all that white.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - January 26, 2016 - 11:53 AM

      Thanks, Kathy! We considered a different pattern for a minute – but because our tiles are so large and the shelves aren’t huge, we didn’t feel like there was enough space for a pattern to fully show. For example, a herringbone wouldn’t have had the space to shine! We even considered just buying a large sheet of white tile to fill the back, but in the end, we decided to match the pattern seamlessly.ReplyCancel

  • Kaylin - January 26, 2016 - 1:30 PM

    Wow, opened up my RSS feeds and it was like looking in the mirror – this is EXACTLY how my husband and I did our shower. Needless to say, I approve of your design choice XDReplyCancel

  • Katie - January 26, 2016 - 1:32 PM

    I did a similar soap niche in our bathroom remodel and I didn’t think ahead at all about the placement of the niche and how the tile ran. Luckily our contractor did. He dry fitted all the tiles and added the niche where it would line up exactly with the bottom and top of the tile. Glad he thought to do that because all that measuring and trimming sounds rage-inducing. Glad you muscled through it because the result is really lovely!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - January 27, 2016 - 9:03 AM

      Hooray for awesome contractors!!ReplyCancel

  • Dani @ Danielle and Co. - January 26, 2016 - 3:18 PM

    It sounds like SUCH hard work, but it really does look so amazing! I think if I am ever having a shower surround tiled, I might have to hire it out, though… it sounds so intense!ReplyCancel

  • Vanessa - January 26, 2016 - 9:19 PM

    I got tense just reading that! You are an artist and that helps you do such wonderful work. Is Scott an artist too? You should be very pleased with that!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - January 27, 2016 - 9:02 AM

      Thanks, Vanessa, that’s so sweet. Scott is not an artist 9-5, but he is one of the most imaginative people I know! (You should see his robot drawings :) )ReplyCancel

  • Allyson - January 27, 2016 - 5:36 PM

    Wow, they look awesome – really impressed, this looks like pros did it!ReplyCancel

  • Katherine Mitchell - February 11, 2016 - 2:04 PM

    I love this bathroom. It looks awesome. I was just wondering where you got all your hardware for your shower/bath!! ThanksReplyCancel

    • Kim - February 11, 2016 - 2:15 PM

      Every last piece is from Kohler! :)ReplyCancel

BACK TO TOP

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With the floor tile checked off the bathroom list, we wasted no time moving to the wall! Eager to get our plumbing fixtures in place, it only makes sense to do so after all the tiling is so complete; the thought of grouting behind a toilet is our idea of a terrible, horrible time.

THE NIGHT BEFORE. We applied a thick line of silicone caulk along the tub, using painter’s tape to keep things mess free. Tip: Dipping your finger in water before smoothing the caulk will prevent it from sticking to you, and your results will be cleaner. 

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DAY ONE. We rolled out sheets of rosin paper to protect the new floor tile, and we firmed up that all of our ledger boards were, in fact, perfectly level. This was super important, since we’d be starting at the base of the room and building up from there (more on that in a second). A small amount off, and our tiles would slowly shift downhill – not good!

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By far, the hardest part was doing ALL the math before getting started. Ugh, the math! Because we were starting 100% fresh in this room, we even took into account the baseboards we’d be installing. We measured and re-measured every wall, we weighed the pros and cons of starting with the tub line or the baseboard line, and we played out every scenario – good and bad – depending on which wall we started on. (Did this keep me awake at night? Yes!)

You might remember that we chose 4 x 12 matte white subway tile from the South Cypress Storka line. We waned something larger to play with the smaller hex we chose for the floor, and I think the 4″ height provided a little more give no matter where we started – but again, we purposely chose (5″) baseboards that would align the best with the tile and the tub height. All this to say, there was no accidental planning – everything was thought to death. Ultimately, we realized that we could – thank goodness! – work left to right, with a full tile as the base. This would leave an almost 3″ height around the base of the tub, which we were happy with.

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You’ll notice that we haven’t been using spacers – another decision we weighed for, oh, far too long. Our contractor told us that we didn’t need them, since the tiles had slightly rounded edges and the teeniest, tiniest bump out on every side. The manufacturer, on the other hand, recommended an 1/8″ spacer, which we were hoping to bypass. Personally, we love a small grout line, so I asked my friend Daniel – who better! – what he thought, and he promised me that we could skip the spacers. The grout line would appear larger than you see in these photos, since it will also sit in the easement on the edges of each tile. So, sold! Less work, and small grout lines. Win, win.

By the end of day one, we had finished only the smallest wall to the right of the door and most of the vanity wall. It was this outside corner that gave us fits:

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DAY TWO. We started fresh on the second day by first focusing on this corner. We Googled and YouTubed every possible solution for an outside corner, and you know what? There are no less a hundred ways to do it! In the end, we decided to miter the corner – leaving only a small space for grout or caulk – and although it took us a good hour (or two?) just to do this corner, it looks pretty good! By no means is it perfect (perfect from far?), but a mix of exhaustion and time spent had us calling it ‘done’ and moving on.

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Because we were dealing with so many tricky cuts around the plumbing, wall corners (inside and out) and the windowsill, I found it was almost easier and less stressful to back butter my individual tiles before applying them to the wall. When we were lucky enough to have a huge chunk of bare wall, I’d mortar a large area, but more often that not, that wasn’t the case! By mortaring each tile, I wasn’t worried about dry cement on the walls while we double checked math and worked on the wet saw. (I also kept a trash bag on my bucket of mortar to keep it going longer!)

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Speaking of tricky cuts, we had some intricate details that Scott would carefully draw out and cut with the wet saw. Finishing caulk will fill in the gaps, but I was impressed with how close he was able to get!

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We chose to stop at a 4′ height around the room, capped by bullnose tiles. We debated a black pencil liner (like Dana’s bathroom), but we nixed it to keep the focus on the hex border we spent for-ev-er working on. By the end of day two, we finished the vanity, toilet and window walls. Hooray! It. Was. Exhausting. Our marriage survived, so I guess that’s all we can ask for. (Ha!)

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The shower tiling – which will go tub to ceiling – has only begun. We got the first row down and level (with spacers to leave room for caulk), and once we get past the soap shelves (I can’t say niche anymore, it’s too odd coming out of my mouth), it should be easy – I say as a I knock on wood!

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We’re waiting on some extra bullnose pieces, and fingers crossed they’ll arrive by tomorrow. Our goal is to finish tiling Saturday so we can grout on Sunday. Also on our ambitious Sunday list? Putting up the baseboards! And caulking! We will see, but I think we can do it!

  • Carrie - January 14, 2016 - 8:14 AM

    Looks AHHHHMAZING! Well done, and I love that you skipped the spacers. That ultra thin grout line is perfection! Can’t wait to see it all come together :)ReplyCancel

  • allison - January 14, 2016 - 8:29 AM

    Looking awesome guys! you are kicking it! one question- why did you decide to have do baseboards and not tile to the floor? I cant wait to see it all grouted!! wahooo!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - February 9, 2016 - 2:50 PM

      The tile we chose didn’t have a base tile option, and we were fine going either way – so baseboards it is!ReplyCancel

  • mandy - January 14, 2016 - 9:05 AM

    Beautiful! Actually I’m planning black hex tiles and large white subway tiles for my bathroom reno too. So this just confirms my suspicions that it will be gorgeous!

    Question: what are your thoughts on the white vs. black grout debate?ReplyCancel

    • Kim - January 14, 2016 - 9:31 AM

      We have been so torn on the grout! I wanted to go with a clean white because I think it just looks fresh and pretty, but Scott wanted something a bit more dark. The darker you go, I think the more imperfections will show up on cut tiles (especially), but the lighter you go, I fear that keeping the shower clean will be tough!

      In the end, I think we’re going with a super soft gray like what we did in the kitchen. We bought 2 colors of grout (Platinum and Delorean Gray from Home Depot), and I think it will be a game time decision. We have been torn on this for a while!ReplyCancel

  • Sarah - January 14, 2016 - 9:19 AM

    How come you didn’t use Red Guard or something similar around the tub area?? As someone who just came out of a renovation due to mold I’m extra careful, but I also thought it was standard.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - January 14, 2016 - 9:34 AM

      Hi Sarah – I haven’t heard of Red Guard until you just mentioned it. I spoke with our contractor and asked him multiple times what the next steps were for tiling the shower (we trust him wholeheartedly and have loved working with him!), and he said we could simply tile on top of the Durock. I did some quick searches online and I see mixed reviews on whether or not Red Guard is necessary – some say absolutely, others say not! Hmm. I suppose it never hurts to add it though! An extra barrier against water is always a good thing.ReplyCancel

  • ten - January 14, 2016 - 10:14 AM

    This is looking good so far! I’m excited to see the finished product. Nice work!

    Do you guys own the tool to cut tile? Or did you rent it from somewhere? I’m looking to DIY a tiled kitchen backslash in the near future.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - January 14, 2016 - 10:23 AM

      We got our wet saw off of Craigslist! When we’re done with it, we’ll probably pass it along – Craigslist style – again.ReplyCancel

  • Alison @ Deuce Cities Henhouse - January 14, 2016 - 12:05 PM

    Holy cow, guys! I can not even believe your mitered tile corners – they look kind of perfect to me. Someday I’ll have to tile my bathroom and I will for sure be revisiting all of your tile posts before I do a thing. Keep at it! It’s gonna be amazing when you’re done!ReplyCancel

  • Amanda - January 14, 2016 - 1:06 PM

    I just finished tiling my bathroom and am waiting to connect the faucet/tub drain. Can you go into how you guys do that? I am apprehensive about doing it and I love your step by step pictures!

    Thanks!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - January 14, 2016 - 6:57 PM

      Hi Amanda! Do you mean how to install the finish pieces (the actual faucet and drain) or the behind-the-wall connection?ReplyCancel

      • Amanda - January 27, 2016 - 2:05 PM

        Hi Kim, sorry just saw you responded. I meant the actually behind the wall drain connection. Thanks!ReplyCancel

        • Kim - January 27, 2016 - 2:11 PM

          Hi Amanda, that part of the job was actually completed by our contractor before we tiled. I’m sorry we couldn’t be of more help! I will say that YouTube tutorials are our best friend in times like this though. :)ReplyCancel

  • SLG - January 14, 2016 - 5:17 PM

    This looks so beautiful! I’m now reconsidering my plan to do 3×6 subway tile and wondering if I should do 4×12 instead.

    I know this isn’t the topic of this post, but do you mind sharing which bathtub you used? I’m about to renovate an upstairs bathroom and have seen so much conflicting info on cast iron vs. fiberglass, weight requirements, water depth, etc. Would love to know where you guys landed.ReplyCancel

  • Josh | The Kentucky Gent - January 15, 2016 - 9:45 AM

    The tile looks great! Y’all have SO much more patience than I.

    Josh | The Kentucky Gent
    http://thekentuckygent.comReplyCancel

  • Dani @ Danielle and Co. - January 15, 2016 - 9:49 AM

    I am so impressed with your tiling skills! I’m so nervous to tile for the first time – it’s nice to read a realistic portrayal of how hard the work is, but that it also sounds doable. I love the contrast between your floor and wall tile choices, too!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - January 15, 2016 - 10:09 AM

      I think as long as you set yourself up to know that tiling doesn’t happen in a day! For us, it’s 3 (LONG) days minimum, but this wall tile will easily go into 4 day – plus a few weeknights, maybe? We are excited to get it done, because we know the results will be worth the hard work! (Something we remind ourselves when we start to get moody about our slow progress.)ReplyCancel

  • Cara - January 18, 2016 - 7:31 AM

    This space is going to be beautiful!! I love everything you guys do and you have certainly inspired my own home’s look:) Question, which tile color did you get? Silk Matte or Snow White Matte? I’m going to get a sample for our kitchen. We are going with the Ikea Laxarby lowers with a full wall of tile on the hood wall (think: Chris Loves Julia) Do you think this will look good??ReplyCancel

    • Kim - January 18, 2016 - 8:18 AM

      YES! They would look fantastic. We got the Snow White Matte. :)ReplyCancel

  • Erin - January 19, 2016 - 12:41 PM

    oh, I see someone above mentioned Redguard. I know it would super duper stink to have to take out the tile above the tub that you’ve already done, but I would do it if I were you.

    The previous owners in our house had a shower done with tile over cement board, and it slowly leaked which we didn’t discover til it started coming through our dining room ceiling below. It was thousands of dollars to redo the shower, and we even had to redo some of the hardwood flooring in our bedroom because of rot from water seeping under the floors.

    Ours was particularly bad because there was a bench in the shower (so a horizontal surface) with nothing but cement board under the tile, but it leaked at more places than just the bench. I would be so nervous at risking all your hard work. If you haven’t tiled the soap shelves yet, I would Redguard them even if you don’t do the walls, b/c the flat bottom is prime leakage territory. =( It looks gorgeous!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - January 21, 2016 - 9:30 AM

      Thanks for the input, Erin! We did end up doing more research on RedGuard and spoke with our contractor again, and we agree that it would be necessary for a tiled shower floor and bench. Because we have a bathtub, there won’t be any water settling onto the surface of the floor that can start seeping into the walls/floor/drywall/Durock. But I definitely recommend anyone reading these comments to check with their contractor before tiling!ReplyCancel

  • Lindy Brewer - January 27, 2016 - 9:53 AM

    You guys are my heroes! Your attention to detail is perfection. We did not tread the DIY tiling waters in the past, but maybe in the future we’ll feel more brave.

    And I love your dog portraits. I’ll be ordering some day 😄 Love your blog, thanks for the inspirationReplyCancel

    • Kim - January 27, 2016 - 10:16 AM

      So sweet, thank you, Lindy! I’d love to work with you on some paintings! :)ReplyCancel

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