Around the House: We have tile!!

The amount of excitement I feel about finally being able to write this post is overwhelming. Let’s look back at the guest bathroom a few weeks ago:

Remember the musty, moldy carpet we’d been embarrassingly living with for three years? (If you don’t, you can click here to see the bathroom when we moved in and how it’s been since then. Since then, we’ve painted the vanity, painted the walls, added some hardware and wall art, and updated the countertop.)

Even though this post is about removing the carpet, it still haunts my nightmares. I knew when we bought a fixer-upper that it wouldn’t be an overnight whole house reno. I knew it would take years of work and saving to get it whipped into shape. This floor was one project that we’d been waiting a long time on and it is so rewarding to finally cross it off our list. It is also the biggest DIY project we’ve done on our own thus far, and that feels pretty awesome too.

I won’t make you wait for the reveal. Here’s some instant gratification. Before and after:

Now for how we got there. Let’s just say it wasn’t quite as instant, but it was definitely worth every second of work. And there were a lot of seconds. And sweat. And cringing. The whole process took three days of solid work.

Day one: We started by removing the toilet, cutting the carpet with a box cutter across the door threshold, and removing it and the padding below. Straight to the curb for trash day! What we found wasn’t pretty. It was pretty much exactly what I expected. Disgusting.

I bleached the shiz out of that subfloor and we scraped and scrubbed every corner clean wearing masks and gloves for safety and quickly disposing of everything suspicious looking. It was probably the grossest thing ever. Please do not put carpet in a bathroom. And if you do, please please do not install it directly over plywood with no waterproofing or protection of any kind. Here is before and after the cleanup:

Cleaning up the mold and mess was by far the worst part of this project. Once we had carefully done that, it was smooth sailing.

Fast forward to after the cleanup. Those darker spots above are still a little wet from the bleach, but rest assured that we let it all dry out before moving on. Then we measured and cut cement board to fit the space. The type we used is called Hardie Backer and was recommended by the professional tilers we talked to and by Lowes. It is water and moisture resistant and provides a more stable base than plywood, which prevents cracks in tiles. All reasons it is standard for use under tile.

Day two: Some sources say you can screw cement board directly to your subfloor. Some recommend securing it with thinset mortar first. We chose to use mortar under the cement board, both for added stability and to help seal the previously water damaged subfloor in our bathroom. While Brett was mixing it up, I quickly painted the trim in the bathroom a nice crisp white. Much better.

We spread it on using a 1/4 inch trowel and then set the cement board on top and screwed it down using special screws (which you can buy right next to the cement board at the hardware store- oh and this is the same thinset mortar we used to set the tile too).

We let that dry for a little while, but since the boards were secured with screws, we weren’t too concerned with shifting, so we went ahead setting the tile! Woo hoo! First I used a notched trowel to spread thinset onto the cement board floor.

And since we were using larger tiles, I spread a little on the back of each tile too. It’s called back-buttering. I made sure to use this phrase as many times as possible in front of Brett so I looked knowledgeable. But I would highly recommend my good friend YouTube if you need more detailed step by step on any of this process.

We got all our full tiles in first (we had laid them out dry ahead of time so we knew where we wanted them) and then measured the rest for cuts and took them back to Lowes. They will cut tiles for you in the store for 25 cents a cut (or sometimes for free) and we ended up getting all ours cut for $3.50. Not too shabby.

Here’s the floor with all the tiles in:

We chose a beautiful slate tile and used 1/4″ spacers which our Lowes dude said was standard for our size tile. Oh and we went with an offset pattern for the tile. At this point, I was pretty much ecstatic with the way it was looking. So exciting!! But we had to wait a day for everything to set up before we could apply the grout. (That night it was baths for everyone!)

Day three: We started by cleaning up the floor with the vacuum just to make sure there was nothing to get in the way. Then we mixed up the grout.

I used a grout float to spread it over the tiles, holding it at a 45 angle and scraping off as much extra as possible while working to get it down in each gap.

I started in the back corner and worked my way out of the room. The I let it set for about 10 minutes before coming back with a wet sponge and bucket of water to clean some of the extra grout off the tiles.

Another 15 min break and I cleaned it up one more time. Then I let everything dry for a while more and a few hours later I started buffing off the film that was still on the tile with a clean dry rag.

And that left us with this:

In love! I can’t even describe it. Here’s the before and after again:

We still have to caulk around the bathtub, clean up the threshold where the tile meets carpet, and pick up some special cleaner to get the last of the grout glaze off the tiles but I am so so happy with how it turned out and proud of us for doing it on our own.

I should mention that at the beginning of this project, we did not plan to install our own tile. We actually did get a quote for having the tile installed an were floored (no pun intended) by the cost of labor. By installing it ourselves, we saved over $350. Well worth it in my book.

Oh we still have to hook the toilet back up too. Right now it’s in the bathroom, waiting on us with a nice big out of order sign on it. Classy. We actually did start installing it only to discover that the water line pipe thingy (technical term) is slightly too short since the floor is now just a hair higher than before. It will be taken care of soon.

As for the rest of the room, we still have a few things to finish up, but it’s coming together! Stay tuned!



  • Jamison Hiner

    Looks great!

  • Ashlee

    Kyle would be proud of you!

  • Ashley@DesignBuildLove

    That seriously looks absolutely amazing!!!! What a huge transformation! And I putting the tile in an offset pattern totally classes things up! Same with doing it on a diagonal. It just adds that “something extra!”b

    Oh yes, and carpet in a bathroom… yuck! We have it too, but thank goodness its not in the toilet area! Regardless, I’m about to the point of ripping it out and living on the concrete subfloor!!!! You guys are really inspiring me to do this!


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