Our First Tile Job

That’s right – we’ve officially tackled our first tiling project.

But, uh, don’t get excited.

You see, it wasn’t a fun tiling job – we kind of had to do it. Why?  Because I one night when I was taking a shower, this happened:

Need a closer look?

Yeeeeeeah. Oops?

After having Corey reassure me that it was a problem with the shower and I hadn’t just been eating too many cookies lately, we did some investigating. Turns out, there was a small leak in the grout near the top of this half wall and whoever built this house way back in 1986 decided that cement board wasn’t necessary – the tile was was attached directly to drywall.

Yes, drywall.

And once we started pulling tiles off, we saw that the water had done more than just make the wall collapse – we had some fun mold to deal with too.

After doing some research to reassure ourselves that mold isn’t quite as scary as everyone wants you to believe (it’s definitely not good to have, but it’s surprisingly easy to get rid of) we got to work ripping the wall out.

After all of the tile and drywall was down (we had to remove the entire half wall, because the drywall was compromised throughout the whole thing), Corey sprayed it down with a mixture of bleach and water and soon enough it was nice and clean and ready to be fixed.

Now, if we were actually planning on this project being here for the long haul, we would have done a lot more work here – we would have replaced that top board that isn’t looking so hot, and we would have went ahead and taken apart the rest of the shower, since it’s probably just drywall as well.

However, we have plans to rip this whole shower apart within the next few years (the bathroom has obviously moved up on our priority list after this!) and it seemed silly to take a ton of time to do a perfect job when we’re just going to be taking it all back down as soon as we get the chance. So, we decided to just get the shower back in working condition until we save up the money to give the whole thing an overhaul.

My dad came over this weekend to help us out with the project (we’ve never done anything structural like this, so we wanted a little guidance our first time) and it didn’t take long before our shower started to look like a shower again.

The project was surprisingly simple – we just attached some cement board to the wall and tiled right on top of it! Since neither of us have any experience in tiling and had no clue what we were doing, my dad did a couple of rows for us before letting us try it out on our own.

Then, Corey and I both took a turn – I was pleased to discover that tiling really is almost as easy as it looks on television. The only tricky part is making them line up correctly – we didn’t use spacers because we didn’t really care if the job was perfect, but we would have if this had been for a long-term tile job.

Just a couple of hours after we got started, we had a tiled wall! It’s (far, far) less than perfect, but it will get the job done. This particular wall was difficult, because in order to do a really good job on it, we would have needed to remove the glass doors and the tile on the rest of the wall and start from scratch. It’s hard to explain but it was impossible to have all the tile line up correctly without taking the whole shower apart. We weren’t willing to spend that much extra time and money, though, so we can deal with a less-than-perfect shower for now

We let the tiles set for about 48 hours before adding the grout and the sealer, and we finally have a working shower again!

(I promise the tile is white – I took this photo at night so the coloring is off!)

Corey still needs to caulk the shower, so hopefully tomorrow or Friday I’ll be able to take a shower in my own bathroom again!

This was definitely not a pretty or exciting project, but it was one of those projects that just had to be done. This was definitely one of those things that reminds you why being a homeowner isn’t always quite as easy as renting, but I feel pretty proud of us for handling it without calling in a pro, and it felt so nice to be able to fix a problem in our home ourselves, rather than waiting for a landlord to call a repairman!

And now, let’s hope that the next time we have to tackle a job like this it will be on our own terms and not because a wall caved in on me again!

Have you ever had a wall cave in on you before? Tackled any of those not-fun-but-totally-necessary project lately?

13 thoughts on “Our First Tile Job

  1. Ahh!! That’s kind of overwhelming to have to deal with, but it’s awesome that you had your dad to give you a little help. I hope this temporary fix does the job until you guys can do what you want with the bathroom!


  2. It stinks that it wasn’t a planned project, but I think you guys did a good job! I always like to think that tiling would be easy when I watch it on tv, but then I like to think everything is easier on tv.


  3. This turned out well- and I think it makes total sense to do a quick fix job and then do the long haul/heavy work in a few years when you re-do the whole thing!


  4. This post gave me flashbacks to Thanksgiving! My Aunt, a Ms. Fix-it Extraordinaire, decided she’d tackle this little weak spot in Mom’s wall before heading back north. That little weak spot from a little leak some time ago ended in pulling one wall down to siding (you could see the inside of the outside from the inside–eery!–replacing studs, insulation, the front door and drywall (and some rewiring while she was at it).

    Surprisingly, for all the chaos (and the black mold that was in there–ick!) it was a fun family project and my aunt was happy as a clam to have had us “kids” helping her out over the weekend.


  5. Oh man, mold is the worst! We have the same thing going on in our bathroom, but the wall is still standing, thank goodness. Good job tackling your first tile project, way to get ‘er done!


  6. It looks really good! Just a quick question, since it’s in a wet area, do you need to put anything between the hardibacker and the tile? Or between the wall and the hardibacker? Does it matter?


    Corey Reply:

    The hardibacker is in place of the wall. It acts as a mold/mildew resistant and water resistant barrier. So if a leak were to occur again it would simply make the tiles loose, but the walls would remain structurally sound.


  7. leaks are no fun, but looks liek you did a great job fixing it! We’re planning on doing our first tile job when we renovate our bathroom- hopefully in the spring or summer.


  8. Uh oh, i see a bucket of premixed mortar in your pics. That will soften up in time and tiles will fall off the wall no matter how much grout or caulk you use to seal gaps. Water still penetrates the tightest of tiling jobs, hence the necessity of cement board. If you use a portland dry powder cement based thinset you can soak the wall in water all day and night, leaks are irrelevant, the tile will never fail.


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