By Lynn Hopkins
alk into a tile showroom, and you may be overwhelmed by the sheer
number of colors, materials, finishes, and sizes available. The best way to keep your wits about you is to develop a strategy beforehand for the style of bathroom you plan to create. This plan will help to guide tile selection and installation. Before going to the store, think about the character of your new bath. Are you interested in a traditional bathroom with historical references, something with fixtures and finishes that remind you of an earlier time? Or are you dreaming of something more sleek and modern? Regardless of the style of bathroom you choose, designing a tile installation requires forethought. The accompanying drawings illustrate key areas to consider when developing a tile design and show how the traditional or modern character of the room might influence tile selection and layout. As part of the planning process, I recommend making detailed drawings that show which tiles go where on both the floor and the walls. An accurate, scaled sketch of a section of wall and floor, plus any special corner conditions, makes it much easier to order, lay out, and correctly install the tile.
Start by Planning the Walls
There are three standard heights to consider when tiling a bathroom wall: wainscot height, shower height, and full-wall height. You may use one, two, or all three of these heights in a single bathroom, depending on the look you are trying to achieve and on your budget. Because tiled walls are more expensive than wallboard, tile often is used only where it is needed most: on the lower portion of the wall that requires water protection. This wainscot is usually between 36 in. and 42 in. tall, enough to provide a backsplash of 4 in. or so above the sink. Tile protects the walls below towel bars from wet towels, and the walls around the toilet from the spray of rambunctious kids. Tiling to wainscot height may be adequate protection around tubs without showers as most splashes occur below this line. In a shower area, however, all enclosure walls should be tiled high enough to protect the walls from water spray, at least 72 in. and preferably to the ceiling.
Details for a Traditional Bathroom
3-in. by 6-in. brick tiles 1-in. by 6-in. color band Fixtures are centered on tile layout. 1
Shower enclosure is tiled to at least 72 in.
At least 4 in. 36 in. to 42 in. Bullnose tiles
Border tiles define limits of the room.
6-in. by 6-in. tiles
1. TURNING CORNERS Profiled edge tiles
2. INSIDE CORNERS
A bathroom with traditional characteristics has plumbing fixtures that take their styling cues from an earlier era, generally the 1920s or 1930s. The tile should reinforce these historical references. Small wall tiles, such as 3 in. by 6 in., 4 in. by 4 in., and even smaller mosaics, were typical in the old days, in part because the adhesive available could not support tiles that were much larger and heavier than 6 in. sq. Traditional styles often celebrate the edges where tile meets wall or where wall meets floor with a border or fancy molding profile. Borders run around the perimeter of the floor and/or walls, defining the limits of the room.
Choose the Right Tile
Tiles finished on only the front face are called field tiles. When installed, they are butted next to each other with grout filling the spaces in between. Wherever wall tile stops short of the ceiling, field tiles should not be installed on the top row because the raw, unfinished edge of the tiles will be exposed. For these locations, use tile with at least one finished edge. Typically, the finished edge is a rounded bullnose shape that makes an elegant transition from tile to wall surface. In bathrooms with traditional styling, this transitional edge frequently is celebrated with a decorative border that intro-
duces a band of color, a pattern, a...