Tag Archives: bathroom

Step 10: Bathroom wall grouting

I alluded in the floor grouting post that using epoxy grout over cementitious grout is a big investment. But it comes with benefits. Its stain resistance, hardness, and durability make epoxy grout an excellent choice for wet area applications such as kitchen counters, backsplashes, floors, and other heavy-traffic areas.

We used the epoxy grout for the bathroom floor, and I intended to also use it for the walls – at least some of them.

Because the epoxy grout is such an investment, we decided to limit its application to wet areas, i.e. those walls that are most frequently exposed to water, specifically the shower stall and the sink backsplash.

Here are a couple of tips we can share if you decide to use epoxy grout:

Purchase small batches. The risk of running out of time with a small batch is less than with a larger batch. And you can always complete the job in sections.

Or, if you do purchase a large batch like I did, have enough helping hands to get the job done in time (Thank you Rubani and Cathy!). And if you run out of material, you can get an additional small batch to finish the job, just like we did.

Before finishing the job with a final batch, let everything cure for a day or so and go over your job with a fine tooth comb looking for imperfections. Mark them and touch them up with the final batch.

This is more of an issue on vertical applications (wall grouting) than floor grouting. You are working fast and unlike with floor grouting, you don’t always get a good look at the grout lines, which makes small imperfections almost inevitable.

Put protective covers on the floor (we used cardboard) to catch the inevitable dropped blobs of grout. This way you don’t tread them into the tiled floor and you will have less to clean up, which saves you precious time.

Invest in a couple of good rubber floats. These are specified for epoxy grout and assure a speedy installation.

Make sure you familiarize yourself thoroughly with the clean up instructions and have all the clean up equipment ready before you start mixing the components. If you don’t get the clean up done within the specified working time window, you may be left with a permanent haze from the epoxy residue on your tiles.

And with this last step I can conclude the series of blog posts on bathroom remodeling that started with “The risky bathroom”. I hope you enjoyed the read and found  some useful information.

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Step 9: Bathroom wall tiles

Plumb and square in an old house like ours is a rare find. And there are no gray areas, like almost plumb or almost square. That can make working with materials like wall tiles tricky.

I didn’t have the luxury to just start with the bottom row of wall tiles and keep going. The first row was the most critical one: the one that had to be perfectly level.

I took care of that first row during the floor tile installation to give it enough time to cure before I installed any other wall tiles above it. I marked a level line on the wall and aligned the top edge of the tiles with it. The grout line between the bottom edge of the tiles and the corner profile has slightly varying widths, but it is very hard to notice as it is almost at floor level.

It looks like I used full sized tiles along the vertical corners, which was not the case. I had marked a perfectly vertical line along the corners that was a little short of the tile width. This allowed me to cut a fraction of an inch off the tiles where needed to adjust for imperfections along the vertical corners.

All other tiles that got filled in between the bottom row and corners were a whole lot more straightforward to install. Your typical tile spacers made the job easy and assured that all grout lines remained plumb and level.

I had another waterproofing aspect that I needed to address, namely the shower valve and shower spout. These are two breaches in the waterproofing membrane plane that are worth paying attention to. This is fairly easy as there are various products out there to do just that job.


Typical products that seal around the shower valve have a round piece of waterproofing membrane with an integrated rubberized gasket that fits snugly onto the plaster ground. The seal is adhered to the already installed waterproofing membrane with thinset, thus minimizing the risk of leakage.

The same applies to the shower spout, except that it has a smaller gasket.

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Step 8: Bathroom floor grouting

Keeping grout lines in the wet areas of your tiled bathroom clean is a never ending chore. And corners are the worst. But we solved that problem by using easy-to-clean corner profiles.

We still have all the other grout lines to contend with, which got me thinking about the installation details, subsequent maintenance, and longevity aspects.

The most common product used these days is cementitious grout. It is economic and easy to install. But it is porous, and needs sealing after the installation. And in most cases, it is recommended to re-seal the grout lines at certain time intervals. Even once sealed, cementitious grout is apparently still prone to staining.

My research on solving that problem led me to something called epoxy grout.

According to the product literature, it “never needs sealing” and is “tough, durable, and crack resistant.” The Tile Council of North America describes epoxy grout as “nearly stain proof” and often with a bond strength that “is stronger than the tile itself.”

It appeared that I could solve durability and maintenance issues by switching from cementitious to epoxy grout.

But as always, there is a catch:

Epoxy grout is not cheap. Compared to cementitious grout, it is a big investment. And on the installation side, you need to know what you are doing, and you need to be über prepared.

As with many epoxys, there are two resin-like components that are mixed together and start to react (cross-link). The speed at which the cross-linking, or curing, takes place varies by product and temperature. The warmer the working environment, the shorter the curing time.

For the Spectralock-Pro Premium Grout that we used, the working time at 70 degrees Fahrenheit is 80 minutes. In other words, from the time of mixing the components we had about 80 minutes for the installation. The curing process is basically irreversible, which means you have no choice but to finish on time or end up with a permanently unfinished job.

For us it was worth taking on this challenge in return for a more durable, robust, and easy to maintain grouting solution.

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Step 7: Bathroom floor tiles

Installing tiles across an even plane is something that even I can handle. More about that later. But installing tiles on a floor with slopes requires the skills of a real tile master, such as my dear wife Cathy!

Our bathroom floor has two floor drains, and as a result varying degrees of slopes.

Areas with steeper slopes, such as around the shower drain, have a larger surface area compared to adjacent areas with a gentle slope. To keep the floor tiles in nice and even rows, the joint width needs to be adjusted to make up for the difference in surface area.

The adjustments are fractions of an inch or millimeters, but they matter if one would like to have the appearance of an evenly tiled bathroom floor.

Small floor tiles, like the sheets of hexagonal tiles we are using, help a lot in this process. Smaller tiles means more joints, which means it is easier to lay them across slope transitions such as from a gentle slope to a steeper slope, or across a ridge. It also means that the width adjustment between the tiles can be distributed across more joints, which makes it virtually impossible to notice.

And because the width adjustments are so subtle, this is an incredibly hard task to execute and better left to the pro, such as Cathy.

On larger areas of even slope, Cathy was able to work with full tile sheets. But once she got into areas of slope transition and steeper slopes, she had to dissemble the sheets and place the tiles individually to keep everything in straight lines.

The other beauty of the hexagonal floor tiles is that they don’t produce the perpendicular joint pattern of square tiles. Small imperfections in the perpendicular joint pattern would be immediately visible. The four directional pattern of the hexagonal tiles is much more forgiving.

Another thing Cathy is really good at is leaving small riddles for me on the time lapse photography. Is she really happy that the job is done or does this mean she would like to run from it?

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Step 6: Bathroom corner profiles

Let’s keep moving along! And sometimes, your bathroom floor and walls like to do the same thing. Those movements are minute, but nevertheless significant.

Vertical and horizontal planes in a building are subject to small movements, between cooling and heating seasons. This is particularly true for old buildings. Cracks in your old plaster wall are often the evidence of such movements.

The greatest stress from those seasonal movements often occurs at the plane change, i.e. from floor to wall, or at a wall corner. This may be evident by cracked grout lines along the corners in the bathroom environment. This in turn can lead to durability issues because water can now infiltrate behind the tiles.

Rather than fighting the cracked grout lines, or the fact that there may be some seasonal movement, we have taken a flexible approach – literally!

We have used the corner profile by the bathroom product company Schluter. These profiles get mortared into the corners, but have some flexibility to them thanks to their concave profile. They basically absorb the small movements that otherwise would lead to cracked grout lines.

Another common and more economic approach is to use silicone caulk along all plane changes. The caulk would perform the same function as the corner profiles, i.e. absorbing small movements. But the caulked corners also have the tendency to get grimy over time. And once mold or mildew sets in, it may become difficult to clean them.

What I like about the corner profiles is that they are super easy to clean. We’ve had them now for a number of years in our 1st floor bathroom, where they have done a splendid job of absorbing movement and keeping the job of cleaning easy.

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