Tiling the Leaning Tower…..

There is no respite when building (or converting) a house. With all the various traumas associated with the plumbing, including the unplanned, unwanted internal water features, it would have been nice to take a bit of time off. But everything seems to be interlinked – you have to finish (or at least get a good way through) one job, before you can get on with another.

So whilst I could put all the first fix pipework in for the plumbing, I couldn’t really fit all the taps and things until I’d decided how I was going to finish the walls.

I decided to tile everything – hides a multitude of sins, and it’s one of those things that’s flogged as a DIY job – so how hard could it be?

Well with with four bathrooms to get done, I can safely say I’ve now had plenty of practise! And one thing I’ve learnt is that the quickest and cleanest way to lay tiles is to make sure you’ve got the biggest slabs you can get your hand on. Stands to reason: great big tiles + small floor area = less work and less mess.

Well that’s the theory anyway. The obvious flaw to this approach is great big tiles require walls to be square and floors to be flat.

Sadly, there is nothing square or flat about my barn. As anyone who’s read the blog about slating the floors may recall, the concrete screed in the barn in places has a passing resemblance to a mountain range. And my door-hanging exploits will have exposed the fact that there isn’t a straight wall in the place.

Still, I’m an optimist. So I ignored my little unevenness problem and went and bought some giant 60 x60cm slabs of quartz for the floor of bathroom number 1.

At 7m² it’s the smallest bathroom in the main house – (yes I am showing off, I know, that’s still nearly twice as big as the national average). But when you take into account the space covered by the shower enclosure it meant I only needed 16 tiles. Ha – can get that done in a day, no problem!

And for once, it more or less went to plan. Yes the concrete slab was uneven – but an extra thick layer of cement will solve that, right? Hmm. I only just got away with that logic. It was fine, all apart from one tile, that started to sink into the cement like it was quicksand. And much like quicksand, once it started to sink, the suction power meant it was impossible to lift out. Fortunately it’s right in the corner of the room – no-one will ever know…..

The walls got the same treatment. Nice big 30cm x 60cm tiles. So they went on relatively quickly too. But obviously nothing in the barn can ever be entirely straight forward. Remember I mentioned the walls not being square…..

So what happens when you get to the corners of the room? It becomes blatantly obvious when the the tiles that were in perfect alignment together at the bottom of the wall start to diverge the higher up the wall they go. By the time you get to the ceiling it looks like you’ve been tiling the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

So do you try to match the corners up the wall – which will then create an angle to the floor and/or the ceiling. Or do you line up to the floor, which then creates a problem in the corners?? Only one answer to the impossible conundrum – I deferred to the wisdom of the spirit level. The walls may not be square; the floors and ceilings may slope; but believe me, the tiles are perfectly level!

A few simple tricks, and in fact the problem’s quite hard to spot:

  1. Big white tiles, bright white grout. Makes the gaps disappear like magic….
  2. Cunning ploy – I tiled one wall with mosaics – they’re slightly easier to ‘manipulate’ a little bit, stretch them out a little bit to hide the gaps
  3. Strategically placed furniture – two of the corners are mostly hidden by furniture – so unless you plan to spend your time in the shower ogling at the ceiling, you probably wont see the wonkiness anyway.
  4. Give them something else to ogle at. My posh glass radiator makes a better talking point than wonky walls….. IMG_0749

Now for bathroom number 2……..

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