Bathrooms Are Getting Tiled

We’re definitely on the home stretch – final finishes are starting to take shape. The ceilings are getting painted with their final coats of “ceiling white” and tile is starting to be installed in the bathrooms.

The rental bathroom was the first to get tiled. The guys tile the walls first – starting a bit above the floor. Then they do the floor, and then they come back and do the bottom part of the wall.

rental bath wall tile

In the picture above you can see we’re using 12″ x 24″ porcelain tiles on the walls in a staggered pattern. They’re pretty inexpensive – $5.50/sq. ft. from Italian Tile NYC in Brooklyn. Despite the name of the store, I’m pretty sure the tiles aren’t from Italy. The tile came in unmarked boxes. The Italian tiles almost always advertise that fact on the outside of the box with “Made In Italy” (as required by US import law). Honestly though, I don’t care where they came from – I like them and the quality seems pretty decent.

Since we’re going for a pretty contemporary look, the edges are being finished with Schulter edge trim, not with bullnose pieces. I’ll go into more detail on that in another blog post.

Since that picture was taken they’ve put the electric heating mat on the floor and covered it with leveling cement. I think they’ll be putting the floor tiles down today. The floor tiles will be a Basalt Limestone – which is really dark gray. It looks really good against the off-white wall tile.

The staggered pattern is one of the trends we’re noticing in tile these days. In the past people usually did a linear grid pattern (like a spreadsheet’s grid lines) or they did a brick pattern. The staggered pattern is a bit like the brick pattern, but instead of being offset 50% it’s typically offset by 1/4 to 1/3rd of the length – but not done as a stair step.

The guy who did the rental bathroom has also been working on the powder room. Here we’re doing 2″ x 4″ carrara tiles on the walls in a brick pattern…

powder room tile

These came in 1′ x 1′ sheets, so they were pretty easy to install. We got them from over the GW bridge in New Jersey and they cost us $9.95/sq. ft. which is a great price, BUT we’re pretty convinced they’re not actually Carrara tiles, or even Italian (despite what the sales people told us). They also came in white, unmarked boxes… A lot of tile is coming from China these days. Honestly, we like how they look and don’t really care where they came from.

The floor in the powder room is going in today. It’s little 5/8″ Bardiglio squares (a dark gray marble). Again, we’re not sure it’s Italian, but it looks good, so who cares. They’re polished, so it’s a bit “bling” for our tastes, but the powder room is so small it’s not an issue. Plus, it’s just of the living room and tiny – so we didn’t mind it being a little showy.

The tile is also going up in the master bathroom. There we’re doing “Carrara” 3″ x 6″ subway tiles in a brick pattern as wainscoting on the walls, with a mini brick above them just in the shower area. There will be a dark brownish-gray porcelain random brick mosaic on the floor. The carrara subway tiles are pretty inexpensive – just $6.95/sq. ft., however installing them is more costly since they’re individual tiles (not sheets) and the guy who’s putting them in is a perfectionist who’s a bit slow, but they will look great when they’re done…

master bathroom carrara subway tile

We had picked out the tile before 105 West 122 sold for $2.85M. Since they’re they high comp in the neighborhood I was glad to see that they also used Carrara subway tile in their bathroom – though theirs is clearly the real carrar – it has much darker grays (though I sorta prefer the look of lighter grays in our tile).

Tomorrow morning we need to run around and buy grout. After renovating the kitchen and bathrooms in our apartment we wished we had insisted on epoxy-based grouts. Epoxy grouts don’t change color, they don’t absorb water, etc. – they’re just far superior. This time we’re going to use SpectraLOCK everywhere we can. It’s an epoxy-base grout that is about as easy to use as the regular grouts (some epoxy-based grouts are really difficult to install). But SpectraLOCK isn’t recommended for use on carrara marble and other natural stones that are light colored and permeable. So on those we’ll use regular Laticrete mixed with “1776” instead of water. The 1776 makes the regular grout more flexible (less likely to crack), more resistant to water penetration, and less likely to change color – not quite as good as SpectraLOCK, but better than average grout.

If you’re contemplating a renovation and doing things on a budget realize that it may be a bit silly to go for inexpensive tile and then pay a lot to have it installed. For example subway tiles are cheap – you can get them for just over $3/sq. ft., but then they’re labor intensive to install. Pay a little more and get something like a marble subway tile that justifies the installation expense. If you’re budget conscious, pay a bit more for something like a nice 12″ x 24″ porcelain that’s far easier and less expensive to install – the total cost should be less than cheap tile that’s time-consuming to install. If you’re cutting the budget to the bone, just tile less of the room – don’t do wainscoting – just tile in the shower/tub area. There’s really no reason to use low-end ceramic tile – there are nice tiles out there that don’t cost all that much and are inexpensive to install – though, from experience – you have to hunt and shop around to find them.

Our Cellar Is Getting Pretty Colorful

The house has been so drab for so long it’s sorta interesting to see color come in…

They’re using “green board” in the cellar. Even though the cellar is pretty dry that should help avoid mold. The color of the green board is pretty dramatic especially when it’s put against pink fiberglass insulation…

pink green laundry room

The tenant’s laundry room has become really small and dark since the green board went in – but honestly how many people in Manhattan have a proper laundry room? And it will get painted an off-white and it will get lit better, which should make it seem a little bigger.

green board in cellar

I took the picture above after dark – so there’s no light coming in the windows – the dim light just makes the color seem all that more dramatic. In reality that’s not what we’re shooting for at all. We want the cellar area to be fairly light bright and warm. Well have an off-white on the walls and the floor will be a fake wood tile.

fake wood tile

Tile that looks like wood is sorta the new thing in tile. It used to be pretty expensive – $12-15/sq. ft., but the price has dropped a lot as the competition kicks in. After all, it’s just another pattern on a ceramic tile – there really isn’t all that different or special. We were able to get ours for $5.75/sq. ft. (including special shipping) from Italian Tile NYC in Brooklyn. They were by far the least expensive option. The others were coming in around the $7/sq. ft. mark, maybe a little lower. Mind you, we got 12″x24″ tile and wood tile really should be done in planks (e.g. 2″x18″, 3″x36″, 4″x36″, 6″x48″, etc) – so it’s not going to be a perfect wood effect. But that would have cost more and at 350 square feet on a rental unit we didn’t want to spend more than we had to.

Planking is another of the new trends in tile. It’s sorta cool actually and only a few companies are offering plank-like sizes (Nemo seems to be the best source in NYC for planked tile). But I think in a year or two the price of planked tile will come down as well – though more sizes adds more distribution and stocking costs.

The whole fake wood floor idea was something I strongly favored from the get go. Dan was pretty reluctant initially but finally we got to the point where he thought it might be OK, the price was right, and we couldn’t find anything better – so we went for it. The reason why I wanted a fake wood floor was because it’s a cellar area so I wanted to go overboard on not making it feel like a cellar. You can’t put a real wood floor in a cellar – it will buckle with the moisture. Laminate floors sorta look like wood, but they sorta look like plastic as well. To me, tiles feel cold. I was pretty picky about the tone and warmth of the tile. We found one that seemed pretty much what we wanted, but it seemed a little dull. The “wood” we went with was the same tone and warmth but would be more visually interesting. Dan’s still a little apprehensive about the choice – so fingers crossed 🙂

Another interesting view color-wise was the green-board for the rental bathroom leaned up against the exposed brick wall in the bedroom. It’s a bit Christmas-like… But in general it’s just good to see color in the house.

green board red brick

There’s one other type of drywall going in the front part of the cellar – the boiler room and the meter/storage room. It’s an outdoor drywall that’s made for exterior ceilings (porches, etc.) It’s dark gray…

exterior ceiling drywall

I really like the color of that – goes well with the stone walls. We may actually paint the ceiling the same color after it gets taped and mudded.