Reality Check: Choosing Tile

Step-by-step guide to a designer’s process

It starts with a plan
Having exhausted its purpose for 30 years, clients asked Nyla to transform their master ensuite into a simple, light-filled space. With a preference for neutral colour firmly established she looked for an opportunity to introduce pattern and depth into the spacious room. Tile seemed an ideal candidate for the task.

Step 1: Initial Measure 
Have a professional measure the raw area for tiling. Once you decide on actual tiles and patterns, dimensions must be reconfirmed. With floors, make sure to match surface depth to adjacent areas to avoid an awkward threshold.

Photography by Lori Andrews

Photography by Lori Andrews


Step 2: Consider Placement
Since tile can be pricey, it’s critical to make selections with actual square footage and budget in mind. Tiling the shower requires more material than a backsplash. Can you splurge on the one if you save on the other? The floor is a great canvas for pattern. In addition, I selected a countertop of granite and coordinating tiles for the shower floor and walls.

Step 3: Size Matters
With so much choice, selecting size-appropriate tile can be confusing. While 12″ x 24″ tiles are widely popular, they may be too large for a powder room or main bathroom that’s a typical 5″ x 8″ size. Small 1″ x 1″ mosaics work well on shower floors, as part of a backsplash, or within a border as a feature in the centre of the floor.

Step 4: Select Feature Tile
Often a splurge, the feature tile provides an element to make other selections around, becoming a primary focus in the overall scheme. I selected a Murano glass mosaic tile asa feature within the shower and backsplash.

Photography by Lori Andrews

Photography by Lori Andrews


Step 5: Select Remaining Tile
To keep the budget on track, choose a more economical stone like Crema Marfil for the largest areas.

Step 6: Check Stock
Determine a tile’s availability early. A tile can be “in stock” in Indiana but require four weeks to arrive in your supplier’s showroom. Or if “in stock” in Italy, you can renovate the whole house before that tile is likely to arrive. A long backorder may mean reselection and back to Step 5.

Step 7: Plan on Paper
With selections made, it’s time to lay out the pattern on paper, to scale. Consider where cuts occur and where one material meets another, ensuring a seamless installation. Your tile professional can help you do this.

Step 8: Meet Installer
Schedule a site meeting with a professional installer to verify required quantities and confirm placement of tiles.

Step 9: Order Tile
It’s finally time to place an order and reconfirm stock and availability—yes, again.

Step 10: Grout Options
When selecting grout keep thickness and colour in mind. On delicate tiles the thickness might be less than 1/8″ whereas larger limestone tiles may look better with ¼” thickness. In most cases, you’ll want to choose a grout colour that most closely matches the tile.

Photography by Lori Andrews

Photography by Lori Andrews


Step 11: Confirm Correct Tile
Once tile arrives, confirm it’s the correct stock. With surprising frequency, errors occur and you do not want to install the wrong product. Confirm and reconfirm.

Step 12: Reconfirm Layout
Yes, confirm layout details again. Do not assume the installer remembers details you reviewed a few weeks—or even days ago.

Step 13: Progress Check
Designers make regularly scheduled site checks on behalf of clients to ensure there are no mistakes. Catching an error early is critical to the well-being of any project.

Step 14: Inspect and Enjoy
Review areas where tile is joined and make sure any grout remaining on the face of tiles has been removed.

Great deals are found in discontinued areas of tile stores.
Keep expensive tiles in smaller, feature areas.
Big box stores have a good selection of affordable tile, often in stock.
Get more style from an inexpensive tile by installing it in an interesting pattern.

About Nyla Free

Passionate about design and focused on Interiors. She has a love of travel – her bags are always packed and ready at the door.

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