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Marble subway tile wall

Have you ever heard to the 1,000 squat challenge?

It is basically where you challenge yourself to squat 1,000 times without stopping. 
Believe me.
I already hear what you are thinking.

Like a lot of you,
 I like to jog and walk  almost every day.
I love to hike, punch the heavy bag on occasion
and have even been known to run the fire escape stairs when I am in hotel. 
But squats? eh.
Not so much a part of my daily routine.
Until I was doing the tile.

Up and down.
down and up

It was an awesome leg and rear end workout.
Never mind that I could barely walk after and had muscles
 that were sore that I didn't even know existed.
 Because those squats while tiling that I had done each day
 pretty much kicked my behind in several ways- but it was all good.
I might have to start up a fitness series
 all based on home improvement projects. 

Anyway, all that aside- I had so many questions about the marble tile wall-
I thought I would share a few tips and tidbits we learned
 about working with all that subway tile.  

First up:

It is gorgeous. 
I highly recommend marble subway tile.
You will not be sorry you decided to put it in your bathroom.
It has a soft and subtle movement
neutral coloring and is elegant while being welcoming at the same time.
If you are considering it- I say GO for it.

Tiling is tedious but it isn't hard.

Have a stool that you can sit on (instead of doing the squat challenge the whole time)
Tiling a wall (or floor)  is super hard on your knees.  
To be squatting and standing and squatting and standing and so on with each piece of tile
 wears you out quickly. So a stool is definitely your friend and it makes those low rows that you start with much easier to get done. 

Stock up on gloves- and have extras.
I wore the gloves right down to eating through the finger tips of them several times
and sometimes didn't realize until  it was too late.
 Sure, mortar and grout are great for exfoliating- but I don't recommend it. 

Bring home more tile spacers than you think you need. 
You know what happens when you run out? 
You have to pull them from the hopefully totally dried areas. 
You can imagine- just get an extra bag. 

All kidding aside
 the marble tile was really not difficult to put in the bathroom.
It is a job you can diy.
 But at the same time - I will say 
that it might not be a job for everyone.

I am a detail oriented person- I like details and detail work. 
And I thrive with tinkering with those details-
 like ornaments on a Christmas tree or the right mirrors lined up on the wall.

So for me- tiling is kind of like one of those jobs that is an okay fit for me.
My husband didn't place more than maybe 3 or 4 tiles.  
He hates detail work and he knows it is not his best fit.
My daughter in law(almost) on the other hand came up to help for a weekend 
and was so neat and tidy and focused and efficient- 
I wanted to hire her. 

Level it
 again and again

Probably the best tip I have for doing a tile wall is to keep your level handy. 
And it is so important that the first row you start with is level.
 You can add a baseboard to hide your imperfect floors or walls- but a whole wall of subway tile that is climbing toward the ceiling along the wall is not so easy to look past.

When you are working with a tile wall- know that they have a definite pattern.
And they also need to have grout that is evenly spaced. 
And tile has a mind of it's own- mind you. 

Notice the variations in grout lines & the slight fall off on the top one?
 My nemesis.
Good to notice while you are working so you can do your best to fix it before it hardens.
Which brings me to the next one...

 Relax and let it go

And try as you may- keeping things level and perfect in an old house- not happening.  
I can't tell you how many times I pulled one back off and re-did it. 
I have an older house that has imperfect corners and walls and floors. 
 So, I suppose in some ways, you need to be able to make peace with the fact that it is not going to be perfect. Otherwise you are just going to be frustrated.

Mix it thick
Don't cut the corner and mix your mortar or grout thin thinking it will go further. 
It will just go everywhere instead.
Mix it thick- or buy it premixed.

 Play with the Pattern Play

The nice thing is that the natural variations it the colors and veining on the marble creates a beautiful slightly different wave around the room. 
At first I thought I might only want to use whites or grays and not mix them-
 because some of the shades I wasn't 100% in love with- but when it came down to tiling-
 I noticed that the subtle variations were what made it so pretty
and some of those tiles that at first I didn't like were the ones that made the wall that much prettier.
So some dark gray, some white, some heavy veining- some not so much-
embrace the differences and play with it.

Patience & time
Not a super quick diy job- and there is a lot of clean up. 
You really need to allow yourself enough time to let the tile set firmly in place before moving along.  The shower took the most time. 
I could really just get one wall about 1/2 to 2/3 of the way up done at a time.
Each layer weighs on the one below and the one below and the one below, etc. 
so you can imagine if the lower tiles are not quite set and not spaced well- 
there they go.

Some of it does require some skill

Some DIY jobs are not really simple DIY- you definitely do need some skill or qualifications.
For example- electrical stuff- best to have an electrician.
Or framing?
You might want someone who knows how load codes  etc for boards that support things
otherwise- not going to be good if something goes wrong.

So with tiling- you will most likely need to use power tools like a tile saw 
to cut those small detailed areas around windows and corners.

I don't use the tile saw.
So, if I was doing this bathroom without a contractor dad and experienced husband involved 
in some of the bigger stuff-
 I would be hiring that job out (along with several others).

But it is a job you can tackle with the right skills
or the right contractor and the right mind set.

Just know that your fingers will be worked 
you might need reinforcements (like that qualified contractor)
and that you might be participating in a 1,000 squat challenge 
 without any previous training.

And also know
that you result even more than you imagined.

You can read more about the bathroom renovation before and after

Source list

I am not a pro-  I am an avid DIY girl- but that is where the title stops 
This post is not offering any construction or renovation how to's - only my experience.
So make sure to always consult a qualified professional- and hire them if you need to.
And safety first with every job you decide to tackle.  

I partnered with Lowe's to make over our bathroom-
 but the design and my completely ridiculously over the top insane love 
of anything and everything  marble is my own. 

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  1. sooooo Gorgeous! HGTV has to host a show with you, come on, you are amazing!

  2. Doing that many squats, I'm amazed your knees didn't pop off!
    I just LOVE this room, Courtney! It's beautiful!!

  3. I'm gathering everything to redo a bathroom and my sink area. I was going to use a mother of pearl tile as a backsplash. Have you seen them? After seeing your marble I'm having second thoughts. Which one if you were thinking of it as the jewelry of my vanity?
    Barbara Ann

  4. Hmmm, great tips… and DIY knowledge shared here. I have only worked on one major tile project and that was 10" square tiled backsplash---which had its own nightmares. Really excellent post and great pictures with lovely results. Thanks for the instructive and beautiful share.

  5. Looks beautiful. I believe that the dusty rose tile in the guest bathroom is going to be replaced. You guys did a fantastic job What a change. *sigh* I'm in love.

  6. So pretty! Everything you do looks perfect!

  7. This is the most beautiful bathroom I have ever seen. I am serious. I am thinking of how I can copy and yet make it my own. :) LOVE love LOVE it!

  8. Stunning! As with everything you do. Thank you for the helpful tips, as we plan on using subway tile for the first time this winter. I know I will be referring back to this post. Love it. :)


  9. Absolutely gorgeous - there is no way I could do that myself!

  10. Gorgeous - there is no way I could do that! Great work!

  11. Those marble subway tiles are beautiful, I could get lost looking at the grey grain and the variations in shades means that every tile is 100% unique and special. You have done a fantastic job with them too. Fantastic

  12. Lovely bathroom. We, too, live in an older home and bathroom dimensions, ahem..., 5 x 8. (sigh).
    Love your use of mirrors. I, too, have a mirror fetish. And, lamp fetish as well.
    In featured bathroom, where is storage? Toothbrush, paste, etc.,?
    Did you purchase pedestal vanity at Lowe's or is it vintage?