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The Creative Home Podcast | Episode #267

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A bathroom leak in the shower can lead to a disaster with black mold under the floor and tile. All the old tile has to be ripped up and now you need to find new tile to replace because you don’t have enough spare pieces.  And of course, you can’t find the same kind of tile. What do you do?

I had a client call me to ask me a simple question. “Do you help people pick out bathroom tile? That is all I need help with.” I said, yes! I explained I had another similar project where another client needed help updating her bathroom. And there are so many choices out there. If you walk into a tile store, you can get overwhelmed with all the choices of bathroom tile. I understood her angst and nervousness of picking out the right bathroom tile. Because that is what she was nervous about. She was nervous that she would pick out the wrong tile and would hate it and herself for picking out the wrong one.

We discussed the best way to approach how to help her pick out her tile. I ended up coming to her house, taking a look at her bathroom, the style of the home, take some pictures and measurements. She explained she had already gone to a tile store and brought home a few samples but wasn’t happy with them.

Bathroom tile consultation

During our consultation, she showed me her home and said she was told it was a farm house style home. I looked around and said, well not really. With what you have inside, it looks more traditional. She agreed and automatically felt relieved because I don’t think she thought she was a “farm house type”. She was more traditional with the beige colored walls, the granite and cabinets and the overall style of the home. The only thing that really stood out as “farm house” was the wide plank flooring on the main level. She didn’t want the white or gray walls and was happy with the warm beige wall colors. She showed me the tiles she brought home and what she liked or didn’t like. This all helped me figure out her style and what she needed to make her happy.

In this post, I want to share some of the steps you need to take when replacing bathroom tile so you pick the right one. Because it’s not just color, there are many other factors when picking out bathroom tile which is what I want to cover below.

1 | Decide on a color scheme for your bathroom tile

For my client, she had beige wall tile before the leak happened and she wanted to keep it the same. Unfortunately for her, the leak not only affected the shower area, it also went around the tub and the floor tile in the main bathroom. The cabinets were ok but it was the tile that had to be ripped out. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

a. Do you want to continue with the color that was in there?

b. What is the current wall color in the bathroom? Does that need to change if you change the bathroom tile?


2| Make sure it goes with the style of the home

In this case, she was more traditional than farm house style. Make sure you pick tile that goes with your style of the home. Is your home more contemporary, or more farm house? Is it eclectic so maybe you can try more fun tile to put in the bathroom. Make sure the bathroom tile goes along with the rest of the house and does not stand out as a separate entity.

bathroom tile

3| Tile store vs big box store

Where do you go to find your bathroom tile? If you go to a tile store, they can be smaller in size than a big box store. In my case, the tile store we went to had A LOT of samples to choose from. However, in a tile store, you will have more individualized attention vs a big box store. In my case, I knew the tile design manager because we worked together before. I knew she could narrow down our choices based on what we told her. 

If you went to a big box store, you may not find the person you need to talk to or you may find cheaper tile. However, the cheaper tile does not always mean it’s better. IN fact, I learned the hard way that some big box store tile may have the color glazed on top of the tile for the first few millimeters and then the rest of the tile is clay colored. Meaning the color of the tile doesn’t always go through the whole piece of the tile. So if you crack the tile or chip it, you will see another color and not the painted color on top. In a tile store, they have better tile where the color goes all the way through the piece.

4 | Pick out grout colors

As we walked into the tile store, my client’s eyes glazed over and you could tell she was automatically overwhelmed. There were SO MANY samples to see and all different styles and colors. I steered her clear away from all of that so she could focus on the style we wanted which was based on the first two steps I mentioned above: color and style.

We found a few samples and brought them to a table so she could see them better. Now we needed to pick out the grout color. Yes, grout color. I know, another decision!

The tile store had many different colored grout colors to choose from and we laid out the tile we liked best. From there, the grout colors came in little sticks in the shape of legos so you could lay them next to the tile. You want to pick a grout color that complements the tile you want to use. We went through one brand and didn’t find one. The tile designer picked another brand that was a bit more expensive, but we found the right one in that batch. Again, it helps to have a designer who knows their products.

5 | Bring bathroom tile samples home

 Now that we picked out the tile we want to use, bring that sample home. It will look different in the tile store versus your bathroom mainly because of the lighting. The tile store will have fluorescent lighting and your bathroom will have softer lighting.  With the tile sample at home, you can now see how it will look with the current wall color, the cabinets, the countertop, and the lighting.

Take a step back and see how it looks. It should look just as good if not better in your home. However, there are times when you bring home the sample and it doesn’t work. It happens. Maybe you go with the second one you had your eye on in the store. In this case, my client laid the tile on the floor and just fell in love with it. You could see the tension just disappear and she had the biggest smile on her face. She said, “Oh my God I love it. I could just hug you right now! Thank you.”

She was happy with the choice SHE made. Yes I guided her, but she made the choice that SHE was happy with.

bathroom tile patterns

6| Bathroom tile layout

Now that we have the chosen tile and grout, make sure you know what size tile you want. They come in different sizes such as 12×12, 18×18, 18×24, 6×6 (for subway tile) and even shower floor sized tile 2×2.

Do you want a rectangular large-sized tile? Do you want it to be square? How do you lay it out? Will it lay so that it’s in a grid shape or overlap like a brick pattern? I really only thought there were 3 or so patterns but I found this cheat sheet that shows 15 different patterns! So many choices I know and there is no wrong answer, really. She chose a square grid pattern and was happiest with that.

The tile contractor originally said she should lay out the tile in a brick pattern but she was not convinced. I told her that SHE was the boss and she would tell them how to lay it. They aren’t the ones who have to live with it, you do. So tell them exactly how you want the floor tiles to be laid and the shower wall etc. Don’t let them guess because you may not be happy with the results.

7| Order enough for the following bathroom tiles

For this bathroom, not only did we have to choose the shower wall tile, we also had to pick out the following bathroom tiles:

Shower floor tile

Bathroom floor tile

Tub surround tile

Grout color

Bull nose edge tile

Niche tile (if you have one)

We went over the different-sized tiles when we were at the tile store so we could envision the tile when we brought it home. Ultimately, she chose square 12×12 tiles for the shower wall, tub surround, and floor so they were all the same. The shower floor tile was a smaller 2×2 tile of the same “tile family” which also had the bullnose edge tile to finish off the edge of the tile.

You can go ahead and order all of it, or just get a box to see how it looks before you take the plunge. It’s ok to be nervous about this. You want to be happy with the results.

If you get overwhelmed by picking out bathroom tile, give me a call! I can help you choose the best ones to narrow down your choices. This project took us 2 hours to complete. I came over, took measurements and pictures, and discussed desires and options. We drove to the tile store, picked out a few options, and brought them home. We laid samples in the bathroom and happy homeowner later, her project was back on track to get completed.

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