I have spent the last three days buttering tiles with Thin set and sticking them up to the cement board. I’d start at 8am and end at 6pm. The first two side walls were easy. I used “store bought” white subway tile that were purposely made irregular to give it a “handmade” look. ( Florida Tile Company) A joke next to my real “handmade- totally irregular tiles but they do look nice together anyway. I really enjoy tiling. The subway tiles were so easy , it was kind of a meditation.
- Smear on the thin set (a sort of cement that acts as the glue).
- Then use the notched tool to make grooves on the back of the tile. I tried to put just the right amount so none squished out the sides because the sides need gout to go there NOT thin set.
- Stick it to the wall, give it a slight wiggle and on to the next. I kept a small bucket of water and a wet rag close by to wash any thin set off the front of the tiles and to keep my hands clean. If the thin set is allowed to dry on the front of the tile it is VERY hard to remove.
Each side took a day. A very long tiring day. I used a wet saw to cut the end pieces to the size I needed. I drew a center line on the wall using a yard stick and a level to keep it straight and every so often I checked to make sure I was still level by laying the level across the top of the row of tiles. I kept the tiles 1/8 inch apart by using store bought spacers, but then found that pieces of cardboard worked better. The spacers tend to fall out.
All the changed when it was time to do the back mermaid wall. She was not cut in neat tidy rectangles- OH NO! of course not. So I have to move super fast in putting her up. Because I needed to adjust pieces from every direction and thin set dries really fast. Many of the pieces are large and thick, so heavy. They would be sliding down while I was trying to juggle everything. It was stressful to say the least. I used masking tape to prop up some pieces but mostly I started at the bottom where I had screwed in a board to hold up the tiles. So each tile more or less held up the one on top of it. All with pieces of card jammed in the cracks to support them and keep the tiles apart. I had to spread the pieces further apart then I really wanted to because of the New tiles that replaced the old blue mermaid skin parts just didn’t fit together as well as I had hoped. Such a shame. But for a perfect fit I would ‘ve had to redo the entire mural and I didn’t want to do that. Read the earlier posts to see what happened with the too blue mermaid. Since the separations are half an inch in some places ,I used “Linen” colored sanded grout.
What I have learned:
- Cardboard is better than plastic spacers.
- Mix the thin set a little on the wet side so it “butters nicer” and lasts longer before it dries.
- Tiling ruins your nails and really dries out your hands- lots of lotion or wear gloves .
- If you have to replace a piece of a tight fitting mural – redo the entire thing not just parts.
- TEST glaze colors .