Jeffrey Court Renovation Challenge Week 3 | Driverseducationonline

Jeffrey Court Renovation Challenge Week 3

Hi there! This is an update post for the Jeffrey Court Renovation Challenge – where I attempt to completely remodel our bathroom in just six short weeks. You can follow our plans and get to this point by reading the posts here:


And don’t forget to vote for me! It’s super easy…just click the link below, scroll down until you see my picture, then click vote. It takes ten seconds, but your support means the world to me!


I can’t believe we’re already halfway through this challenge. Holy moly, time flies! And indeed I am freaking out. It’s a fact that when remodeling, everything takes longer (and costs more) than you think it will. So far that has proven to be very, very true with this bathroom. We’re halfway through the timeframe, but not even close to halfway through the to-do list! EEK! Time to get started!

But I’m very happy to say that last night we finished tiling the floor and it was so, so stinkin’ gorgeous. Beautiful I say! And finally getting to the beautiful part of the work has been a mental game changer. It has given me a taste of how amazing the space is going to look and has helped me remember that all this work is going to be worth it.

Here’s how this week’s tiling went down.

Select the tile

This was the hardest decision I had to make of the entire bathroom. Jeffrey Court has so many beautiful choices! But in the end, my heart desired Carrara Marble. We did a marble backsplash in our kitchen four years ago and it’s still my favorite thing in our whole house. I was concerned about the possibility of staining and etching in a high traffic bathroom, but I found some sealing products to help combat that and decided it was worth it. Ain’t nothing like the real thing, baby. So we will use a mixture of 3×6, 4×12 and 6×12 Jeffrey Court carrara marble tiles.

Choose props

Wow! There are SO many different types of mortar and so many different types of tile spacers and trowels and grouts and sealers! It took me hours of research to land on the products we ended up using. There are a ton of variables when choosing the right thinset mortar, grout, grout, etc. and it depends on the tile material, tile size, and location of the installation. The Custom building products the site was my BFF. I even sent a message to their customer service department with questions, and I would recommend using their Project Shopping List feature to help you determine which products are best for your project.

If you are planning to lay a marble tile floor with tiles similar to ours, these are the products you will need:

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  1. Cement mixer drill attachment
  2. Pro Lite Thinset Mortar (Be sure to buy WHITE not GRAY)
  3. 1/4 x 3/8 x 1/4″ Toothpick
  4. 1/16 ” Traditional tile spacers
  5. Tile Leveling Wedges
  6. Spacers for leveling tiles
  7. Tile straightener
  8. Five Gallon Buckets (2)

A few notes about the supplies:

  • We went through a bag of grout for our 5’x8′ bathroom floor.
  • Buy the white mortar if you are using light colored tiles. Only buy the gray mortar if you are installing a dark colored tile.
  • The notch size of your trowel matters and is related to how thick you need to apply the mortar. Larger tiles require more mortar underneath while smaller tiles need less mortar, so double check that information. Everything is written on the information sheets if you look up the products online and on the instructions on the product bags.
  • You will need two five gallon buckets: one for mixing mortar and one for cleaning your tools. To easily clean the mixer attachment, just stick it in a bucket of water while the mortar is still wet and rinse it around until it’s clean.

Tile Leveling System

Tile leveling clamps are a relatively new product for tiling, and they are supposed to help prevent lipping (when the corners of the tile stick up unevenly). I’ve heard good things about them from other DIYers I know, so we decided to try them out. The white clip goes under the tiles, then you insert the blue wedge on top and use the pliers to clamp the wedge, which essentially evens out the height of the tiles and forces them to be even. Here are some tips if you are thinking of using them:

  • It’s a learning curve! Start with a small area in an inconspicuous place. We started below where the vanity will be and I’m so glad we did. We got better at it over time.
  • They are much better at equalizing than actual distance. We had to really watch to make sure the space between the tiles lined up correctly. For whatever reason, it’s harder to do with this style of spacer. If you know to go in and keep an eye on it, it’s no problem, but it surprised us (and stressed us out at first haha). I’m sure it was also related to the herringbone pattern we chose. Of course we had to choose something complicated. LOL.
  • Carefully read the instructions for the type of leveling system you purchase. There are different types made for different tile sizes and thicknesses. The first type we bought was only for tiles larger than 12 inches on all sides, so it wouldn’t work for our tile. We bought this system because it is designed to be joined with smaller tiles and a thinner mortar application.
  • We found that we still needed to use traditional spacers in addition to the levels because our tile was quite small and we were creating an intricate pattern. You should put a clip on each corner, but if your tile is small, they won’t fit.
  • You will need to buy a lot more spacers than you think, especially if you are making a herringbone pattern. Better to buy several extra bags and have some left over to return than to make not one, not two, but THREE emergency trips to the store for more. Yowsers!
  • The blue wedges are reusable, so we will save them and use them on the shower cover. The white parts are not reusable, so we had to buy many more of them. We used two bags of the blue wedges and three bags of the white spacers.
  • The tang is not optional. If you try to press the wedge into place with your fingers, your fingers will turn into hamburger. No really, use the extra $10. The pliers also make it easier to remove the spacers afterwards.
  • I’ve seen videos where others simply kicked their spacers to remove them when the mortar was dry, but this didn’t work for our particular spacers. We had to remove each one with the pliers, being careful not to scratch the marble.

Choose a pattern

I played around with a dozen different pattern ideas using two different tile sizes…4×12 and 3×6. I knew I wanted to do some sort of border and then use mainly the 4×12 tiles to fill in the middle. Here are some of the patterns I came up with:

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I love the look of the 3×6 tile stacked long sides together, but we just couldn’t figure out how to make it work as a border because I didn’t love how it made the corners look. I still really like the striped pattern with the mix of the two tile sizes, but in the end, since we’re trying to go for a traditional look, we chose a herringbone design with a miter edge consisting of a row of 4×12, then a row of 3 ×6.

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Tiling tips for beginners

  • Preparatory work is the key. I talked about this a lot last week, but you need to make sure you prepare the subfloor properly before laying. A flat floor is critical! Read more about how to prepare a floor for tiles here.
  • Dry Fit. This was critical for us, especially since our pattern was a bit more complex. Dry mounting just means laying everything out before you actually use mortar to glue it down permanently. We laid out the pattern, cut all the tiles to size and even added the spacers to make sure the tiles fit perfectly.
  • Label. Especially with a herringbone pattern, there were special sized angled pieces along the edges and we needed to make sure to put them back the right way, so we drew straight on our tile with a pencil. You can also attach a small piece of frog tape to each and then draw on it with a Sharpie. We didn’t mark whole pieces of tile, only the ones with angled cuts in. We even took a photo of the final dry-fit and marked the floor to refer to during installation, and it was extremely helpful, so I would definitely recommend doing that.
  • Make small batches of mortar. Mortar is like a ticking time bomb, and if you’re anything like us, you’ll be very slow at first while learning how to get everything right. So save yourself the stress of seeing the mortar dry up too quickly and only mix a small portion at a time. We divided our 5’x8′ floor into six sections and found that was as much as we could install before the mortar started to harden too much to use. Yes, that means you have to wash your tools and bucket six times. Yes, it’s still better.
  • Trowel technique matters. Before I started researching all things tile, I wouldn’t have guessed that how you apply the grout with the trowel matters. Then I watched THIS VIDEO explaining why you need mortar ridges and how improper application of mortar leads to tile failure, and it just made sense. Once you understand the WHY, you will be diligent about making those nice straight trowel lines.
  • Wear gloves. I didn’t protect my skin while working with the mortar and I wish I had spent the extra minutes getting a pair of latex gloves. My hands are fine, but boy does the mortar dry out your skin!
  • Keep your crevices clean. LOL. What I really mean is that it’s easy to wipe away wet grout, but chiseling away dried grout is difficult, so after your tiles are in place, double check each individual grout line and use a toothpick to scrape away any grout that may have solidified into the cracks.
  • Mix tile batches. Natural stone has a lot of variety. I opened all the tile packages and mixed tiles from different lots together to make sure the patterns in the floor flow nicely. If you don’t do this, you could end up with all the super white tiles in one section or all the heavy tiles clumped together. To me it looks better to spread them out and think about the pattern of the tiles when you put them next to each other.
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Mistakes we made Lessons we have learned

Overall, I think we did a pretty good job with the floor, but if we were to do it again, we could do it even better. Isn’t that how it always goes? Here are some of the things we would change if we did it all over again.

  • We installed the tile edging Friday night, then installed the herringbone center section inside on Saturday. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but now there are some height issues between the edge and the center section because we couldn’t use the leveling spacers. If we were to do it again, we would install the edge and center at the same time and work from side to side even through the different patterns.
  • We used pieces of wood as spacers along the outer edges to make sure everything stayed straight. We did not pull the spacers out while the mortar was wet. Guess who has now cemented wooden spacers to their bathroom floor? Hahahahaha. I have no idea what we’re going to do with it. Pay attention.
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So what’s next on our to-do list?

  • Remove old tile around bathtub and shower
  • Remove old tile floor
  • Remove debris
  • Remove old vanity
  • Add outlet behind vanity
  • Move the light box down
  • Repair plaster
  • Remove the toilet
  • Clean floors and preparations
  • Lay down cement board
  • Tape and cement seams
  • Tiled floor
  • Dense floor
  • Jointed floor
  • New plumbing valves in shower
  • Install cement board in the shower cubicle
  • Tape + mud
  • Redgard
  • Tiled shower room
  • Seal shower enclosure
  • Sealant shower enclosure
  • Install vanity
  • Molding on the wall
  • Sand, sealant, primer and paint
  • The tape over lists
  • Install a new toilet
  • Install lights, mirrors, towel rails, decor, etc.
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Three weeks to go. Do you think we can pull it all off?