Time for Tile: Durock Prep, Installation, and Grout

When it came time for the tile work in our bathrooms an laundry room, we had done a lot of research and felt confident in our ability to attempt it ourselves. We were also blessed to be able to use my parents’ leftover tile from their lake house, which was enough to do the master and kids’ bathrooms! We found a beautiful inexpensive tile for the laundry room at Lowe’s.

*** The Master Bathroom shower ***

Step 1: Repairing the floors/ Framing in the shower

Before we could do anything else, we needed to make sure the subfloors were solid. This involved replacing the plywood in some spots (like the molded/rotten areas under the existing toilets… ew!) and filling in an old laundry “shoot.” (Yeay for moving the laundry upstairs!) We made sure to measure the thickness of the existing subfloor before purchasing our wood (apparently there are a LOT of options!)

This area used to be a built-in  cupboard with a hole in the bottom – not ideal for small kiddos! We opted to transition it into a nook for towel hooks and a hamper. Wes had to add a couple of 2x4s to the beams below so that I would have something to screw our patch into.

For our shower we started by cutting away the excess drywall, leaving an opening for the Durock. We did this by measuring down from the ceiling in several spots, then using a yard stick to make a straight line to follow with a box cutter. We also framed in a small nook between two existing studs with additional 2x4s for the top & bottom {Note: the bottom 2×4 needs to be at a slight angle to allow water runoff.} We then added some quarter inch thick strips along the back to have something to secure that patch of Durock to.

Step 2: Installing the Durock base

There are a few different options for tile-backing out there, and we decided to use Durock cement board. We purchased 1/2″ Durock for the shower (the same thickness as our drywall) and 1/4″ for the floors. On the floors we used a 1/4″ trowl to put a layer of thinest below the Durock then secured the Durock with Durock screws every 8 inches (giving you a grid of screws… see below!) In the shower we just spaced the screws every 8″ anywhere there was a stud.

Durock is cut to size by first scoring with a box cutter, then snapping along the score. I ended up with some very bruised legs from all the snapping! {It was extremely hot inside with no AC, otherwise jeans probs would have been a wise option!}
This shows the 8″ grid I was referring to… the only exception being at the end of the row where it didn’t quite make it to the edge
The laundry room (left) and master bath were both 5′ wide, which was great for laying out full sheets of Durock… I didn’t get quite so luck in the kids’ bathroom
We tried to keep the “smooth” edge of the Durock matched up with the drywall vs. the rougher cut edge. The hardest part of this install was cutting the holes for the tub faucet and handle… which basically involved lots of scoring and punching through since you couldn’t “snap” it for just a hole.

Step 3: Tape & Mud the Seams

We used Durock mesh “tape” and thinset to seal all the seams and lock out moisture. We did this on the floors as well, but it was especially important in the shower as there are electrical boxes behind the Durock. We were going to take the additional step of adding a sealant on top of everything, but when we went to look for one at Home Depot we were assured by the individual working there that it was an unnecessary step as long as we had our seams taken care of. {And our Google research indicated mixed feelings on the topic, so we opted to stick with just the mud & taped seams.}

I tried to balance adding enough mud to the seams to keep it sealed while making sure that I feathered it out so as not to create a big bump under the tile.

This was the scariest/most crucial area to get right from my perspective, but it went pretty well – the mesh helped seal the inner edges and rounded out the outer edges.
We cut a square out of the Durock for the tub handle opening, but used the mesh diagonally on the corners to fill in the space.

Step 4: Layout the Tile

The first step in laying out the tile for us, was to actually get our hands on the tile my dad had in storage. {We also scored a bunch of leftover trim!} The particular tile they had involved several different sizes, so I sat down with a list of what we had and lots of grid paper and reworked the layouts until I what I wanted … we used EVERY last piece! {When laying out tile on graph paper, remember to account for the grout seams!}

thanks dad!
we definitely lucked out on this stuff 🙂
Using my drawings, I laid out the shower wall in the master bedroom first: this made the process go much faster/easier during installation
We ended up purchasing/customizing a few more tile accents for the shower nook 

Step 5: Install Tile

I used thinset to back our tile and worked my way from the bottom – up using 1/4″ tile spacers {I stacked 2 together and inserted them “flat” for extra support.} There should be a space between the tile and tub surface as well. For the floors I started 1/4″ away from the furthest wall, then worked my way out of the room. Wes cut the pieces to size as I laid them in order to keep the process moving and to be able to return the wet saw were renting in time!

We taped off the tub with plastic to protect it from thinset/grout droppings
I used “frog tape” to secure the tiles above the nook while they dried as there were no tiles below them for support
Once the outer tiles were completely set, I could complete the nook, using the tape again to support the tiles at the top
we ended up with smaller spaces around the decorative pieces
gloves are a MUST when using the thinset or grout!!
Once Wes had the pieces I needed cut, he and a friend of ours worked on the laundry room which had a much more straight-forward layout!
Laundry/half bath
Master bath
Kids’ bath

Step 6: Grout

After the tiles were set, it was time to grout. We just followed the instructions on the bag… it was pretty simple! We chose “mushroom” for our color, which went well with both our tile selections

After the grout sets up, it’s necessary to sponge off the film it leaves behind {which is what I’m doing here… I made sure to wear gloves for the actual grouting process!} 

Step 7: Caulk Shower/Tub Seams

I didn’t get any pictures of this, but basically it is necessary to caulk between the tile & drywall and between the tile & tub. I reccommend using a “paintable” caulk on the walls as it’s easier to touch up if it gets a little messier than desired. 

Kate Alyse

Kate Alyse

Kate is a proud mama to four amazing little sweeties {through birth + adoption} and wife to the best husband a girl could ask for! She considers herself blessed to be able to stay home with the kids, and is just starting to get into the world of homeschooling. In her "spare-time" she enjoys sharing many of the projects, stories, and gluten-free recipes that are a part of their every day lives!
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