The curse of being an architect strikes again … every day starts off with a small slice of madness served up to me in my shower. It is important to mention that I did not design or build this shower myself – it came to me this way when I bought my new home. Apparently I am destined to have odd showers in my life (don’t know what I’m talking about? You should read this: Master Bath Shower – You Displease Me) and while my new shower deserves its own post pointing out the new level of shower crazy that I have to deal with, I don’t feel like inflicting you with that level of insanity.
But just a little insanity never hurt anyone, right? Brace yourself –
First, I should apologize for subjecting you to this image … nobody needs to see me straddling a toilet, but I don’t know how else to explain this weirdness. Basically, I have “His + Her” Master bathroom that shares a single shower. As a result, the shower has an entry from both sides of the bathroom – pretty straightforward so far, right? The weirdness was that this shower didn’t have any doors that would provide visual privacy between the His and the Her sides of the bathroom. What this means is that if you sit on one of the toilets, you can see through the shower to the other toilet.
In defense of this spatial layout, you do have to tilt about 10° off center in order to make toilet-to-toilet eye contact. As much as I love my wife, and as comfortable as we have become during the 21 years that we’ve been married, I don’t want to be that comfortable.
So, there’s a little quick background data to help set the conversation up regarding the tile madness that is my master shower … it’s just another log on the “Bob Borson Master Bathroom” madness fire.
The picture above is from me sitting on the floor in the shower and looking up. The shower isn’t very large – about 4′ long and 3′ wide. With a little effort, you will notice 3 things wrong with the picture above. First, the light isn’t centered in the shower. Secondly, the shower head isn’t centered in the wall (which is kind of a big deal considering that the midpoint is only 24″ away from the opening under ideal circumstances). Lastly, the door openings aren’t the same size OR aligned across from one another. I have shaded the misalignment in red above to help you see the difference.
So, I took these pictures this morning sitting/slumping on the shower floor with my wide-angle lens – sorry for the distortion but it simply couldn’t be avoided. Do you see how the tile joints don’t align … anywhere!
I have rotated around on the floor and I’m now looking at the ceiling and the wall opposite the shower head. More tile misalignment in my shower … and more therapy in my future.
Why? Seriously, pick a line and simply stick with it – how hard can this be? I don’t install tile for a living … I don’t even install tile for a hobby but even I could do a better job than this. Anyone with eyeballs could do a better job than this.
No explanation is required. If this was one of my projects, I would simply point at this tile madness and say “Tear it out. This is crap and you know it”. Luckily, I don’t currently work with any contractors who would try this sort of thing. Nobody gets to try this sort of thing twice in my world. This is a “one and done” sort of offense.
Even the bits that are wrong have variable degrees of wrongness to them. At least if you’re going to suck, shouldn’t you try to suck consistently? Maybe that’s asking too much, but it does set the table for the rest of this
rant post. How tile gets laid is a big deal to me – it’s an indication of your character and I will be looking at it with a critical eye. This is one of those skills that really sets the tone for the entire project – as a contractor, you either care about your work or you don’t. If your tile works sucks, you don’t have it … and without “it”, I don’t want you working on one of my jobs.
That having been said – What do we do about it in my office? Well, we actually draw the tile AND grout lines (the actual thickness) and we work out how we want the tile to course out. We are going through this process on our cabin project and will be issuing drawings to the contractor that will graphically indicate the layout we want to see.
The original construction drawings indicated a tile pattern for scope, but we didn’t have the tile selections in place at the time they were issued. Now that we know that we are using a tile that is 11 5/8″ x 23 3/8″ and we want grout lines that are 1/8″ thick, we actually drew the actual tile and grout size. It would have been simple enough to draw a 12″ x 24″ tile and get close but if we are going to the trouble in the first place, might as well take advantage of the computers accuracy and draw everything actual size.
These drawings are a work in progress and they only exist to show the contractor the tile pattern – all the other project data has been removed.
This isn’t the most challenging of tile patterns to layout – we don’t deviate from this horizontal tile pattern – but we do want the horizontal datum line to make sense. We want the horizontal grout lines to work out with low walls and counter tops, and we don’t want grout lines to interfere with light switches and outlets.
Once the horizontal grout lines have been set (in our case, at 40″ above the floor), all that’s left is to work out the horizontal grout lines in each elevation. I don’t have a problem with tiles not being located symmetrically on the wall – nor do I need to wrap the tile pattern from one wall to the adjacent walls uninterrupted. What’s most important is that the items that are on each wall fall within the tile placement in a way that makes sense. In the next picture, you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about.
This particular bathroom is intended to get heavy use from a lot of people coming in from an afternoon of swimming in the lake. As a result, we don’t have towel bars, we have wall hooks to hang the towels up. We set the tile placement in order for the hooks to fall exactly within each tile – because that’s why you take the time to draw the tile patterns in elevation.
I do want to go on record to say that we don’t always go to this level of documentation on every project. There are some contractors that we’ve worked with repeatedly over the years and we have become familiar with their level of attention to detail. The contractor that builds my playhouses is also the contractor that built the KHouse Modern and this house (which needs a name, if you are so inclined) and was featured in the post titled “Pride – Is it Really One of the 7 Deadly Sins?” (which ironically was the very first post I ever wrote about tile layout). But we work with a lot of different contractors and until we know what we’ve got to work with, drawing the tile patterns just seems like the smart thing to do.