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Time for Tile: Durock Prep, Installation, and Grout

When it came time for the tile work in our bathrooms and 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 another project, which was enough to do the master and main bathrooms! We found a beautiful inexpensive tile for the laundry room at Lowe’s.


Step 1: Repairing the floors

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 too.


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  walls 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 as lucky in the kids’ bathroom and had to do more piecing together.


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. The little niche 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!}


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 also 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 used Frog Tape and plastic sheeting to protect off the tub  from thinset/grout droppings. We also used the Frog Tape when we hung the square tiles above the nook to prevent them from sliding down, and again for the tiles on the “ceiling” of the little nook.


After all the shower tiles were in place we moved on to the floor. (Don’t forget that gloves are a MUST when working with the mortar and grout!)


While I worked on the Master bathroom, Wes and a friend of ours tackled the Laundry/Bath Room – they had a much more straight forward layout!


The Laundry, Master bath, and Main/Kids’ bathroom all laid out!


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 recommend using a “paintable” caulk on the walls as it’s easier to touch up if it gets a little messier than desired.

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