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Monday, January 5, 2015

Beveled Tile - The Problem With Finishing Corners

It's been almost a year since we closed on the purchase of this home, and about 9 months since our bathroom renovation was completed. I haven't wanted to dwell on the bad moments and near misses (and there were several!) just luxuriate in the deep soaking tub.

But before amnesia completely takes over, I want to share some information about beveled tile that caused us a near catastrophe. Perhaps someone out there right now planning your bathroom reno will stumble across this bit of information and be able to act upon it in the planning phase while you have all your options open. Or maybe you are right in the middle of dealing with this very issue and this information might help.

Back in April of 2014, at the very moment when my marble-tub vision was starting to come to fruition, we hit a snag with the tile that could have been a show stopper.

When you are a homeowner planning your renovation, one of the common ways to blow your timeline and incur additional costs is to have something go wrong with your product order. Avoid Order and Delivery Hiccups, says Sweeten blog, and they are so right. Tile can take weeks to get in, especially if you have special order pieces.

Early on when I was placing my tile order, while I was deciding between ordering from a premium tile line like Waterworks that offers special finishing pieces or going with simple field tile from Metro Tile, it was the special pieces that I was concerned about. I was absolutely willing to splurge on Waterworks tile if it was necessary to get the look I wanted. But my contractor did not think it necessary at the time. And that was good news to my budget. 

The splurges in my bathroom were going to be the marble surround and deck for the tub and the handcrafted floor tiles from Heath Ceramics. So I was happy not to take a hit on the wall tile. The wall tile was a simple white beveled field tile and in the shower a standard charcoal gray subway tile both from Metro Tile. 

I am hi-lo like that.

When it came to the bath, I was willing to splurge on the tile if fancy corners and bullnoses were going to be needed. But just as happy to hear it wasn't going to be needed.

This was a teaching moment as they say, for myself and perhaps it will be to others out there. A case where the homeowner - me, I - should have had confidence in my gut feeling. I didn't go into this project blind - I thoroughly researched every aspect of my renovation. I recalled questions on Houzz about how to deal with the positive corners. My gut told me that beveled edges were going to need special treatment. And my gut was right.

The positive corners turned out to be a problem.

While my contractor had experience with beveled tile for a kitchen backsplash, he had never done a whole bathroom with beveled field tile. He assumed  he could finish the corners the way he usually did with subway tile, by beveling the back on his cuts, which gives a nice clean point to the edges.

But it turned out that doesn't work for beveled tile. Even when you cut the tiles on a bevel at the back, the front edges go all wavy gravy where the corners meet, due to the front bevels.

So, what to do?

I hit the interwebz to do some research and I learned that some designers confront the problem of positive corners by using beveled 3x3s. Henry said this absolutely could work. So, I called my local mom and pop store Tiles by Kia to see if the Metro line I had ordered from them carried beveled 3x3s. And sadly, the verdict was no.

Searching the web, I found beveled 3x3s in a line also called Metro by a company called Luxe Tile. And they Fedexed samples in three different whites.

If you have ever tried to match whites from different product lines, you would not believe the variation. It's astounding! And not something you want to be dealing with mid-project with your timeline hanging in the balance.

It could have been a disaster.

Unbelievably, though, one of the samples turned out to be okay for our needs.

I sau okay; it was not a perfect match. There's an almost imperceptible difference, with the 3x3s just a tiny bit more pink, as you might notice in the last photo. But because they are on the corner, I tell myself it could probably be mistaken for shadow. Certainly no one has ever commented on it if they've noticed.

But I know it's there.