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Monday, January 5, 2015

Beveled Tile - The Problem With Finishing Corners

Back when we were renovating the bathroom, just when my marble-tub vision was starting to come to life, we hit a snag with the tile that could have been a show stopper. I want to share some information that I wish I'd known then about beveled tile. Perhaps someone out there right now planning your bathroom reno will stumble across this in your planning phase, while you have all your options open. Or maybe you're right in the middle of dealing with this very issue right now, and this information might help.

The most common way for any homeowner to blow your renovation timeline and incur additional costs is to have something go wrong with a product order. Avoid Order and Delivery Hiccups, says Sweeten blog, and they are so right. When it comes to tile, special order tiles usually have a six week lead time. Even common tiles like subway tile can have special order pieces that take a few weeks.

Early on when I was placing my tile order, I had to decide between ordering from a premium tile line like Waterworks that offers special finishing pieces or going with just simple field tile from Metro Tile. I was absolutely willing to splurge on Waterworks tile if I was going to need special finishing pieces like fancy corners and bullnoses, because they had the most beautiful and extensive line I had seen. I showed my contractor the simple look I was going for — white beveled field tile in the bathroom and charcoal gray subway tile in the shower stall — and he didn't think special order pieces were going to be necessary. This was very good news for my budget. I was already splurging on marble for the surround and deck and handcrafted floor tiles from Heath Ceramics. Even though in my gut I felt something was wrong, I was more than happy not to take a hit on wall tile. 

I wasn't happy for long. This would turn out to be a teaching moment, as they say. I should have had more confidence in that gut feeling. I had thoroughly researched every aspect of this renovation and I had a vague recall about questions on Houzz related to how to deal with positive corners when using beveled tile. My gut told me the beveled edges were going to need special treatment. And my gut was right. The positive corners turned out to be a problem.

My contractor had experience with beveled tile used for a kitchen backsplash, but he'd never done an entire bathroom with it. He figured  he could finish the corners the way he usually did subway tile, by beveling the back on his cuts, which gives a nice clean point to the positive corners. But it turned out that doesn't work with 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.

Now, in the middle of the job, what to do?

I hit the Internet and discovered that some designers confront the problem of positive corners by using beveled 3x3s. I showed Henry and he said this absolutely could work, so I called my local mom and pop store Tiles by Kia, where I had ordered the tile. Sadly, the verdict was no go. They said that the Metro line I'd ordered from didn't carry beveled 3x3s. 

Searching the web, I found beveled 3x3s in a line also called Metro by a company called Luxe Tile. I had them Fedex me samples in three different whites. If you've never tried to match whites from different product lines, you would not believe the variation. It's astounding! And it's not something you want to be dealing with mid-project, with your timeline hanging in the balance.

This really could have been a disaster. Unbelievably, though, one of the whites turned out to be okay for our needs.

I say okay; it was not a perfect match. There's an almost imperceptible difference, with the 3x3s reading as just a tiny bit more pink, as you might be able to see in the above photo. But because they're on shower door corner, I tell myself the pinky note might be mistaken for shadow. Certainly if anyone has ever noticed, they haven't commented

But I know it's there.