Moving Right Along

As someone whose artwork is all about repetitive process I’m surprised at my attitude towards tiling.

Could be it’s the physical discomfort of crawling around on your hands and knees for hours at a time, or maybe it’s impatience at wanting to get on with other reno projects that fuels my dislike (my suspicion is that it’s a combination of the two).

Enduring the experience has at least led to some self-discovery:  I enjoy DIY but I would happily pay someone else thousands of dollars to do the job I just did.

Don’t get me wrong.

I’m not dissing the act of self-tiling.

I think for most folks it would be hugely satisfying – and it started out that way for me.

tile layout

Finding the ideal tile layout.

My dissatisfaction stemmed from my expectations.  My.  Incredibly.  High.  Expectations.


Instead of it being a “weekend job” – touted on many DIY sites – it has stretched into a two-and-a-half-week job.  There is a lot of hurry-up-and-wait in between the stages of mortaring, grouting, and sealing.  Anyone who tells you it’s a weekend DIY job is a big, lousy Mr. or Mrs. Pants-On-Fire.

Waiting for mortar to cure.

Waiting for the mortar to cure.


My decision to tile hadn’t taken into account certain details.  Having a threshold that is Hilti-gunned to a concrete floor with stripped screws and needing to undercut a heavy duty metal door jamb slowed down our tiling process considerably.  Cutting the door jambs alone took the better part of an hour.  Running to Home Depot to find appropriate Dremel metal cutting attachments to deal with the aluminum threshold ate up more precious work hours.


This past holiday Monday we finally made it to the grouting stage.  I was all set to do a happy dance (as much as my wrecked knees would allow).

Andrew grouting

Andrew grouting.

Grouted and counting minutes to final buff.

Grouted and counting minutes to final buff.

And then the grout dried.

Grout after having cured for two days.

Grout after having cured for two days.

I was heartsick to the point of deflation when I saw the dark grey grout was drying much lighter than the colour swatch pictured on the box.  In the end, the grout appeared lighter than even the tile itself.

The effect is not uncommon, apparently.  Efflorescence and leaching can be caused by a myriad of reasons, one of them being hard water, so it may not even have been our inexperience that was the cause.

Whatever the reason, our aesthetic “flaw” is no grounds for alarm, at least as far as structural integrity is concerned.

From what I’ve read on the interwebs, there are three possible solutions:

  1. Use an acid to scrub off the mineral build-up causing the haze (this may potentially weaken the grout).
  2. Use a grout renew stain to acquire desired colour (this will set our sealing schedule back).
  3. Saw out existing grout and regrout (yeah, this is NEVER happening.  Especially since I’m not certain that user error is the problem.  Not exactly keen to replicate the process if there is a chance I’ll get the same result).

Another solution, proposed by Andrew:

  1. Alter your expectations and live with it.

I’ve been struggling the last two days with trying to let go of the heavy, deflated weight of disappointment that accompanies unmet expectations.  In artmaking some of the greatest discoveries come out of accidents or error – having an experimental nature is a must.  You’d think being a creative type I’d have some kind of ease or acceptance with material SNAFU.

Not this time.  But I’m almost there.

And I suppose, after a while, the grout will pick up dirt and develop a darker patina all on its own. 🙂

How do you deal with an experience that doesn’t live up to your expectations?  Do you suffer, agonizing over unplanned results?  Or are you able to roll with the punches and easily alter your expectations?



2 Responses to “Moving Right Along”

  1. Thanks Lisa! I feel better now 🙂

    What I’ve discovered is that there seem to be a lot of problems stemming from the products that are available to DIYers – many pros say they would never use these products themselves because of poor performance. Thanks Big Box Stores, for promoting a mediocre standard in home improvement.

    As for how long you must wait to redo your own bathroom: I say if you’re unhappy with it, don’t wait any longer!

  2. Lisa Call says:

    Ugh – this post brings up memories my disastrous tile job in my bathroom. And I didn’t even do it myself. In addition to having them pull up tiles and redo part of it I had them sand out the grout (they used the wrong box!) and redo it. The end result is still ugly and very disappointing. The remodel was completed 4 years ago and since they day they finished I’ve been pondering how long I need to wait to have the entire thing redone again.

    So my conclusion is that tiling sucks no matter what. It’s not you.