House For Six

Entry Progress: Herringbone Brick Tile Floors

Deme Crinion9 Comments

After all sorts of drama between us and the contractor approved by our insurance, we finally have new floors in our entry!  We ended up cutting ties with the old company after several weeks of waiting and miscommunication (drama! drama! drama!) and were able to use our own contractor for the job.....our contractor who may never do anything for us ever again after this time consuming labor of minutia.

Actually, I think the whole crew was quite proud of it by the end of the project.  And we could not be happier!

Last we left things, the old company had ripped up the damaged floors (from a toilet leak) and we were left with the exposed plywood subfloor.  All along we had planned to install the leftover wood flooring we had used throughout the rest of the main level of the house, but after taking all the measurements, we were two boxes short. 

Just order more, right?  Well, I originally got that flooring on a mega sale with free shipping since we bought in bulk.  The current price for 2 boxes was now more, and the shipping costs were as much as the product.  

Which opened up the possibility for us to do something totally different.  Because if we were going to spend the money, I would rather spend it on product/labor than shipping fees. Once we went down that Plan B rabbit hole, we knew that doing something other than wood was the way to go.  We really wanted to use something distinctly different from the surrounding wood floors, so it didn't look like a sad attempt at matching up two different but similar products.  

To quote the husband, "If we're going to do something different, then lets go bold".  I love it when he says that.   

But bold can also carry a hefty price tag.  This project had to stay within the amount covered by our insurance company. We had already come out of pocket for the deductible/plumbing repair and this entry makeover was not planned in our budget.  

Color and patterned tiles peaked our interest, but they were also pricey and ran the risk of losing our affection over time.....yet other options felt too safe.  I've always loved the idea of brick pavers (also $$) but stumbled on this brick tile via Home Depot.  It was neutral but had a great natural feel to it.  I thought if we laid it in a herringbone pattern it would add enough interest to keep a timeless material feeling fun and unique.  It would also be a nice nod to the larger grey tiles we installed in a herringbone pattern in our mudroom.  

When our contractor walked in and saw my little test groups of the teeniest, tiniest tile he just stood there quietly staring at them for awhile.  Finally, he pointed to the herringbone and said, "You want that one, don't you?" I knew it meant way more work on his part, and almost defaulted to the standard brick pattern because I felt bad (story of my life).  As I stood there waffling, one of the guys asked if I would regret not doing the herringbone.  Yes.  Yes, I would.  

tile layout options

So, I said "yes", to the herringbone, pleaded for them not to run out the door as what was supposed to be an easy 2-day job turned into a painstakingly detailed 4 1/2 day job, and quickly ran to grab a few bags of Chick-Fil-A chocolate chunk cookies for the crew as a peace offering. 

Thankfully, they stayed and we now have this beauty...

herringbone brick tile floors

This obviously wasn't a DIY job, but I tried to document the process along the way as best I could with my phone camera.  For those that asked for specifics....

-The tile is actually a glazed porcelain but feels very rustic and like natural stone to the touch.

-Each tile is 2 1/3" x 10" and had to be set individually.....the reason I can't call our contractor for at least 6 months (or until he forgets his back pain).

-We used 1/8" spacers

-The grout color is Dove Grey.  We didn't want too much of a contrast but didn't want anything too dark either.  

Ok, let's get into the weeds a little.  The first order of business was deciding where to start. When laying tile you always want to start in the center of the wall, but this space is not a simple square or rectangle.  There are lots of angles and doorways.  So, did we want that first row to line up in the center of the front door or the center of the doorway that leads to the kitchen/family room?   

plumb line

Since people are primarily transitioning through this space to other areas of the house, it made the most sense for the first row to be centered on the doorway leading to the most used area of the home.

In the photo above you can see where they found the center point in the doorway and made a chalk line down from that point to the opposite wall.  Fun tip:  they asked me for a can of hairspray to set the chalk line so that it wouldn't smudge.  It took just a minute to spray it and let it dry. Who knew? 

first rows of herringbone brick tile

They used all sorts of handy angle tools to ensure the first tile was set at a 45 degree angle and they laid out several tiles before securing them with thin set (mortar).  This gave them a chance to see how the pattern would hit the doorways and edges before we fully committed.  And they did lots of stepping back and eyeballing to ensure they were straight. 

Those first two rows took the longest to get in, but once set it was pretty easy to continue the pattern out from there. 

herringbone brick tile floors

This flooring extends into a coat closet (door on the right in the above photo) and a 1/2 bath (door on the left).  Our insurance covered the wallpaper removal in the bathroom (hallelujah!), so we now have a totally blank slate in the bathroom.  With the absence of any natural light, I'm leaning towards a darker color on the cabinet base, light walls, some fun art, and eventually swapping the counter out for a wood top. 

herringbone brick tile floors

I really appreciate the thought the crew put into the path they worked.  We obviously couldn't walk on the tile while it was setting, but we did need to access the stairs.  

herringbone brick tile floors

They made it a point to leave that patch in front of the stairs for the last day and made sure it would have enough time to set before the kids came home from school.  The kids quickly learned that they could walk on the areas where the spacers had been removed (set tiles) and stay away from areas with spacers still in....though we tried to keep them off the area as much as possible.  This was a feat in itself as Liv took to saying "hi" to them every single time she walked past (approx 754 times a day)...and they were sweet enough to greet her back every time.

herringbone brick tile floors

They were thrilled when they came home and the floor looked like this.  No spacers = dance party on the tile.

herringbone brick tile floors

Even without the grout and before they had cleaned, it looked incredible.  The grout just took it over the edge.  And grouting was an all hands on deck affair.  The grout dried quickly and if it wasn't wiped down well in a timely manner it would be a pain to clean.

We had just a fine layer of dust that disappeared after another day of wiping it down. Once the floors were installed, the very earth-toned wallpaper became a hundred times more noticeable to me.....and my rockstar husband said "Let's go ahead and finish the entry" (happy wife, happy life #somethinglikethat).  Which means the magic of trim and paint are transforming this space even further. 

trim work in progress

I'll break down the trim installation in a later post once it's all painted out, but for now we have the trim up and I'm aaaaaalmost done patching, sanding, and caulking. (I don't really have any fingerprints left after that, so James says I should probably transition to a life of crime). 

You can see that we didn't we take down the wallpaper first. This is something I could totally regret, but is a worthwhile gamble in my book.  

The crew used a steamer to take down the wallpaper in the bathroom and it came off so easily. I was hopeful that the entry wallpaper would follow suit but we tested the steamer on one of the seams and it would not budge.  Even after holding the steam on it for a good long while we could barely peel even a corner back.  Which makes me semi-confident that a few layers of paint would not cause the paper to bubble and peel.  

The wallpaper goes all the way up the stairwell into nooks and crannies that would be really difficult to take down. This would be an inch by inch process and I think we value our sanity too much to tackle that much wallpaper. 

Normally when doing a board and batten type wall treatment, we would paint the walls first, then put up trim.  But we thought covering up those wallpaper edges with trim (instead of paint that could seep through) would give us a better chance for success.  Fingers crossed.

Once all that goes white, I'm thinking the door needs a fun, green, blue, black?  The kids have deemed me "The Color Thief" as of late....which is ironic because I'm a color lover at heart.  I just need a nice neutral base and then we can bring in the color we all love.  I'm not going to decide on a door color until all the walls are painted, but these sure look fun...

blush pink door
mint green door

Photo by Light Locations

grey and black interior doors

Grey or black door

We also have plans for the stairs!  The carpet is coming up, a runner is going in, and well, there's more painting in my future.  I'm so glad that James gave us the push to see this area done to completion.  Those herringbone floors are just too pretty not to address the things around them.  I know this was not exactly a thorough step-by-step but if you have any questions, leave them in the comments and I'll do my best to answer!