Decisions, decisions - Tile around the bathroom walls?

skubaJune 6, 2013

Hi, we are faced with more decisions for our remodel and hoping to get some help here. Our bathroom doesn't have a 3 wall for the tub so it will be tiled in, and we want to use subway tile for the tub and the surround wall. But we are not sure if it will look weird to only have that area tiled. What do you think?

Should we wainscot the entire walls with the subway tile? We thought about maybe just wainscoting behind the toilet and the vanity, but leave the other walls just painted. Would it be also weird?

Please see the image attached.

Any thoughts?

Thanks much

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It looks like you're putting a shower in that tub. What is your plan for containing the water?

Aside from that, either tile just the tub area or tile the whole room. Don't tile the tub, toilet, and vanity and leave the rest untiled. It will look like you forgot those walls or ran out of tile (or just have't gotten to it yet!).

    Bookmark   June 6, 2013 at 2:40PM
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catbuilder has a good point about the shower enclosure - if you have glass doors they will be a natural transition between tiled and untiled areas if you only tile the tube area. Personally, I tend to lean towards the wainscot myselft. If you do the wainscot tile I think you should do all the walls, not just the vanity and toilet walls. Look through some pictures on Houzz to get an idea of whether you prefer with wainscot or not. Here are a few to get you started.

Wainscot tile:

Traditional Bathroom by New York Architects & Designers Linda Yowell Architects

Traditional Bathroom by New York Architects & Designers Linda Yowell Architects

Traditional Bathroom by Saint Charles Kitchen & Bath Designers Stonebreaker Builders & Remodelers

No Wainscot:

Traditional Bathroom by San Francisco General Contractors Cardea Building Co.

Contemporary Bathroom by North Hollywood General Contractors Globus Builder

Traditional Bathroom by Boston Interior Designers & Decorators Molly McGinness Interior Design

    Bookmark   June 6, 2013 at 3:50PM
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catbuilder - we are containing the water with a L shaped rod with curtain.

If we do the wainscoting, should we not use the marble backsplash that comes with the vanity and instead just have the tiles going about 3 to 5 inches above the vanity?


    Bookmark   June 6, 2013 at 7:31PM
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I am dealing with some small bathroom design myself, and actually prefer tile behind the toilet.

I would probably wainscot to a height of one row above the vanity.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2013 at 9:30PM
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I have a similar dilemma. I hadn't thought about the remaining wall looking forgotten if not tiled. Gotta think about that some more. Because I'm leaning towards wanting there to be tile behind the toilet. Waterproofing is always good in the toilet zone, IMO.

I won't have a backsplash behind the vanity. I like the look of not having a backsplash but instead seeing the wall tile. Either way, waterproofing works pretty well though I wonder if it will be necessary to re-caulk behind the vanity occasionally without the backsplash. I don't have experience with this yet.

I also haven't made up my mind about a shower curtain. I'm wondering if a relatively shallow pony wall between vanity and tub will suffice - maybe add a vertical sheet of immovable glass to extend the pony wall a bit. But if there is still some splashing from tub/shower to the rest of the room, having tile nearly everywhere (except above wainscot) will probably minimize the problem, I'm hoping anyway.

When I do choose the wainscoting, I want to avoid the "sandwich" look for such a small space. So color above wainscot will blend very well, maybe white (or white with subtle tint) above and white subway below with no obviously decorative horizontal tile edge. Still designing.
Good luck - Let us know what you decide.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2013 at 12:30AM
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You can choose whether or not to use the marble backsplash, depending on which you prefer. The 2nd photo above shows a small marble backsplash with the tile behind it. The 3rd photo shows it without the marble backsplash. Using only one row of subway above the countertop won't give you much protection.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2013 at 7:38AM
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I have to preface my comments by writing that I typically build colonial-style here in CT. Trim can sometimes be simple...or ornate...but there is usually trim. Some functional, some decorative. But still, a fair amount of built-up trim is not uncommon.

With that out of the way:

I'm not a big fan of tub surround bullnose tile dying out and transitioning onto drywall. I prefer that something, usually trim of some sort, contain that tile.

At the two ends of your tub, consider adding something like a floor-to-ceiling pilaster. The tile will butt into the pilaster on the tub side of things. The drywall on the other.

The size and scale of the pilaster can be up to you, depending on the scale of the room and the rest of the trim in the room.

What I also like about a detail like that is that it projects a few inches out from the wall, proud of the tile. That projection will help contain any water that gets past your L-shaped shower curtain.

The pilaster does not have to be fancy. It can simply reflect the style of your door or window casing, for example.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2013 at 10:47AM
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mongoct, would you be able to point out any pictures that show such pillaster? In lieu of a pillaster, do you think I should at least have tile trim around it?


    Bookmark   June 7, 2013 at 11:54AM
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I also was interested in knowing about a pilaster (spelled with one letter "L"). Here's an ideabook on Houz which shows it as basically being a column that is attached to a wall - that's how I'm seeing it . Describedon as "elaborate". Does seem like it adds formality. Also, seems like in a bathroom, it should be made of stone/tile. Link here at:
Houzz ideabook on Pilasters

    Bookmark   June 7, 2013 at 2:28PM
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I know what a pilaster is, but can't envision is as part of a shower.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2013 at 4:12PM
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I know what a pilaster is, but can't envision is as part of a shower.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2013 at 4:13PM
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It's not the exact idea I had in mind, but this photo was on the first page after a google image search.

For your bathroom I had in mind a pilaster where it ran floor-to ceiling, with the base of it abutted right next to the side of the tub instead of sitting on the tub deck as this one does in the photo. One between the vanity and the tub. Another between the toilet and the tub.

Again, it doesn't have to be a frilly fluted pilaster. It can be simple in design.

The idea is to simply add a border of some sort that contains the tile.

Again, not the best photo...but hopefully it'll help a bit with visualizing the idea.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2013 at 4:53PM
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So in our case add it only to the end of the shower to the side of the vanity? Or add to both?

I think it's just too much for a small bathroom.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2013 at 6:05PM
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Mongo - is that Pilaster built out of wood? It might work even in my small bath where I'm thinking of putting a pony wall as separator - maybe a pilaster would add better "architectural interest". Thinking that it must not be wood because it is so close to the tub - do you use kerdi board over sheetrock? or something like that?

    Bookmark   June 7, 2013 at 7:01PM
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Hey guys, thanks for all the feedback. We decided that we won't wainscot the bathroom and won't have tile behind the toilet, just on the shower wall. Now the question is should the the subway tile go all the way up the wall or end in line with shower curtain.

The architect designed with tile all the way up. If it was an alcove shower it would make total sense, but it isn't. When the curtain is closed (and it will most of the time), one will see those tiles going to the top, but on the left there will be no tile (toilet wall).

If we made the tiles going up only to about 7' in line with shower rod. The visual would be just wall paint, and would match all the other walls.

I made a mockup. See below.


    Bookmark   June 12, 2013 at 1:30AM
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Just my 1/2 cent. I would tile the entire wall, shower and behind toilet. It is the visual entry wall from your door entrance. I realize a curtain needs to be closed for the most part to dry, but i open mine for the rest of the day because it opens up the room, and i like my tile. It goes all the way up to a post and beam ceiling. I'm not sure why it bugs me to see so many breaks and jags in tile these days, up down and across, even stair stepping...shower steam and moisture does effect the wall above eventually and the wall towards the toilet just by the direction of your shower head. But more to the point is when this trend started. Having been in hundreds of NYC bathrooms original build from the turn of the century thru the 60's, they do not jog tile up down and around in some decorative way. Stopping at the division before your sink area is fine as that division makes sense. A friend of mine stopped the tile like your last post, but it was a budget concern, so maybe that is the reasoning? The recent 'modernists' in bath design seem to do a great job with many of these issues by taking tile all the way around at the shower curtain/glass door line...the entire room, or tiling one entire wall.
In the first pic above, the nice traditional bath with vintage fixtures, i would have stopped the tile just above, by one or two tiles, the window hardware, all the way around clean. That would fall just below the sconces. Just a thought, probably just me...

    Bookmark   June 12, 2013 at 6:30AM
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Thanks sleevendog. One reason to not do the entire wall with tile is because we want to hand a picture or we might need a surface medicine cabinet for extra storage. Wouldn't it be weird to hang something on the tile?

Considering my specific question in the previous message, if I am not tiling the toilet wall, do you think the shower tile should go all the way up or stop at curtain rod line?


    Bookmark   June 12, 2013 at 12:16PM
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For the tiling inside the shower, I'd definitely go all the way to the ceiling. It makes it look more complete and also tiles are just more durable than paint in a shower. One less thing to worry about in the long run.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2013 at 12:31PM
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I was just at a local tile store and asked the same question (tile the wall to the top or end at the same height as the shower curtain). The sales person said either way is fine but think about who will be showering there and how tall they are. If it's someone who is 6' you will probably want to go all the way up as splashing could go on the dry wall portion.

That seems like good advice. In our old bathroom (which we will start remodeling in a few weeks) the surround stops at curtain height and the dry wall does get splashed on.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2013 at 3:22PM
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If my shower was alcove (between 2 walls) I wouldn't even think about it and just tile all the way up. Because I have that other portion of the wall without tile is why I am unsure.

I don't think that some splashes on drywall should be a concern.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2013 at 4:06PM
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My shower is even tiled on the ceiling, and there are often drips coming from it from all the moisture. I can't imagine all that water on drywall.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2013 at 5:42PM
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I prefer tile all the way to the ceiling, but I think you also need to consider how level is the line where your wall and ceiling meet. We had our basement bathroom tiled all the way to the ceiling. Well, the tiles are level but the ceiling is not. There is a noticeable gap in certain areas between the tile and ceiling. It is caulked, but it drives me nuts that the caulk line is wider in places and not equal all the way across. We had a few issues with our basement contractor so maybe a more skilled tile installer could have compensated for this in some way. I don't know.

Since nothing in our house is level and to avoid this again, when we did the master bathroom I decided to only take the tile up to about 7 ft. We used greenboard drywall above the tile area. This area does get some minor condensation, but it does not get any spray from the shower.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2013 at 6:54PM
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