Creating a Storypole

Drawings are very helpful when it comes to understanding the relation between field (the room’s basic tile work) and decorative tiles. Often, the thickness and overall dimension of decorative tile is different than the field tile. This can make layout a challenging task. Try to figure in all the differences in thickness and size before hand. One way the pros quickly judge how decorative tile will work with field tile is to use a "storypole". A storypole is a narrow piece of scrap plywood that’s held up against the wall to be tiled and marked in increments to show exactly where each course of tile will be. Markings show both the horizontal and vertical lie of the tile. The good part about the storypole is it allows you to see if there will be conflicts in dimension and style, and how the tile will line up with the room’s fittings and fixtures.

Decorative tile accents like bullnoses, raised patterns, trim bands, and borders can add just enough detail to make a ho-hum bathroom a designer showcase. But before falling in love with the brightest sea blue bullnose or an intricate raised motif mural, remember that holding a single sample will not give you a clear vision of the finished results in a full shower. Certain colors and finishes pick up light differently. If possible, take samples home with you and examine them in the room where they will be installed. Work with your supplier to find a location where that same material can be seen in full. And, prepare yourself for some variation. Tile manufacture (especially custom designs) is equal parts art and science. The tiles that arrive for installation may not be picture perfect replicas of a showroom’s display.

It is also important to pick a style and finish that you will be happy with in the future. A tile with a high glaze and one-eighth-inch grout lines is easy to keep clean and free of mildew. An intricate and irregular pattern will be hard to keep clean. In a bathroom, any small void will harbor mold and mildew.

Planning and Design
Like doors and windows, tile should be ordered as soon as the job starts. Most custom-ordered tiles are priced by the lineal foot or by the piece, and take anywhere from one to six months for delivery. Something as simple as tile ordered too late can throw a job off schedule. When it comes to ordering, don’t skimp. Purchase enough material to do the job plus ten to fifteen percent extra. Tiles can be damaged in shipping, while being installed, or five years down the road. Having extras on hand can prevent unnecessary hold-ups.

Behind the Tile
In new construction, the walls should be framed in straight, kiln-dried lumber. If the wood is too green (wet) it will shrink. As the wood dries and contracts, cracks can appear along the grout lines. In humid bathrooms, metal studs work very well. There is no shrinkage and the walls supporting the tile are laser straight. Metal studs may cost a little more, but the finished results will be obvious once the job is done.

Credit: Renovate with Tommy Mac