Sunday, November 12, 2006

Bathroom Tile: Round Two

I dreamt of tile last night. That should give you some indication of how much I’m obsessing about it. I’ve contacted a few other places, and some friends of mine say they have some leftover subway tile they want to get rid of. The selections are many and the prices are all over the place

The tile, of course, is for wainscoting in the bathroom. I’m basically looking at 3 different tiles to complete the project. There is the field tile. This is a 3X6 white “subway” tile. There is the cap. This is the piece that hides the transition from the tile and the wall above. They are roughly 2.5-inches high X 6 inches wide. Finally, there is the base that makes the transition from the field tile to the floor. This can either be a simple cove that is maybe an inch and a half high, or it can be a fancier 6X6 inch tile with a fluted profile. The fancier base is much like a wooden baseboard in other parts of the house.

There are two big differences between all the tiles. The field tile really only has a few distinctions between the different manufactures, and then there are differences in an individual manufactures product line. The really high-end field tile has perfectly squared edges and is an exact match for antique subway tile. After that, some manufactures offer either a matte or gloss line. Some also offer other colors besides white to chose from, but I will be doing white.

The real differences are in the selections of Cap & Base. I’m mean, let’s fact it, a 3X6 white tile is a 3X6 white tile. It’s hard to do a lot with that. The subtlety between a square edge or a slightly round edge will be lost on most people. So the real issue is picking the cap and base I want, and then buying all the field tile I need. The issue here is, I can’t mix and match from different manufacturers. I can’t buy the field tile for $5.00 a sq ft from one manufacturer, and then buy the cap and base from another manufacturer because the color white is not a universal constant. I have to buy everything from one supplier to ensure the color is consistent throughout the different tiles – field, cap, and base.

So, here are my choices so far. This was the first place I looked, and I really liked their tile, especially the base.

Field Tile = $10.95 sq ft
Cap = $23.00 lineal foot
Base = $28.00 lineal foot

Designs In Tile: Someone left a comment on my blog about Designs In Tile and I was very excited about these tiles. They are within a days drive so I could pick them up and save on shipping. They do a historically accurate tile. Problem number one: Their web site says they are booked with orders until 2008. They won’t even send out a catalog! I kind of want to finish the project before 2008. However, they do list over-runs and odd lots that are available now.

I had high-hopes for the over-run stuff because I have a pretty small space to tile. I emailed them on Friday with my needs and they got back to me yesterday. Not bad. The woman who contacted me said the over-runs were no longer available, but they were about to start a new run for a customer, and because mine was a small order, they could add it on. I was very excited until I found out about Problem Number Two: The prices.

Field Tile = $25.00 sq ft
Cap = No price given
Base = No price given

Next I went to The Tile Center here in town. They had two lines of tile to chose from. I walked in and saw a display of field, base, and cap selections in about 6 different colors. It was off in the corner with another display shoved up against it. They had one of each tile from each color selection in vertical columns on the wall. A separate column for each color. The only color peaking out from behind the display in front of it was the white. The manufacturer was called something like Art Work Tile in Boston. I don't remember now. The different caps were at the top, followed by a selection of boarders (dental work, swirls, pyramidal shapes, etc), then the field tiles, and finally, the base tile. Very nice stuff.

As I was looking at it a saleswoman walked up holding a 2X3 foot display board of another selection of subway tiles. I looked at it as she approached and nothing jumped out at me. I asked her about the prices of the stuff from Boston and instead of answering my question she held up the display board she was holding and started to tell me about that tile instead. It was the selection from Daltile, and it was nice, but as I said, nothing really grabbed me. The Boston tile was nicer.

We went back to her sales desk and I listened politely as she told me about the Daltile. They had a matte and a gloss. These prices are for gloss. Matte was a little cheaper.

Field = $5.60
Cap = $7.00 lineal foot
Base = I did not write this down. It was just a simple 1-inch cove piece. Probably $2 to $3 a foot.

After I let her give me her sales pitch on Daltile I asked again about the stuff from Boston. When I asked about the base I had to explain to her the difference between the cove piece, which could be used as a base, or a real 6X6 inch base tile. I actually had to take her back over to the display and point it out to her and explain how it was used.

Boston Tile
Field = $13.99 sq ft
Cap = $18.50 lineal foot
Base = $22.00 lineal foot

Finally, I was at dinner with fiends last night and I got to talking about tile. Surprise, surprise, right? They mentioned that they had “a lot” of tile left over form their bathroom project they did 6 yeas ago. They said it was “very inexpensive” and they wanted to get rid of it. It sounds good, but I’m not sure how much there is, and I’m not sure if there is base and cap. They got it at a tile center in Berkeley, so if I needed more, which I’m sure I would, I would need to get it from there, or find another distributor that carries the same tile. I’m not sure if this will work out.

From a purely aesthetics point of view, I’m still leaning towards The simple fact is, I like the base. The cap of is almost identical to the cap of the Boston tile. The base, however, is much nicer. As far as cost, the Boston tile seems in the same ballpark as the tile. The field is a little more, but the base and cap are a little less. The real difference comes when you factor in shipping and taxes. I wouldn’t have to pay shipping for the Boston stuff or the Dal Tile, but I would pay tax.

Just playing with rough numbers, to give you some idea of the difference, these figures take in to account shipping and taxes. = $4,200
Boston = $3,900
Daltile = $1,350

As you can see, there is only about $300 difference between what I really, really want and what I’d be happy with. The Daltile, of course, is significantly less expensive. The other option is to go with a wooden cap instead of tile. For about $50 I could put the same fluted, wooden, Victorian wainscot cap in the bathroom that I used in the kitchen. That would cut about $1000 off the cost of the tile, and I would still get the base I like. This is something I’m considering, and it is something that was done 100 years ago, so it’s not like I’m cheating

There are still other options to consider, so we’ll see what happens. I have plenty of time to decide. I’ve made a few recent bathroom purchases, and there are a few more big-ticket items I have to buy. The biggest big-ticket item will be the tile, so I’ll leave that for last and see if I can afford what I really, really want. Who knows, maybe the lottery ticket in my wallet is a big winner and I can go back to Designs in Tile and order the really nice stuff.


Anonymous said...

Why not use the white subway tile from your friends (if there is enough of course) and do a black cap and base from the one you really like. It would look nice and you would not have to worry about the whites matching.

Allison said...

There's also Greenwich Village by American Olean - that's what I got for my kitchen backsplash... pictures are on my blog...

Anonymous said...

I vote for the and the wooden cap. I used thier subway tile and just love it - It matches my orignal subway exactly, and if I had not done it myself i would have sworn its orginal. As far as the wood cap goes, I lived in a Victorian Flat in San Francisco with the orignal bath and it had the wood cap over the tile - looked fine, and actaullt helped tie in the wood window and door frames.

JeffersonParker said...

Alright, I hate to sound like one of those internet crazy people, but I have had your blog saved as a favorite (before it could be 'pinned') and I am currently obsessing to a ridiculous degree over tiles.

I have the samples from designsintile, one from american olean, and will be getting my subway ceramics one soon.

Question is now many years later, was the $$$ upgrade worth it to you? Thanks!