Are You Into Schluter? (And Other Tile Considerations)

When our contractor Bob sent us on a mission to get schluter, we shrugged with embarrassment and slight terror: what on earth was schluter and what did you do with it? This innocent - but seemingly indecent question (…if you share our childish sense of humor)  underlined that when it comes to bathroom design and tiles, we still had quite a bit left to learn.  Here are a few of the things we picked up.

1. Schluter versus non-schluter: for those with inquisitive, thirsty minds below is an example of the mysterious schluter (courtesy of pinterest). While schluter promises to quickly and easily produce clean, crisp lines and hide unsightly edges, it does not quite mirror the aesthetic we had been drooling over for months (Sorry Bob).  Schluter would draw attention to our niches and ruin the ‘soft transitions’ we wanted throughout- in our instance, chrome schluter would not match our black hardware, black schluter would make our niches incredibly graphic, and the tile we selected looked almost dirty next to the white variety (the exotic red schluter was out of question…). Had we know about schluter and our desire not to use it, we probably would have selected a material (i.e. natural stone) that had beautiful, smooth or bevelled edges, rather than jagged brown edges: when you cross-cut a porcelain tile, you can observe the layer of glazed finish that has been applied to the clay substrate, as  opposed to a natural stone that is the same material and color throughout. Luckily we have our magician Bob and our tile-genie Fernando, who promised to save the day with their expert cutting and careful paint job. As such, we learned a very important lesson: before you do anything on the tile front, take into account whether or not you’re into schluter. And if you’re not, prepare for a little bit of extra and meticulous work. Nein to schluter in this house, thank you. 

How do you like your Schluter?

2. Porcelain has its drawbacks. Once installed, it promises to be more durable than its alternatives of granite, glass or marble. It is low maintenance, stain and liquid resistant, and has an incredibly impressive life span. Unfortunately, porcelain is a very brittle material that chips and breaks easily when being cut. It proves difficult to cut in a straight line and requires an incredibly sharp and strong blade -especially if working with larger tiles like ours. Our expert tile man Fernando had to switch out his blade twice and had to replace at least 5 tiles thanks to cracks that Nat’s perfectionist eyes picked up almost before they were made. If you choose porcelain, be prepared to hire somebody who really knows what they’re doing, or make sure you keep plenty of extra pieces in stock in case a few of them don’t quite mirror your excellent workmanship….

3. Measure everything twice and plan ahead. While advertised as 24 inch square tiles, what arrived was in reality a little under 23 inches. This may not sound like a game-changer, but it threw off our carefully laid out tile design. I am all for free-styling, but when it comes to tiles, plan it out. The devil is in the details, and as such, where tiles end and grout lines begin matters, particularly as it relates to niches. We opted to frame the corners with smaller pieces and work from the middle out, allowing us to use entire tiles and ensure symmetry of grout lines. However, all is not lost if your tiles end up in an awkward configuration - if you space your tiles to allow for 1/8 inch of grouting and choose a grout color that matches your tile, they will virtually disappear, creating one cohesive piece. Alternatively, you can throw caution to the wind and choose a more exciting grout color from the extensive rainbow array of colors available - brass, red, gold? Get wild with it. 

 Click below to check out the process for our master bathroom (still in the works).