Hello! I'm Suzannah, a serious DIYer. Follow along with my DIY fixer upper house renovations, sewing and crafty projects, real food recipes, and de-stressing goals. I'm a recovering former vegan and vegetarian, now healing with a nutrient-dense mostly Paleo diet, and love at-home CrossFit and yoga workouts. I'm also the author of DIY Wardrobe Makeovers!

New mom to baby Otto born April 2018!

How to lay big hexagon tile!: Week 3 of the One Room Challenge

We are making big progress on this bathroom reno!! I have been sharing updates in my Instagram stories, but wanted to dive deeper into one of the major elements of the project.

One design element that was essential to my clients from day one was larger scale, dark hexagon tile. Almost all the bathrooms they were inspired by featured black or grey 5-8" hexagons!

I had never laid large hex tile before--I've done mosaic hexagon tile, big squares, and subway tile--but I knew we could do it! It took some extra math and design, but DIY installation for my clients' beautiful off-black hex tile was totally doable and not that much harder than laying square tiles!

I also have to say... I did some googling on this and it seems there is a serious lack of tutorials for how to lay large hexagon tiles! I apologize if I missed any, but it seems like this post is needed! A lot of the tutorials are for mosaic hex tile, which is a different (easier) animal. (We used 1" and 2" mosaic hexagon tiles in two bathrooms at our last house--you can see a video about how we did both at the same time HERE!) There are also some cool videos out there, including this time lapse of a previous ORC and this contractor's entire process with some similar tiles. But I'd like to share the steps we used to lay these hex tiles carefully!

How to lay big hexagon tile

This tutorial will show you how to lay individual hexagon tiles on a bathroom floor!

For preparation, like you would do for any floor tile application, prepare your surface with backer board or other tile base. We used Schluter®-DITRA instead of concrete backer board to keep the tile well under the door swing. We also replaced the subfloor with a lower profile subfloor. (Read about our preparation in this post.) In the past I've just laid concrete backer board over the old particle board subfloor and it has worked fine. Do some research into the tile base that will work best for you depending on your floor construction!

Once you have your tile surface ready...

You will need:


1. Lay out your design. We did this using Adobe Illustrator, but you can use any graphics program and create your own scale. We did this in a few steps:

  1. Using a hand-sketch of the bathroom layout, we created an Illustrator base that is to scale, so 63" by 80". One inch in the graphic = one inch in the bathroom. (No conversions!)
  2. Then we added the notch of the wall, and 4" separation for the floor vent, dimensions for the toilet distance, etc.
  3. Then we created our tiles (ours were 7"x8") and a row of tiles with 1/8" scaled spacers, and copied it over and over again to fill the room.
  4. Once the room was (over)filled, we could scootch the whole tile layout up and down to play with where the cuts would land at the edges, focusing on the bathtub and door threshold as prominent areas.

This step was SO useful because it allowed us to see the ripple effects of lining up the tiles at any of the sides. We wanted both the tub edge and flooring threshold to look the nicest, as they'll be most visible, and just because of the size of the room that meant it didn't work to line up a full tile at either side.

We also played around with direction, though--these tiles are not symmetrical like a square or circle and so it gives a totally different look (and math) to turn them 90 degrees. Take a look at our options!

Option 1 looks cool, but check out the cuts around the floor vent and toilet. Also, if we used the edge of the tiles at the tub, we had a very tiny (hard to cut) row at the door (shown in red).

Option 2 also has some funky cuts around the toilet and floor vent, but I think the floor vent is not as bad. Only one U-shaped tile. Also, with this one we can do two rows cut approximately in half, at the tub and door wall. We went with Option 2!

You can also totally do this without any graphics program at all, and just lay out a few rows of tile, and measure the room divided by (in our case) 7-1/8" and 8-1/8" (tile plus spacer) to see where everything will fall.

2. Create a straight line. Most rooms aren't perfectly square/rectangular. With square tiles or mosaic tiles, you can place one tile/sheet in each corner and see how perfect each angle is. With these tiles, we only have two straight edges per tile out of the six. Because we went with Option 2 (straight edges parallel to long walls), we created a straight line with the laser level and measured from multiple points along the wall to make sure it was as straight as possible.

(Turns out this room was not perfectly rectangular--the best place we found for the laser level had it about 29" from the right wall at the the door frame and 30" from it at the tub.)

You can see we were also mid-step 3, dry running the tiles, when we did this.

It's hard to see the laser level from this angle, but when you put your head on the floor you can see the line the whole way down the room! It is also pretty easy to see as it hits the spacers that were centered on it--especially on those first few tiles.

Oh, we also taped down the laser level once we had it in place. (See the laser hitting the spacers?)

3. Dry run a few rows. We checked our math/rendering--as you can see in the Option 2 graphic, we should have four half-hex tiles at the door frame.

This meant doing some cuts--we cut two tiles perfectly in half to create those four, and then measured the right size for the next ones along the back wall. Because of the thickness of the framing and drywall, and where we'd placed the first four in relation to the hallway flooring (we will install a small reducer threshold in oak to match), the next tiles along the wall needed to be a little smaller.

Here is where the Speed Square is SO helpful! And the wet tile saw. (Do some practice cuts on scrap tile first.)

4. Mortar and lay! The tiles scoot around a ton during the dry run, so it's a relief to have the mortar to hold them mostly in place while you repeat the design you just tested.

NOTE: with larger tiles, make sure you "back-butter" the tiles AND put mortar on the floor. (Put a lighter coating of mortar on the back of each tile, plus the scored mortar on the floor.) If they don't have consistent contact with mortar, they can crack as you walk on them!

Test the height and level-ness of each tile with a small level or tile leveling system. Push the mortar down to level it out as needed.

Keep going! LOTS of spacers!

Wash off the excess mortar.

5. Grout and seal! We used an off-black grout.

Update: here it is in the finished bathroom!

Hope this tutorial is helpful as you wrap your head around laying large, non-rectangular tile!

All the posts about this One Room Challenge:

Follow along on my Instagram stories for more updates!

Remember: I'll share a blog post every Wednesday on our 6-week One Room Challenge progress. You can also follow a ton of other exciting room reno projects right now, check out the ORC blog for the featured designers and guests like me!

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