In the first part of this tutorial I showed you how to frame up your access panel and get the magnetic latches on it and all lined up. So right now you should have an access panel in the side of your fancy-pants tub and a box of tile just sitting there and laughing at you. If you don’t have that check out the link above. I’ll wait.
That post is the meat and potatoes of building your access panel. This one simply describes the basics of installing your tile as well as placing an insert, if need be, into the access panel.
The biggest thing you’ll need to pay attention to as you install your tile is the perimeter of your access panel. You don’t want to get thinset into it or otherwise block it. If you do – it simply becomes a wall with a lot of pieces.
There are several ways to block the perimeter. You can use silicone, tape, backer rod or any number of products either covering or stuck into the gap around the perimeter. Anything that will keep thinset out of the perimeter gap will work fine – it’s only going to be there temporarily. I use blue painter’s tape. It’s just quick and easy.
Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of the painter’s tape. One of those things I just don’t think about. So I’ve created this really horrible graphic to indicate how it would look:
It will be the same for any product you choose to use. Anything that will keep thinset out of the perimeter gap will work.
And before the accusations of ’tile heretic!’ or other such nonsense fly – you will only be covering 5/16″ of each perimeter and the tape will be removed. It won’t affect the stability of the tile installation.
Once you do that just install the tile as normal. The next day CAREFULLY remove the access panel with the tile installed to it, remove the tape and put the panel back.
When you grout you will fill the grout lines around the perimeter of the panel with silicone or caulk which matches the grout. Do not grout it! That will defeat the purpose. If you ever need access to it just slice through the silicone with a razor knife and remove the panel.
Any tile placed onto the access panel must have the edge of the tile directly over the edge of the panel. If your tile or pattern is larger than the panel you must cut it to compensate. If you have a pattern or unusually shaped tile you can plan ahead and cut the panel in the shape of your pattern. You must do that before you begin, though. It is always best to measure everything first and build your panel to that size – it eliminates surprises.
If you are simply doing a regular pattern with no inserts or anything else that’s all you’ll need to do. Any liners or accent stripes also need to have a grout line directly over the edge of the panel. That way when you remove it you won’t tear down the rest of your accent.
For this particular installation I had 6×6 inch glass and stone inserts. Due to Murphy’s law one insert fell directly at the edge of my panel. If it wasn’t there it would have looked suspicious. I don’t like suspicious tile installations. So I needed to place half of the diamond insert in the access panel and the other half next to it.
After some serious
drinking thought I decided to make the insert removable as well. Before I installed the field tile I traced the insert onto the wall and cut out the half in the access panel. I then cut a piece of 2×4 the size of that cutout and screwed it onto the stud behind the cutout.
You can see the cutout and the 2×4 backing as well as the insert itself sitting on top of the tub deck. You’ll notice that the insert is bonded to the little triangular cutout I removed from the access panel on one side. The entire insert is bonded to a piece of ditra because it was thinner than the field tile.
That’s all there is to it. Once it’s all set you can simply caulk or silicone around the perimeter of the insert as well. If you place your insert in this manner you do not need to remove the entire insert to remove the access panel.
If you wanted to you could permanently install the insert without making it removable. just cut the triangle out of the panel as you are creating it and only have silicone around the left side of the insert. There is, in reality, no reason to make it removable.
So why did I? No comment.
Actually I did it because I first installed the access panel without the insert. That’s how I know it would’ve looked suspicious without it. Even pros need a smack in the head every now and then.
If you have any questions give me a smack in the head of your own and ask them in the comment section below. I’ll answer it – really.