24 February 2011

Construction Recap: Tiling the Master Bathroom Window, or The Importance of Planning

I've written before about how important it is to have the best possible contractor for any construction project. (I'm all for DIYing things, but I know my limits...and this post further illustrates that.) In addition to being familiar with all of the technical processes, materials, code requirements, etc. that go into building a house, our builder, R, was also sincerely interested in doing what he could to ensure that even the cosmetic decisions we made turned out the absolute best they could.

At R's suggestion, we used Marvin Integrity windows. They weren't cheap, but he has had a lot of experience with them and is a big fan. (The most common brands for the type of house he usually builds -- Kolbe, Pella, and regular Marvin -- are significantly more expensive and, in his opinion, are no better than Integrity.) One point for R for getting us great windows at the cost of good windows.

Integrity windows are made with a proprietary vinyl-like (but better) material (called "Ultrex") on the outside for easy maintenance and are available with either Ultrex or wood on the inside. To further complicate the decision-making process, Ultrex comes in a handful of colors. We knew that the inside of our windows would be wood, painted to match our interior trim (a shade of white). We were leaning toward white Ultrex exteriors because we were planning to have white exterior trim as well, but R pointed out that the stark white of the Ultrex probably wouldn't match whatever not-pure-white trim color we chose, so it made sense for us to choose the tan option (called "cashmere") instead. Another point for R.

Then, months before we needed to make any decisions about tile, he took a look at the plans for our master bathroom and thought it would be nifty to take the tile all the way to the ceiling on the two walls surrounding the shower. To skip to the "after" for a moment, here's how that looks (since the tile blends into the walls, this picture shows the absence of a transition from tile to bare wall more than anything else):



We hadn't given a moment's thought to how far the tile would go on those two walls, so we really appreciated his ability to think ahead on that and loved the idea of continuing the tile to the ceiling. But what to do about the window in the back wall? R had a solution for that. Because he thought of it so early in the process, we were able to order an all-Ultrex window for the back wall so that we could wrap the tile all the way around the window so there's no wood at all -- just a tile sill butting up to the Ultrex interior. (That makes three points for R.) Here's another view of the three windows, with the Ultrex one on the right wrapped all around with tile:


In case you're wondering, here's the tile pattern:


As shown in our the picture that was our tile inspiration, we wanted a brick pattern. When we finally found the right tile (a porcelain from Ceramic Tile International that was remarkably affordable), it only came in 12x12 or 12x24, so we decided to go for the 12x24...and then we realized that, if we cut each tile into thirds, we could create a better proportioned (and much more appropriately scaled) brick pattern. Here's how it looks wrapped around that Ultrex window in the shower:


Versus the two other windows, which have wood frames on the inside and have the same trim that all of our other windows have:


If R hadn't been so on top of these issues, we would have ordered a wood window for the shower -- not a great idea -- and there's no telling where we might have decided to end the tile. The arrangement that we ended up with is just one example of the value and beauty a true professional can bring to a construction project.

(Side note: See how close the light fixture is to the window trim in the last picture? We had ordered triple-light fixtures, thinking that the bathroom windows would have more minimal trim to downplay the difference between the shower window and the others, and only realized after the trim went up that the three-light versions weren't going to fit in the space, so we called in an emergency change to the lighting shop. But even with a point for that Hail Mary move and a point for cutting the 12x24 tiles into thirds, R still beat us 3-2.)

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