Bathroom tile shopping

Even though I wrote about my bathroom remodel in detail over a year ago, I constantly get questions about the project. Most people want to know about my source for marble subway tile. I figured I'd revisit the shopping I did to find my tile...

Before I started my bathroom remodel, I made trip after trip to tile stores around the region in search of the perfect tile at the perfect price. One day, I went into a chain I had never heard of called The Tile Shop and was really surprised at their great prices on marble basket weave tile. Their prices were so good that I let myself order marble subway tiles to go with the basket weave (I had been planning on using bead board or simple, ceramic subway tiles). I knew the tile wasn't the very best quality, but I thought that going for the top of the line (I really loved thassos basket weave, which was $50/sq ft) would have been foolish because I was renovating a tiny condo bathroom. People had warned me about "over" improving.

Tile display at the store

I was in love with the tile on display...
a former employee told me each piece was hand chosen for the displays

I should have be suspect of the great prices and of the gentle suggestion given by a former employee of the store that the marble that had been showing up for orders didn't look like the marble on display. The tile that arrived was nothing like what I had seen in the store. They gave me boxes and boxes of yellow tile. I have to admit that I cried over all that bad tile. Even at the great price, it was a huge purchase for me and the bad batch also meant that the start of my remodel would be delayed.

The basketweave that arrived with a piece of the sample on top of it

Samples on the left, delivered tile on the right

After about a week of promises from the store manager, no tile that matched what was on display was found. I even wrote to the corporate office trying to get, but got no response. People I told about the experience pointed out that it was nice that they were looking for replacement tile. However, all communication was initiated by me. They never called me during all of this, which made me wonder if they were really searching for tile. In the end, the order was canceled and I was back to square one.

The internet, as you probably know, is full of tile stores. I was leery of trusting a store again and searched message boards for information about stores that had good prices and consistent quality. That search took me to ebay. I found a seller in Canada (an ebay seller named Marble Outlet) who had very good prices and a reasonable ship fee. Past buyers had great things to say about him. Still, I was nervous. I remember holding my breath as I hit "submit" on my PayPal payment to him.

I had nothing to worry about. The tile that arrived (bubble wrapped and cushioned) was beautiful. The only odd thing was that the subway tiles were on mesh. My tile guy later guessed that it protected the tiles from smashing together during shipment. I spent a few nights cutting the subway off the mesh (a mess!) because the spacing wasn't uniform on the sheets.

With the tile in, work could start, but because of the delay, my tile guy had taken another job (totally understandable...I wouldn't expect him to turn down jobs in a bad economy while The Tile Shop tried to track down tile).


  1. I had no idea tile shopping was such an endeavor (I've never done it before). This post comes at a good time though because I've been considering what I want to do with my bathroom. I hadn't even considered a basket weave, but now that you've posted this I think it looks great.

  2. I'm so glad that the second tile place worked out for you- I think it toally paid off in the end, your bathroom is beautiful!

  3. I LOVE love love your bathroom it is one of my top favorites that I am jealous of ;)

    For a long time I've wanted to do white marble counters in my kitchen and white subway tile it wasn't until I saw your bathroom that I have now started considering doing marble subway tile in the kitchen instead of just white.

    ALL the tiles you used are just gorgeous!!

  4. Gorgeous, classic bathroom! Well worth all of the effort!

  5. SUCH a process! You're right - picking out just the right tile is a very time consuming, agonizing process. But your thorough searching certainly gave you a gorgeous bathroom! I would have loved to have done marble like that in my master but the budget no likey. Someday! :)

  6. Your bathroom is absolutely beautiful!
    Sorry to hear about your tile woes. Natural stone is so difficult. I worked at a tile store several years ago and I always felt so bad when we had issues such as yours...hopefully we were better at resolving them though. :)
    A lot of subway tiles actually come on mesh nowadays. Too bad the spacing was off on yours, tile setters love it when they can just throw a 12x12 mesh piece up.

  7. I really really loved your tiles! Very good taste.
    Do you have a picture of your finished bathroom? I would love to see. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Really good to know!!! We are re-tiling our guest room bathroom and looking at basketweave for the floor. Thanks for the info.

  9. Renovation can be tough at times. I am lucky with my experience in bathroom renovation - the people who worked in the tile stores (Tampa) are very professional. Not only did they helped me decide on the tiles to use but they also delivered excellent products. After reading your blog I remember a quote from Harry Golden: "The only thing that overcomes hard luck is hard work." In all honesty, I have to say your bathroom is gorgeous in spite of all the troubles you've encountered. The over-all design is marvelous. Thank you so much for posting your renovation experience!

  10. Love the basketweave tiles, they'll add a special touch to any bathroom!

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