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Bathroom makeover: slate bathtub surround, part 2

This is Part 2 of a five-part series, Bathroom Makeover: Slate Bathtub Surround

In the first article, we took a general look at slate. In part 2 we'll focus on getting your project started.

6 tips for planning a slate bathtub surround project

  1. Budget. Many do-it-yourselfers suffer from "project creep." They keep adding to an originally modest plan and end up with the Taj Mahal. A bathroom makeover can be crazy, but if you are just limiting yourself to the surround, you can easily keep costs under control. On the other hand, if you want a new bathtub with water jets and air jets, it will cost a relative fortune, and you'll probably need a professional to install it. You'll likely want new fixtures, too, but they can further jack up the price. And if you have new fixtures for the tub, won't you want matching fixtures for the sink? Look for closeout sales, or great online deals to save a bundle.
  2. Design. Will you want accent pieces or a top trim piece? Do you want to set the tiles square, overlapping or on the diagonal? You might like a stone or porcelain soap dish. Look in magazines, online and in stores for design ideas.
  3. Purchase. Shop for your slate -- don't just go to the nearest big-box store and take what is available. Visit tile stores and even granite and marble warehouses, which usually also carry slate. With most construction projects, the rule of thumb is to buy 10 percent more material than your exact measurements to account for waste. With slate, which breaks easily, you might be better off to buy as much as 20 percent more. See what the return policy is for your store; some will take individual tiles back, and others require unopened boxes. Look on the good side: extra material also gives you a wider selection from which to pick the most decorative pieces.
  4. Supplies. In the next article on installation, we will discus these items in some detail, but for now, know you will need mortar, grout, backer board, sealer, a notched trowel and grout float.
  5. Lighting. Often a guest bathroom is dark, possibly with no windows. And the slate will be dark. Just a thought, but you may want to increase the lighting in the room or add a skylight or tubular skylight (can you say "project creep?")
  6. Tub refacing. Okay, more project creep. While you don't want to spend the money for a new tub, you might consider refacing your old one. The best time to do it is after deconstruction, to reduce the chance of marring your new finish. You should be able to find a quality refinisher to do the work for under $500. Beware of cheaper, speedy jobs -- they likely scrimp on the prep work, leading to a substandard finish.

Now that your planning is complete, we'll move on to deconstructing the existing surround in part 3.