How to stretch your tile budget

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

QUESTION: “I love this tile but it’s really expensive, any ideas how I can incorporate it into my tub surround in a cost effective way?”

When it comes to design and finishes the sky is the limit.  Tile can range in price from a few dollars / square foot to over $100 / piece.  Not many of us are in a position to throw caution to the wind (along with a big chunk of change) and plunge into a renovation without a budget.

Step One: CREATE A BUDGET for the overall project.  Your budget needs include permits if required, demolition & disposal, contractor & all required trades, finishes, fixtures & supplies.  Always add 20% to the top of your budget for contingencies.

Step Two: FINESSE THE BUDGET selecting items to save on creates more room in the budget for that special splurge.  Perhaps you find a pre-fabricated vanity you like on sale.  You end up saving on the overall cost of custom cabinets, countertop & sink.  You then decide to do the painting yourself, adding further to the available funds for the splurge budget (because what really matters to you is those expensive tiles).

Step Three: FINESSE THE SPLURGE consider design options for reducing the cost of the splurge.  Using the question above as our example let’s calculate the estimated cost.

Area to be tiled = approx 70 SQ FT (for a small tub surround including 10% overage)

The tile you selected looks like Interstyle Icestix.  Let’s say the Icestix retail for $73 / SQ FT

70 SQ FT x $73 / SQ FT = $5,110 (tile cost) 

(I didn’t inquire on the exact price, for the purpose of our example, I suspect my guess is pretty close to retail.  Interior Designers often get volume discounts from the retailers they frequent, allowing them to offer clients a percentage off retail.)

A small tub surround with a budget of over $5,000 for tile is definitely a splurge.  When it comes to finessing the budget the first thing you need to do is get a sample of the tile you want to use.  Most tile stores will have samples in stock and will let you borrow them.  Next go shopping for something to match.  I would suggest a long skinny tile to complement the rectilinear shape of the Icestix, using the expensive Icestix tile sparingly will reduce the tile cost.  Perhaps something in glass or a glossy white would coordinate and give you the spa feeling reflected in your inspiration image.  I have attached links to a few of my favorite local tile shops: Tierra Sol, Ames Tile, Stone Tile & The Tile Shoppe

Let’s say you select a 3” x 12” tile that costs $5 / piece, which = $15 SQ FT

$15 / SQ FT x 70 SQ FT = $1,050

$15 / SQ FT is not cheap for tile but is substantially less expensive than the Icestix, definitely a more cost effective splurge. 


Now let’s design a tile layout and calculate the cost.

Option A requires 22 SQ FT of Icestix

22 SQ FT X $73 / SQ FT = $1,606 for Icestix (including 10% overage)

70 SQ FT – 22 SQ FT = 48 SQ FT x $15 / SQ FT = $720 for field tile

$1,606 + $720 = $2,326 for tile

Option B requires 18 SQ FT of Icestix

18 SQ FT x $73 / SQ FT = $1,314 for Icestix (including 10% overage)

70 SQ FT – 18 SQ FT = 52 SQ FT x $15 / SQ FT = $780 for field tile

$1,314 + $780 = $2,094 for tile

Once you have selected a few possible tiles to use for the field tile, you can begin to play around with tile layouts and calculating price options.  Many tiles need to be ordered by the box be sure to consider required shipping quantities.  Also keep in mind the more intricate your layout the more expensive it will be to have the tile installed.  Have the tile quantities approved by your tile installer.  Option A has specific tile requirements with regards to cutting the field tile and may require an adjustment in the amount of tile required.  This would be a good time to bring in an Interior Designer to help you narrow down what tiles will look the best and what layout will capture the look without breaking the install budget.

Step four: THE FINISHING DETAILS are as important as the splurge and really give a project that professional look.  You need to consider what will look the best with any existing finishes and new finishes.  Grout colour, wall colour, trim colour, flooring, plumbing fixtures, light fixtures, faucets & towels all either add to or subtract from the finished look.  These are things you may want to refer to an Interior Designer to give you advice on.  Many Interior Designers are happy to narrow down selections and give recommendations on finishes that client’s have selected.  Not only do we routinely tote around paint swatches, we carry grout swatches too.  We know all too well the impact of those often forgotten pesky little details.

The inspiration image reflects a very monotone colour palette. A vanity with a glass top would go nicely with a similar coloured glass field tile.  White accents along with a paint colour that picks up the tone of the field tile will complete the look.

We are happy to answer any design questions you may have.  You can either contact us or post your images on our Facebook page.  We look forward to hearing from you.