Tiled bathrooms are an ancient tradition, dating back at least to the Roman Empire. And in some respects, methods haven’t changed. Why should they, when ancient Roman baths can still be found that are serviceable today? (See BBC report: “A Roman bathhouse still in use after 2,000 years,” by Edward Lewis).

But in other respects, kitchen and bath tile is still an advancing technology. This month, JLC is following a kitchen and bath tile job for a custom home under construction in the seaside community of Port Elizabeth, south of Portland, Maine. Designed by architect and builder Caleb Johnson (website, Facebook, Houzz), the cottage-style home offers panoramic views of the rocky Maine shore and the sparkling Casco Bay. Interior designer Krista Stokes has chosen tile to match the natural moods of the sea and shore: a gentle gray ceramic tile for the showers, and gray marble streaked with blue and white for the bathroom floors. Kennebunk tile contractor Tom Boucher has the job of installing the tile, partnering up with colleague Bob Vedder. The two bathrooms, plus a kitchen backsplash, will take the pair about two weeks to complete.

Ted Cushman/JLC

Marble tile, of course, is as old as the hills. But the Schluter system that Tom and Bob are using to prep the kitchen wall and the bathroom floors and walls for the tile is decidedly twenty-first century. The Schluter system includes all the components needed to construct a waterproof substrate for tile on walls and floors, including lightweight backerboard, decoupling floor underlayment, joint sealing membranes, and even prefabricated boxes for watertight shower shelves. Boucher loves it. “This is going to let us keep laying tile into our eighties,” he jokes.

JLC is following the progress of the job step by step, from prep all the way through tile setting and grouting. This week, we focus on basic shower wall prep using Schluter Kerdi-Board and Kerdi membrane (see slideshow). In the weeks to come, we’ll look at construction of the shower curb, installation of a sloped shower pan and linear drain, bathroom floor prep, and tile setting.