We have a friend who has lays tile for a business. He had a bunch of left over or mis-ordered/rejected/whatever tiles he let us look over and for $180.00, we got enough of a neutral tan-on-cream tile that we ended up doing the tub surround plus our little bit of kitchen counter space and sold the rest on Craigslist.
We got a nice, deep, cast-iron, 5 and 1/2 foot long soaking tub from our plumber friend for $200.00, plus the shower/bath hardware for another $140.00. Then, we picked up enough hardibacker board for the job both from our plumber friend and on Craigslist.
For another $100.00, we got a jar of tile spacers, water seal, tape for hardibacker, thinset mortar, two tub corner shelves, and grout.
We started by placing the tub.
Hubby leveled it, put insulation around it and in the walls, covered the walls with plywood and I painted the plywood with a good water-proof sealer. Hubby then screwed hardibacker all around the tub surround, leaving 1/4 inch seams. I taped up the seams with fiberglass tape and in a blink was ready to tile.
All the on-line stuff I read said to lay out the tiles as I would want them on the finished surround, measuring carefully and adding spacers to be as accurate as possible. Welllllll . . . I'm not much for measuring. I decided to lay the 13-inch tiles in a subway pattern - staggered - so any misplacement would be less noticeable and then I just went for it.
This is probably the messiest job you'll ever do. It's worth it to stop and wipe up blobs and spills as you go and try to keep the area as clean as possible. Otherwise, you may end up having to scrape off dried mortar and could scratch your tub.
It's hard to cut round with a straight saw! I had to make a bunch of little cuts, about 1/4 inch apart (like a comb) and carefully cut each little comb-tooth off to go around the on/off handle
I love these little corner shelves!
After carefully taping each tile to the next to keep them in place at the beginning of the project, I found that the later rows didn't need it. They rested on rows that had already dried and since there was no movement, I quit taping.
All grouted and cleaned up - just need to lay a bead of caulk!
With the hardware and shower curtain in place.
I decided not to tile the side (face?) of the tub because the tile and the flooring were complementary in color, but not a match. So, I bought a couple of tongue-and-groove cedar boards and varathaned them and Hubby and I put them in. The cedar on the tub matches the cedar ceiling. I think it all looks pretty good. For a little over $620.00 (maybe $650.00) we got a very comfortable soaking tub and shower with tile surround that would probably have cost $1500 to $2000 to have professionally done.
We did it in a little over a week. It was February and I was cutting all this tile in the rain on the porch with my glasses steaming up every time I went in and out - no fun! But, while the week was hell, it was so worth it! I can handle just about anything for a week!