Monday, March 17, 2014

Tile on the Floor: Part 3

Finally, there is actually tile on the floor.
It is critical to mock up tile before you put them down permanently.
Especially if you plan to have a pattern.

At this point you should have laid out your tile pattern, with no mortar, to make sure your tile hits walls and doorways as you'd like.

You don't want a small sliver of tile at door ways or walls. It's best to use as close to a full tile as possible.This is going to look better.

You can do this before or after you put the backer board down.

You can put tile down in a number of different patterns, a stack with all joints aligned, a running pattern like I'm doing to give the floor some motion, or a diagonal at 45 degrees which will help the room look larger.

Concrete Backer Board:
Just a note, for tile floor. You should use concrete backer board. While you can use plywood, wood expands and contracts due to moisture. This will cause your grout joints to crack. It's best to avoid the hassle and a shortcut that will only lead to headaches later.

I purchased 1/4" concrete board, which actually measures at 3/8". It is marked on the board where to drill in the screws.
'X' marks the spot. If you see an X, put a screw there.
I use zinc coated screws that will not rust. You can note from the picture the concrete board joints are staggered. Leave a 1/8" gap between boards and the wall for house expansion.
You can see the staggered joints and the direction the backer board runs.
Staggering joints creates a stronger base by avoiding having four joints intersecting.

Before you begin mixing mortar, make sure all of the screw heads are recessed or flush. Apply seam tape to all the seams.
Seam tape at one of the staggered joints.

You will need a 5 gallon bucket to mix the mortar and polymer additive. I use the trowel to mix the mortar. Be sure to mix up all the powder. You should aim for a mashed potatoes type consistency.

I use a scale to weigh the mortar, and I've marked measurements on a bowl for the polymer additive. The additive enhances bond strength. It may be overkill for the floor as I originally purchased it to use on the walls. The mortar and polymer additive should indicate the ratio of mixture on the bag. While the mortar provides instruction on how to mix the whole bag, I mix 5 to 10 pounds at a time for ease of use. Either can take anywhere from 1 and 2 hours for me to exhaust the supply of mortar.

Use the trowel to apply the mortar to the floor, a rubber mallet to help level the individual tiles and a level to make sure the tile is level and flat as you lay it.

I would recommend knee pads. I would not be able to do this without knee pads. Trowel the mortar onto the floor. I do an area for 1 to 2 tiles at a time. Make sure your first tile is level, then lay the second tile and make sure that one is level. Getting your first row level will help on subsequent rows.

Use tile spacers to ensure uniform sized joints.
You don't want the tiles to step from one to another. This creates a tripping hazard. Try to make the tiles level, and the edges of adjoining tiles flush. Your level will help with this.

Another crucial element is a wet saw. You will have to cut tiles at the wall, around doors, etc. I've managed to even cut curved lines with the saw, but that takes a bit of practice.
A nice curve at the door frame. Also, you could cut the door frame.
To cut curves, draw your shape on the tile. Then cut parallel vertical lines to the shape, one next to the other. The slender strips should break off. Use the saw blade to smooth the cuts, and you have a curved shape.

You can ever cut holes in the center of tile, but cutting from the backside. I use a tile as a guide to get my lines straight. Go slow, and the blade will slowly appear on the front side, which allows you to create a fairly small opening.

Laying tile is tedious. My current project is close to 400 sf. I work at night (most nights...usually) and the weekends (sometimes), so it has become a long term endeavor.
All that tile, all that time.

Clean up:
Water is best for clean up.. You do not want to dump the mortar down your drain. Find a spot outside. Then rinse your bucket and trowel so they will be ready for use next time.

Stay tuned for the next installment where I (hopefully) wrap this up. We will cover grout and maintenance.
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