I haven’t quite gotten all of the floor tile installed in the bathroom, but I’m making progress! Here’s what I’ve gotten done so far…
I’d say I’m a little over halfway done. I still have about 2.5 rows before I hit the bathtub, and then I have the linen closet area behind the door. This tile is the Marazzi VitaElegante Bianco 6″ x 24″ porcelain tile from Home Depot. I think it’s so pretty with its subtle marbled pattern, and it goes beautifully with the dark stained ceiling. Hopefully I’ll be able to get a photo that shows both of them together.
By the way, if you’re wondering the difference between porcelain and ceramic tile in the U.S., there’s basically no difference. I found this great article that explains, and if you’re in the market for tile, I highly recommend reading it and understanding how U.S. tile manufacturers use the term “porcelain” (rather ambiguously), and what information and ratings you should actually be looking at when purchasing a tile, such as tile grade, P.E.I. rating, C.O.F. rating, etc. Whether it’s called “ceramic”or “porcelain” is inconsequential.
Anyway, a couple of weeks ago, I had covered my plywood subfloor with concrete board. My brand of choice is Hardibacker, but there are other brands available.
To install concrete board over a wood subfloor, you simply trowel on a layer of thinset mortar (the same stuff you use to install tile) directly onto the subfloor, and place the Hardibacker directly onto the thinset mortar. Then you screw the Hardibacker onto the subfloor using special alkali resistant screws. I just used the Hardi brand screws to be sure I was using the right kind.
And then before tiling, you have to tape the joints of the concrete board. To do this, you trowel thinset mortar into the joints, filling the joints with the thinset mortar, and then place alkali resistant mesh tape (there’s a kind specified for use with concrete board, located with the drywall tape at Home Depot) into the thinset mortar, and cover the tape with a very thin layer of thinset mortar. Thin is key here, because you don’t want to create any hills on your floor.
I gave that a day to dry before starting my tiling, but I learned on a contractor forum that that’s not needed. In fact, many professionals will tape the joints as they’re installing the tile. The benefit of doing that (besides saving time and getting the job done faster) is you can be very sure that you’re not leaving any mounds of thinset mortar on your seams, and if you do, you can just scrape away any excess as you’re installing the tile since it will still be wet. But because I’m far from a pro at this, and I didn’t want to mess up my taped joints while crawling around on the floor installing tile, I let mine dry before tiling. I just made really sure that I scraped the joints as smoothly and flat as possible.
After that was dry, I was ready to start installing the tile. It’s very important before installing tile to wipe down the Hardibacker with a wet sponge or rag to remove any dust and debris. If the concrete board it’s covered in dust, it will affect the adhesion of the thinset to the concrete board. It’s also a good idea to wipe down the back of each tile before installing, because if you happen to get a batch of dusty, filthy tile, that dust and debris can also affect the adhesion.
I really debated over which direction to install the tiles — front to back, or side to side? And since my ceiling slats go side to side, should the tiles match that? Or does it matter? After looking on Houzz at lots of pictures with wood slat ceilings and either wood or tiled floors, I realized that there doesn’t appear to be a rule about that. Some people install them going the same direction, while others install them going in opposite directions, and they both look just fine to me.
I finally decided to install the tile going front to back (from the door to the far wall). Actually, my mom decided that, and her reasoning sounded good to me, so I went with it — something about long tiles going side to side creating a kind of visual barrier, where the front to back configuration seems more welcoming. 😀 That sounded completely reasonable to me! And I noticed that that’s how my hardwood floors are installed from the front door — front to back rather than side to side. So front to back it was, and I decided to start on the vanity wall and work my way towards the tub. The recommended spacing for these tiles was 3/16″, but I like grout lines as small as possible, so I opted for 1/8″ spacers.
I also used a 1/4″ x 1/4″ x 1/4″ square-notched trowel for the thinset mortar. The size of trowel you need for tiling depends completely on the size of the tile you’re installing, and different brands of thinset may also have different requirements, so be sure to check the specifications on the container of thinset that you’re using to make sure you get the right size trowel for your tile. The size I used is generally used for tile up to 16″ x 16″, according to the table on the container of thinset I used, but since my tiles were 6″ x 24″ (and not square tiles) I made a judgment call and went with the mid-sized trowel.
Installing in that front to back direction made things a bit more challenging. If I had worked side to side, and started on the far wall, I could have just worked my way right out the door, and gotten the whole floor installed in a single day. But going front to back meant that I’d have to tile the floor over two days, or else I’d have to walk/sit on the newly-set tiles while finishing the last rows. And walking on newly set tiles is never a good idea. So I got as far as I could, and left it to dry overnight. I’ll finish up the rest today.
For the most part, tiling this floor has been incredibly easy since the only area that required anything other than a straight cut was tiling around the pipe for the toilet. When cutting circular or other oddly-shaped areas out of tiles, I don’t use any fancy tools. I just use my cheap tile saw, and it does the trick.
On those particular tiles, I needed to cut out circular areas like this…
I did that by making a series of straight cuts to my cut lines, and breaking off the slivers of tile left between the cuts.
And the good thing is that cuts like that generally don’t have to look good, since they’ll be covered with something like a toilet, or a shower trim kit, or something like that. Everything else I cut was just a straight line, and my cheap tile saw handled that very well. I’ve definitely gotten my money’s worth out of that $99 tile saw!
So I’ll be able to finish this floor this weekend (tile today, grout tomorrow), and then I’ll be on to the vanity! That teal vanity is the part I’m really looking forward to.