Tile do-it-yourself project

I've taken on a lot of projects thinking "how hard can that be" only to get into some quagmires...
I'm thinking about doing my own porcelain tile installation. The room is 220 sq ft with a concrete floor. The concrete still has some thick tar- like residue from an old carpet install. The concrete is generally level however there are a couple of places (3' x 1' max) up against the wall where the original cement didn't fill to make a perfectly smooth / level surface (it was formerly a breezeway -- it's not a real foundation -- just poured concrete comparable to a garage floor).
1) How clean does the floor have to be?
2) If I use self leveling compound, will that fill the spaces in the cement that are not smooth?
3) How hard can it be? I'm detail oriented so I have no fear of doing precise work. I just want the floor to look perfectly smooth and professional when it's all said and done.
Thanks for any advice or insight.
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You want the thinset to stick to the existing concrete so it has to be relatively clean free of foreign material and oil.

It doesn't have to be smooth like a garage floor or level but it does have to be flat. I place a flat aluminum bar on the floor to see where the low and high spots are. Low spots fill, high spots grind - within 1/8" over 5' or somesuch. The thinset will cover minor imperfections as long as its relatively flat. The larger the tile the more attention needed to get it flat.

Not hard to make it look nice, difficult to have it perfect. 220sf is a large starter project. Home Depot and Lowe's have the how to demos and the guy will answer questions and help you select the right material and tools for the project. Hometime has some good how to tapes/DVD and here is the site for tiles: http://www.hometime.com/Howto/projects/ctile.htm

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The pro's will tell you it is a slam dunk but as amateur who has done a couple of jobs now all I can say is that it is a royal pain in the knees!
Probably the best advice I can give you is to not mix up too much thinset at a time. You will not work as fast as the professional and if you mix too much it will get too thick to work with before you can use it. Take your time and use spacers to position the tiles. Don't try to get too fancy with a pattern either.
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BobR writes:

All I can say is, having done a decent DIY job on several rooms, with all the right tools, that I could only average 2 sq ft per hour, all told from start to finish and grouting and clean-up. So 220 sq ft would be weeks of work, at least for this perfectionist, but it may be for you, too.
Depending on what your time and knees are worth, you may want to price the commercial installation.
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Sometimes its not the money but the joy and the pain of doing it yourself, hence your 2sf/hour. Using your numbers, he will be on the floor for almost three 40 hour working weeks! :-)
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The worst part of tile work for me is not the time or even the pain...it is the total inability to accept my own work. I just completed doing the floor, walls, and shower in our master bathroom. Everyone who has seen it thinks it is beautiful but all I can see is every little fault. It is ever bit as good as the vast majority of prefessionaly done jobs but I don't see ti that way. Every little blimish seems to have my spotlight on it.
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BobR writes:

Yeah, on my first tile job ever, I knew enough to make sure the dye lots were the same on all the boxes, but I was not smart enough to check that the blankety-blank store (Color Tile--never again) didn't put partial boxes from different dye lots together to make one full box. Nor did I lay them out in good light to inspect. Didn't notice, while installing, the slight shade difference running up a few columns of wall tile. Neither does anyone else notice now. But it was all I saw every time I looked at it. But now I know better.
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Richard J Kinch wrote:

2 sq ft per hour! Come on, that's like 4-8 tiles. Once you get going, you can easily do 10 times that much.
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TH writes:

Actually, that's two 12 x 12 floor tiles.
Maybe in the middle of the field you're going faster, but if you account for the true time it takes for everything--moving furniture, removing old floor treatment, prepping the floor, setting up the saw, laying out for the edges, mixing thinset, measuring edges and corners, sawing edges and corners, mixing thinset again, laying again, mixing grout, spreading grout, wiping grout, wiping grout, wiping grout again, all the clean up of trowels and sponges and buckets and walls and yourself, putting the saw away, ... c'mon. No fair not counting your helper's time, if you've got one.
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Still your talking over 400 hours. I did 150 sq ft in a little more than a weekend, and that included ripping out and replacing the subfloor, and this was the first time I ever tried it, and I had no help. I did the grout after work on the following monday and replaced the trim the next day, Turned out great.
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I'm sorry, that would be 100 hours. A little bit of a difference! , still a bit much.
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http://www.thetiledoctor.com/installations/floors.cfm
Read the sections on on-slab installation carefully. The key thing for a failure-free installation is the quality of the slab itself if you're laying directly on the slab. You have to ensure the slab itself is not going to crack later on or use a technique to compensate for that eventuality or any cracks in the floor will telegraph through into cracks/loose tiles in the floor. As someone else noted, 200 sq- ft is a fairly good sized area, so it is not at all unlikely cracks may develop (if there aren't some already). Of course, the likelihood is dependent on many factors, none of which are possible to evaluate from what has been posted. If it's a 50 yr old house /garage/whatever and the slab is in good shape still, that's good. If it's only a couple of year old, the jury is still out even if ok so far. If it's already got some cracking, that's a symptom not to be ignored.
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That's great information on the cracks. The house is about 50 years old but the floor is crack-free. However, the slab extends to the exterior where there are cracks running through it. The foundation has moved with the weather extremes in Texas. In fact, stress cracks appeared in the drywall around a window in that same room. What kind of prep can I do to prevent a crack from affecting the tile? By the way, the tile is 16 x 16.
Maybe I'd be better off floating a bamboo floor...
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dags: floor membrane.
you can get something you just lay down (sheets), or a goop that you paint on the floor very thickly.
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