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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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