I am about to lay a bunch of those saltillo tiles down on a concrete
floor. My tile skills are limited. I have put tile down on
wonderboard, and on hardiboard, but never on concrete. Is it the same?
Are there any difficulties I am likely to encounter? Any advice will
You need to divide the room into quarters...just draw lines on the
concrete with a felt tip marker so that they are perpendicular to each
other and cross in the exact center of the room. Once you have your
lines, you need to dry lay two perpendicular courses so that you can
tell how to start laying the tile to wind up with the widest possible
cut tiles on the room sides. There are two possibilities for each of
the two lines...center of tile on the line or center of what will be a
joint on the line.
Handmade Saltillo is irregular in both thickness and length/width.
1. Use plenty of thinset and a 1/2" x 1/2" notch comb. If the tile is
concave, convex or has a bump on the bottom to the point that the
thinset wouldn't contact the entire tile surface, even it up by
buttering the tile.
2. Because of the size irregularity, you can't lay Saltillo with nice
neat, even joints. About the best you can do is to lay a course with
the edges on one side even (an aluminum yardstick is handy to line
them up); on the next, parallel course, lay with the same edge lined
up. That is, if the right edges of course #1 are aligned, align the
right edges of course #2....that means that the left edges of course
#2 will be ragged. Can't be helped.
3. Don't try to make small joints...I like 1/2 to 1" joints. If you
try to make them too small you may well run out of joint room because
of the irregularity in the tiles and/or laying errors. If that
happens, correct as much as you can and - after the tile is dry - you
can fix it by using a circular saw with a masonry blade set to a
shallow cut (3/16 to 5/16 for example) to even up and widen the grout
joint as desired.
Some more random thoughts...
1. Saltillo is very porous. I mix thinset so it is pretty thin...thin
enough so combed mortar will just barely stand up. It is also
dusty...I dip each tile in a bucket of water before laying. That not
only removes the dust but it keeps the tile from grabbing the mortar
too quickly...it would do so almost immediately if the tile wasn't
dampened and once it grabs, you can't adjust it.
2. After the tiles grab, rap them with your knuckles. If you get a
hollow sound, you aren't using enough mortar. They would probably be
OK but they aren't hard to take up, scrape off the mortar and re-lay.
3. Expect a lot of breakage in the boxes - if you can use the broken
ones for the cut tiles, fine; if not, set them aside until you get a
box full and take them back for good ones.
4. Even many of the unbroken ones will have minor chips/dings on the
edge...the appearance will be improved if you smooth out the sharp
edges of the chips/dings with a piece of sand paper (#120 is good).
5. Keep a bucket of clean water and a good sponge handy and wipe up
any mortar that gets on the tops of the tiles...wait too long and it
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