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Installing a ceramic tile kitchen floor, need advice

Discussion in 'After Hours Lounge (Off Topic)' started by Brett_H, Apr 17, 2003.

  1. Brett_H

    Brett_H Second Unit

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    All,

    My wife and I just got the keys to our first house two days ago (WOOHOO!), and along with that came a long list of improvements we want to make. The house was built in 1965 and until recently was inhabited by an older lady, so the interior's a little dated but overall it's in great shape. We can tackle most things rather easily (we hope), but I could use some advice on how best to proceed with tiling the kitchen floor. Here's the details of the existing floor:
    2x10 joists, 16" on center. (The actual dims of the joists were 1.5"x9", those are '2x10', right?)
    1 1/8" plywood subfloor
    2 layers of existing vinyl (?) flooring

    Here's where the questions come in. We want to lay 12"x12" ceramic tile, but I'm questioning whether we want to use cement backerboard of some sort. I've bought a couple of books from Home Depot (the big orange Home Improvement 1-2-3 one, and also Tiling 1-2-3) and they say that tile can be laid directly onto a plywood subfloor provided it's at least 1 1/8" thick, which mine is (just barely). I don't want to have a floor that cracks, so I'm a little worried about doing it this way. Enter the cement backerboards....

    Home Depot carries two types of cement board, Hardibacker and Wonderboard. The Wonderboard stuff seems to be the older style, with a fiberglass mesh embedded on both sides. The Hardibacker more closely resembles drywall, and supposedly can be cut with a utility knife. I've heard differing opinions on which to use. The Hardibacker website recommends a minimum 5/8" subfloor, so I'm well over that. Are these types of boards overkill if I already have a sound 1 1/8" plywood subfloor?

    Another concern would be the transitions to other rooms. The kitchen/hallway/breakfast area to be tiled will be bordered on two sides by hardwood floors and on another by carpet. The existing floor (two layers of vinyl) is level with the adjoining rooms. I'm thinking that if I strip these two layers off and lay down 1/4" Hardibacker that I'd be back to level with the other rooms, then adding the mortar and tile onto that will put me about 1/4" over. This should be easily hidden by a small wooden transition piece, right? Is there a better way to go about this? If I skip the cement board, I'd end up being more even with the adjoining rooms, but I don't want to sacrifice longevity for appearance of the transitions.

    I've also read that certain flooring made before 1985 could contain asbestos and might be harmful to remove. Should I be concerned about this if all I'm going to be doing is scraping it up? Speaking of scraping, that's possibly my biggest concern, or at least what appears to be the biggest pain of the whole project. How do I remove the old flooring?? Tools, techniques, any advice would be appreciated.

    OK, so I'm getting long-winded at this point. Hopefully there's some pros or good DIYers on this forum that can lend a newbie a hand! (Pointers to other good forums would also be appreciated)

    Thanks,
    -Brett.
     
  2. Jay H

    Jay H Producer

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    I gather it would also be better to do the walls, paint/wallpaper, etc. and stuff if you have plans on replacing the floor, so you don't have to worry about getting paint or dropping stuff onto the floor.

    I have done some basic vinyl tiling before, the laying of the tile is fairly simple, the time consuming part is replacing the old floor and removing any creaks and/or laying down a new subfloor cause then you have to cut the plywood to match and remove moldings, appliances, etc.

    Jay
     
  3. Lee L

    Lee L Supporting Actor

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    I would use the woderboard. It can be cut with a utility knife (just score one side and snap). Also, just to be safe, you can spread thinset adhesive and just screw it down on top of the existing floor no problem. As Buzz mentioned you can get transition strips in wood and in marble in various sizes and profiles. Also, look at the brass or chrome 1/8" metal edge that goes down under the tile, that is good for carpet as long as the carpet is not too much lower than the new tile. Also depending on the britleness of the tile and the shapes of any cuts you might want to either buy one of the $100 wet saws at HD or rent a saw.

    Also, the John Bridge Forum was listed here a while ago. Plenty of good info there.
     
  4. Dave Morton

    Dave Morton Supporting Actor

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    I put 12x12 ceramic tile in my kitchen a couple of years ago.

    First I ripped up all the layers of vinyl flooring. Then I put down the cement board, aka wonderboard. You need to do this because if they plywood subfloor would happen to buckle some day, say you get a crack in a tile or grout and water gets underneath, then you can warp the wood and this can cause the tiles to get raised and break. At least that's what I've been told. Also, you can just score a line on the wonderboard and take your utility knife and cut a small line. You will get a clean break. It's very easy.

    My house was built in the 1950's but I wasn't too worried about the asbestos. I just wore a mask and safety glasses. You would want to do this anyways because it get's pretty messy.

    I have hardwood floors in the rooms outside my kitchen. So for my threshold between the rooms, I bought a piece of wood that was the same as the hardwood. I measured the diffence in height from the other room to the top of the tiles. Then I cut the piece to the same height on a table saw. Then I cut it to about an inch or two depth and then cut an angle of 30 degrees from about 1/2" back from where the tile and threshold start. I sanded the wood and put a couple of coats of polyuruthane and screwed it down with some gold philips screws. Turned out good.

    One piece of advice I would have would be to use a dark colored grout, like gray or something like that. I used a light colored tan grout and it got real dirty. And yes, I put the grout sealer on and it still got dirty. I have no idea why this happened. It just did. So in heavy traffic area, my grout is dark, but in the corners, the grout is light.

    Hope this helps.
     
  5. Brett_H

    Brett_H Second Unit

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    Buzz, thanks or the detailed response about asbestos!. I'd never really considered it before reading about it last night and I wasn't aware that there were two different types. I'm planning on just wearing a mask and making sure we clean really well after we're done. We've not yet moved in, so the house is empty and cleanup should be easy enough.

    We've decided to go with ceramic tile just because it's so durable and attractive. We had already decided on a darker grout to hide dirt, so we've got that taken care of. I'm planning on laying out the tile first to see what cuts are needed, then renting the tile saw from Home Depot for a whole day in order to make the cuts.

    Jay, you're right: we're planning on painting the walls and ceiling, and also stripping and staining the existing cabinets. Yes, we're ambitious! Anyway, we're planning on doing all of this before tackling the floor in order to make sure we don't mess up the floor in the process.

    Lee, I want to make sure we're talking about the same things here. When I refer to "Wonderboard", I'm talking about the concrete looking stuff that has a fiberglass mesh impregnated on both sides. "Hardibacker" resembles drywall, in that it has a paper layer on either side. The Home Depot guy informed me that the Wonderboard needed a special carbide-tipped blade to score/cut, while the Hardibacker only needed a utility knife. I just double-checked the Hardibacker website, and it states "Use a straight edge as a guide to score sheet's face with carbide tipped scoring knife" so there goes that advice... I really don't care whether or not I have to buy a special knife to score this with, I just want to make sure we're referring to the same product. Also, I'm planning on ripping up both layers of the existing flooring, since I've read that if there's more than one layer of vinyl flooring (my case) it's too spongy and could lead to cracks.

    Dave, sounds like we had very similar situations. Thanks for the comments, it sounds like we had the same general approach. Have you noticed any cracking of tiles or grout? Do you recall offhand what your subfloor consisted of in the way of joists, etc?

    For those of you who have used cement board, what brand did you use and in what thickness? I'm planning on 1/4" Hardibacker as that's what they recommend for flooring.

    Thanks for all the help!
    -Brett.
     
  6. Eric_L

    Eric_L Screenwriter

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    Best advice I can give is to pay a professional installer. They will do it in less than half the time with twice the quality. AND a warranty!

    I have personally laid about 1200 square feet of tile on a concrete slab house and swore at that time, I'd never do it again.

    Also, pulling up the old floor was more of a bitch than laying the new one. I stopped pulling it up after one room and you can't tell the difference today.

    One trick I heard about (after my install) to help prevent cracking is to lay felt cloth under your tiles and then mud over it. This give some play and slack between then floor and the tiles for heat, expansion, warping, etc.
     
  7. Jared_B

    Jared_B Supporting Actor

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    I had a job laying tile back in HS. Wonderboard is preferred over any other type by the pros. It was very easy to work with, and it comes in different thicknesses. Like Dave said, you never want to lay tile directly onto plywood. Even the slightest movement underneath the tile will cause cracking.

     
  8. Lee L

    Lee L Supporting Actor

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    I'm talking about the same stuff - wonderboard. The HD guy was full of it. All you have to do is score the stuff with a knife and it will snap just like sheetrock. Now, you can't use that same knife blade to slice a tomato afterword like the Ginsu knife [​IMG] but it will cut the backerboard fine. Just buy a pack of extra blades.

    As far as grout color, I would stay away from really dark grouts as well. They tend to get lighter with age/dirt buildup. Stick with something in the middle and no, grout sealers really don't do much at all unless you get into the really nasty industrial stuff (30% solid sealers are used in building restrooms all the time and give a real nice shiny look).
     
  9. LDfan

    LDfan Supporting Actor

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    I'd love to have ceramic tile in my kitchen but I don't feel like dealing with all the subfloor issues. I'm steering towards the Pergo Tiles. They are pricey but look very nice.


    Jeff
     
  10. Angelo.M

    Angelo.M Producer

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    I'm no expert, but have used ceramic tile a few times. The last time I did, I used a tile (grade/class 5, whatever) which resembled stone and used a light-colored 'sanded' grout which contains silicone and does not require sealant. Well, it seems to resist dirt very well and is extremely easy to clean. So, I wouldn't necessarily waste time sealing the tile. You can get that mop-on stuff that the folks on 'Trading Spaces' love to slosh all over, but I don't think it's necessary.
     
  11. Nathan*W

    Nathan*W Screenwriter

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    We moved into our 1951 house in Sept. 2002 and I ripped up three layers of vinyl/underlayment to put down ceramic tile in the kitchen. (This was a semi-complete gutting with removal of appliances, cabinets, countertops, as well as a plumbing/electrical update) The door to the kitchen borders on hardwood, so we were concerned about transitions as well. Because each layer of vinyl was attached to it's own underlayment, the kitchen was 1[​IMG]-2 inches higher than the dining room. We used a circular saw to cut each underlayment into manageable pieces and ripped it up using a crowbar and a wonderbar. The original vinyl was directly on the sub-floor (which we left) so we used the wonder bar and a scraper to peel up the last layer of vinyl. Then we pulled all the nails that were left from all the underlayments, and vacuumed. And then found some more nails and pulled them. And some more nails. Finally, once the sub-floor was clean of debris and obstructions, we screwed Hardibacker down. We preferred Hardibacker over Wonderboard, because it was thinner, so the final floor would more closely match the height of the dining room. The manufacturer recommends using thinset between the sub-floor and the hardibacker, but I haven't seen a tiling install fail because it was left out, so we left it out. Then we layed the tile and a day later we grouted. Something I would recommend using is a grouting gun (similar to caulking gun but a little bigger) to grout. That way the grout only goes where you want it to and 90% of the tile surface stays clean (MUCH easier cleanup). Once everything was done I made the threshold similar to what Dave Morton did:
     
  12. Brett_H

    Brett_H Second Unit

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    All,

    I wanted to post a follow-up to this thread:

    We managed to get the floor installed over the course of the past weekend. I decided for sanity's sake to skip ripping up the old vinyl, and I'm so glad I did. The floor is rock-solid and looks great! I took care of all the little squeaks in the existing floor and laid out the 1/4" Hardibacker on Friday morning, then mortared and screwed down the Hardibacker Friday night. Saturday morning we got to work laying out the tiles and installing them. Got that finished Saturday afternoon (three guys made this go a LOT faster than I thought it would!). Sunday afternoon I grouted it all in place, and we've been watering it ever since to let the mortar cure properly. Tonight, it's time to seal the grout, and we should be all set!

    Thanks to all who replied, it gave me a big confidence boost to hear from those who have gone before me.

    -Brett.
     

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