Ceramic Floors are Inexpensive! - On the House

Ceramic Floors are Inexpensive!

By on March 6, 2016

Have you ever wanted to have a ceramic tile floor, but were to afraid to take the plunge? Then sit down for a moment and we will prove to you that a do it yourself ceramic tile floor can be just about the least expensive floor covering you can buy — and it’s a lot easier to install than you may think.

Granted an ‘S’ shaped room with an island cabinet sitting smack dab in the middle may be more than the average do-it-yourselfer is willing to tackle. But fortunately, most rooms are pretty rectangular and therefore are reasonably easy to tile.

The toughest part of a tile job is getting the existing floor cleaned and ready to accept the tile. Base board has to be temporarily removed and door jambs and casings need to be trimmed up and away from the floor to clear the thickness of the new tile and mortar. In a kitchen, all appliances that come into contact with the floor also must be removed.

We recently tiled a 200 square foot sun room for under $500 — less than $2.50 per square foot for all the materials that we needed including: bonding agent, the tile, tile spacers, pre-mixed mortar, grout and even a mortar trowel. We cleaned and prepped the floor in about 4 man-hours, laid the center tiles in about 17 man-hours. And after they dried we then installed the edge tiles — about another 16 man-hours. We hired a tile man’s helper to do the grout work for $50. And although the job took two of us two and a half days in actual man hours, we had to spread the entire project over three weekends because of other commitments.

The old flooring in the sunroom was comprised of vinyl sheeting over three-eighths inch particleboard underlayment. And, the perimeter was trimmed with painted wood baseboard. The vinyl flooring was curling at the seams and edges due to moisture vapors rising from the wine cellar below. Our thought was to remove the vinyl and begin with new underlayment and then tile. But after some thought we decided to use barbed roofing nails to stitch down the curled edges of the flooring and permanently hold the vinyl in place. We felt it would make a great vapor barrier to protect the new tile floor. That’s right we decided to tile right over the vinyl. It was easy. Once the all the edges and seams were nailed in place we used a belt sander to clean and roughen the vinyl. After a thorough once over with a vacuum cleaner we applied two coats of bonding agent (glue). Since the plan was to affix the tile directly to the vinyl floor covering, the bonding agent was required to help the thinset mortar to adhere.

The next step was to snap layout lines with a chalk box so that the tile could be laid parallel to the walls and cabinets. And so that there would be uniform widths at the perimeter courses of tile where the floor meets the walls and other objects. Remember: tile is usually laid from the center of the room outward toward the walls. Thus, no single placement error can continue for a distance greater than half the length of the room. How’s that for a mistake reducer. When opposing walls are not parallel the layout line is adjusted so as to split the distance.

Once the layout lines were drawn it was time to apply mortar. We used ready mixed mortar because we wanted a proper consistency. Since we don’t lay tile every day we were not sure what a proper mortar consistency was. In any event, using the ready mix mortar was a breeze. It troweled on easily and evenly. The clerk at the tile store suggested that we apply the mortar to a depth of one-quarter inch. It was easy. We simply applied the mortar with a trowel that had quarter-inch grooves on the edge. We mortared about six square feet at a time and used plastic tile spacers to guarantee perfect margins in between tiles. Mortar is a water-base material and is easy to clean when it is still wet. However, be warned! Don’t let it get too dry before trying to clean it up. A simple wipe turns into hours of scraping and scrubbing.

Installing the perimeter tile was not difficult, but it was time consuming — each tile had to be cut to fit. We chose to rent a tile saw rather than a snap cutter. The snap cutter rented for less than half the cost of the tile saw, but we felt that we would have better control using the saw. Again, since we don’t use tile cutting tools as a matter of course we turned to the tool that was easiest to use — even though it was more expensive.

As the tile began to cover more and more of the vinyl the room seemed to brighten and began to look richer and more luxurious. We couldn’t believe our eyes. What a difference! When the grout was finished you couldn’t tell that the job had not been done by a tile contractor. And all for under $2.50 a square foot and a bit of sweat equity.

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