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Old 09-05-2004, 06:44 PM   #1
adrian
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thanks, retrospective, pictures

Well, it took a lot longer than I expected, but my tile project is finally completed. (The total bathroom remodeling project took from the end of April to mid August.) The advice I got on this forum proved crucial to the success of my effort. Thanks to all of you who shared your knowledge and expertise with me.

I tried to take some pictures which can be seen here:
bathroom pictures
(My bathroom is 8x5 and I found it pretty hard to take decent pictures of it because I can't back up far enough.)

I found setting tile to be a very challenging project, and somewhat frustrating due to the time pressure of having to use the thinset before it hardened in the bucket. (Other home improvement projects I've done haven't come with such a time constraint.) My original vision was that I was going to set the wall tiles in a weekend. I mixed up 37 lbs of thinset and only managed to set 12 tiles in four hours. I had 180 tiles to set. Why did it take so long? It was the time I spent trying to wedge the tiles into position and get them level along the top of the bathtub. Moistening the hardibacker before applying the tiles left me with too much water running down the wall at times, which made the tile wedges slip around. Back buttering tiles also seems to be rather time consuming. And I also had to cut tiles as I went. By the time I finished the project I was about four times as fast, but I never reached the point where I could use up a whole 50 lbs of thinset in time. (After my initial 12 tile effort I wised up and mixed it up in smaller batches.)

When installing hardibacker I used screws, and I discovered that I had to predrill in order to keep the screws from pressing the hardibacker away from the studs. (Some people suggested nails, but whenever I try to use nails for anything I always regret it. I find that if I don't predrill for the nails then they bend over and cause all sorts of trouble. And they are not reversible like screws.) Somebody said I could predrill hardibacker with a regular twist bit. This only worked for about 10 holes. Even the carbide tipped bits didn't seem to last for ever. (Drilling the porcelain tiles, however, seems to require diamond bits.)

The need for a lot of tiling sessions had an implication I didn't realize at first. For some reason, whenever I stopped and started a new session, something would be wrong at the interface between the tiles set in the first session and the newly laid tiles. This seemed to be a much bigger problem when the interface was a vertical line. Once I realized this I arranged my tiling where I would tile the whole width of a wall and move up a row at a time rather than trying to tile up to the ceiling in one section. This kind of problem led to some grout lines that were too narrow and in one place, a grout line that is much much wider than the others. But people (other than me) don't seem to notice.

I used 1/8" grout line spacers both on the floor and on the wall. This resulted in a visual grout line 1/4" wide on the floor. Apparently the tiles taper at the edges. On the walls the grout lines ended up to 1/8" to 3/16" wide. Again, I think tapered tiles are at fault. The tiles on the wall are 3/8" thick and if I got the spacer all the way back I got a wider line than if the spacer was closer to the front of the tile, or if the spacer was sticking in from the front. This variation doesn't appear to be noticeable without close inspection, oddly.

We put in an acrylic tub, which I think may have been a mistake. (We couldn't find a cast iron one the right size.) And in the process of the tiling I dropped the utility knife on it and gouged it (through the protective plastic I had put down). Kohler won't sell the patch kit to normal people because the chemicals are "too dangerous", so we had to hire someone to repair it. I'm not sure how to prevent this problem, but the repair guy said the tiles looked really good, better than lots of professional jobs he's seen. So I guess I shouldn't feel too bad about the imperfections.

I was using porcelain tiles for this project and cutting them with a $88 tile saw I picked up at Home Depot. This was a mistake. It was very hard to set the fence on this tool. I had to use a square to ensure that the fence was straight. I'm not sure if it was the fault of the tiles or the saw, but it had a tencency to chip the tiles (even after a blade upgrade) and often a little triangle would fly off at the end of the cut. To prevent this, I had to cut in a bit from one end, and then flip over the tile. The saw would vibrate the fence loose and then the cut would end up crooked and wouldn't meet the cut at the other end. I found I did better when I used C-clamps to hold the fence down, but sometimes the C-clamps would interfere with the power switch. It was a big pain. All this hassle with the saw didn't help my speed any. And then after cutting I would smooth the edge of the tile with a diamond hone to hide the small chips along the edge. Nothing but diamond abrasives worked on these tiles. The difficulty in setting the fence meant that I couldn't make repeatable cuts, which was really annoying when going around the window and the decorative tiles. If I was doing it again I'd follow the forum advice and get the $300 saw.

I made cutouts in the tiles with a diamond blade on an angle grinder. I had some trouble with the tiles cracking when I did this for no obvious reason. To hold the tile while cutting I made a frame that the tiles fit in so the front and back were both exposed. The tiles were held tightly in this frame, and I could use wedges if necessary to keep them tight. The cracking seemed less likely when I did the longest cuts first. It took me several tries to get a decent rectangular cutout for the decorative tile that is located in the center of another tile. I decided it was too much trouble and I set the other two decorative tiles at the corner instead.

I grouted the floor with Polyblend Sahara Tan and the tile store sold me sanded Color Caulk in the same color. Well, not only does it not match very well, I swear it's the worst caulk I've ever used. It seemed to shrink about 50% after application, and I had to use multiple coats of it. (Scrutiny of the directions does turn up the note that "a second coat may be necessary".)

In any case, people say it looks good. My wife is happy. (Well, she'd be happier if the plumber hadn't screwed up and set the valves too deep into the wall. We're waiting for him to come back and fix it so we can actually use the shower and bath.) And I am really happy to be done at last!
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Old 09-05-2004, 07:01 PM   #2
Raymond S
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Very, very nice Adrian. You should be proud. Not only of the finished project but also of the way you handled the problems.
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Old 09-05-2004, 09:13 PM   #3
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Well, Adrian, sounds like you got a bit of useful education along with a nice bathroom remodel. Nothing at all wrong with that, eh?

I think the neatest part is where you managed to save them petroglyphs by neatly tiling around them on your walls. That musta been a really, really old house you was remodelin' there.

If it makes you feel any better, the onliest time I've ever mixed a whole bag of thinset at one time is when doing large Saltillo floors with a helper. Now, I ain't no real tile guy, but I've done some setting over the years and for wall tilin' I've never mixed more than half a bag at a time on a day when I was feelin' pretty frisky. Ain't no shame in that.
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Old 09-06-2004, 04:25 AM   #4
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Adrian,

Looks good, you should be proud. I to have learned a lot by tiling. Can't tell you how many times I have torn off tile and had to reset them.
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Old 09-06-2004, 05:56 AM   #5
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Peter, you havent seen anything to youve got 150 ft Plus a border started and you find your guy got 1 of the lines set wrong and missed it on his double check.when meeting a pattern with existing tile all you can do is tear it out clean it up and start over again adjusting for that stinking 1 inch

Sometimes it takes a guy a while to get used to adding an inch when putting the tape on the 1" mark
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Old 09-06-2004, 10:47 AM   #6
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Way to go, Adrian. Looks smashing.

I can't get rid of a whole bucket of thinset either when working on walls.

Send me your last name and location. I'll put your pics in the album.
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Old 09-06-2004, 10:48 AM   #7
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I see the location.
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Old 09-09-2004, 07:04 AM   #8
adrian
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John, my last name is Mariano.

I have to admit there were times where I contemplated the idea of removing some of the set tiles. There were a few things that prevented me from doing that. One is that my wife was complaining about how long it was taking and about how terrible it was to have to go down into the basement to use the toilet. I found it pretty difficult to remove tiles that I had just slapped onto the wall. It seemed like removing the tiles the next day would be a slow, painstaking and messy job and would add weeks or months to the project. Another reason was that I wasn't sure which tiles I would have to remove to make it better, since I didn't have any huge layout catastrophes. (I did spend about 3 hours trying to figure out the right vertical position of the tiles to avoid having skinny strips of tile at the floor, at the celing, above the door, above or below the window, above or below the medicine cabinet, or above the bath tub.) I had problems with grout lines being irregular and a few tiles are not flat with the other tiles. (In some cases I swear they moved at night.)

It's nice to hear that other people aren't using 6 bags of thinset up in a day and putting a thousand tiles. I kept imagining that the pros were much faster than me, but I couldn't figure out how I could be any faster.
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Old 09-09-2004, 06:56 PM   #9
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I'm sure most of the pros are faster, but I'm not. I'm a very slow tile setter. Tileguytodd wouldn't want me around. Dead weight.

Give me a few days to post the pics. I'll let you know.
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