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Old 12-10-2004, 12:45 PM   #1
heli0s
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Need advice! Tile over gypcrete....

Hi All.
I live in Houston, Tx and just took on a tile project for the first time. My g/f talked me into helping her tile her condo kitchen. The condo is in the medical center, on the third floor, about 15 years old, and the kitchen is very small about 60 sq/ft, making a nice beginner project. Being a pretty handy guy, I was excited to get my hands dirty and try out tiling. I've been reading different books, searching web sites, etc... and thought I had a pretty good handle on how to do it (of course bad luck always happens to the newbies.) Anyway, we were luckly to find some really nice ceramic tile from Home Depot for $.77 sq/ft!! We got that, spent about $50 bucks, and about $150 on tools (which I can always use again in the future). My mother just recently had her house tiled the with same tile, and the contractors had a whole bag of morter and grout left over, so she gave me that.

Now here's the fun part. Last weekend we moved all the appliances out and started tearing up the old vinyl floor (which was a pain because someone had glued it down pretty hard, and they didn't even remove all the glue from the previous floor making it very unlevel, one of the reasons she wanted to tile. The old floor was a mess with tears and ridges). While tearing this up, I immediately knew something was very wrong. The concrete didn't look like any concrete I'd ever seen. It is VERY soft/brittle, very powedery, and is full of cracks (none at least are higher on one side though, which I hear is good). I did some searching and have concluded this must be gypcrete. Now it seems that in these cases most of you seem to advise tearing up this stuff, and laying ply and backerboard. I'm a little hesitant to start doing this for fear of condo restrictions, as well as soundproofing the gypcrete probably provides.

Here's my question. Can someone tell me how we can best do this job quick/cheap? I know quick and cheap are probably not what most of you tile pros like to hear, but we don't have a big budget, and this was mainly supposed to just be a fun little project since we found the tile so incredibly cheap, and anything is better than the floor that was there. We're not real concerned at this point if some cracks start appearing a few years down the line. By then maybe we'll have a bigger budget to do it right, but for now we just want to get it layed as best we can. I normally like to do things right so I hate cutting corners, but I just don't see any other options for us right now. And if I'm going to cut corners, I at least want to cut corners right. From reading the forums I've gathered my best bet aside from tearing it up, would be to maybe lay Ditra under the tile. The problem is I have no idea were to get Ditra, and it seems that it's also very expensive and hard to get in small quantities. Are there any other suggestions for this fun project gone south?

Thanks,
Adam
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Old 12-10-2004, 01:06 PM   #2
jadnashua
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Tile-experts will mail order you some of the stuff, if you decide to go that route. Check out the tile-your world store icon above, and their link is on the right. They've got some pretty good tech advice - they know their products. Since you don't have a big area to tile, if it is what you need, it doesn't add that much .

Once you've got the old flooring off of the gypcrete (which is a brand name - like Kleenex verses tissue), you may want to fill any divots first. Condos, I hear, use that stuff for two reasons - sound isolation and fire barrier. It does level the floor, too, but is not the greatest thing to tile to.
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Old 12-10-2004, 02:06 PM   #3
bmiller
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Hi Adam,
You and I must be related. I am about to tackle an eerily similar project. I started a thread just last week on this. My condo is also on the third floor, gypcrete, etc. I'm looking forward to hauling this stuff 3 floors....

I just rec'd last night an order of Ditra from Tile-Experts. They were excellent. I highly recomend them. I think Home Depot will order some for you as well....but no way would I, personally, consider that after the service I just rec'd from Tile Experts.

I will be removing the old floor next week, and will see what sort of condition the gypcrete is in. I tried to call my city code people to get some info on what materials are acceptable if I have to tear it out. Never could get anyone to call me back....

Brian
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Old 12-11-2004, 11:15 AM   #4
heli0s
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Thanks guys for the direction. I was looking all over for a Ditra supplier. I didn't even know Home Depot could get it for you, but tile-experts looks even better. I think it will run us about a $100 bucks, which is a lot cheaper than I first thought. I think we can splurge that much to, so I think that's the way I'm gonna go. 1) First level out the floor divits with some thinset, 2) morter down the Ditra over the old cracked gypcrete, and 3) lay the tile over the ditra. Does anyone know if I need to tape up the seams when I lay Ditra with any kind of tape, or can I just tile over any gaps?

Hey Brian, let me know how your project goes. I'm curious if you decide to do the same and not tear it out.


Thanks,
Adam
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Old 12-11-2004, 11:21 AM   #5
jadnashua
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There shouldn't be gaps! Butt the edges up against each other (no tenting now). You only need to do something to the seam edges if you want the membrane to be waterproof - then you use their Kerdi band (or pieces cut from roll Kerdi, same thing). Not needed in your case I don't think.
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Old 12-11-2004, 11:24 AM   #6
Westie
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If you want the floor to be totally waterproof you can apply Kerdi over the Ditra seams. If not just make sure there are no big gaps and tile right over the joints. My wife and I installed over 800 square feet of tile over gypcrete, with in floor heating, using Ditra and so far no problems.

Looks like you can type faster than me Jim.
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Old 12-11-2004, 11:30 AM   #7
heli0s
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Ahh. Thanks Jim. I still haven't seen Ditra, and I was just trying to picture in my head different scenarios. And I remember one tile book talking about membranes and they taped the seams of whatever the one was they were using.

By the way, does anyone advise chipping out some of these cracks a bit with a chisel before filling them with thinset? One book advised that.


Thanks,
Adam
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Old 12-11-2004, 09:57 PM   #8
stullis
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Keeping water from the gypcrete is what you are trying to do! It would be prudent to use the kerdi band which is thinner than the regular kerdi any time you are tiling over gypcrete.

Also a good idea to use a gypsum based leveling compound instead of thinset for the leveling.
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Old 12-11-2004, 10:07 PM   #9
John Bridge
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Hi Adam,

What you have might not be Gyp Crete as has been mentioned. The generic term for similar material is "lightweight concrete," which it is not. It's not concrete.

If I were doing the job I'd rip the whole mess out and replace it with reinforced cement mortar, but since you've already decided to do a quickie job, you've taken the right approach. Not that there are any guarantees your plan will work, but it's the best way to go under the circumstances.

I wouldn't worry about chipping out the cracks. Won't do any good. Just make sure you clean the stuff well before laying the Ditra. Also, I would use a good modified thin set like Versa Bond (Home Depot) to stick the Ditra to the floor. And throw away your mom's old grout and thin set. Not worth taking a chance on.
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Old 12-13-2004, 06:43 PM   #10
bmiller
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Adam,
well...i tore out a lot of gypcrete or whatever the heck it is today. Man, lugging that stuff down three floors is unbelievably painful. I got some of those "contractor" trash bags and filled 'em with as much as i could comfortably handle. Took A LOT of bags...

I've got two out of three areas that I have to pull this out. The third area has already had it removed and plywood installed. If was pretty obvious (to even a rookie like me) that that stuff would not support any tile. The good news is that once I started, it came up pretty easy. Hauling it was awful....

I am now leaning toward a mudfloor per John's suggestion. I just posted a "please advise" post on my thread for this project....

John, (or others), if you see this, is the reinforced mortar bed you mentioned, the same as the mud floors I've seen described here - which has a lath tacked down prior to the mud??

good luck...

Brian

Last edited by bmiller; 12-13-2004 at 06:52 PM.
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Old 12-13-2004, 08:06 PM   #11
heli0s
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Thanks John. I'll take a look at the versa bond stuff.

Hmmm... Now I have more questions though. I'm reading how Brian here ripped his floor up, and I wonder the same thing he's asked. Is the reinforced cement the same as mud? And, how difficult and how costly would that be vs. buying the Ditra for $100 total? I don't mind doing a few extra days work to do it right, as long as I don't go too over budget.

Also if I were to do the mud(or concrete stuff?) what do you do when ripping the floor up around cabinets. For instance, some of the floor obviously goes under cabinets you can't get under, so do you just leave that part of the floor in place, and just chip up around it?

This board's great. Thanks for all the advice here.

~Adam
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Old 12-14-2004, 07:42 PM   #12
John Bridge
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Brian,

Yes, moisture barrier, metal lath and cement mortar (dry pack/floor mud/deck mud. That's it.

Adam,

We have been in business here for better than four years, closer to five. Our success rate with newbies is nearly untarnished, almost astonishing.

The old cracked up crap you have for a floor is not good, okay? I've told you that if I were doing it, I'd rip it out. And the easiest way to build a substantial substrate and take up the space at the same time is with a mud bed -- sand and cement. The reinforcing is metal lath that you can buy at Home Depot. We'll help you if you want to do it. Otherwise, do the membrane and go for it.
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Old 12-22-2004, 04:46 AM   #13
bmiller
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Adam,
Not sure if you are still looking at doing this project or maybe you finished, but I just finsished removing the gypcrete and replacing with mud/mortar. I have to say, I was pretty intimidated about attempting a mud floor, but after doing it - I can now say it was by far the way to go on this floor. Huge pain to remove and haul the gypcrete, but very much worth it. I'm really convinced the tile would not have lasted on this stuff...it was terribly cracked

Between John's book and the advice I got here it went very well....

thanks,

Brian
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