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Old 06-07-2006, 08:30 AM   #1
mbeak
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leveling a very sloped bathroom floor

This list is amazingly great and i've done much reading here and have learned a lot but still feel like I need (and would really appreciate)! some advice from you all about a fairly sloped floor i'm dealing with.

Here's my situation. I'm planning to lay ceramic tile in a 9.5'x6' bathroom that I've fully gutted in my 1850's farmhouse. The subfloor consists of old (but really sturdy) 1" thick and ~10" wide tongue and groove boards. Part of the floor (about 30%) was replaced with plywood (1" thick) - guessing about 20 years ago by previous owners b'c of rot. The joists are 2 7/8" thick and 6 1/2" wide and run along the 9.5' length of the room... they span is a couple feet longer than the room before they meet up with a perpendicular wall, where they end. All in all the floor is very soild.. when i jump on it there's no bounce.

The problem is that the floor in the bathroom has a pretty severe slope - I'm measuring a gradient of 1/8" per foot. (This is an old house.. and all the floors slope toward the center of the house. When I first bought the place 4 years ago, my first priority was to shore up the supports in the basement and add a couple i beams - so things are pretty well stabilized. I didn't want to jack too much for fear of disturbing the house, which has been like this for years i suspect.)

Based on all my research and based on common sense I am aware that the best way to level the floor is to rip out the subfloor and level the joists by sistering, or rip joist length shims for under new plywood. However, I really don't want to have to take up the subfloor.. the walls of this bathroom are built over the plank floors so I'd have to cut at the perimeter with a saw I dont have - not a job I really want to embark on.
(I had thought of perhaps trying to shim cement backboard but this is generally not a good idea? - correct me if I' wrong.)

So I'm thinking I can use SLC or mortar for leveling instead. My concern is that at the lowest part of the room the SLC would be 2 3/8" thick - is this a problem with SLC or is this job more suitable for mortar? I've read about expert tile guys using a thick layer of mortar for problems like this but i'm afraid I might not have the trowel skills to get the bed flat and level? (btw, I'm a tile newbie, but I'm a quick study.)

The main reason why I need the room leveled (and not just flat) is because the sink and the toilet are affected drastically by the slope.. i'm concerned about the toilet and the sink being installed on an unlevel floor (the toilet I ripped out definately had a good lean going.. the sink cabinet was shimmed).....just seems i'd be asking for trouble... toilets just dont seem meant to be shimmed, plus shimming would complicate the flange interfacing.
One other piece of info - the door is at the high end of the room, so it shouldn't be affected too much by leveling.

So that's the core dump. Any ideas?

Thanks,
Gina
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Old 06-07-2006, 08:46 AM   #2
geniescience
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if the bathroom's longest wall is less than 10', and "the SLC would be 2 3/8" thick" then you have DOUBLE the slope you mentioned above, even more than that. In fact, it is enough slope for a shower.

Gina, where are you planning on putting your shower? On the far wall farthest from the door? If yes, then you have the makings of a sunken shower already, and that in a wood house too! Normally people can only dream of a sunken shower floor, and only on a concrete slab, and only if the builders had planned for it since most slabs have to be left intact for integrity.

Can you post your layout? That will help determine the advice you get on building up your floor. Unless you just want to raise and level it all everywhere.

(Edit: if you keep the slope for a shower, you'll want to look into scupper drains, for the back wall)
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Old 06-07-2006, 09:43 AM   #3
bbcamp
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Gina, SLC will work, but you'd have to find one that will allow for that thickness in a single pour or you'd have to do 2 pours. Also, you can cut your costs without sacrificing quality by adding pea gravel in the deeper areas.
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Old 06-07-2006, 09:57 AM   #4
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Bob
Remember, SLC is great as the last coat. Because it self levels itself. that is its value. No point using that wonderful product to start filling a big gap, only to close it with a level surface.

Most of the other cement products out there in the lumber yard are great to fill the huge space. Patching mix, resurfacing, etc. Gina, call the lumber yard and call the tech support line of a cement manufacturer - the one whose products are in the local lumber yard. They'll name a product for you, and it'll cost you one tenth what SLC costs.

Actually this may be the first time in my life I suggest using Deck Mud (Dry Pack, Sand Mix). The Master, John Bridge, has an excellent article in this, with photos, in the Liberry.

Gina, backerboard is not going to work with shims. Cement products are easy to work with, like playdough, plasticine, or clay, for adults wearing gloves.
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Last edited by geniescience; 06-07-2006 at 10:08 AM.
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Old 06-07-2006, 10:03 AM   #5
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Thank you, David.
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Old 06-07-2006, 10:07 AM   #6
geniescience
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After all i've learned here, and with your guidance, i am proud to help out. My pleasure, Bob.
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Old 06-07-2006, 10:08 AM   #7
mbeak
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I made an error in the info I initially provided... the slope of the floor is

1/4" per ft

NOT 1/8" per ft.

geniescience, we already bought the bathtub so shower is out, good idea tho.

Gina
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Old 06-07-2006, 11:02 AM   #8
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Gina --

What tub did you buy?

A standard cast-iron tub usually sits on the front apron and a ledger board attached to the back wall. So it may be possible for you to level the floor from the door to a few inches under the tub, and avoid filling the deepest area altogether.
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Old 06-07-2006, 11:16 AM   #9
geniescience
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Gina

As I wait for people around me to get ready before we go out, I have a few minutes, to draw a few lines and show you an idea that makes sense of your sloped floor. This idea allows you to keep your tub and use it too.
1. bench inside shower, with leg rest.
2. shower space.
3. knee wall, including space for supplies (shampoo, t-paper). Glass on top.
4. toilet.
5. tub.
6. pedestal sink.
7. flat part of floor, not level but sloped to shower slightly.
8. knee wall holding tub plumbing, perhaps vanity supplies on other side.
9. "Japanese" intra-shower-tub space, intermediate zone where you can stand between shower and tub and expect to get the floor wet.
10. slightly sloped floor of the regular space.

These areas all take advantage of your existing slope. A little cement (mud) in the right places will create the right slopes. The toilet can be turned around.

You gain a shower.
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Old 06-07-2006, 11:45 AM   #10
mbeak
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wow, good idea jdm. it would work with this tub too.. it's a new Americast (American Standard Princeton).. standard size with apron and ledger board.
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Old 06-07-2006, 04:28 PM   #11
mbeak
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geniescience -
wow, now that would be a nice bathroom. thanks for making the drawing. it's not going to be workable for me though as the plumbing is just about done, and my budget and patience are just about shot (been w/o a shower in the house since March. oy).

Gina
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Old 06-07-2006, 05:32 PM   #12
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The cheapest way to do this would be a mudbed. If you are afraid of not being able to get it flat or level, and at the outer edge where the mud would be too thin, you could then top it off with the slc. But, you can use a bunch of pea gravel prior to the pour, and significantly minimize the amount of slc you need and just do it with that. The slc penetrates and surrounds the pea gravel making a solid bed. Look carefully at the specs on any slc you might use, each has its own max depth which you need to take into account.

If you do end up using slc, this would make a great place to consider in-floor heat mats or cable (or maybe even a hydro - hot water loop if you have hot water heat). The thing with hot water heat is that you often don't want to run the boiler during the summer, the electric is easy to turn on or off for the time you want.
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Old 06-24-2006, 08:41 PM   #13
mbeak
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OK, so I took you all's general advice and have decided to first put in a mortar bed to get the floor within ballpark level, then do a final layer for flattening and leveling with SLC. Also I really liked jdm's idea to damn the mortar bed just past the tub apron, so as to avoid filling the deepest part of the room, so I'm planning to go ahead with it like that.

So this leaves me with a 7.5' x 6' space, to fill with mortar.. where the deepest part (just under the tub apron) is just about 2". I'm planning on using Quikcrete mortar mix in the yellow bag from Home Despot. However when you read the bag it assumes you're using it for laying brick - so it didn't give any volumetric specs. I'll be using it to make a slab, which kinda gave me doubts about using mortar.. like I should be using concrete? -- the info on the concrete bags give specific instructions on usage for slabs. Any thoughts on this?

Anyway, I made the calculations for number of bags of 60lb mortar bags to get based on volumetric specs on a Quikcrete concrete bag. I'm coming up with 7 60lb bags of Quikcrete mortar mix to mostly fill my 7.5'x6' area, then SLC on top (calculating number of bags of that later). Adding up the load has me concerned though -- 7 x 60 = 420 lb + maybe 70 lbs of slc + thinset and tiles... adding up to more than 1/4 ton of material going in on the floor.. in a second floor bathroom. This is a hell of a lot of weight. So, I re-examined the framing AGAIN. It all seems quite solid. there are a lot of huge pieces of lumber in this house (it's been described as a post-and-beam + balloon framed). And the bathroom floor joists are tied into 10"x10" oak beams at each end.. and that floor is rock solid. I know the only way to know is to get a structural engineer in here to evaluate. But what I want to know from you pros is, do you ever have any general concerns about mortar beds and the load they bring onto the house? Or is 500 lbs most of the time negligible? Probably hard for you to give me any specific recommendations about my case without seeing the framing yourselves so i dont expect specifics from you, just anecdotes, ideas, etc...

Thanks a million,
Gina
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Old 06-24-2006, 08:52 PM   #14
jadnashua
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You want portland cement and sand, 1:5 mix if I understand this properly. The concrete mix may not work out properly, depending on whether it has aggragate in it. The concrete mix will be slightly runny and much denser than the mud mix.
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Old 07-24-2006, 03:29 PM   #15
mbeak
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Ok, leveling is complete... figured i'd post some comments & pics.
I ended up building up mostly with mortar first, then went over it with 4 bags (40#) of SLC. Before mortaring I built a dam, which you can see on the far end of pics, from a 2x4 and stapled the tar paper over it to seal. The dam is about 2" under where the tub apron will sit. I stapled down 15 lb. feltpaper with generous overlaps then diamond mesh fastened with 1.5" roofing nails. The mortar was quickcrete.. yellow bag. Fashioned some pretty flakey float/reference pieces out of 1/4" lattice propped up by shim stacks. (I was trying to avoid having to rip custom references out of 2x4, but in hindsight, this might have been better. what would you guys have done?) Worked ok because i just wanted ballpark... anticipating that SLC would fix everything... which it pretty much did. I wish i had pushed the SLC around a little more because i did end up with 3 slight low-spots which i patched with floor leveling patch. The name and directions imply that the stuff does the leveling for you... thinking i should have added a bit more water so it could move around better.. it was the consistency of a newly made milkshake.. maybe a melty milkshake would have been better. I was worried about straying from the directions tho.

Anyway, the floor feels really solid and turned out nice. Now I'm getting ready to lay down the mosaic tile (see post from today, 7/24/06 by 'mbeak' called "cutting mosaic tile (Daltile Octagon & Dot)")

gina
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