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Old 10-26-2006, 11:50 PM   #1
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Porcelain tile install over cement floor -- Help!

I am planning on installing 18" x 18" porcelain floor tile in a 13' x 19' room. I will be laying it on approximately 50 year old concrete. There are no cracks in the exposed concrete and no cracks in any of my walls which would lead me to believe it is not doing a lot of shifting/contracting, etc.. I am just trying to figure out if I caulk the edges, do I still need to uncouple the tile by laying down a layer of CBU (or other choices) or can I just apply directly to the cement? Will caulking the edges give the tile enough give to not crack? (Please, please say yes ... if not, please advise the best, least expensive way to go.) Also, if I apply directly to the cement floor, should I apply a thin layer of thinset to the back of each tile in addition to grouting the floor? What size trowel (1/4 "?) and grout lines would you recommend? Laying tile will be a first for me but I intend to tile the whole house in time (my home is small -- 1280 sq.ft.) doing one room at a time. I have six children at home, five who are under the age of 9 years old and they are my priority, not CARPET! Can't wait to get rid of all of it! I have removed stiff composition tile (PVT?) from the floor and am in the process of removing the black mastic. (This will be under every carpet in every room.) Vinegar/water and scraping is working pretty well but a bit labor intensive. Any better suggestions here? Also, the porcelain tile is from Portobello America. I have researched the internet and connot find much info on it. Their site gives specs which look impressive to the novice, but would appreciate if anyone has any knowledge on quality here, also, and would be willing to share. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU anyone who is willing to respond. Am anxious to begin the job, but want to do it right! If it gets too costly, I will probably have to go back to my original plan of acid staining. But, I do love the looks of this tile and so hope it is do-able. Also, in South Texas, it is more readily accepted than acid stained concrete. And, I believe that the tile will not be nearly so slick for my kids coming in wet from playing in the sprinklers as the tile has a texture and feels very non-slick (is there such a word?)
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Old 10-27-2006, 07:58 AM   #2
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Hi there, welcome! Gotta first name we can use? You can set the tiles right on the concrete with a latex modified thinset. With those big tiles the floor needs to be super flat otherwise you will have lippage. I would use a 3/8" notch trowel and yes trowel the floor and skim coat the backs of the tile with the flat side of the trowel. 3/16" or 1/4" grout lines will be fine. You don't need to caulk the perimeter if it will be covered by trim.
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Old 10-27-2006, 09:28 AM   #3
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Thank you for your reply! The name is Karen.
I'm guessing that there is at least a slant to the floor as when I pour vinegar it does not just stay in one spot. But, it does not pool either, just spreads out. I thought to check for high/low spots, I would use a 24" straight edge (or level), all over the floor. Is this right? If I understand all that I have read, I would fill in the low spots with thinset, leveled and let that dry prior to installation. However, I still do not quite understand how to remove high spots -- do I rent a sander and try to grind it down? Forgive me for so many questions, but I really, really want to do it right or I might as well not do it at all.

When you say latex modified thinset, is it a particular brand (like Mapei) or any brand will do? The perimeter will be covered by trim, so if I understand correctly, I just leave it open? I have never posted a question anywhere before, but reading your website inspired me I should go for it (in addressing my particular questions). However, I am worried about asking too many questions. Does someone like me, a totally excited novice with so many questions, drive you guys ? Thanks, and have a great day! karen
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Old 10-27-2006, 09:45 AM   #4
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BTW Mike, you answered my four most important questions. If I didn't get any more answers, or ask anymore questions (cuz I do have more, like should I use grout release on my textured tiles, how to use spacers on tiles that have wavy, not straight edges but look really cool! etc.) I could definitely go on from here and do the job. So many, many thanks for getting to the heart of the matter and answering what I REALLY needed to know. The rest just makes the job easier for me and gives me more confidence. So, thanks a mil! karen
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Old 10-27-2006, 10:10 AM   #5
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Welcome, Karen.

Go to the UserCP button near the top of the page and find Edit Signature. Enter your first name there for us so there will be a signature at the bottom of your posts.

For those large format tiles, your floor must be flat as MMike was pointing out. Really, really flat. Your two-foot level won't tell you what you need to know. You need a long straight-edge. Like at least ten feet long. You can maybe get by with eight feet if you use it correctly, but longer is better.

Experienced tile setters can compensate for some deviations in the floor if they need to, but even they will try to get the floor as flat as possible when setting those big tiles. Otherwise you can end up with, as has been said here in past, a floor with more lippage than a Mick Jagger look-alike contest. This is not a good thing.

My opinion; worth price charged.
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Old 10-27-2006, 10:40 AM   #6
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Had no clue about the 8 ft/10 ft straight edge! Do they sell straight edges that long at home improvement stores? If so, how can I be confident that they are truly straight? Is there a particular brand? Thanks.

p.s. is this signature better?
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Old 10-27-2006, 04:13 PM   #7
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Hi Karen, Welcome aboard.

What no one has said is that you have taken on an "advanced" flooring project, and you have little or no knowledge of even the basics. I think you're going to run into problems. I think maybe you ought to bite off something simpler as your first tiling project.

Anyway, I think the straight-edge CX is talking about is a piece of lumber, an eight-foot 2x4 or a ten-foot 2x6 will do the trick. You have to "eye ball" them when you buy them. Choose kiln dried lumber. Sight down the piece to see whether it's straight.
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Old 10-27-2006, 04:33 PM   #8
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Thanks for the welcome guys.

And most importantly, thank you all for your advice. John, can you help me understand what part makes this advanced? Is it the size (18" x 18") tiles?
I realize that tiling is not simple, but I am a quick learner and don't give up easily.

What I don't want is a floor that cracks or has horrible, crooked grout lines. I have considered chalking each tile line to center the tiles, but am unclear of how to keep from erasing those lines. I have read that you can "seal" them, but does that interfere with the bond of the thinset? I do intend to go buy "Tile Your World" this weekend if our bookstore carries it and I will devour it quickly (am also a fast reader and will mark to go back for specifics or better understanding). I am confident that I can do this if I just do my homework first. Have been researching several sites but only felt totally confident with this one and so will do as you guys say. I don't have a simpler tiling project to begin with so don't know how else to do it. I will defiinitely take into consideration all that you all say, but I have to do something with my floors and I don't want vinyl, linoleum, or wood.
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Old 10-27-2006, 04:51 PM   #9
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It's the size of the tiles, Karen. Big tiles have to be set absolutely flat or the corners will be sticking up all over the place. Smaller tiles can be out of level a little without causing an uproar. That's what makes it advanced. It's a question of trying to get the slab flat before a piece of tile is even set. Lots of pros have problems with the concept.
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Old 10-29-2006, 05:02 PM   #10
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advanced indeed

howdy karen,

judging from your moniker (proud mom) - we have lots in common.

thought i'd chime in here to add my warning, with a background note that i've laid lots and lots of tile, most of which i'm very proud of. even so, the thought of laying those large squares over concrete a large expanse of concrete makes me a bit weak in the knees. not only are those really big tiles, concrete is notorious for being very, very uneven. and since it's as old as you say, no chance it was a self-leveling type.

we women are not easily talked out of a tile, once we've chosen it, nor are we apt to feel that we are "not up to the job" - especially if it's a job usually done by a man. but, i gotta tell ya - i'd reconsider the choice of tile. failing that - i'd ask john b. what he thinks about using ditra as a base for your big beauties - and whether it would mitigate the toe-tripping and furniture-snagging issues you are bound to be in for.

if ditra could solve that problem (seems to me it would) - then i'd bite the bullet and splurge for the underlayment. i've just started using ditra - and i'm in love - head-over-heels - with the stuff. i'd also ask the mudman about floating the whole thing with a bit (large bit?) of a self leveling mud. but again - floating a floor that size is not a job for a newbie. and won't work if you have clearance problems (if the added material from the mud makes your tiles too high for doors, etc...)

dang girl - you're gonna learn a fair bit of what there is to know on this project. from one mom to another - INVEST IN GOOD KNEE PADS.

smiles,
jacquie
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Old 10-29-2006, 05:23 PM   #11
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another thought

me again - with another suggestion (john might not like this - as it will move you away from tile) -- stain and seal your concrete. i suggest this because you mention that you have a slab that is not cracked (some kind of miracle - that)

btw - john's book is the best - and you won't find advice like this forum offers anywhere else. added bonus - john has a wickedly elegant sense of humor - which you will much appreciate as you begin tiling. my husband is a visual kind fo guy - and john's pictures make the whole thing clear as day.

about staining and sealing concrete - don't know your taste - but there are a lot of creative variables you can employ. if you do a google image search using the words -stained concrete floor- you'll find pictures galore. a good acid stain can look just like tile.

cheers,
jacquie

okay - change that - properly done - a good acid stain can look a lot like tile, and be very very beautiful. search for the images.

Last edited by jacquievw; 10-29-2006 at 05:43 PM.
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Old 10-30-2006, 10:38 AM   #12
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Hi Jacquie,

Thanks so much for replying.

Oh, so much to think about! I had, in fact, totally decided on acid staining, until I started reading about how to do it. The fumes, lots of water for rinsing, how to dispose of the water from rinsing, etc. And, then, if I understand correctly, it needs to be sealed and a finish applied to last -- YIKES -- my kids ALWAYS run, never walk! and they LOVE, LOVE, LOVE playing in sprinklers, water hose, etc. Water is a magnet for them. So, when I found this porcelain tile (on sale for 69cents a square foot) and it is THE tile I would have picked (in my ignorance I wanted huge tiles, didn't know they would be an issue) and they are porcelain, with great texture, look a whole lot like slate, the right colors, everything I wanted in a tile, then I decided that this would be the way to go.

Oh, yeah, about the acid staining, another BIG issue is the black glue from the original (VCT?) hard vinyl or linoleum tile. We are removing it with vinegar and scrapers, but not every little trace. Was going to use a latex improved thinset to overcome that. With staining, that would never do. Then, I'm looking at more chemicals and fumes. And, I have 6 children still at home and I homeschool, so it's not like I can do it while they are at school and stop soon enough to air out everyday before they come home. Their ages are 3, 6,7,8,9 and 17 years old. It's the 5 youngest that are the issue, of course. With tile, none of that would be an issue.

Wow, I just don't know what to do now. Cannot afford the regular price of tile and it would have to meet so many criteria before I would even like it. The ditra sounds like a good possibility. I had kind of given up on anyone else responding, figured it was pretty much out of my scope, but had not given up on myself and was still willing to try. Now, you and John have me really questioning myself (as I have never laid tiles before). I'm so, so, confused. Thought I had it all figured out ...

Thank you all for being so honest with me. I have not given up yet. If you have any more advice, please post. Otherwise, I will still continue to consider all you have said and will still continue to prep the floor -- have to do that no matter what I do!
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Old 10-30-2006, 10:50 AM   #13
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BTW, mud floating and tile clearance would not be an issue. We had already shaved the bottoms of the doors several years ago when we installed berber carpet (before all of the kids! Our six youngest are adopted. We fostered for seven years and were blessed with the adoption of these beautiful children.) So, the doors are quite high. I was going to buy John's book and read about the mud bed because I figured it was probably out of my scope but thought I would make that decision after I read more about the specifics in his book. I'm not afraid to try new things if I believe I have a decent chance of being successful. I checked at one bookstore this weekend, but still have another one to check out.
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Old 10-30-2006, 02:00 PM   #14
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not giving up

hi karen,

sounds like you have thought it through pretty well - you have some very valid points about the chemicle process with the acid stain. tile, on the other hand, is chemically tame compared to staining.

one thing most beginners don't calc into their budget figures when they price tile is the extras like underlayment, mud float, specialty grouts, trim peices, or sealers (a biggy ifyou are using saltillo.)

get and read john's book - before you do anything else. then consider getting a local concrete guy to float a self leveling mud for you - see if you can afford that. if it was me - i'd use the ditra (which might be more than the mud depending on labor in your area).

if you go with he ditra - you're best to order it online - look for the cheapest price. don't expect all tile suppliers to carry it - (or even know what it is - and expect them to treat you like a girl if you ask for it) - but check the schulter site for a dealer in your area. dal tile won't sell to you unless you have a contractor's license.

if you aren't in a hurry - shop around - you'll be glad you did.

i'm curious to see if john bridge thinks that the ditra alone will solve your problem. if it was me - i'd lay the ditra and take my chances.

good luck - and let me know how it turns out!

smiles,
jvw

6 kids at home - yep - i'd tile too. no carpet for that brood - that's for sure!
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Old 10-30-2006, 02:16 PM   #15
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Karen, I really wish you would order JB's book and read it before you make any more decisions here. It will be most helpful for a lot of your questions and in giving you an overall scope of the project.

One other thing I question is your reasoning for choosing these very large glazed porcelain tiles over a stained concrete floor for what appears to be a slip/saftey consideration. Even though the tiles may be textured, you are not going to solve a slip/fall problem by using those tiles.

I recognize that acid staining is not an option because of the condition of the slab, but let's be sure we're choosing the right floor covering for the room based upon expected use. Ceramic tile, espceially porcelain, is certainly a durable floor covering, but it does not eliminate cleaning issues and the large format isn't gonna make it user-friendly to wet kids.

Not trying to discourage your use of the tiles, just want to caution you on your expectations.

On the issue of a mud floor, you're gonna need a lot of vertical room. Again, read John's book first.

Let me also add that I don't know exactly how the subject of Ditra slipped in here, but I'm afraid I don't see which of your problems Jacquie is thinking that will solve. It won't help to make the floor any flatter, and I'm not sure how you'd apply it to a slab covered with cut-back adhesive since the only thinsets that would stick to that stuff are thinsets Schluter would not recommend over concrete. Gimme a hint, Jacquie.

My opinion; worth price charged.

Last edited by cx; 10-30-2006 at 02:24 PM.
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