Another tile/wood transition question [Archive] - Ceramic Tile Advice Forums - John Bridge Ceramic Tile


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06-11-2001, 10:18 AM
Dear Tile Wizards- I'm presently framing my house which is on a slab (drat that ledge!) and had planned to finish the living area in harwood flooring installed over 2x "sleepers" and install saltillos in the kitchen area. The problem is that when I came up with this bright idea, I didn't account for the 2-3/4" drop between the two. So far, I've heard these options:
1.) Floor leveler in the kitchen, then tile. Gave me severe sticker shock. I'm trying to do this for $5/sq.ft. or less, installing myself with the help of a very experienced friend.
2.) Continue with the sleepers thoughout the kitchen, pour more concrete between them, thinset and tile.
3.) Local Tile place says "thick" layer of mud, then 1/2" wonderboard, then "thick" layer of thinset, tile. And live with the difference.
Any help would be greatly appreciated!

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Bud Cline
06-11-2001, 10:41 AM

Why the 2X sleepers?


If it must be, then why not just "mud base" the kitchen? NO cement board, NO "thick" thinset, NO self leveler.

Don't be mixing sleepers and concrete, that's a bad idea.

John your the mud expert here, tell her how easy this is.

John Bridge
06-11-2001, 12:33 PM
Hi Carolyn, Hi Bud,

Carolyn, you didn't mention where you live, but down here in my part of the country, wood floors on "sleepers" are commonplace, except here the 2X4s are referred to as "screeds." Makes an excellent hardwood floor installation.

The slabs of the "castles" I work on are all poured low and then the floors are built back up to grade. We construct what is called a "floating floor" in the trade. It's a reinforced mud bed that rides on top of the slab but is not attached to it.

Here's how you do it. If you don't have a transit, you'll need a water level and someone who knows how to use it. After the drywall is in you shoot grade marks on the walls all around the perimeter of the floor you intend to float. Shoot one right where the transition to the wood floor will occur, and you're in business.

At the transition, measure up from the slab 2-1/4 in. This is the thickness of your wood floor. Then measure the distance between the actual grade where the floor will be to your mark higher up the wall. When floating the floor you can refer to these marks. Make them four to six feet apart all the way around the room(s). This will keep everything perfectly level and flat when you do the mud work.

First, lay down a moisture barrier of either tar paper (15 lb. felt) or poly. Next lay down sheets of expanded metal lath, overlapping them a couple inches. Finally, dump the mud on the lath and go to work. The weight of the installation will hold it in place.

If you're really going to do this thing yourself, you'll need a book. I usually don't blatantly try to hawk books on this site [You do too, you fibber, you've got links all over every page of the site], but in this case I will. My book covers mud floors pretty thoroughly. Lots of pictures.

It would be next to impossible to teach you the process without pictures. And besides, if you buy the book, my wife will get about $1.20 in royalties. If you don't want to get my book, you can get Michael Byrne's book, but you need a book.

In any case, the floating floor is the way to go. If you make it 1-1/2 in. thick, the Saltillo will be just about even with the wood.

Bud, the wood "screeds/sleepers" are laid flat in hot tar. The tar bonds them to the slab and also creates waterproof barrier. The screeds are very close together -- about 6 to 8 in. on center. Makes one heck of a floor.

[Edited by John Bridge on 06-11-2001 at 02:36 PM]

Bud Cline
06-11-2001, 12:38 PM
.......learning, learning, learning.......

06-11-2001, 01:16 PM
What do the 2x's it the cement in the kitchen do for the integerity of the job? I'm reffering to suggestion # 2.

While we are at it why would anyone build a thick bed and then put cement board on top? Other than it's another way for me to sell cement board.


06-11-2001, 03:55 PM
First off, John...your wife is already $1.20 richer. As of Saturday. Oh go ahead...spend it all in one place!
So while I'm anxiously awaiting John's book, can anyone tell me if this mud job will keep me under my $5/sq.ft. price? The 12x12 Saltillos themselves are $2.95 each at "the tile place", but I'm looking for a better price. As you may have gathered by now, my particular version of the starter castle probably isn't what you are used to, but I got the wood right off my property, had it milled on site, and hewed some of the beams myself. So while I'm moaning about costs, I still feel great looking at those beams everyday.

Bud Cline
06-11-2001, 04:43 PM
John, can I borrow two dollars? Whoops nevermind John.

Mrs. Bridge, can I borrow two bucks?

John Bridge
06-11-2001, 05:24 PM
Her name is Patti, and she's been off in the Great Northwest with my two young sons for the past couple of weeks -- due home tomorrow night. You can see her at the following url. She's the good-looking one.

So Bud, I've actually controlled the purse strings around here for a couple weeks. Of course, that ends tomorrow.


The 2/4s don't belong in the mud bed at all. That was Carolyn's friend's idea. (not a good idea). The cement board doesn't belong on top of the mud either. That was someone else's idea (not a good idea).


[Let's see, with the other 39 books we've already sold, well, that's 40 times 1.20 . . . ]

I have much to say to you, the least of which is that Saltillo tiles cost about eighty cents for the 12 x12s here in Houston, and at Home Depot of all places. Now these are the true Saltillos that are not glazed. So right there I've just contributed better than two bucks back toward your budget.

The mud bed and setting materials will add another dollar to a dollar fifty. Sealers and top finish from Aquamix -- maybe another fifty cents. Depending on how abusive you are to the floor, the finish should last at least five years.

But at 2.98. I have a feeling we are not really talking about Saltillo tiles, those very rustic and irregular nuggets fashioned by my amigos south of the border.

The tiles in the little photo at the top left of this page are raw Saltillo tiles that we cut and fashioned into the design. You can see a larger photo at:

But even if you are really talking about ceramic tiles at three bucks a foot, you should still come in at or just a bit under your target figure.

You see, a big part of tile work is labor, and since you won't be getting paid, the project will be very affordable. You might even have enough money left over to buy Michael's book, too!

Muchas gracias, amiga.

[Edited by John Bridge on 06-11-2001 at 07:37 PM]

06-11-2001, 05:52 PM
John and All-Many thanks for the comments, and the reassurance thatI'm not going to go woefully over budget.That is if I can figure out how to get the saltillos from the Home Depot in Houston up to New England. I am indeed talking about real saltillos. A neighbor put them in her kitchen, then I went and helped her install more in the sunroom. I love the way they look and feel on bare feet and would really like to have them if possible.
Again, thanks so much for the help and the humor.

John Bridge
06-11-2001, 06:29 PM
Oh, well that explains everythin'. You Yankees ain't s'pose to have Saltillo up there. I mean, you got rocks layin' all over the place -- piled up for fencing, etc. Make yosef a stone flo!

My lovely wife Patti is from Bethel, Conn. New England is lovely.

I'll bet you could ship the tiles up there for less than 2.98 Have you checked in at the Depot? Do you have the Depot?

06-11-2001, 06:42 PM
I'd advise applying a sealer to those tiles before handling much and especially prior to grouting.Agree?Disagree?

John Bridge
06-11-2001, 07:03 PM
No, I disagree, but if you want to discuss Saltillo installation, I'll start a thread over on the other board. I'll do it now.