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Unread 08-19-2019, 12:25 PM   #1
Tile Contractor, North East MD. Retired ATC
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Ginormous Tile Tips?

A friend of mine has approached me about running a rather large job he has coming up, in his own building. It will involve tiling about 5-600 square feet of a concrete floor with 24" x 48" rectified porcelain floor tiles. The largest tiles I have commonly installed have been 12" x 24" and some 33cm x 100cm wainscot tiles.

The building is about six years old, with a poured concrete floor which is currently mostly covered with large machine tools, a dozen or so antique BMW, Ducati and other assorted old motorcycles. The entire area is going to be completely cleaned out sometime soon.

When the area is free of all these things, I have proposed to him that we utilize a spinning laser device to thoroughly check for high and low spots, and address these before attempting anything else. The underlayment will most likely be standard thickness Ditra.

He is going to hire as many bodies as we will need to do the bull work involved, as we are both in our mid sixties.

I am thinking that with enough hands, we can keep one guy busy mixing and delivering mortar, a few of them to maneuver these monstrous things into the general location, another to keep ahead of us with a fresh mortar bed and stage the leveling system materials we intend to use.


If you have installed such tiles, did you need to use those suction cup/ glass grabber-type devices to get them into place easily?

The ultimate elevation of the finished floor being critical (it has to meet some existing un-alterable thresholds), is the use of a 1/2" x 1/2" square notched trowel the only way to go? Id like to get by with 1/4" x 3/8", and of course every tile is to be back-buttered.

Being fans of the Tuscan leveling system, we intend to use this again. I know there are now many competing systems available, what would you recommend?

Can you think of any tricks we should know of? Particular pitfalls?

I will post pictures as we get going, this building is an architectural marvel and we need to get this right.

Thanks for reading.
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Unread 08-19-2019, 08:15 PM   #2
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1- Yes, professional glaziers suction cups are well worth the money. They run about $60 bucks each. Get two with the hard cases included.

2- I'd switch to a 1/2" square notch or better yet a euro trowel. Skip the back buttering and use a thinset which does not require back buttering. I think Mapei sells one. A back buttered tile will be a hazard to handle and far too heavy.

3- Any decent leveling system will work. LASH worked well for us on 48x48's

4- One guy mixing and delivering mud, two men troweling and setting, one man transporting tile who works with the man who is cutting tiles. A 5 man crew will be able to work all day.

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Unread 08-19-2019, 10:22 PM   #3
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Ardex boasts their thinsets eliminate the need for back buttering or maybe it is just a few contact your local rep to verify. Get your floors flat, it will save you a ton of head aches
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Unread 08-20-2019, 11:04 AM   #4
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The floor should not vary more than 1/8 in. in 10 ft. I've never seen a concrete floor that did it. I have set large pieces over floors I have floated.

I guess I'm agreeing that your floor needs to be flat.
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Unread 08-20-2019, 01:03 PM   #5
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I got a pair of these, they got some real sucking power
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Unread 08-20-2019, 01:18 PM   #6
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For a floor you could probably get by without a wet saw, a grinder and variable speed with a 50 or 100 pad works well for me.

If you do opt for using a wet saw, here’s a cellphone video with some cutting tips. Score your cut line, cut through on each end, then slice through the rest of the tile. Keeps your blade from wandering and blowing out the ends.

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Unread 08-20-2019, 01:46 PM   #7
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I'd still skim the back of every tile before setting it.

I'd also go with a 1/2" trowel. I prefer the 1/4x1/2x1/4" trowel for better coverage.

And having two guys to spread and set would be a minimum for that task.

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Unread 08-20-2019, 05:34 PM   #8
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I agree, I would spread thinset on the floor and skim coat the backs.

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Unread 08-20-2019, 09:44 PM   #9
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A laser works great for leveling in a floor if you want it level. A lot of times you might just want it flat as opposed to flat and level. If you want flat and out-of-level then a laser won't do you any good.

I like Ardipegs for leveling in concrete floors. They have adhesive on the bottom of them.

Additionally, I like the MLT system. Same guys that invented the TLS but with a new and improved leveling system. You can use the same tensioner and just buy new caps and straps. The one piece straps are really nice.
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Unread 08-21-2019, 07:18 AM   #10
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Don't forget to check for oil soaked areas those machine tools have been sitting on. Never had an old motorcycle that didn't leak oil!!

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Unread 08-21-2019, 11:21 AM   #11
Tile Contractor, North East MD. Retired ATC
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Thanks to all for spot-on tips. I seriously mis-under-estimated the square footage in my original post, turns out it's more like 2,000.....

I'm thinking that flatness is going to turn out to be the issue much more so than level, at least I hope so. The owner says that the guy who poured the floor is pretty good.

I really like the suggestion/ idea that there are mortars which may preclude the necessity of back-buttering, I can envision several horrowshow scenarios involving attempts to return a back-buttered tile to the horizontal using suction devices, but I have never used them so I may be wrong (as per usual).

Another friend of mine recently purchased an enormous bridge saw for a project involving massive 2" granite pieces, our initial plan is to see how well that beast does for cuts.

I recall having seen a video within the last few years of a large format tile snapper, possibly by Rubi? that utilizes a suction-secured guide rail with a pre-tensioned scoring wheel, the final break being initiated by a set of pliers. Y'all seen such a thing?

The area will be emptied sometime within the next few weeks so we'll see....
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Unread 08-21-2019, 06:32 PM   #12
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when back buttering you are only skimming the back of the tile to fill in the indention's and to get a bond coat. I should be no significant change in the weight of the tile. as for the suction cups, I have used mine to pick up a thin porcelain panel (134lbs) and got caught by the wind (butt pucker moment)with no trouble. And if you get more than one set then you can keep rotating them from the butter guy to the guy setting and everyone has a pair at all times.

Here is trowel that I use for large format and some pictures of the the coverage the at I get
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