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Unread 03-31-2020, 02:13 PM   #1
amistuck
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Any way to fix sharp-tiled porcelain mosaic bath floor?

Hoping someone here has experience with this and can suggest a fix. We selected and our contractor installed unglazed porcelain mosaic tile (a sort of basket weave pattern) as part of our bathroom remodel, to replace the very same pattern of original 1950s tile we had before the remodel. The old floor was super smooth, but the new floor tile has sharp, 90-degree edges.

I'm pretty sure the contractor did a good job of leveling the floor. The tile was laid on Durock with a plywood underlayment. And, they seem to have done a decent job with the grout. But, he used nonsanded grout, and I found out after the fact that the tile manufacturer recommended sanded grout. The grout joints are about 1/8th". The grout doesn't seem unduly shallow, but definitely not level with the tile, which would appear to be the cause of the sharp/uneven effect. I've attached at couple photos.

Does anyone here have any suggestions for a fix, or at least a substantial mitigation measure (besides area rugs!), short of tearing it all out and starting over?? Much appreciated!
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Unread 03-31-2020, 03:08 PM   #2
jadnashua
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You really need to be extremely careful when cleaning/washing the grout or you'll end up washing too much out, exposing those sharp cut edges.

First, probably using an epoxy grout float so it's less likely to deform into the soft grout during install, then keeping the sponge flat without a lot of pressure. You must also ensure the grout has firmed up enough prior to washing. I think an unsanded grout is a bit easier to wash out than a sanded one.

Hopefully, someone has a good answer for you, as you can't add grout to what you have unless you clean out at least 1/2 the depth otherwise, it just won't bond well. WIth that tile, time-wise, it might be quicker to remove what's there and replace it. There's a lot of linear feet of grout to deal with, and it also risks chipping a tile edge in the process.

It would be very tedious, but a diamond pad might relieve the sharp edges, but keeping from scratching the tile's surface would be really tough.
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Unread 03-31-2020, 04:46 PM   #3
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Technically, you can use unsanded grout in 1/8 joints but like Jim said, it's much harder to keep the joints full. Looking at your pics, he did a good job keeping the joints as full as possible. A cement based sanded grout would have stayed fuller as long as it's given time to firm up.

I will add that the premixed grouts on the market are sanded but don't like to firm up like a cement based grout will. One of the reasons why I like cement based grouts like Custom's Prism and Laticrete's Permacolor.
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Unread 03-31-2020, 08:12 PM   #4
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Welcome to the forum, DC.

I agree with the others. While I can’t see all the tiles clearly through the screen of my phone, I can clearly see that at least several tiles are quite misaligned. That means that the level of difficulty on scraping out the grout goes from difficult and very time-consuming, to nearly impossible and an exercise in accidentally chipping all sorts of misaligned corners. There’s even some adjoining tiles that appear to be touching each other.

None of us here on the forum enjoys telling someone to “rip it out”. We understand the time and money that went into a project to be flippant about such an attitude. But I’m afraid to say that I would be leaning in the direction of replacement. And when the tiles are grouted the next time around (sanded, of course), I’d recommend the burlap sack method of grout removal. This technique allows you to clean the tiles with relative ease after over-filling all the joints and allowing it to firm up. And because you hold the burlap in a neat folded pile that’s flat to the floor, it cuts down the grout just about perfectly flush with the tile. So, no more exposed sharp edges.

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Unread 04-01-2020, 12:38 PM   #5
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Any way to fix sharp-tiled porcelain mosaic bath floor?

Thanks to all of you for the quick replies! I had a feeling we were likely stuck with the most drastic, expensive option. A few more questions, esp. for Tool Guy:

1) So, it's THEORETICALLY possible to remove some portion of the grout from each grout joint such that it could be regrouted and could "take" with the existing grout under it, correct? If that were possible, how is that done? A grinding wheel of some sort? A hand tool? And is there some effective method for protecting the edges of the tile from damage while doing so?

2) Whether I try #1 or a tear-out, I've now seen a few references to this "burlap" method of wiping down the grout after it's set. So, the burlap is rough enough to "sand" down the full grout joints -- even out & remove excess grout from tile -- without scratching the tile?

3) In formulating my third question, I just realized there's another problem. The contractor set the curved coving/sanitary tile ON TOP OF the floor tile rather than having the floor tile MEET and be level with the edge of that curve. Doesn't that defeat the entire purpose of the coving/sanitary curved edge -- to form a rounded "corner" of the floor so that crap doesn't get caught there when mopped? If I were to go with a tear-out, how do we deal with edges of the floor, which are currently underneath coving tile on the wall?

Would it be possible to lay a new tile floor ON TOP of the current tile floor? If so, this might solve both problems -- the new tile could meet the coving curve, and it could be grouted from scratch.

Sheesh. And thanks.
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Unread 04-01-2020, 01:18 PM   #6
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Welcome, DC.

1. With your tiles I would consider that only a theoretical option. Tile industry requires removal of at least 2/3rds of the grout depth before regrouting when using cementitious grouts.

2. Old school method and works quite well with cementitious grouts.

3. See #1.

If your current tiles are properly set over a suitable substrate you could tile over what you've got. Use of a suitable primer might be advisable. Those are available from most tile installation product manufacturers.

My opinion; worth price charged.
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Unread 04-02-2020, 09:33 AM   #7
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Thanks, you guys are great! A couple more questions:

1) What would be considered a "suitable primer" between tile layers? Based on what I've been reading, if the tile below is level and in good shape, the thin set between the two layers should be sufficient to keep things level with the new layer. Is the primer needed to assist the new thin set in adhering? The floor is unglazed porcelain, so not slippery.

2) About that coving tile. I may have used the wrong terminology in calling it sanitary. It's possibly "stack-on?" The top is flat with wall tiles stacked above, but the bottom curves out, with the entire curve glazed. As I noted above, that curved tile is currently sitting on top of the floor, which extends beyond the trim tile underneath. See attached photos. Rather than sitting on top of the floor, shouldn't the top edge of the curve be even with the floor so that all "corners" where the wall meet the floor are curved rather than 90 degree angles? I've also read that perhaps that front edge of the curve should not be glazed if I want this even effect. If we put a layer of tile own top of the current layer, will it work ok given that the curves are glazed?

Does anyone have any other miscellaneous advice on laying unglazed porcelain tile over unglazed porcelain tile?

Thanks in advance for your answers!
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Unread 04-02-2020, 05:18 PM   #8
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Mapei makes Eco Prim Grip that can be found at Lowes and Floor and Décor. Custom makes MPB that can be found at Home Depot. Both work well. They say you don't have to rough up the tile surface but I would do it anyway.

If you can get the second layer of tiles to flush up to the top of the radius on the cove, I'd leave the cove in place and do that.

Like with all small tiles and mosaics, I'd use my piece of marble to gently mash the tiles down. It helps to get them flat.
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Unread 04-02-2020, 09:11 PM   #9
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There are two types of cove. Stuff that sits on top of the floor tile and stuff that's meant to be set down lower to produce a single clean inside radius curve.

While the photo looks like it might be the variety that's meant to sit on top of the floor tile (because of the radius on the front of the 'toe'), the 'toe' shape radius is small enough that it looks like you could do exactly what you're proposing: Set another layer of tile on top of the existing tile without removing the cove to effectively kill two birds with one stone. Of course this assumes that whatever setting method you use and the thickness of the tiles doesn't result in tile that's too high for the 'toe' of that cove.

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Unread 04-03-2020, 11:29 AM   #10
amistuck
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Many thanks for the helpful posts here! I'll continue to check back in periodically to see if there are additional thoughts/views, but feel like I've got the basics of what we need: primer/roughing up, new 1/4" tile, sanded grout, and burlap! Thank you!!

Finally, if y'all know of any expert tile installers in the Washington DC area, I'm open to recommendations!
Cheers,
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Unread 04-03-2020, 03:08 PM   #11
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DC, you might create a post in the "Professionals Hangout" sub forum.

I've been frequenting this forum for years and there seems to be a dearth of pros here in the DC area that visit this forum. Or perhaps they read, just don't post.

Regardless, maybe you'll get lucky.
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Unread 04-07-2020, 12:57 PM   #12
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I lied. I'm back! Continuing from above:

1) My tile manufacturer says that the unglazed porcelain tile that I'm seeking to cover with the same unglazed porcelain tile only needs to be cleaned well -- that it has plenty of texture on the tile itself and thus he doesn't think it needs primer or to be roughed up -- prior to thinsetting the new tile. What say y'all?

2) Also, the manufacturer (and the contractor) have said we should use a latex-modified thinset to put down the new floor. Given that the new tile is 1/4" high and I want the top of new floor to be even with the top of the coving toe (see prior photo), there's only enough room height-wise for about 1/8" or less for the thinset. Does anyone have suggestions for the type of trowel that should be used for the thinset?

3) As for the sanded grout, the manufacturer indicated that sanded grout for 1/8" grout joints is now manufactured with smaller sand and polymers added. He recommended Tec Powergrout or Custom premium (premixed???) grout. There's also Custom Building Products Polyblend or Polyblend Plus. Does anyone have any experience with these grouts for the purpose needed here, i.e., ensuring that the grout fills the 1/8" grout joints to stay even with the sharp tops of the tile?

4) I've read that the 90-degree corners where a tile floor meets the tile wall should also be caulked, not just grouted. However, as per above photos, we've got stack-on coving with a glazed curve at the bottom. The new floor will abut and hopefully be even with the front top of toe. In this case, will grout between the floor and coving tile toe be sufficient, given there will now be a curve instead of a 90-degree angle in the corners?

As always, many thanks for your advice!
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Unread 04-07-2020, 07:20 PM   #13
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Hi DC. You asked for a suitable primer so I gave you the name of two. But a good modified thinset will bond fine to the porcelain tiles. I'd probably use the primer but it's not necessary.

I'd probably start out using a 3/16 V-notch but other sizes would work. You want close to 100% coverage if you can.

Polyblend doesn't have the fine sand like other grouts. Several of us mentioned cement based grout. The premixed grouts are not cement based and do not firm up in the joints very fast. I'd use Custom's Prism or Laticrete's Permacolor.

You can caulk against the cove but I'd grout it since it's a small bathroom. That's up to you.
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Unread 04-07-2020, 10:54 PM   #14
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Exactly what Davy said. And to kind of hammer home #3...I’ve used a lot of grout. To ensure your grout doesn’t become yet another layer of problems to contend with, I’d heavily suggest Custom’s Prism or Laticrete’s Permacolor.

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Unread 04-11-2020, 12:18 PM   #15
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Thanks, Davy & Tool Guy. There seems to be a grout consensus!
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