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Unread 02-18-2020, 11:43 AM   #1
lohryj
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Renovating 3 Bathrooms With Tile - Currently Vinyl Sheet Flooring

Moved into our home about 4 months ago and first project was to redo the bathrooms. We have one master with separate shower and garden tub, a full bath with shower/tub combo, and a half bath on the first floor. The two smaller bathrooms are a pretty simple layout, about 5’ wide by 10’ long. The master bathroom is larger and the garden tub and caddy corner closet entrance create a sort of diagonal path between two somewhat “squarish” floor areas (hope that makes sense visually). The wife wants a plank-style, porcelain tile that measures 8” x 32”. I have done tile work on my own in a past home (floors and shower areas, I’m not a pro), but don’t really feel I have the time right now. So the wife had a tile (someone she knows personally and has 20 years in the business) come to the house to provide a free quote, and some of the things he said sorta concern me.

I had originally planned on doing the work myself and went as far as prepping the half bath first. I pulled up the baseboards and sheet vinyl and found there were actually two layers of vinyl. The house was built in 2003, so I was surprised to find two layers. And I think both layers are original to when it was first constructed. I’m sure this is going to be the case with the other bathrooms as well. Underneath the vinyl is a thin sheet of plywood, though I can’t quite tell if it’s luan or regular plywood. The top surface is coated with a white paint-like finish with vary clearly defined edges about ½” from the edge of the plywood. On top of that was the glue that held the vinyl down. I can also see what appear to be narrow staples throughout the board holding it to the subfloor, and I have no idea if it is also glued down as well.

So the contractor said he could do all three rooms in about 3-4 days. I mentioned I would remove the vinyl and asked about the plywood, fearing any potential problems with compression, voids, and delamination. I know that the vinyl probably doesn’t continue all the way to the wall beneath the vanities, at least based on what found upon removing the half bath vanity.

He said I shouldn’t waste my time taking up the vinyl and that he would just lay Durock over top of it (didn’t mentioned any sort of bonding, thinset, nails, or screws). He added that leaving the vinyl down provides an extra layer of waterproofing. I’m pretty sure I heard mentioned Kerdi band as an additional waterproofing precaution if necessary. And he added that trying to remove the plywood might cause more problems if it pulled up any junks of the plywood subfloor. I asked if he would consider using Ditra, and his response was “no”, that it was too new of a product and floats too much for a solid surface for the tile.

I figured the two rectangular bathrooms would be laid lengthwise, but he said from side to side might be better. This one I’m not sure what the correct answer is. I only recall that planks (wood flooring, for example) should be run in the direction of light shining into the room. Please correct me if I am wrong here. For the master bathroom, he said it could either run lengthwise from the view standing at the door, or it could run the other direction if you’re looking at from inside the shower. I’m a bit inclined to think they should all run lengthwise from the view at their entrances.

Finally, he said we should consider using the same tile throughout the entire downstairs area to maintain consistency. Right now, we have hardwood at the foyer running down the hallways. Carpet in the living room, den, dining room. Wood laminate in the kitchen and breakfast nook. Our future plans were to leave carpeting in the living room, put an espresso-colored wood laminate or the “luxury” vinyl plank laminate in the rest of the downstairs areas. I think that much tile downstairs would be overkill.

Anyway, sorry for the length of this post, but I wanted to provide all the necessary details. Definitely looking for any insight on this. I’ve searched all over the internet and read through some of the forum threads to know that this doesn’t sound right. Does anything this guy says make sense, or would I be opening myself up to potential problems later on with how he plans on installing the tile? I am open to any suggestions/recommendations. Thank you.

Respectfully,
John
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Unread 02-18-2020, 05:00 PM   #2
ss3964spd
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Welcome, John,

You're correct to be concerned with the advise he has given you. The sheet vinyl must come up, and the (what is probably) lauan as well. It is unlikely that the lauan is glued down.

Over and above that, you also need to know how thick the remaining plywood subfloor is, the size of the floor joists, the length of the joists' free span, and the on-center spacing of the joists. All need to be known to ensure the floor assembly is strong enough to support a tile installation.

That he is saying that Ditra is too new of a product should also give you pause, as it has been around quite a long time and has a long, successful track record as a substrate for setting tile. Ditra doesn't "float" at all; it is firmly bonded to the subfloor with thinset mortar, and the tiles are firmly bonded to the Ditra with the same.

As for the tile layout, that's an aesthetic decision, and one probably best made by Mrs. John, but sometimes there are practical considerations that might favor one layout over another. As for his suggestion of covering the entire first level with the same tile that, too, is a design decision. Some people care that the floor coverings all be the same, while others care not.
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Unread 02-19-2020, 08:54 AM   #3
lohryj
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Thanks a lot for the info, Dan. Would the thin plywood (or luan, if that's what it is) still potentially cause problems if the Durock screwed down through it and into the plywood subfloor? Just looking to be better informed if it comes up.

I have no problems pulling it up and then removing all the stables. I might be able to try that this weekend. Then I can see what the subfloor is like, floor joist size, joists' free span length, and the on-center spacing of the joists. Might have to crawl under the house for the downstairs bathroom. Not sure how I'll determine the upstairs bathrooms aside from measuring distance between the nails/screws securing the ply to the joists. I didn't have to worry about those issues the last time I tiled a floor as it was on a slab.

I had heard nothing but good things about decoupling membranes like Ditra, so long as it's installed properly. That's why I was surprised that he would advise against it. I may still consider going with Ditra, especially if I decide to go ahead and just do the job myself.

What you said about tile layout. Though, Mrs. John might have to agree to disagree that she is best able to make that decision, LOL. She'd be the first to admit that she has no design sense, not that mine is much better. The last floor I did I went with a diamond layout when she originally wanted a regular square grid pattern. The diamond pattern looked great. I'll have to draw out an overlay and see what looks best and is most practical within the rooms.

Thanks again!
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Unread 02-19-2020, 10:49 AM   #4
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Though I'm sure some people simply screw CBU's down right through the lauan it really should come up. Thinset mortar doesn't like to stick to the stuff, nor to any of the glue that may be on it from having the sheet vinyl glued to it. You'll probably find that most of the staples will come up with the lauan, and those that are uncooperative can be pulled out or whacked down flush with the plywood.

The joist size for the downstairs bathroom are likely the same for the upstairs. If the joists are typical sawn lumber (2X8's, 2X10's, etc) they'll likely be 16" OC (ish) and you'll easily be able to see the rows of nails once you pull the lauan. If you want to be more certain upstairs, just find part of the floor that is over a finished ceiling below, drill a small hole ONLY as deep as the plywood is thick, and used a straightened shirt hanger as a poker. Barring any obstructions below, the tip will hit the top of the ceiling below, pull it back out, measure, subtract the thickness of the plywood. boom. There might be other openings in the floor, like around a HVAC floor register.

Regardless of how thick the plywood subfloor is, be sure to screw it down with construction type screws. This will be easy, as you'll have already removed the lauan.
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Unread 02-19-2020, 01:31 PM   #5
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Welcome, John.

Dan's got you on the right track. The tile industry standards don't like some backing materials for ceramic tile installations, one of them being Lauan plywood. Technically that means you can't bond your tiles directly to it, but it's also not what you want anywhere in your subfloor package. And especially with two layers of vinyl flooring over it, even more especially if one of those layers is a cushioned vinyl flooring. You just end up with too much potential movement, even under a properly installed CBU.

When you remove the Lauan and vinyl, you may have a whole gaggle of those narrow crown staples left in the subfloor. Sometiimes it's easier to simply drive them flush with the surface rather than removing them all. If you get the surface smooth, you can likely use a membrane over it and for sure you could install a CBU bedded in the required thinset mortar.

That's after you determine what you have for a joist structure and subfloor, of course.

My opinion; worth price charged.
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