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Unread 03-08-2020, 09:53 PM   #1
PrehistoricPool
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Tiling Covered Porch - Need it Thin!!!

I have a covered front porch about 12 feet by 13.5 feet made of concrete, with three concrete steps leading up to it which are not covered. Porch is a little over 50 years old (house is getting close to 100!). Porch and steps are in perfect condition. I think if they were going to crack they would have by now. I live in Northern California where we get light frosts in winter but no hard freezes.

We are kind of tired of looking at concrete at our front door and would like to dress it up with some sort of tile or masonry covering. My problem is, the porch is at the same grade level as the hardwood floors inside the house. If I tile the porch, I have two worries (i) that water from wind-blown rain (or wherever) will at some point accumulate on porch and seep through walls and rot framing and my interior floors (or at least stain, in the case of the floors); and (ii) the added thickness on the stairs would be a tripping hazard.

I have travertine pavers on sand set around my pool, pool deck and patio. We like the look a lot and would be happy to use travertine tile in a more or less matching color and pattern on on front porch. However, it will add 3/8's in thickness, plus the thickness of the thinset (another 3/8's?).

I am thinking about using thin porcelain tiles on porch and steps. Can anyone tell me the minimum realistic thickness for porcelain tile, plus minimum thickness of thinset or whatever is used to attache to the concrete surface? Any other ideas for this application? Links to tiles? Or am I overthinking this and should just tile in travertine with thinset? Appreciate any ideas.
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Unread 03-08-2020, 10:10 PM   #2
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To answer your question, you could figure on about 1/2-5/8", give or take.

But more importantly, is the entire porch covered, and if it is, is it sloped away from the house at all?
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Unread 03-08-2020, 10:26 PM   #3
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Kman,when you say 1/2-5/8" is that total for 3/8 tile plus thinset or is that just the thinset?

In answer to your questions:

1. Porch definitely slopes away from the house. House is an L shape with porch in the inside corner of the L. Porch slopes away from house on both axes, towards the two open sides of porch. Noticeable when you put a bubble level on it. I don't know what the grade is, how to measure it of if it is steep enough. I will say I have been in the house 12 years and have never had a problem with rain collecting on porch.

2. On the two open sides of porch, the last 12 inches are not covered by roof.
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Unread 03-08-2020, 11:33 PM   #4
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One way to measure it is with the longest level you have. Raise the low end and see how much clearance you have. Divide that distance in inches by the length of the level in inches. Multiply that times 100 to get the percentage of slope. You want 2% or more, which is 1/4" per foot.
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Unread 03-09-2020, 05:33 AM   #5
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A lot depends on the size of the tile, but 1/2-3/16" for mortar is a safe bet.
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Unread 03-10-2020, 09:17 PM   #6
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Kman, thanks for your responses, but I am confused. Is it 1/2-5/8" as in your first post, or 1/2-3/16" as in your second post?

As for slope, I may have to borrow a long steel level to get a reasonably accurate read on slope. If slope is inadequate, can i correct by laying more mortar close to house and sloping it away from house?

Does anyone have any thoughts on the advisability of the project? Assuming adequate slope, and using thinnest material so I am not raising the grade of the porch any more than I have to, does this project make sense? Or am I asking for trouble?

Anyone have relevant experience they can share? ANy tips?
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Unread 03-10-2020, 09:23 PM   #7
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I don't know why I put 3/16 there.

1/2 - 5/8" is the correct answer.

The size and flatness of the tile as well as the flatness of the substrate dictates the size of the trowel you use, and therefore the thickness of the setting bed.

I would not try to add mortar to get a better slope away from the house. To gain any measurable slope would result in more mortar than you'd want to deal with, and a giant mess in the end.

Let's say that you ended up with the finished tile at 5/8" above the concrete. How much would that put you above the threshold of the door, if any?

When you say the concrete is in perfect condition, do you mean there are no visible cracks?
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Unread 03-10-2020, 09:35 PM   #8
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"When you say the concrete is in perfect condition, do you mean there are no visible cracks?"

Correct. No cracks, spalling, gouges, settling, anything. It also has a really smooth finish, sort of glossy, I guess they trowelled it a lot bring up the cream. It looks amazing for 50+ years old. But still, it's concrete, and we would like something nicer for the front door.
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Unread 03-10-2020, 09:38 PM   #9
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This not the same kind of concrete construction as the patio with 5'x5' concrete sections is it, Mike?
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Unread 03-10-2020, 10:15 PM   #10
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"This not the same kind of concrete construction as the patio with 5'x5' concrete sections is it, Mike?"

LOL, thank God, no. The patio is history. I finally bit the bullet, tore out all the 5x5 sections, all the poll coping, remodelled the prehistoric pool, new plaster, waterline tile, new plumbing, electric and equipment, installed travertine coping, new travertine pool deck over sand set. The prehistoric pool is no longer prehistoric and looks great now together with the pool deck.

So other parts of the house and yard that looked OK before now look bad by comparison. And so it goes.

The patio concrete truly is in good shape. It must be pretty thick. The house is raised maybe thirty inches above grade and I think the concrete goes all the way down. I expect the middle is filled in with old bricks, concrete or some kind of rubbish, but I think they used enough concrete and rebar on the porch.
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Unread 03-10-2020, 11:36 PM   #11
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Kman, sorry, I missed this question: "Let's say that you ended up with the finished tile at 5/8" above the concrete. How much would that put you above the threshold of the door, if any?"

There is threshold there now that is raised a little bit, about an inch above the level of the porch. It drops down again on the inside, so the level of the floor inside is currently about the same as the porch level. So if I raise the level of the porch by 5/8's, I should be OK on the threshold, but the finished level of the porch will be 5/8's above the level of the interior floor, and that is what worries me.
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Unread 03-11-2020, 04:28 AM   #12
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Ok, and what is the exterior of the house where the tile will be, brick, vinyl siding, etc.?

And then we need to find out about the slope.
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Unread 03-11-2020, 10:58 AM   #13
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Kevin, exterior of the house where it meets front porch is stucco. The stucco is original to the house, quite thick and in good shape. On the other hand, it won't have much of a vapor barrier under it. Probably a layer of 96 year old tar paper. Stucco has been painted numerous times.

On the level, I don't think I can borrow one so I'm looking to buy. I don't expect to use it often after this, so looking to go cheap at Harbor Freight. They have a four foot aluminum version for $16 or six foot for $20. (of course, will look for coupon as well). Is four feet good? I expect it will be easier to store and more handy after this project is done. But I can go six feet for only $4 more.
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Unread 03-11-2020, 11:43 AM   #14
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A nice secondary feature of a level is that (it should, anyways!) it's a nice straightedge. In that case, the longer, the better when you're trying to evaluate a substrate for tiling. Most of the industry specs for flatness are based on what's happening within 10', but a level that long is quite unwieldy. Given the choice between 4 and 6', I'd go with the longer one.

You will probably need to consider some expansion joints along the length of the tile install. That can be done with a resilient material like a good caulk, or an engineered one. www.schluter.com has probably the largest selection of floor tile profiles designed for this purpose.
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Unread 03-11-2020, 05:06 PM   #15
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Since you are concerned about thickness, have you considered staining the concrete? There are companies around me that do the most amazing work in regards to staining, stamped, etc. I am not very familiar with the process, so am not sure what special measures must be taken for pre-existing concrete.
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