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Unread 09-20-2004, 08:29 AM   #1
saxman
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Wall Slate install over styrofoam?

Hi experts, and thanks for any advice you can offer. I'm a builder, finishing my own custom home. It's built from ICF's (insulated concrete forms), which have a 7" concrete wall with ~2" of styroam form on each side of it. The form has plastic "form ties" every 12" which make a "stud" which can be used to screw or nail drywall, siding, hardibacker, etc. I have a stairwell in my entry where I want to install 12x12 Chinese slate on the wall, in a running bond pattern with no grout joints. It will be 18' high from basement floor to ceiling, so there is some weight there. Have any of you ever installed directly on top of foam, or should I use drywall or Hardibacker, screwed to the "studs", for a better sub-base? What adhesive would you recommend in this application? I used this same slate as a fireplace surround, on top of Hardibacker, and it worked well, but that was over a conventional stud wall. You've got a nice forum, thanks for helping.
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Unread 09-20-2004, 08:55 AM   #2
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I'd use either drywall or hardibacker on the walls. I don't know of any thinsets that will bond to styrofoam, and I'm not sure that mastic won't dissolve it either.
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Unread 09-20-2004, 09:08 AM   #3
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What Bob said.

Even if you could find something that would stick the tile to the foam, not sure that would be a good idea. Can't really say that it wouldn't work, mind ya, having never had the opportunity to work with any ICFs, but I'd sure want some data from the manufacturer about what a fella can/cannot do directly on that foam.

Have you spoken with the manufacturer about any of this? ICFs have been in use long enough for most every application to have been tried at least once, I should think.

I'm also a little skeptical of the no-grout-joint installation in that application. While I recognize that the thinset bond will support the weight of each tile in theory at least, with the dry-stacking you're certain to have some small, very harsh contact points in some places. With just normal movement of the slate, I can see some spalling, cracking, or other similar problems in your future.

But then I ain't no real tile and stone guy, neither.

My opinion; worth price charged.
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Unread 09-20-2004, 06:46 PM   #4
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Hi, Give us a first name.

I think 18' is too high without a movement joint. I'm not as worried as CX is, but it's a concern. You can build up one heck of a lot of internal stress stacking things that high with no spaces between them. On thought would be to do only a couple courses per day and let the thin set firm up overnight.
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Unread 09-21-2004, 06:43 AM   #5
saxman
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Hi, thanks for the comments so far. Yes, I have checked with the manufacturer, but like a lot of building products (and products in general), they are concerned with going too far out on a limb and being liable. They don't know of anyone who has attempted this before, but "can't see why it wouldn't work". I looked all over the Net, and I feel lucky to have found you folks. Like almost everything in this house, I am so far out in front of the curve I have to invent my own solutions.

I am going to use drywall over the foam, screw it just like all the other walls in the house, and then apply the slate over that. There will be little to no movement in the wall- this is an amazingly solid way to build, relative to conventional framing. I'll also have relatively little temp and humidity swings in the house, as I have a hi-velocity heat/AC system that's always circulating the air, and the mass of the ICF wall helps even out the larger climate variables. So, it should be a good environment for the slate to be stable in.

I had already decided that I'd install the slate in sections and work my way up the wall to minimize the weight bearing issue. Thanks for that advice. So, my only real open issue is whether or not to use a drystacked look. The slate is gauged, but being Chinese, I can't say it's gauged all that well. It's relatively square, and I will probably have to use a small shim in several spots to keep things on the level. I haven't had good luck with very small grout lines in rough material like slate in the past, so I thought it would be easier to go with the no-grout approach. I saw Pres Bush on TV giving a speech in front of a slate wall that looked drystacked, but the tiles were set on a 45 degree bias, and it looked great, so I took my cue from there. I guess I'll experiment on a small section, and if it isn't working, I'll take it down and re-do it.

Thanks again,
Mike
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Unread 09-21-2004, 07:19 AM   #6
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What kinda spacing is between those fastening points they give you in the foam walls, Mike?

I think I'd wanna augment the installation of that wallboard with some construction adhesive that is compatable with the ICF foam. I'm sure the manufacturer has recommendations for that.

We had somebody do something like this on a regular stud wall once upon a time, maybe a few years ago, even. Was fixin' to pewt some kinda thick stone on a high wall in a foyer, as I remember it. Can't think of anything to search under, though. Maybe somebody else will remember it, too.

Maybe we could see if it's still up.
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Unread 09-21-2004, 09:31 AM   #7
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Thanks, cx.

I like your idea about adhesive. We use a gun-dispensed foam with excellent adhesive properties, kind of like Great Stuff, to glue the foam blocks together, and a big bead of it even glues the first row of forms to the footings. There is a lot of lift when you pour the concrete into the walls, and it resists that very well, so I think I'll put a nice bead of it on the back of each sheet of drywall.

The "form tie" studs are every 12"OC, and are continuous all the way from top to bottom, so there is plenty of opportunity to screw the sheets more than the norm.

Mike
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Unread 09-21-2004, 03:45 PM   #8
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Hi everyone,

As an update, I glued and screwed the drywall, and it is pretty solid- no worries there, I don't think. As I started laying out the slate, it became readily apparent that the "reasonably" gauged slate wasn't going to lay out well enough to do this with no grout joints. So, I had to use a narrow grout line of 1/16th to 1/8th as I set my first 2 courses. I'll let them set up for 24hrs and then apply a couple more. It seems that this approach will yield good results.

Thanks for the feedback. It's great not having to do this in a vacuum, and having some qualified collaborators pitch their thoughts. When I get the wall done I'll post a picture, but with 18 courses, it's gonna take a few days!

Mike
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Unread 09-21-2004, 06:28 PM   #9
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Good on you, Mike.

Tell me the name of your ICF system. And do check back in later and tell us how it went. We're not long on information on working in that kind of construction.
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Unread 10-03-2004, 08:05 AM   #10
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Slate wall completion report

Hi everyone,

I followed the advice you all provided, and I'm happy to report everything turned out great. I initially planned to put the slate all the way to the ceiling (18'8"), but I decided the stairwell was getting too dark, and I stopped it at about 16'. I installed the wall sconces at that point, and I'll fabricate a maple molding to top everything off.

I wound up installing drywall on top of the ICF forms. I use the Standard ICF form, by the way, in response to cx's question. I used white versabond to install the tiles, and had no issues. Only put up a few rows each day to minimize the weight problem, but I can't see how it's ever going to be an issue. Used as small a grout line as I could, given the differences in the tiles. In some places, I had 1/4 inch or more due to the tiles being out of square. I used Delorean gray grout to complete the installation.

It was a ton of work, but I'm really pleased with the result. The slate adds a down-to-earth feel to the maple and wrought iron handrail and the Brazilian cherry floors. Just what I had hoped for, and I have to thank the JB forum for all your advice.

I'm going to try to post some pix, hope it works.

Mike
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Unread 10-03-2004, 08:30 AM   #11
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It looks very nice.
Youve got a bit of grout cleanup to do yet.When you finish this,consider using a sealer/enhancer to really bring out the character in the stone.
The gloss enhancer looks great on a wall.
I just finished a fireplace with the same Chineese Slate(Mongolian Spring if i'm not mistaken )
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Unread 10-03-2004, 09:14 AM   #12
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yep, looks like it worked our well, Mike.

I looked at the Standard ICF and it's similar to another one we'd discussed in past. Did you find that stuff as easy to work with as advertised? Anything you'da done differently if this were your second try?

Did you do the floors? I don't never get to do no Brazilian Cherry my ownself.
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Unread 10-03-2004, 03:05 PM   #13
saxman
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thanks, guys.

Yes, I have to do some grout cleanup- this was my first slate experience, and the grout was getting stuck in all the crevices. I hoped at this resolution you guys wouldn't notice!! I tried using a buffing wheel, and that seemed to work OK, but it will take some time. I also tried using a fine brass brush, but that was making marks on the slate. If you have any tips, I'd love to hear them.

The Standard ICF is a good product. I've researched all of them over the years, and since this was my own house, not a spec, I finally had a chance to tackle ICF's. Standard seems to incorporate most of the major advantages into one product. I would have been afraid to take it on by myself, but I was fortunate to meet a distributor from Maine, Jeff Preble, at the NAHB show a few years ago. I trained with Jeff's crew for 3 days on a job, and that gave me all the experience I really needed. Jeff also loaned me all the staging for this job, and came over on the days I did my 2 major pours. Now I feel like an ICF expert. Working with ICF's was pretty easy once you get the hang of it- it fact, I would say it's fun. Lots of details to figure out (window bucks, elec wiring, extension jambs, deck attachments, to mention a few), but once you do one, you'll be good to go. Living in an ICF house is a treat- extremely quiet and efficient. The basement floors are acid stained concrete, using the Kemiko products. The main floor of the house has the Bellawood 50 yr pre-finished floor from Lumber Liquidators in 3 1/4" Braz cherry- it's gorgeous stuff, but hard on saw blades. I installed it all myself, and it's the number one item that people notice and ask about.

If you get questions related to ICF's, think of me and I'll be glad to tell what I know.

Mike
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Unread 10-03-2004, 07:11 PM   #14
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Hi Mike,

That little bit of grout doesn't bother me, but if it bothers you, you could dab a little wood stain on the most offending buidups. Not on the stone, just on the grout.
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Unread 01-15-2015, 04:29 PM   #15
jstork1
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Tile over Styrofoam

I recently put granite around a shower and had some thinset mortar and some pieces of granite left over. I always wondered if they would work together. I had an old piece of white styrofoam about 16" by 24" to which I applied the mortar (with a little bit of latex admix mixed in) and some of the tile remnants. Some of the remnants were about 8x8" and some were strips about 1"x12". I left this outside for half the winter, spring, summer, and now this winter. It has been exposed to all the elements including direct sunlight in all the seasons. The temperatures have ranged from +30 degrees Celsius to -35 degrees Celcius. I have stood on it, it has tipped over and except for the strip where I applied direct heel pressure on and cracked a strip (it still adhered), everything is still adhering and the way it was when I applied them. I tried pulling off some of the remnants and cannot pull them off by hand. I even tried flexing the foam to see if I could pry off a piece. All that happened it that it flexed between the joints and if there was grout there, the grout would have cracked. Otherwise, all is good. I am quite confident that the tiles will be there for a long time to come. On walls where there is no or very little structural movement, it should be good.

Please remember that I am experimenting and bear no responsibility for my comments or suggestions if tried by others.
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