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Old 03-13-2006, 04:22 PM   #1
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The Basics?

Hi all,

First I should say that I'm completely new here and am blown away by the amount of information available. It seems like a fantastic forum; I've had great fun reading around... I also need to warn you that I'm a DIY, that I've only done a few square meters of wall tile in my life (until last weeekend), that I'm in Portugal(!) and that I've got somewhere around 120 square meters (1200 square feet?) of tiling to do over the next year. Do you see trouble ahead? Wait until I tell you that I'm hoping to construct a tiled (ceramic or stone) Japanese bath at some point....

This is a house renovation. We've got contractors finishing part of it (in a few weeks, we hope), but for money reasons I'm left with much of the tiling and interior work to do.

I set to work doing floor tiles in a storage space under some outside stairs last weekend. (Practice first in the least visible place, right?) I managed OK, but was hoping -- in light of my experience -- to get some tips here on how to do better. Unfortunately I don't seem to find anything like a 'dummies guide' to basic floor tiling. Things like how to mix your mortar (thinset? what's it called?). I bought a neat looking mixer attachment for a drill -- and almost burned out my Black & Decker trying to mix with it! What angle am I supposed to hold the slotted trowel/applicator thing to get the right thickness of mortar? And how to go about leveling the tiles -- what tricks do you use to ensure you get each tile perfectly plane with its neighbors?

Am I missing help of this kind somewhere? Or do you all assume that we come here with the basics? (I do have my Readers Digest DIY manual and other sources!) Or am I just in completely the wrong place and out of my depth?

Thanks to anyone with any advice for me.

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Old 03-13-2006, 05:14 PM   #2
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I have taken to reading the manufacturers directions and following them to a T as to mixing grout and thinset. If I need less than the whole amount of what the directions state, I reduce the amount of water 1:1 to the material. For example, the bag states 1.5us gallon per 50 lb bag, but I only wanted to work in 8lb increments. So I calculated 50/8 = 6.25 and thus 1.5/6.25 = .24 gal = 30.72 floz I used a scale to measure out the material.

As for mixing, you need/should use a 1/2" sized drill minimum (I too was pushing my B&D drill too far I learned).

You need to be consistent with your trowel angle (45 degrees) when combing the thinset. Be sure to key the thinset to the substrate with the flat side first. I use a level to leavel my tiles, and my fist (I have a rubber mallet too) to pound them down. I use extra thinset to level lowspots just combing the top part to get the pattern. Be sure to wipe any squeeze out from between the tiles or you'll have to dig it out later when you grout.

I good tile book covers these. I haven't bought it yet, but John Bridge's book has gotten good reviews. The one tile book I bought at Lowes was useless focusing more on pictures of completed installs that providing the information one needs to actually tile.

Since this is your house and you are the one being "paid" the only time pressure you have is what you put on yourself. If you were a contractor asking these questions ... You can tile, you just need to ask if you are unsure. I have learned so much just in the past 2 weeks, that's for sure.

FWIW, just another stangers opinion
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Old 03-13-2006, 05:28 PM   #3
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Welcome to America, Steve,
John Bridge's book is about as close as you'll get to "Tile for Dummies". Seriously though, it's a very informative manual but as it's written from a North American perspective, some of the specific product and material information may not be appropriate to your location as they might simply not be available? What can you tell us about the construction of the house and the materials which you plan to install?
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Old 03-13-2006, 06:05 PM   #4
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Thanks Shaughnn and Jay for making me feel at home!

Looks like I may be mixing my mortar by hand until I can afford (or borrow) a big drill

I hadn't really considered a book specifically for tiling, but given the amount I going to be doing it sounds like a great idea. I'll definitely look into getting a copy of John's book.

No doubt, as suggested, the materials available here will be different. They also have instructions in Portuguese, which makes things a bit tricky for me. (I'm still studying...) But after reading many, many posts on this forum, I now recognize most of what's available. (An outfit called Weber seems to have close to a monopoly on mortars, grouts, sealants and the like around here...)

As to the construction of the house? Well, original stone building, RC + brick extensions, floors in mortar of varying thickness (mud, I guess it would be called), walls also mudded (is it a verb?) over brick or stone then finish plastered or tiled. From what I read here, I realize I can be thankful that my to-be-tiled floors consist of nice leveled mortar ready to take the tiles. Not much chance of movement!

Currently getting ready to install: 12" quarry tiles in some storage areas, 12" ceramic (I guess) in a utility room, then (the biggie) 12" tiles on a 40 square meter terrace. This last is to have a somewhat creative pattern -- part square orientation, part diagonal, with some special pattern tiles forming the boundary. I have two kinds of thinset mix. The one for the terrace is a 'flex' version (presumably with PVC?) supposedly good for temperature variations and waterproofing. The other is a standard tile mortar (much cheaper).

I'm reasonably pleased with my first trial tiling. The major problem I see is slight height differences between tiles. Only a mm (1/16 -1/32?), but I'm sure I can do better. Practice I guess. Is this the amount of variation you'd expect to correct after laying the tile, or do you think it's more like a problem with my use of the trowel (and getting uneven mortar thickness)?


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Old 03-13-2006, 08:28 PM   #5
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Welcome aboard, Steve.

We will have to make special arrangements to get the book to Portugal. I believe you're our first potential customer froam that direction. We've covered the English-speaking countries pretty well, but not the rest. You can email me if you're interested.


I'm wondering what material you're using as an adhesive. Also, you can post pictures here. We have instructions in the Liberry.
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Old 03-14-2006, 05:51 AM   #6
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tile edges

Steve, to get the edges of the tile even you can use a peice of 2x4 on edge, padded to protect the tile, lay it across several tiles and bump it (lightly)with a hammer. This Will level your tiles with each other and bring the edges into line. All this and more is explained in John's book.
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Old 03-14-2006, 10:05 AM   #7
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You are in the right place - these folks are fantastic with 'us newbies'. I just finally finished my first ever tiling project and the help here was invaluable.

I didn't have a mixer attachment for my drill and ended up mixing my thinset & grout by hand but it really wasn't that much of a problem. Actually it kept me from mixing too large of a batch to work with at one time since I was (and am) still in the learning process. I used a bucket and a wooden spoon!

With the kind and tolerant assistance of the folks here - you too will learn and get your project done.

These folks are the best!

Good luck!

Old age and treachery always overcomes youth and skill.
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Old 03-14-2006, 12:25 PM   #8
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Mapei products are available globally. They are an Italian Co. that makes fine products.

In the meantime look in our Liberry, lots of good information in there.
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