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Unread 04-27-2021, 08:21 PM   #1
jymake
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Prepping uneven subfloor

Hello,

I am planning on re-doing the bathroom floor tiles. I was planning on renting a tile cutter from Home Depot and wanted to get your feedback.

Area: roughly 35 sq ft, roughly consisting of 2 rectangles.
Material: 36" x 6" rectified edge porcelain tiles (product link)
Experience: Second time tiling. First time was mosaic tile where I just had to use tile nippers. I have decent experience with working on wood projects.

The questions I have are:
  1. Can I use manual tile cutter? Most of my cuts will be cross cut (6 inches). I will need to cut 4-6 pieces the long side about 1-2 inches off. I am planning on keeping these 24 inches or shorter so I will be able fit them in the cutter. I was preferring the cutter since it seems to be less messy, noisy and probably less dangerous.
  2. What do you think about the rented tile cutter (link)? I think this will be my last tile project, so I don't want to buy one and have it laying around. Would this be higher quality than some cheap cutter of equivalent size?

Also, I will be tiling on top of the existing ceramic tile. This bathroom is not frequently used. Besides sanding it with 60 grit, is there any other special prep I should do? The existing tile surface is slightly uneven that if I lay down 36" tile, one end lifts up by about 1/8. Is this something I need to smooth out or would mortar take care of this?

Thanks in advance!
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Unread 04-27-2021, 10:11 PM   #2
Tool Guy - Kg
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Hi, Jean.

That particular rented tool is what I’d call an “ok” cutting board that is neither cheap, nor expensive. It may or may not work well for that exact tile material. Some tile is easy to snap, but some of the porcelains these days have so much internal stress that they practically refuse to snap cleanly. Expensive cutting boards greatly increase your success on tiles that are ornery. I’d do an inexpensive test. I’d take one of those tiles to Home Depot and talk to the rental manager. Ask if you can make 3 or 4 “test snaps” to see if the tool is capable or not. If it works, rent it...if not, thank them and figure plan B.

The process of tiling-over-tile fails more often than it succeeds. It works when the old tile is completely free of all cracks and is well bonded. This is the kind of thing that requires you get down on the floor to carefully hunt for hairline cracks...and tap with the handle of a screwdriver every couple of inches in each direction listening for rattles or hollow sounds. Another important thing is to rough the tiles up. Ordinary 60-grit sandpaper isn’t likely to do anything to a glass-hard tile glaze. If you’re going to rough up the tile, a diamond cup wheel on a grinder will accomplish that in a hurry. Another important thing is to use a proper setting mortar specifically rated for tiling-over-tile. These are usually the high-end mortars for $40-$50 per bag.

And yes, those rocking tiles need some sort of surface prep to flatten the substrate if you want the finished tile to be flat. There really isn’t much play in adjusting the tile height within the thickness of the combed mortar bed. Sure, you can pull the offending tile back up and endlessly add and subtract mortar to adjust their height. But that gets real old in a hurry for most folks not used to laying tile. Preparing the surface flat ahead of time pays handsome dividends in much easier and faster tile installation.

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Unread 04-28-2021, 06:42 AM   #3
smifwal
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I tore out this kitchen, there wasn't a hollow sound among them. If I was careful I could have taken the tiles out in full pieces and reused them. Most of the thiset was stuck to the floor and almost completely clean on the back of the tile. Just food for thought
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Unread 04-28-2021, 10:41 AM   #4
jymake
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Thanks for your responses. Sigh... Not what I was hoping for but maybe it's better to get the realistic picture than a false rosy picture.

Trying the test cut sounds great. I will give it a try. I also have the diamond cup for grinder. Thanks!

One of the tiles does have a visible crack. Not surprisingly, it's near where I previously reported slightly uneven surface. All others seem to be ok. I think these are originals to the house, so they would be 30 years old. They are probably laid on top of concrete poured over chicken wires, not hard backer boards (this is how it was done in other bathroom in the house). Demoing this will not be that easy. And I will need to re-do some kind of moisture barrier, right? Cutting hard backer boards was not fun either.
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Unread 04-28-2021, 12:27 PM   #5
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Jean, water proofing the main bathroom floor shouldn't be necessary, unless it see substantially more water on it than the usual wet feet and a few drips here and there.

That you have 1 cracked tile would be reason enough for me to remove everything and start over, but that you also have that 1/8" difference in height over 36" kinda seals the deal.
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Unread 04-28-2021, 05:53 PM   #6
jymake
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Dan,
Thank you. Do I need backer board or can I tile straight on the plywood?

TG,
Trial cut was a bust. Cross cutting was not a problem, but ripping was not possible. Thanks for the suggestion. You saved me.

While in despair, I found another tile on sale. It is ceramic tile with mat finish. The HD tool person was a bit grumpy, so I didn't have the courage to go back to try cutting this one. Would I have a better luck with ceramic tiles with manual cutter?

Thanks!
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Unread 04-29-2021, 06:52 AM   #7
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While it is technically possible to set tile on plywood using an appropriate thinset mortar it really isn't recommended, Jean, mortar bonds so much better to a proper underlayment made specifically for setting tile.

No idea if you'll have better luck snapping a plain ceramic tile, and any long tile will be a challenge.
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Unread 04-29-2021, 11:47 PM   #8
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snappers take practice... But with practice greatness can be achieved, sometimes. This is off a 48 in rip
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Unread 04-30-2021, 12:45 AM   #9
jymake
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Thanks everyone! I will demo and add backer board.

Shawn,
How did you rip 48 inches? According to HD guy, there is no cutter or saw that can handle even 36". He said you have to use angle grinder, which is a bit hard for me to believe, knowing that wood plank like tiles are so popular these days. Anyway, I couldn't even break 18" after scoring with the cutter. Any tricks?

Thanks again!
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Unread 04-30-2021, 01:11 AM   #10
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I’m afraid he isn’t aware of what is possible. There are snappers that will snap 10’ tiles.

You’re attempting to snap with a $180 24” rental cutter. If the wheel is sharp, and you can make one single scoring pass, then break it with a single push of the handle, you’re living the high life. But it’s a middle of the road tool with what might be a dull wheel and sloppy guide bars that don’t allow you to make a good score.

The same sized cutting board from “Sigma” or “Rubi” would be $500. Both of these tools have high reputations for snapping difficult tile that other brands can’t handle. If you want a bigger size, the price goes up considerably.

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Unread 04-30-2021, 07:11 AM   #11
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Sorry the pic didn't upload. I have a sigma snapper that will do a 60" to and the sigma kera cut will do 10 feet.
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Unread 04-30-2021, 12:18 PM   #12
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Wow, that's amazing. Well, that sounds like super expensive tool for the pros, not for a one-off DIYer. :-) Thanks for sharing!
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Unread 05-12-2021, 02:37 PM   #13
jymake
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Uneven subfloor

I finished demoing the floor.

The subfloor is slightly uneven. Where the plywood joints meet, there is about 1/8 inch difference. And some parts are bumpy that there is about 1/4 inch difference.

I am going to place 1/2 inch cement board over the plywood. A single board will cover the joined plywood. Do I need to smooth out the bump? Should I just sand off the difference? Or fill with mortar or something? Or combination of sanding and filling?

The tile I am going to use is ceramic, not porcelain.

Thanks!
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Unread 05-12-2021, 03:10 PM   #14
jymake
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BTW, it's not a huge area. Roughly 9' X 3'
If possible, I don't want to buy more tools and leveling system that will mostly go to waste. So any economical solution would be awesome.
Thanks!!
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Unread 05-13-2021, 07:51 AM   #15
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Jean, I would suggest that you first spend some time screwing down all that plywood, using 2" construction screws into the joists, if you've not done so already. Then re-asses the subfloor.
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