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Unread 07-26-2013, 08:53 AM   #1
TRAVIS (I.T.M.)
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best system to build up a floor

Getting on to the job late, as the other tile company was kicked off.

Here's the issue. the foyer is dropped down 2 inches from surrounding hardwood. On the dropped floor (3/4 plywood) they already installed 3/4 water heating spread 8-12 inches apart. without tar paper underneath

I can either.. do a mud bed, I would have to pull up the stapled down tubes and put tar paper down (builder wants me to just paint a membrane between all the tubes) the bed would be an 1 1/8 thick at the deepest and only 3/8 over all the tubes.

Or fill in all the areas between the tubing with 3/4 ply and then carefully install 1/2 rock over all of it packing the tube area with more thin set.

I'm open to other suggestions as well.

The material to go over it is marble slabs that I am installing as a favor for a slab fabricator that doesn't trust his installers enough

Sorry for the long explanation but I think it was all necessary.

Thanks for the help
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Unread 07-26-2013, 09:09 AM   #2
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Are you interested in doing this in conformance with tile industry standards, Travis, or are you just planning to do whatever the GC wants?

I ask because you don't have enough vertical room to do the job with deck mud as you describe and meet industry standards.

The closest you could come would be to recommend the use of SLC to encapsulate the hydronics, but even that requires a minimum of a half-inch of material over the top of the tubes.

If you do the plywood and CBU you're on your own, too.

Have you evaluated the joist structure and existing subflooring to see if they qualify for a natural stone installation at all?

My opinion; worth price charged.
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Unread 07-26-2013, 09:22 AM   #3
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I want to do what will work best and last the longest.

Industry standards are always what I shoot for, but sometimes that isn't possible with what builders are willing to do or pay for. (and these are HIGH end builders on the North Shore of Chicago) really frustrating

I already suggested the SLC which wasn't met with much enthusiasm.

Do you think the cement board system would work?
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Unread 07-26-2013, 09:26 AM   #4
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A lot of that would depend upon what you have for a subfloor now, how closely you could cut the plywood fillers to fit amongst the tubing, what you could fill the gaps with, how well you would then be able to install the CBU, etc, etc.

I would not use that method, but I can't say it won't work.

Again, keep in mind that you're dealing with natural stone and not ceramics.

My opinion; worth price charged.
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Unread 07-26-2013, 09:35 AM   #5
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If I do the cement board, I would thinset and screw it to the plywood.

Would you be worrying about deflection or expansion? If expansion, would a membrane over the top help?


I will also be using Keralastic or something really strong as the marble will have that terrible epoxy backing.

What would you suggest to the builder?
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Unread 07-26-2013, 10:12 AM   #6
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Thanks for the help CX. I do appreciate it as always

Do to it being switched to this section, it seems like you are the only one with a solution.

Still confused about which section to put posts in, but this one seems to be more DIY's mixed with some professionals. Just thought my question would be better suited for a wider range of professional installers.

NO OFFENSE to any professionals in this section, it's more to do with the installers I've been accustomed to chiming in
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Unread 07-26-2013, 10:57 AM   #7
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It's a single project advice question, Travis, that's why it was moved here. The same question has been addressed here many, many times.

All your buddies in the Hangout are welcome to answer questions here, too, and we encourage more of them to do so. Most of'em might be at work and perhaps some will drop by later.
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Unread 07-26-2013, 11:02 AM   #8
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I'm not a pro, but I am having a hard time seeing any attractiveness of building up a floor with a mishmash of tiny plywood cuts, splooged thinset 3/4 thick over/around hydronic pipes and topped off with a layer of CBU

- sounds pretty darn time consuming, takes skill and effort to keep level/void free, and is laden with wood/cement with differing properties - i.e. what the heck is that buried plywood going to look like after it absorbs a bunch of water from the thinset packing the pipes - Are you going to let that dry for a week ir two before putting on the CBU/marble?... otherwise you are going to be burying swelled wet ply under your finish...

what was the reason for the GC to reject SLC ? Cost ? IMO if your plan was done right and you don't work for free, it isn't going to be cheaper than the SLC is it ? nor is it going to be as good a surface for the finish..

An I would hope with all that going on down under you would use a decoupling of some sort...

If I was the customer, I wouldn't allow it (the plywood filler idea). Personally I would take an undersized mudbed first... YMMV
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Unread 07-26-2013, 11:21 AM   #9
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Have you not run into a product ...I think called "warm board"? it is literally 3/8 paneled wood with 3/8 tubing running in and out of it. have to pack the tubing area and snap lines as to not hit it when screwing the cement board.

The thinset packed around the tubes would probably be about 3/8 thick around the edge of the tubes. 1/4 trowel under cement board usually ends up being an 1/8 of thinset under the cement board. So I'd be looking at an extra 1/4 of thin set around the tubes damaging the plywood due to moisture and taking a week or two longer to dry than a regular cement board install?

Builder is obviously not going about it the right way, shit, he had the casing painted and installed before the floor was finished. So now I have to be extremely careful to not chip mitered slabs while installing them on an angle.

Again, High End builder. House is at least 5 million
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Unread 07-26-2013, 11:26 AM   #10
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My cell phone doesn't allow me to scroll through the thread while responding so I limit myself to one answer per response and leave the longer ones and those that require links or pictures are done at home if family life permits

Somewhat carefully typed on teensy cell phone keys.
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Unread 07-26-2013, 11:32 AM   #11
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Not sure what that means?

I'd be at work and not messing with this now too, if my tile came in when it was supposed to and I didn't have to catch up on paperwork
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Unread 07-26-2013, 01:50 PM   #12
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I don't know about other hydronic tube underlayment systems, but warmboard has a layer of aluminum between the plywood and tubes/thinset/whatever protecting it from moisture.

I would think all of those routed systems would have some type of paint or barrier at least between the end grain in the routed plywood and setting materials if allowed - some of those systems are only for under engineered wood floors or require a plywood overlay before tiling I believe.

If you take and rip your own plywoods and screw it down between all those tubes, calculate for yourself how much absorbent end grain you will be exposing to the thinset - it is many squarefeet, and it will swell and take time to dry - weeks ? I dont know...

The point is , there are good reasons to push back to this GC to do a job you and he can stand behind. If he doesn't want to allow that stuff to dry properly - then you have a good argument to do something else.

Use the time/cost factor to drive the decision if it makes sense.

If you are determined to use plywood as a spacer, how about putting in your ply spacers, then go over it all with 3/8-5/8 plywood underlayment, then a decoupling membrane then your tile. This is closer to the standard way the systems you are thinking of work. No need for thinset on the tubes, no need for cement board, no exposure of miles of endgrain to water.
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Unread 07-26-2013, 02:21 PM   #13
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The fabricator doesn't want to install and he has installers? Hmmm.



He probably doesn't want to touch it because the GC refuses to comply with what he has asked for. This probably revolves around the problem of just plain not enough room for everything needed. You already say there is not enough room for a self-leveler. BTW, if you can't use a SLC, run now.


How big are the slabs? Have you installed slab on floor before? If you are thinking they will need the typical allowance for adhesive like tile, guess again. Just like tile, the bigger the slabs, the more allowance for adhesive thickness.

Do you have a slab cart for the jobsite? Several slab suction cups? Slab suction cup leveling system? Ever tried to pull-up a "tile" that is 10+ sf in size and 3/4" thick because it doesn't have enough adhesive? What color marble? Does it have a fiberglass net resined to the back? What adhesive will you use? Do you have a saw large enough to cut pieces if necessary? Will you be using grout or resin for the seams?



You might want to re-think the smartness of involvement in this one. The fabricator shying away is talking volumes to me, and he is used to installing slab. Why is he passing this off to you?
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Unread 07-26-2013, 06:11 PM   #14
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All good points.
Of course I've installed slabs.
These particular slabs are not that big, biggest ones only being 3 pieces 3 ft. x 3 ft. then 1 ft. by 3ft. strips around the perimeter. fabricated in shop with the waterjet and bonded in shop
I have suction cups and since they aren't that big, I will be fine with just another installer. I will grout the seems because for no other reason than I don't trust epoxy not to crack out eventually (even if the edges are cleaned well with acetone, etc.)

I've known this shop and manager for 17 years. They never deal with installing slabs on floors. jambs, curbs, counter tops, shower seat, fireplaces, etc. are completely different than installing floors. Also, the owner of the shop wants them to install it in house for the profit of it. The manager does not have as much faith in his basic installers.
I'm not worried about that end of it.

I might try to talk them in to the SLC, but I highly doubt all three adjacent floors are level to each other (hopefully flat to each other)

I haven't even given them a price yet. So as long as we're discussing this, what is the going price for installing slabs on a floor.
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Unread 07-26-2013, 06:15 PM   #15
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Unfortunately the slabs will have that crappy epoxy backing on them. I plan on using Keralastic on it. I don't really trust anything with that backing, whether the thin set bonds to epoxy/resin or the epoxy/resin bonds correctly to the slab.
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