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Old 09-14-2017, 12:00 PM   #1
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1954 slab bathroom renovation

Hello everyone, I was directed to this forum after asking this same question in the wrong place. I have a 1954 single story house on a slab. We had a bathtub leak, so we replaced the bathtub, redid the plumbing, and now I'm trying to figure out how to get the floor done. The old tile floor was on a 2 1/2" mortar bed that had to be broken up to get the bathtub out and the walls fixed. The area to be tiled is 5'x5'. I've been trying to find information specific to my situation, but it seems to be a bit unusual.

Here's my plan of action as of now:

1. I plan to brush and vacuum the slab beneath that was beneath the old mortar bed to prep it.

2. I'm going to use Quickrete Sand topping mix to replace the 2 1/2" mortar bed (mixing until it is damp, but not runny). I don't think I need a membrane or a wire mesh of any kind, since it is a small area on a slab, but I'll admit that I don't fully understand some of this stuff. The old mortar bed didn't have either.

3. I have this 12" x 12" octagonal mosaic tile (9 large- 3 1/2" - white octagons with little black diamonds by SomerTile, appropriate for the period ) and I'm trying to figure out what size and type of trowel to use for it.

That's as far as my plan goes. Am I missing something critical? Is there a good resource you would recommend? A recent job loss has put me in an awkward spot on this project, but I feel like I can do this if I am careful and have the right information. I'd appreciate any guidance you could offer.
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Old 09-14-2017, 01:37 PM   #2
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Welcome to the forum, Nathaniel. You've come to the right place.

I would plan to use a thin mixture of thinset mortar to bond the mud to the slab. The slab does need to be vacuumed prior to starting. You'll spread just a few square feet of thinset, then immediately cover it with mud.

Regarding the mud, you'll find that the sand topping mix is a bit heavy on the portland side, and is actually about a 3:1 sand portland. Assuming you're using 60lb. bags, I would add about one-half of a 50lb. bag of sand to each bag of topping mix. Mix the two thoroughly before adding water. If possible, have a helper on hand to mix for you while you spread. If you're going it alone, you'll want to rest up well the night before, and eat your Wheaties that morning.

What is the thickness of the tile you're using? You'll probably find a 3/16" V-notch will work best. Basically, the best trowel is whatever it takes to get good coverage on the back of the tile without having excess squeezing through the joints. The joints can always be cleaned as you go along, but if you don't have good coverage, your work will be for nothing.

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Old 11-28-2017, 09:37 AM   #3
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Thanks for the advice. I got some sand to add to the topping mix, and my father has lent me a cement mixer, so I'm hoping that I can use it to do this myself without the Wheaties requirement.

I'm finally going to start on this today. Hopefully, it will be smooth sailing. This project has been lurking in the darkest corners of my mind for quite some time. I'm terrified that I'm going to miss something critical and my floor will end up cracking, so I've been putting it off. If everything goes well, I'll have a happy wife.
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Old 11-28-2017, 09:57 AM   #4
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Welcome, Nathaniel.

If you're talking about a barrel mixer for your deck mud, I recommend you plan on some frustration there. There's only one pro I'm aware of who says he can successfully mix deck mud with such a machine. The rest of us seem to have long since given up on such attempts. Wheel barrow or mortar box would work better, but you'll need a helper. You might also try a Bucket Mortar Mixer and dry-mix ten or twelve buckets to stage near the work area and just add pre-measured water when you're ready for more mud. Takes only a minute or two at that stage.

And be sure you tamp down the mud before you shape it flat or you'll end up with an excessively sandy finish and poor mud.

My opinion; worth price charged.

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Old 12-06-2017, 07:46 PM   #5
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How did it go?

Hi Nathaniel, how did it go? I am also a DIY'er, reluctantly so due to difficulties finding tile setters with availability in the next calendar year. I'm considering a mortar bed in a 5x5 bathroom -- same dimensions as yours -- and am also wondering if a metal mesh is needed (I don't think so for a bonded application according to spec sheets on two products, it should only need a mesh for floating application). Also, surface prep -- I guess you had a mortar bed already, so the concrete might already have been "CSP 3-5 or more" which is lightly shotblasted or courser. How many bags of mortar did you need? I think it's 5 bags, less I guess if you're mixing in more sand. Where you able to buy a 5ft screed? I'm seeing 4ft and 6ft, but not 5ft for sale. Most importantly, any tips or tricks you can share for a newbie? And if you had to offer advice, would you say "DIY it, it't not terrible and turned out ok" or "Wait six months or a year for a tile setter who can do it for you and do it well" ?

Thanks ever so much for your thoughts. This is a pretty intimidating project.
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