Finally, a post about how I tiled three bathrooms and the laundry room in our home! This took a long time, because I am a bit crazy…anxious technically…so every time I went to write the post I got overwhelmed and/or bored and just exited right on out. I’m convinced I would be a better blogger if I bought a laptop and could blog in bed while binge watching The Royals butttt…my husband is not so convinced. So, blame him for the delay.
When we bought this house, most of the finishes had already been chosen, but we actually DID have the option of upgrading the flooring and choosing our own. However, at that point I was still living 4 hours away in Arizona, alone with two kids (one who was in a spica cast and immobile!) living out of suitcases at my Great-Grandparents’ winter home. I was in no mood or position to make such a big and expensive flooring decision at that time. So, I told Cody (who had already begun working and staying in California) to just choose the least offensive base option that was included in the price of the house, and we would spend time deciding and making decisions about flooring after we moved in. Upon moving in we rather quickly tackled the flooring downstairs, replacing the linoleum in the kitchen and powder bath, the tile in the entryway, and the carpet in the dining room, living room, hallways and playroom with this Pergo laminate flooring. But, nearly TWO YEARS later, I just finally got around to removing the ugly linoleum floors that still existed in three bathrooms and the laundry room.
This post might get a little confusing, because I didn’t do the same tile in all four rooms. I went with this larger 12×24 tile called Del Conca Verdiana Bone in the master bath/closet, and with this smaller white octagon mosaic sheet tile by American Olean in the guest bath, kids’ bath and laundry room. However, the processes are very similar for both tiles, so I’m choosing not to split it up into two different posts.
I started with the master bathroom/closet, since it was the largest space and I really wanted to get it out of the way, and also because if I screwed it up not as many of our guests would see it. You may remember from my master closet posts that I had ripped up the old and already dingy carpet in there, so all that remained was the plywood subfloor that I had given a quick coat of white paint to make it just a bit more bearable for the time being.
However, it isn’t recommended to lay tile right over plywood subfloor, so before I could get started I had to install cement backerboard in the closet. Despite being “cement”, the boards really aren’t too heavy, and cut easily with a utility knife. This post by one of my favorite blogs came in handy a few times during this project, starting with dealing with this backerboard. Just as they did, I made all of my cuts and then installed the boards over a thin layer of mortar. Then, I had to take some special screws made for backerboard and screw them through into the plywood subfloor every foot or so before taping the seams and then mortaring over those as well.
Luckily, the bathrooms and laundry room already had backerboard over the subfloor, so all I had to do in there was uninstall the toilets and washer/dryer and rip up the linoleum, which came up easy enough.
I will mention, in my master bathroom I didn’t worry about trying to get any of the glue residue from the linoleum off of the backer board. I just didn’t think it was important to do. BUT, this was the first bathroom I tackled, and immediately after my mortar was dry I noticed a few tiles, mostly in the bathroom where the linoleum had been, had “popped”, meaning when I stepped on them I could feel them move up and down at each corner. This is not good. I thought maybe the grout would be enough to hold the tiles down, but that was a big mistake. Whenever I stepped on one of the popped tiles the grout around the tile would crumble and evacuate the joints. #ugh. It wasn’t too hard of a fix though…I ordered this stuff called Fix-A-Floor from Home Depot that is basically just glue in a caulk-style bottle. You drill small holes in the grout around the loose tiles (or what was left of the grout in my case) and then fill the hole with the glue until it starts emerging from the other holes. Then place something heavy on each tile for 24 hours or so until the glue dries. I apparently didn’t take any pictures of this process, probably because I was too busy freaking out thinking I’d screwed everything up and I’d have to pull up all the tiles and start over, but this ended up working perfectly. The popped tiles no longer had any give and after almost 6 months there haven’t been any other issues with the glued tiles or with any other tiles popping. (#knockonwood)
Now I’m not exactly sure if the popped tiles had anything to do with the linoleum adhesive. Honestly it could have been a variety of things that caused it, from humidity levels, my mortar mix ratios, maybe even just the fact that the tiles I used were so large and perhaps my floor wasn’t as level as it seemed. I don’t know. But I do know that I didn’t want to go through all that work tiling my other bathrooms just to have a bunch of tiles come up and have to redo half of it.
SO, for the remaining three rooms I had to tile, I took a little extra time and tried to remove as much of the adhesive as I could. This was not fun. Basically I took a big pot of water mixed with a little vinegar, brought it to a boil on the stove, and then poured the boiling water all over the bare floor. I let it set for a few minutes and then I went in with a steel brush attached to a long handle and started scrubbing away. This is a WORKOUT. I was drenched in sweat each time. At one point during all three rooms I almost gave up because for awhile it seems like nothing is happening. Then the glue starts coming up but it turns into this tacky mess that I used paper towels to try to take up. Eventually, you start to feel like you’ve actually done something.
You can kind of see below the linoleum adhesive right after I removed the linoleum, and then again after I gave it a good scrubbing. I couldn’t get all of the adhesive up, but I felt like I made a pretty big dent in it, and just hoped I wouldn’t have issues again. (Spoiler alert…I wouldn’t! Whew!)
Ok, back to finishing the prep work. My next step was to cut around any door jambs in the rooms so that my tiles could slide right underneath them and I wouldn’t have to make any intricate cuts. I did this by marking a line on my door jambs that was approximately two tiles high (to account for the layer of mortar as well) and using my handy dandy multi-tool to cut out the sliver of moulding. I repeated this process in all of the rooms I needed to tile.
In my master bathroom/closet I went with the large format tile since the space is pretty large and I worried a smaller tile would look busy. The night before I was to begin tiling, I laid out my tiles just to see how they would line up with all the walls in there. I didn’t want to end up with a small sliver of tile along any wall or doorway. At first I marked chalk lines indicating the middle of the room like all the tutorials tell you to, but honestly that didn’t really help much. I really just needed to lay it all out to see.
I had planned to tile in a half offset, (like a brick pattern) in the first picture above, as I really like the way that pattern looks. However, upon doing my pre-project research, I learned here that this pattern is not recommended, especially with such large tiles, because the tiles tend to be just slightly higher in the middle, so when two corners meet in the middle of the tile below/above them, their height difference is much more noticeable. PLUS, when I laid out my tiles, if I went with the half offset pattern it would have given me weird slivers of tile on the sides of the closet and bathroom anyways. So, I instead went with a 1/3 offset pattern, (as shown in the bottom picture above) and honestly I’m not bummed about it at all.
The other three rooms were a bit more straightforward, since I was using such a small tile and didn’t have to worry as much about where to start and end, but it wasn’t without challenges. First, I really made it more challenging for myself by preferring the pattern I chose to be on a diagonal. The small tiles come on a mesh backing, which obviously makes it a lot easier than laying each individual tile, but my brain didn’t like the look of the mesh tile squares lined up left to right (seen in the top picture below). I felt it looked like linoleum or something? I don’t know. I’m weird. But diagonal, like in the bottom picture below, was the way to go for me. It really wasn’t too bad, and I think going diagonal probably helped hide the seams between each mesh tile sheet a little better in the end, but it did take a little more brainpower.
Unlike the master bathroom where I needed to do most of the cuts as I went since I was working with such large tiles and in such a large space, in these smaller rooms with the smaller tiles, I was able to lay everything out and get the tiles for the entire room cut and ready. After getting all my sheets dry fit in the room (as you see in the guest bathroom below), I tried to take them and lay them out the same way, but upside down, in the hallway outside of each room so that when I begun the actual tiling process I could quickly and easily grab each piece and work back to front.
It worked, mostly. But that is a story for part two!