Now that all the prep was out of the way, it was finally time to start laying down tile!
As you’ve probably heard before if you’ve ever watched any HGTV or DIY Network, it’s important when tiling not to tile yourself in a corner, as you shouldn’t walk on your freshly laid tile for at least 24 hours. This would be easy in the two smaller bathrooms and laundry room, where I knew I could get all of tile precut and lay it all down in one stretch. However, I knew that in my master bathroom, tiling would take a few days and I’d have to make a lot of the cuts as I went. I wanted to make sure that the tiles that would be most visible (the ones in the entrance to the bathroom and right outside the shower) were nice whole tiles, so I chose to begin on that wall. I started at the entry and worked my way back, doing four rows at a time. This way I could work around in a circle, going into the closet and working around as well, before tiling myself out of the room. I chose to save the toilet room for last, a day after the rest of the tile had time to set, as I didn’t want the toilet to be undone for too long.
I mixed my large tile mortar with water in a big 5 gallon bucket I picked up at Lowes, using a paddle attachment and my drill. The consistency should be like a creamy peanut butter, so I added more water/mortar until I felt it was close. You need to let the mortar set for 5-10 minutes after you first mix it, for some weird scientific reason, and then give it another quick mix before you spread it on the floor.
I used a 1/4 inch notched trowel for the larger tiles in my master. I just slapped down enough mortar to cover the floor for 3-4 tiles at a time and then used the notched side of the trowel to get the evenly spaced grooves. I laid my tile over the mortar and used 1/8 spacers between each tile, making sure that everything was uniformly spaced. As I mentioned, most of the cuts in this room were made using the tile saw as I went, but there were some spaces where I needed a more rounded edge, like around the toilet holes and the door casings. This is where a tile nipper came in handy. The mosaics were easy, because I could easily just nip each one of the tiles I needed cut, but on these large tiles, it would have taken forever to nip out all of the tile I needed removed. So, what I did was make cuts on my tile saw just shy of the corner I needed cut, and then using a hammer and flathead, I could remove that cut piece and smooth out the corner with my tile nippers. Then I could easily slide those pieces into place.
I also made sure to step back now and again and look at everything from a distance to make sure it was all looking straight, especially from the viewpoint of the door, as I can see into the bathroom from my side of the bed and I knew any uneven lines would drive me insane.
Let me take a second to talk about my tile saw here…this thing is a beast. I got it because it was recommended by one of my favorite blogs, Young House Love, in the same post that explained how to cut and install the cement backerboard I mentioned in my previous blog post. Anyways, this saw did not let me down. It is a bit expensive, and I’ll admit that I was sad it wasn’t a Ryobi that I could add to my collection. However, the price I could justify because even to rent a tile saw would have been $66 a DAY, and I probably spent at least 5 days (over a few weeks) using this saw. It would have been so stressful trying to do all my cuts in a short time period to be able to return the rental saw. Not to mention, I’m sure I’ll have more tile jobs in my future, so I saw it as a good investment. While I wish the brand was Ryobi, when I was looking back then, Ryobi only had tile saws where the blade came up from underneath, and I really felt more comfortable with a saw that had the blade overhead. Of course now that I just checked they must have come out with this overhead tile saw in the last six months so awesome. Oh well, I’m still happy with my purchase, even if it’s not Ryobi green! This Rigid tile saw was SO easy to use, and I never felt like I was going to saw my fingers off, so that’s always good. It did a great job on my oversized 12×24 tiles, as well as the small mosaic tile sheets.
Anyways, I worked my way around the room, going from the shower/tub wall to the back wall, and then back up to the closet, working basically in a circle the whole time before ultimately working my way back out to the entry.
After those tiles were set up I quickly removed the toilet from the water closet and tiled that room.
After I was done tiling in here I did notice a couple tiles that had a little too much lippage…a corner was sitting higher than the surrounding tiles, probably because of uneven mortar. Also, even though I made sure to mix the tiles and didn’t notice ANY that seemed to be the same pattern, apparently there was, and of course I put them right next to each other. SO, I went back in and carefully popped up those tiles and scraped the mortar out, before replacing them. Word of advice…it is MUCH easier to make these adjustments while the mortar is still wet, rather than going back later, so be sure to keep an eye on your tile levels and patterns.
The tiling process was similar for the other two bathrooms and laundry room, but since I was using smaller scale tile in those rooms, I used a different ceramic tile mortar that was made for smaller tile, and used a 3/16 inch notched trowel instead of the 1/4 inch I used in my master.
Side note: a lot of things I read said you could use 1/4 inch trowel on mosaic tile as well, but trust me, the 3/16 inch notched trowel is the way to go. The 1/4 inch would just leave way too much mortar which would seep up through the tiles, and you have to make sure you go back through and get that mortar out before it dries or it will be visible through your grout at the end. Learned this the hard way!
Since the other two bathrooms and laundry were smaller and I knew I could get it all done in one long stretch, I started at the back corner of these three rooms and worked my way to the front. I didn’t use spacers with the mosaic tile, because I tried and they ended up driving me crazy. So instead I was very careful to eyeball everything and keep the space between tile sheets the same distance as the space between the tiles on the sheets. Also was very careful to again, take a step back now and then and make sure everything was looking straight and even.
Honestly, this whole thing sucks. It’s messy, there’s like a million steps and a ton of time spent waiting between steps. The tiles are heavy and wet and dusty from the tile saw, and the mortar just gets everywhere. Plus, if you are like me, you are constantly stressed that the mortar is too wet or too dry or that you are going to slow and all the mortar will turn into a rock before you get done with it. It drove me crazy. BUT, it is worth it, eventually.
When you have all the tile down, it’s best to let it sit a day or two to make sure the mortar is fully dry and the tiles are secure. Then you are ready to add your grout between the tiles. I chose a Mapei sanded grout in “Warm Gray”. Technically, with my grout lines being so narrow on both floors, I had the option of using sanded or unsanded grout. I went with sanded, because in my research it sounded like that was the most resilient choice that would resist shrinking and cracking. I mixed the grout the same way as the mortar, adding water until it was the right consistency, but this time just a tad thicker. Like a creamy peanut butter that has sat out for a little bit. (#probablyabadanalogy) You just have to make sure it is not too watery, or the color will not be consistent and you will end up with patches of grout that are lighter or darker. I noticed as I was doing my tiling research that this was a common problem people seemed to have, so I purposefully went with a lighter grout for this reason. I knew if I screwed up my mix, that the color variance hopefully wouldn’t be as noticeable.
Once you have the grout to a good consistency, start pushing it into the cracks between the tiles with a grout float, starting at the back of the room and working your way out. This takes a lot of elbow grease and again, I was sweating. Like the mortar, you have to work fast so that your grout doesn’t dry out too much before you are done. After I got the grout between all the cracks, I went back with a grout sponge and a bucket of clean water and started scrubbing the tiles in a circular motion. This got some of the excess grout off of the tops of the tiles, and helped to smooth out the grout in between the tiles. However, it is a MESS. You need to change your water and go back through the whole sponging process several times to get as much of the grout haze off of the tiles as possible. And then, even when you think you got it all, you will go back a few hours later and see a nice thin haze STILL on all the tiles. I found it was best to take a dry towel or old tee shirt and buff off the haze one more time, before vacuuming up all the dust. And there will be a LOT of dust.
After mopping the tiles one more time with my steam mop and a vinegar/water solution, the floor was looking a lot better. However, there was still just a little bit of haze that I could see when the light hit the floors in a certain way. I picked up this grout haze remover from Lowes, and followed the directions on the bottle. Worked like a charm, as you can kind of see in the shiny tiles of the before and after pictures below.
After letting the grout set up for a few days, and after making sure all the tiles were clean and the grout haze was completely gone, I could finally seal my new floors. I used this impregnating sealer. It was the most expensive so I assume that means it is the best? I really wanted to keep my grout looking clean, especially since I went with such a light color. So far, so good. I do think it is recommended to repeat the sealing process every six to twelve months, so I should probably do another coat soon.
Once everything was set, cleaned and sealed, I finished up by re-installing the quarter round/shoe moulding around the rooms, hooking all the toilets and washer and dryer back up, and then caulking around the toilets and tub. Having everything put back together after being such a mess for so many days was SO enjoyable, the fact that it now looked so much better was just a bonus! BUT, I’ll save the reveals for the final post…