17 Feb

Prep for Tile Flooring

Prep floor for tile

Once upon a time there was an ugly linoleum floor.

Long, long ago in a bathroom far away…

Hickory dickory door,
I hate my linoleum floor.
Backer board down,
Trowel around,
Crap vinyl I’ll see no more.

I might have sniffed a bit too much pipe dope working on the leaky sink. Or maybe I’ve spent too much time confined to this 10′ x 10′ space. I’m starting to lose my mind. Good thing my sense of humor is in tact.

Continuing my pursuit of a ‘Property Virgin Approved’ master bathroom, I got to work prepping the existing sheet vinyl with cement board. I searched around the web to see what the pros said about installation. Some said you could just screw it down. Others insisted you must trowel on the mortar before securing with special cement coated screws.

Measure and cut cement board

Not a single one suggested cutting the 5′ long sheets in half. I suppose they didn’t expect it to be a 5’1″ chick lugging the pieces across the room.

I bet the folks over at Pampered Chef don’t expect their whisks to be used to mix up mud either.

Hand mix mortar

But I find it works smashingly for the task.

Screw backer board down

I installed 1/4″ green board over mortar with screws set every 6″ (roughly). I started off cutting the sheets with a drywall saw but quickly traded that out for a utility knife. It was much easier to score and snap the backer board. The saw kicked up way too much dust and was difficult to use.

Cover seams with mesh tape and mortar

Also up for internet debate was the use of mesh tape over the seams. Homes settle and since ours is < 10 years old, it’s safe to assume it’s still getting situated. The back wall (where the toilet sits) is an exterior wall and I know the builders didn’t over-insulate so, I went ahead and forked over the extra cash for piece of mind.

Before installing the backer board in the second half of the bathroom, I had to finish some residual demolition. Since I left the door jambs in place at the entrance and linen closet doors I had to use my new toy.

When Sonne was here last summer she cleaned up the trim in my office. Turns out an oscillating tool is perfect for carving out just enough wood to slip a ceramic tile in place. This trick saved me the hassle of removing/reinstalling the door jamb and stop.

How to Cut Door Frames without Removal

Cut around doors

1. Set the backer board and tile against the door jamb and trace the top of the tile.

Saw cut door jamb

2. Cut the wood along the line with the oscillating tool. (Make sure you’re wearing eye protection and don’t cut too deep that you’re compromising the wall studs.)

Install tile under door jamb

3. Double check that the tile fits snugly. Recut as necessary.

I skim-coated the entire floor to level and cover all of the exposed screw heads.

Skim coat floor

Note: Don’t skimp and use regular screws to secure your underlayment. They will rust and compromise the overall substructure of your tile installation.

I let the floor dry completely before moving on to the next step.

Ceramic Yoga: Finding Center

Measure room to find center

I spent quite a while trying to figure out where to start the tile. When you’re working in a large, square room it’s simple. You’d measure east to west and then north to south marking the intersection point. That would ensure most of the visual surface area was covered with full-sized tiles.

But what do you do when your room is cut in half by a wall and pocket door?

assess the situation

I chucked the professional advice and decided to wing it.

Dry fit tiles first

Since I was working with smaller tiles I went ahead and laid them out to get a feel for the finished space. I was able to manipulate the design pattern (grab tiles from different boxes to mix up the color/grain) and see just how much cutting I was going to need to do.

Make changes to tile pattern

All the measuring and calculations in the world won’t provide the same result as a dry run.

Check tile position often

As I worked my way from the water closet to the vanity area I noticed the tiles starting to ‘tip’. Sure enough, there was a 1/4″ discrepancy between the walls. Since I wasn’t interested in reframing and hanging drywall, I opted to tweak a row of tiles to compensate.

It’s a creative fix that you’d only notice if you were on your hands and knees on the floor. Even then you’d need tools to know for sure.

…and a solid excuse for being in that position to begin with.


This post is part of a series. Read the other parts here:

Install Ceramic Tile   Operation Countertop   operation demolition    

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