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Laying floor tiles is a job for a professional tiler or a very competent DIY enthusiast because it usually requires special tools and a certain amount of skill to get it looking perfect. Laying a square or rectangular shaped tile may seem relatively easy but the difficulties arise when tiles have to be cut (as they always do) and shaped around obstacles in the room. Cutting hard tiles such as porcelain floor tiles or some types of natural stone is a job that only professional equipment can do properly. It is possible to hire the right equipment but that can be expensive and there is still a risk of ruining expensive porcelain tiles with a bad cut. If you are confident enough to install your floor tiles yourself, or whether you have employed a professional tiler, the most important thing to do first is prepare the surface onto which the tiles will be laid. If the existing floor is concrete then the job will be quite straightforward – the mortar can be applied directly to the floor and the tiles laid on top. If the existing floor is wooden then the solution is less simple - cement backer units (CBU) used with a moisture-proof membrane are a good choice for a wall tile substrate in wet areas and are often also used in order to strengthen a floor and provide a moisture barrier between the tiling and underlying wood. But cement backer units will not entirely prevent bending of a wooden floor under the weight of very heavy floor tiles. For very heavy tiles being installed over a wooden floor a plywood substrate will be needed. Once the substrate is prepared the area must be measured and the layout for your tile size planned and marked out. A cement based adhesive (thinset mortar) is then applied in sections to the substrate with a trowel and each floor tile laid on top using the marked guidelines and plastic tile spacers to maintain even gaps between the tiles for the grout. The advantage of a thinset mortar is that it doesn't dry too quickly so you can shift the tiles slightly to get the perfect layout. As each section of floor tiles is laid the level should be checked with a large spirit level because floors are rarely entirely flat. Extra mortar can be used to even out areas where there is a slight difference in level. For hard tiles such as porcelain tiles a wet saw with a diamond blade is used to cut them around fixed obstacles such as sanitary ware, pipes and doorways. Once all of the tiles have been laid leave the mortar to dry thoroughly before beginning to fill the gaps between them with grout. There are three different types of grout available:
Unsanded - for grout joints less than 3mm wide Sanded - for grout joints with a width of 3mm or more Epoxy – a waterproof and stain resistant grout for any width of grout joint
Choosing the right type of grout for porcelain floor tiles will give a professional finish but will also reduce the amount of maintenance required, and if it is properly sealed it will last for as long as the porcelain tiles themselves. Avoid walking on the floor until the grout has completely dried – this can take up to 2 days depending on the thickness of your tiles and on the width of the grout joints.
BLOG Using the Correct Type of Grout
by Roger There are three basic types of grout available for your tile installation. They are:
Non-Sanded (also known as Unsanded) Sanded Epoxy
Choosing the correct grout for your particular installation will not only complete the job correctly, it will also cut down on maintenance. Properly installed and sealed grout will last for the life of your tile. So which to use and when?
Non-Sanded (or Unsanded) Grout
Unsanded grout is made specifically for grout lines smaller than 1/8 inch wide. This is a general rule. I use unsanded grout only in tile with grout lines smaller than 1/16″. Unsanded grout (all grout to different degrees) will shrink as it cures. The reason for only using it in smaller grout lines is the wider the grout lines, the more grout must be used to fill them. The more grout you have, the more it will shrink. If you try to fill grout lines that are too large the grout will shrink enough to pull away from the sides of the tile. Unsanded grout is easier to work with, especially on vertical surfaces such as a shower wall, because it is “stickier” than the sanded variety. You can spread it onto the wall and it will stick there while you force it into the grout lines. It is also much easier on the hands than sanded. Although it is easier to work with, you need to make sure that the application for which you are using it is correct.
Sanded Grout is used for any size grout lines 1/8″ and wider. Although the specifications state unsanded grout be used in grout lines that are exactly 1/8″, you really should use sanded for them. It will ensure proper adhesion to your tile and guard against too much shrinkage. No, not Seinfeld shrinkage, grout shrinkage. Sanded grout has fine sand added to it. This prevents the grout from shrinking too much as it cures. That’s why it is used for larger grout lines and should be used for the majority of tile installations. If you have a polished stone such as granite, marble, limestone, and some polished travertine, you should be careful about using sanded grout. While sanded may be the correct choice for the size of grout lines, it may not be the best choice. Depending upon the polish of the stone the sand in the grout may actually scratch it. If you decide to use sanded make sure you test it in an inconspicuous area first to ensure it will not scratch your finish. Or use epoxy which would be a better choice anyway.
Epoxy grout is the top of the line and best choice for any tile application. It can be substituted for sanded or unsanded grout. It is more sturdy than both as well as being waterproof and stain resistant. Epoxy is a two or three part chemical consisting of the base and the activator. With some brands the color is an additional part that must be added. Once the parts are mixed a chemical reaction begins. From that point, depending on the brand of epoxy, you have only a limited amount of time to get everything grouted before the grout becomes stiff enough to be unworkable. When it reaches that point, if you do not have everything grouted you are SOL. To help slow the cure time you can mix your epoxy then put half of it in the freezer. The cold air will slow the chemical reaction and lengthen the working time. You can then work with the other half until it is all used. Clean it up, wipe everything down, then grab the second half out of the freezer and finish up. When you first pull it out of the freezer it will be, well, frozen. It thaws quickly, though, so should be workable within a few minutes. This essentially doubles the working time of your grout and ensures you don’t have to rush through it. Since most epoxy grouts do not contain sand (or at least not in the classic sense of sand) it will normally not scratch your tile. If you have highly polished granite or marble that’s important. Be sure to test first anyway! Different brands of epoxy have different working times as well as some being more difficult to work with than others. The brand with which I have had the most luck and the only brand I ever use is SpectraLOCK from Laticrete. It has a longer working time than any other epoxy grout (at least any I’ve ever used) and is virtually stain proof. Please don’t take that to mean the you can grout a jacuzzi with it, fill it with cherry kool-aid, and expect it not to be pink (Don’t do that). It just means that for all intents and purposes it will not stain without concerted effort. In my opinion it is the best on the market. The only drawback of epoxy grout would be the price. It is fairly expensive. When weighed against the upside, however, it is well worth it. Low maintenance demands and high durability of epoxy grout make it well worth the money. Picking the correct grout for your application is a key part of a proper tile installation. If you choose incorrectly you could end up with a multitude of problems and headaches. Grout, chosen and installed correctly, will complete your tile installation and push it from a good tile job to a great one. Do not underestimate the power of the grout.
Before the Big Day Call a friend, hire a team, do whatever you need to do, but make sure you remove furniture and other “stuff” from the room in which your new stone flooring will be installed. You probably don’t want installers handling your precious things — and they may charge you extra for the opportunity.
If you have gas appliances, contact the Gas Company about safely disconnecting and reconnecting these pieces. Ask your retailer about disconnecting and reconnecting such items as icemakers, stereo equipment and computers; and the removal of heavy items like pianos. Also, consult with your retailer to determine if you will be charged to have your toilet moved out and replaced if your are putting new flooring in your bathroom. If they can’t do it, you may need a plumber. Good Temps The area of installation must be climate controlled (heated or air conditioned). Indoor humidity should be maintained between 45-65%. The Old Flooring Will your new flooring be installed over your existing floor covering, or do you want your existing floors or carpets removed before the new one is put in? Removal of old flooring or carpeting can be time consuming — and someone has to haul it away and dispose of it responsibly. Be sure to discuss the situation with your installer and assume that at least one day will be spent on removal, cleanup and preparation. Choose a Trim In most cases, existing baseboards and moldings have to be removed prior to stone flooring installation. Do you want to keep what you have or go with something new? Be sure to discuss this with your retailer or installer, who may charge extra for removal and reinstallation. Painted baseboards, woodwork and paint may need retouching after the installation is complete. If necessary, this is your responsibility. An Open Door Policy Interior doors often have space at the bottom to accommodate flooring. If yours do, then you’re good to go. If yours don’t — or they’re cut for a thinner floor than you install, then you may need a qualified carpenter to cut or shave the bottom of each affected door. Check with your installer about their door policy. Clean Up Stone flooring installation results in lots of trash — old carpets or floors, plastic wrapping, remnants, fast food containers. Talk to your retailer or installer about his or her clean up policy — and what is done with leftovers. You may want to save some pieces for other projects. Take A Day Off It’s a good idea to be home on the day your new floor is installed. Inevitably, questions will be asked. Decisions will need to be made. And nobody has an eye for the details of your home like you do. So take a vacation day, call in sick, work from home — just be there. Watch From A Distance
Various tools and methods can make the installation area hazardous to the health of your children and pets. Find a comfortable space in another room or outdoors while the work is taking place. Conduct A Walk-Thru Before your installer leaves, walk through the installation area together to ensure that every last detail meets or exceeds your expectations. Ask questions and make sure that you “approve” of both the product and the installation before making your final payment. Remember that stone flooring is a natural product and therefore can never be perfect. After the Install If you or your family members are sensitive to dust and odors, make sure the room is well ventilated for the next 48 to 72 hours. Proper prior planning is the key to a smooth and happy installation.
Stone Floor Cleaning & Maintenance
Stone flooring is an investment and one with a good return. It’s almost guaranteed to add value to your home. Taking care of it isn’t hard, but knowledge is power. Click here to find a professional stone floor cleaning company in your area. It’s Its Own Worst Enemy Sand, grit, and dirt can damage natural stone surfaces because they are abrasive. Use a vacuum on your floor if it’s textured. But avoid the beater bar. Those bristles are tough and might scratch your flooring. An old-fashioned dust mop works well, as does a broom. Wet mop as needed. Be Proactive Walk-off mats or area rugs on either side of entrances from the outside will help collect dirt before it reaches your beautiful new floor. Choose a rug or mat with a non-slip surface. There’s Clean And There’s Cleaner Damp mopping your natural stone floor will help keep it looking beautiful. But your retailer or manufacturer can suggest special cleaners meant specifically for stone floors. Wipe up spills immediately. Use soap, not detergent, for good-old fashioned mopping. Liquid Ivory or a castile soap product work well. Too much cleaner or soap may leave a film and cause streaks, so rinse well. Change your rinse water frequently.
Don’t use products that contain lemon juice, vinegar or other acids on marble, limestone, or travertine. Avoid abrasive cleaners or any ammonia-based cleaners. These products will dull the floor’s luster. Retail grout cleaners, scouring powders or bathroom tub and tile cleaners can mar the finish on your stone. Never mix bleach and ammonia. The combination creates a toxic gas. To remove algae or moss from your stone in outdoor pool, patio or hot tub areas, flush with clear water and use a mild bleach solution. Last But Not Least Have a floor warming party! Ask your strongest friends to help you move your furniture back on to your new floor to avoid chipping, scratching, or cursing. Pad the feet of your furniture with felt pads or some other kind of protector to guard against damage. As with all new floors, it’s important to maintain the caulking in areas that are susceptible to water. You don’t want water seeping under your flooring. Remember that each stone has its own level of porosity. The more porous the stone, the more likely it will stain. Sealing your stone floor may be a really good idea. Use a reliable professional. Unlike the proverbial rolling stone, yours have found their place in your home. Enjoy the beauty and timeless quality of your new stone flooring.
FOR BLOG WITH THANKS TO wfca WORLD FLOOR COVERING ASSOCIATION