Tommy’s Tips: Bathroom Tiling

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I was at my sister’s house recently for a wonderful Sunday lunch, her dining room is effectively a large conservatory across the rear of the house overlooking farmland. The sun was shining, and it was exceptionally warm for the time of year, and with the bi-fold doors folded back, it really was Alfresco dining, and I have to admit hot spring weather gets me in a very excitable mood, which usually leads to the consumption of copious amounts of alcohol, particularly if the company’s good, the beer’s cold and the wine exceptional, well at least I think it was! My memory of that afternoon becomes a bit fuzzy far too early on, and my recollection of the evening’s events, well let’s just say it’s blank! Which is probably how I got myself committed to renewing my sisters bathroom floor (in front of witnesses she reminded me the next morning as I attempted to extract myself from the commitment)

Apparently it started all because of my aversion to carpets generally, and in bathrooms particularly. The debate became quite heated apparently when I said it was unhygienic, and my sister said not in my bathroom, well it’s down to me and my big mouth that I’m left to “put up, or shut up”.

Even though my sister (who’s a bit OCD) regularly shampooed the bathroom carpet, when I lifted it, I found staining on the underlay, and when I removed that, found three layers of floor covering, the top two were vinyl, and the bottom layer was linoleum. The two layers of vinyl were difficult to take up as they’d been stuck down with adhesive, and you have to be careful, because you don’t know what’s underneath. I used a trade floor lifter , which is effectively an 8inch (200mm) wide steel scraper attached to a 6.5ft (2 mtrs) steel tube, which got it up pretty quick. If vinyl is stuck to a screeded floor, you may have to buy or hire a lightweight Hilti hammer tool with a special stainless steel flat blade to remove the vinyl mechanically.

Under the lino was hardboard nailed over the floor boards with ring nails, which was easy to remove leaving just the floorboards. If putting new vinyl, whether tiles or sheet, plywood sheeting would have to be laid over the floor boards, otherwise the gaps and every detail would show through the vinyl.   I would suggest a minimum thickness of 12mm countersunk and screwed down every six inches ensuring the screws are not longer than the plywood and the floorboard thickness together, (usually 25mm or 30mm).

I removed the floor boards completely (the plumber and electrician had made a dogs dinner of the boards anyway!) as I wanted to inspect the joists and pipework. I treated all the joints with a 5 star wood treatment, and cut ¾ (18mm) plywood to fit the floor. I marked all the joist centre positions on the walls, and carefully measured and drew the pipe positions and runs on the plywood surface with a permanent marker, to ensure avoiding puncturing any pipes. Ensure coated screws are used to avoid rusting, (I prefer SPAX screws) and set the clutch on the cordless drill / driver to avoid driving the screws too deep, just below or level with the surface is ideal.

My sister wanted a hard-wearing  tiled floor, so I suggested she chose porcelain tiles, so hard wearing, she’d never damage or wear them out, and the manufacturers can make them look like any natural stone finish you want, and are normally between 8-12mm thick, so by lifting the original floorboards, I removed any potential trip hazard, and matched perfectly the hallway carpet. I snapped two chalk lines to find the floor centre, and laid the tiles out dry to work out the minimum waste, and equal cuts. I used a flexible water-based adhesive, in powder form and mixed enough to allow me to keep within the “open” time of the adhesive. Using a 5mm notched trowel to spread the adhesive I fixed all the full tiles and left to set, so I could stand on them the following day and fit the cuts. When the whole floor was fully cured, I applied a suitable coloured waterproof grout, and applied with a rubber grouting float, wiping off the excess with a damp sponge, before the grout hardened. I tooled the joints with a bent piece of thin copper pipe, polishing off the dusty surface with a dry cloth. The final task was to apply a colour matching silicon seam between the wall and floor around the complete bathroom, fix the W.C back in place and the job was done.

I do think next time I go to my sisters for lunch, I might drink rather more sparkling water than wine, lesson learned! 

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