The very first room we decided to get started on was the master bathroom. We figure the livable needs that would get us into the house was bathroom, bedroom, and partial kitchen. The bathroom seemed like a nice place to start due to the immediate benefits of a toilet's presence at the construction site.
We started the bathroom by tiling the floor. Titus first cut some cement board to size.
Then he mixed up some modified thinset called Flexbond to cement the cement board to the sub-floor.
After the floor had been thinsetted and screwed down, we used FibaTape to level out the seams.
To do this, I filled the gaps with thinset, stretched section of FibaTape over the seam, and flattened/evened it out with one of those metal spatula type things. Basically you just want all the seams to be an even surface with the rest of the cement board.
We then had a fully prepared surface for tiling! But let it dry overnight before we actually started.
We bought an 8 foot heating mat from Home Depot. It was only going to cover half the width of the room, which wouldn't be a big deal because the other half of the room is under the vanity and toilet.
We used the super lame double sided tape to secure the mat to the cement board. Titus had to chisel out some spots for the very end of the wire and the heat sensor so they didn't create a high spot in the tile.
Titus then drilled a hole through the floor for the heating mat wire and the sensor wire. The electrician installed the wire for the heating mat and sensor in a box near the light switch. He had also strung a pull wire from that box through the floor for us to pull the mat wires up by. So after we drilled the heating mat wire and sensor through the floor we pulled them back up through the bathroom wall into the thermostat box. Hopefully you followed that...
So we now had a nice straight heating mat installed on half of our bathroom. What happened next is where everything went bad....
We had chosen a lovely black and white basket weave tile for floor. It came in 10" x 10" sheets of little tiles. We chose to install the tile right over the mat skipping the optional step of pouring a thin layer of self leveling cement. The biggest problem with this is that you cannot trowel over the heating mat because it could sever the wires, and the floor without the heating mat is obviously lower than the floor with the mat. I thought I would just be able to add more thinset to the non heat mat side and it would be all good.
This was a bad choice, especially for our small tile. The point of the trowel is that all tiles get the same amount of thinset, however when you add more thinset, it is easy for individual tiles to get pushed down further than others creating a very wavy surface. It was impossible to control all of this. In addition the tiles that pushed down further would push up more thinset in the gaps and it became a huge disaster.
That all being said, I shall continue on with our process, because we pushed through this difficulty and just went with the wavy floor. After all, it's just our private bathroom right? (that's what I tell myself)
The next step was to dry fit some tile so we didn't end up with tiny tiles on an end which would be impossible to cut.
After deciding on a good starting spot, we snapped two perpendicular lines to run the tile along.
I then went to work on the tiling. You may notice we chose white thinset since our grout was going to be lighter in color than the darker thinset used under the cement board.
We didn't use any spacers between sheets since they aren't really applicable for basket weave. I just eyeballed the connecting point and hoped it all worked out by the end.
Another problem was that when you lay a tile there are four edges that have thinset extending beyond its edges, however, you can only add a tile to one edge. So as you go on, there is always an edge drying out before you can get a tile there. This also added to our wavy floor, since we would have to put tile sheets on edges of tile sheets that already had dried thinset.
We also had to strategically tile so that we could get to the closet and still have somewhere to stand while doing it, and so that we tiled all the way to the closet, but still left a path to get back out of the room.
To go around edges where entire sheets wouldn't fit we would just cut whole tiles off of the sheets, then use a small tile clipper to create smaller pieces when needed.
We never really needed to make a perfect cut because the edges would be covered by either the toilet, vent cover, transition strip, baseboard, or shower tile... so we weren't super careful about our cuts.
We made sure to only mix enough thinset that could be used in about an hour so that it wouldn't dry out. Titus would mix me more batches while I rested my poor dying knees.
Then finally, at 10:22pm, after a whole day of kneeling, I placed the ceremonial last tile.
I was barely able to straighten my knees and back at that point. I have caught a lot of softball games in my day, but nothing was harder on the knees than tiling. It is miraculous tilers aren't confined to wheel chairs.
Even though I could tell the tile was pretty wavy, it actually turned out decent. The sheets all ended up pretty close to the right spacing on all sides by the end which was relieving since I didn't use any spacers.
The only time you can really see the waviness, is when the sun is out and you are looking at the tile from our closet.
We let the tile set up for a week before we started grouting.
To prep for grout, I first used a utility knife and my nails to clean any thinset on the tiles, or any that had risen to high in the gaps. I had heard horror stories of how hard it was to remove dried thinset from tiles, but it was actually pretty easy. After, all the tiles were cleaned, I shopvacced the whole floor to remove any dust and debris.
We chose Polyblends #165 Delorean Gray grout from Home Depot. Titus mixed some up to a slightly thinner than mayonnaise consistency according to the directions. I used a foam float to spread the grout. A foam float worked best because of the unevenness of the tile. The pros who produce level floors (what a luxury) seem to use more rubber like trowels.
Per the instructions, I applied the grout and let it sit for 10-20 minutes before wiping the floor with a barely damp sponge.
I removed as much excess grout as I could with the barely damp sponge. Then, we let it sit for 2 hours as the directions stated. By this time there was a thin dry layer of haze over everything.
The directions then said to use a "cheese cloth" to remove the haze. I don't know where you get one of those, so I just used a random old towel from my parents' house.
I had to rub pretty hard to remove the haze, and actually had to put a respirator on because it put a lot of dust in the air.
But the hard scrubbing really spiffer 'er all up. The haze was removed and the edges of the tile were cleaned up very nicely.
But until then, I will look at it in disbelief that we are actually making progress!