The Beast That is Laying Floor Tile

by ziggy on September 20, 2011 -- 5 comments -- Follow


Laying floor tile in Gobcobatron

I’m never doing this again, I swear.

That was all I could tell myself during the first two days of laying floor tile in Gobcobatron. (Except with a few more expletives thrown in.) What a project! Thankfully, whereas the first two days of laying tile were absolute hell, it did get better over the next three days. It was an utter job, though.

April and I decided to do a tile floor finish in the house, partly for aesthetics, partly for functionality, partly for durability. Our original earthen floor was not super great. It was gritty, cracked quite a bit when it dried, and it was pretty delicate. I blame terrible initial drying conditions, and moisture seeping up from below. And a pretty novice installation, too.

Although I wanted to do another earthen floor, April really pushed for the tile, so it was decided: we found some dirt cheap Brazilian terracotta tile. It had been in a building supply store’s warehouse for 20 years (!) collecting dust, and the guy wanted it out, so we paid $.25 per tile. Even though we weren’t taken with its look at first, we knew it wouldn’t get cheaper than that, so we snatched up 550 of them. We actually both really like how it looks now.

Anyway, as I was saying: the first two days sucked, big time. It took us a long time to figure out how to best break the tile, because these terracotta tiles are very thick, very brittle. A tile cutter does nothing. It came down to sawing a break line and then breaking them with a mallet, and even then, it was not at all easy.

Combine that with the “unique” shape of our floor (read: super irregular), and the slightly irregular shapes of the tile, and working with clay for adhesive, and having never done tile before, we were setting ourselves up for a frustrating experience. Laying tile is not easy. It’s precise work and little errors carry through.

The learning curve was very steep. Mountainous. I nearly gave up several times, but I cooled my engines enough to take time to be slow and learn the technique, and find tricks to speed the process along, and to be more accurate.

All told, it took a full five days to tile the floor, and another day and a half to grout it. Now we have to go back over the whole thing and literally scrape every single tile to be clean. And rub them with a damp cloth. Oh right, and then seal them.

Wow. So I said “never again” originally, but I might do it again…. just hopefully not a whole floor’s worth of tiling.

More soon on the actual process.

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  • Jennifer

    i can’t wait to see what it looks like!

  • Dan

    Way to go on finishing the tile. Sooo many projects I’ve uttered the same words “Never again!”. Can be very frustrating doing projects for the first time but it is all a big learning exercise.
    I think it’ll look great

  • Brina

    If it’s any consolation, it’s lookin’ really nice.

  • That was a big job. But tile floor has many advantages (it can give a feel of modern home though). These tiles are over 20 years of age, still looking very natural on the floor.
    You have done really a great job, to tile the floor. Keep it up. As it was hard first two days, I could have given up, but you finished the job, Bravo.

  • Charmaine Taylor

    Hi Z– I see you chose to NOT start in the middle/center with a snapped chalk line as is standard tile practice. (as per the official tile books and DVDs) at least from the photo it looks like you started against the walls. I have read that doing it by starting at the wall does introduce all sorts of wonky off kilter tiles.

    Is ther any reason not to have just used cob up to the tile height as no foot traffic hits those areas?, and furniture etc does keep moving… so it could have been like a 4″- 6″ (or so) cob band around the tile floor.

    keep working hard!

    my best to you

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