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RE: A Question About Niches (Follow-Up #2)

posted by: itltrot on 04.05.2011 at 04:11 pm in Bathrooms Forum

These are inspiration pictures I have saved in my bathroom folder.

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We put 1 in our guest bath and have recently discovered it isn't enough for all our stuff. I plan to put 2 larger ones and 2 smaller ones in our masterbath.


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clipped on: 05.11.2011 at 02:05 pm    last updated on: 05.11.2011 at 02:05 pm

RE: bathroom tile FAQ's (Follow-Up #7)

posted by: bill_vincent on 09.21.2008 at 02:30 pm in Bathrooms Forum

This is the tile FAQ I did for the Building a Home Forum. There may be a couple of places where it gets a little repetitive, but for the most part, it's different questions:

1) Can I lay tile over lino/VCT/VAT?
Answer: There are those who say you can, and in some instances this is true. The problem is in properly investigating whether or not your particular case is one of those instances. There are so many variables, and ANY ONE of them could make your floor fail-- is your vinyl cushioned or not? Is it adhered well? In the case of lino, is it perimeter glued, or fully glued? Was there an underlayment used, or was it laid directly over the subfloor (ALL underlayments used for lino are no good under tile-- any one of them will make a tile floor fail)? When it comes down to it, it's a very risky proposition, and when dealing with the time and money investment required to install a new floor, why gamble with it? You're much better off to do it right and take out the vinyl, as well as any underlayment that might be involved, and then start your installation from the subfloor. This way you KNOW it'll be done so that it lasts.

2) How good is premixed thinset?
Answer: Premixed thinset is nothing more than organic adhesive (mastic) with a fine sand mixed in to give it some bulk. For wall applications where mastic is appropriate, It's fine, although I don't see any advantage over traditional mastic. But for the use it was intended, that being replacing portland cement based latex modified thinset, it's an extremely BAD idea, for several reasons. First, ALL mastics are formulated to be used in very thin applications. The thicker it's used, the longer it takes to dry, and for some of the heavier notches that are used in flooring installations, it never completely dries. I personally know of one case where premixed thinset was used on a floor in april, and the following november, it was STILL soft. ANY kind of pliability will cause flex in the tile, which will cause the tile floor to fail, allowing either tile tile, grout, or both to crack. Seondly, even if it's used in a thickness that WILL allow it to dry, all it takes is a little moisture. All mastics are water based, and any moisture will allow the mastic (or premixed thinset) to re-emulsify, again, causing a failure in the floor.

3) Can I tile right over plywood?
Answer: Yes, you can, and it's done on a daily basis. However, you really need to KNOW what you're doing. There are additional steps you need to take care of, as well as pitfalls to watch out for that either don't exist, or aren't as important when using backerboard (CBU-- cementitious backer units) as your underlayment. The thinset you use, how you lay your plywood down, how you SCREW it down, even the species and rating of the plywood used, all make a difference. HERE is a good article that might be of interest. (hyper link the word HERE to http://www.fcimag.com/fci/cda/articleinformation/features/bnp__features__item/0,,131422,00+en-uss_01dbc.html )

4) Do I really need thinset under my backerboard?
Answer: The short answer is ABSOLUTELY. The manufacturer requires it, and if, for some reason, there's a problem with the floor afterward, you've immediately lost any kind of warranty protection. Now, there's a big controversy in the industry right now concerning the TYPE of thinset to use. The manufacturers, for the most part, recommend latex modified thinset, whereas the Tile Council of America (TCA) recommends UNmodifed, or dryset thinset. The reason is that the thinset isn't there to bond the backerboard to the subfloor. If it were, then the modified thinset would make a difference. In reality, it's actually there to fill the paper thin voids between subfloor and backerboard, thereby eliminating another source of flex, or movement, and extending the life of your floor.

5) What size trowel do I need?
Answer: This all depends on the size and thickness of the tile, as well as how smooth or rough the substrate is, and how deep the embossed pattern on the back of the tile is. For the most part, 3/16" v-notch for ceramic mosaics (1x1 and 2x2) or mastic walls, and either 1/4x1/4 square notch or 1/4x3/8 for just about everything else. There ARE some exceptions though. If there is a question as to which you should use in your particular case, your best bet would be to go to johnbridge.com and ask one of the pros there. You'll be sure to get a good concise answer.

6) Do I spread thinset on the tile, the floor, or both?
Answer. Either or both. Usually floors are gridded out, and then the thinset is spread on the floor. It's alot easier and quicker. However, for those who would rather backbutter the tile, that's fine, too, as long as you flat trowel thinset onto the floor to "burn" it into the floor. In other words, you want to make sure you get a good bond by pushing the thinset into the "grain" of the floor, be it concrete, backerboard, or plywood.

7) Can I tile right over my brick fireplace?
Answer: Yes, you can. You might want to make sure the brick is clean and free of any contaminants, such as dust or soot (TSP-- trisodium phosphate works well for this). If the brick is painted, it needs to either be sanded, or if this is a renovation, sandblasted. Do NOT use any kind of chemicals to remove the paint, as they tend to leave behind residues that will inhibit the thinset bond later. Once the brick is clean, your best bet would be to flatcoat the brick with a latex modified thinset. This will do two things for you. First, it'll give you a flat surface to tile over, and secondly, it'll show up any errant bricks that might be sticking out too much, and they can be addressed before the tile is going up. Once the flat coat dries, you can take a rubbing stone to take care of any ridges in the thinset from the trowel.

8) Can I tile over sheetrock?
Answer: So long as it's not a wet area (i.e.-- tub enclosure, shower area, tub deck), yes, you can. Even stone tile will adhere well.

9) My tile's/ grout's cracking! What's happening? Can I just replace it?
Answer: ANY time tile or grout cracks, it's a symptom, not a problem, and just repairing the tile or the grout will not take care of it. Until the REAL problem is found and rectified, the same tile or area of grout will continue to crack, no matter how many times you replace it. 99% of the time, it can be attributed to seasonal movement in the structure, either under, or surrounding the tile in question, and the tile needs to be isolated from that movement. Sometimes it can be as simple a fix as adding soft (caulk) joints. Other times, it may be necessary to either add joisting, or beef up the existing joisting to minimize the deflection of the floor. What the fix is depends on the individual problem, but in all cases, again, the problem has to be identified and resolved before the cracking will stop.

10) Do I really need to seal my grout?
Answer: There are alot of contractors who will tell you yes, and still others who will tell you no. The reason for sealer is to make cleaning and maintenence easier. There has been a trend in recent years to use light colored grouts in the main floors of the home in order to match lighter colored tiles, and a sealer is used to prevent "wear paths"-- darkening of the grout joints in areas of main traffic in the home. Unfortunately, sealers will not prevent this. You're much better off to use either a medium or darker colored grout. As for using sealer in the bathroom, sealer WILL help, but again, over time, grout will discolor somewhat, or "age", and cleaners will be, for the most part, just as effective, with or without sealer. (Obviously, I'm one of those who doesn't believe in them)
11) Should I seal my tile?
Answer: Most tiles should NOT be sealed. Most glazed tiles, as well as porcelains, will not allow the sealer to absorb into the surface, and as a result, it dries on the surface as a white haze, which is a BEAR to remove. The only tiles which should be sealed are most natural stone tiles, quarry tile, or terra cotta.

12) What is "preslope" in a shower pan, and do I really need it?
Answer: In a shower pan, the slope is the pitch from the perimeter to the drain. This allows 90% of the water to run down the surface of the floor and into the drain. Preslope is for that other 10% of the water that seeps into the floor's surface to be caught by the shower pan (floor) liner. It's a slope that goes UNDER the pan liner so as to make sure that any water that gets through the surface will seep down the liner to weep holes surrounding the drain underneath the shower floor, where again, it will be directed to the drain's pipe. Without this preslope, the water sits in the bottom of the shower pan, where it can become a major area for mold, mildew, and bacteria to fester and become a bad health problem. So, yes, you really need it.

13) Can I use mastic in my shower, or over my tub?
Answer: Although on just about every pail of mastic it says "approved for wet areas", no, you can't. Mastic is used extensively in commercial projects for these kinds of areas-- places such as hotels, apartment buildings, college dorms, all use mastic in wet areas, because it's so much faster to install the tile, thereby reducing budget costs. However, they also have maintenence staffs, not to mention that these buildings get renovated every 5- 10 years, and from the contractor's standpoint, the work only has to be warranteed for one year. After that, it's not their problem any more. A home is a different story, though. You want your tile to last for years and years. Once it's up, you want it to STAY up, and last. The problem with mastic is that it's water emulsive, and even after being up for a while, it can still reemulsify, become soft, and even wash out, causing your tile to fail. It's one of the leading causes of tile failure in wet areas.

14) Is tile or grout waterproof?
Answer: No. Even with a grout sealer, most sealers used these days are "breatheable", meaning the moisture can transmit through it, both in and out, so even sealer won't make it waterproof.

15) How long do I wait before sealing?
Answer: This depends on the sealer being used. Because of the different formulations, different sealers require different wating times, anywhere from 3- 28 days, and the best advice I could give you is to check your particular brand of sealer for its recommendation. Generally speaking, there are two types of sealer base-- water and solvent, and the solvent based sealers generally require the shorter waiting period, but they're also much more expensive.

16) Should I use an isolation membrane?
Answer: To use an isolation membrane just as a general rule, it's not necessary. If you have any question at all as to whether or not there would be too much movement in your subfloor without it, then yes, it should be used, whether it be over concrete or wood frame. NOTE-- isolation membranes will greatly decrease the chance of your tile cracking if your movement is lateral (side to side-- in the case of concrete cracks, ones that open and close). However, there's not a membrane made that will address the problem of vertical movement. If you have cracks in a slab where one side of the crack is higher than the other, or in wood frame, where an addition meets the original structure, you'd be much better off to put in an expansion joint that that point.
17) Height of TP holders, towel bars, coat hooks etc etc.
Answer: The best advice is wherever they feel comfortable to you. About the only one that would be somewhat difficult to figure out when it's time to install is the toilet paper holder, and the general rule is about 24-30" off the floor, and 18-24" forward of the toilet flange. AS for the soap dish, you'd want to locate it somewhere where it won't be in the direct line of the showerhead spray, even though the traditional location (middle of the back wall, 6" from the tub) puts it right there. Putting it in the "line of fire" just gives water a chance to work its way behind the soap dish and shorten the life of your shower wall.
18) What kinds of tile can be successfully used outdoors (ie: on porches, patios) and any needed techniques for installing.
Answer: There are two types-- Vitreous tile, which has virtually no absorbsion, and porcelain, which only has approximately .05% absorbsion. As for installation techniques, the biggest differences are:
1), you want to use a thinset that gets mixed with a liquid additive, as opposed to one that's already modified.
2) you want to make sure you use either a polymer modified or epoxy grout.
3) You need to make sure the surface to be tiled is pitched atleast 1/4" per running foot, to make sure water doesn't sit on the tile.
4) In the case of wood frame structure (for something like a deck) you want to make sure you use a good quality waterproofing membrane made for exterior applications. Noble's Nobledeck ( http://www.noblecompany.com/ ) is a good example of this.
5) In the case of slab, you want to honor all expansion and control joints, making sure that you either position your layout so that a grout joint falls over them, or cut the tile along these joints, and either way, caulk them with a good urethane caulking. Latex or silicone won't be strong enough.
6) If there are any cracks in the concrete, or in the case of slab on grade, if you have alot of sand or clay in your soil, or any other kind of ground that's prone to minor shifting, and isolation membrane designed for outdoor applications would be a real good idea.
7) You want to make sure that you do the installation at a time of year where the temp(both air and surface) stays over 50 degrees F. Otherwise problems could occur.
19) Are there different kinds of sealers for different locations, such as bath/shower, floor, kitchen counters?
Answer: When it comes to protectant type sealers, any penetrating sealer can be used in all places. The differences come in the finishing sealers. Do you want the wet or dry look? High gloss, or satin (matte) finish? Smooth or nonslip?
20) Should granite countertops be sealed? If so, how do I do this?
Answer: Some should and some shouldn't. Your best bet would be to ask your distributor (or installer) whether your particular granite should or shouldn't be sealed. As a rule, though, if you put a wet sponge on granite, and when you remove it, it leaves a wet spot, it should be sealed with a good penetrating sealer, which can be wiped on with a soft absorbant cloth.
21) What is the difference between ceramic and porcelain tile? Which is best for indoor flooring and why? How do I know when I am buying a good quality, durable tile--are there ratings I need to be aware of?
Answer: In all actuality, porcelain IS ceramic tile, just made with a much denser clay, and fired at much higher temps. As for which is best, all around porcelain is the answer. It's harder, will take much more abuse, and won't chip scratch, or stain as easily as most others. In addition, it'll stand up to much higher and lower extremes temperature wise. However, especially for residential applications, most glazed floor tiles will stand up to whatever you have in mind. There are two indicators to the quality of the tile you're interested in, when it comes to glazed tile-- first, the PEI (Porcelain Enamel Institute) rating, which rates the hardness of the glaze on a scale of 1-5 as follows:
CLASS 0 - Tiles technically unsuitable for floors
CLASS 1 - Residential and Commercial wall and bare foot traffic
CLASS 2 - Wall and Residential bath floor, soft soled traffic
CLASS 3 - All residential floors and Light Commercial
CLASS 4 - Medium Commercial, Light Industrial and Institutional, moderate soiling
CLASS 5 - Extra heavy traffic, abrasive dirt, chemically more resistant
Secondly, although some may disagree, and there ARE exceptions, price is a good indicator. For the most part, you get what you pay for, and although two tiles may look exactly alike, there may be a big difference in the hardness of the glaze, as well as the density of the bisque, or body of the tile.


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clipped on: 05.11.2011 at 01:59 pm    last updated on: 05.11.2011 at 01:59 pm

bathroom tile FAQ's

posted by: bill_vincent on 07.01.2008 at 09:31 pm in Bathrooms Forum

This is going to take me a while, so I'll post as many as I can each night until it gets done. To start, here's the first set of questions and answers:

Okay, here we go. These questions come from the thread on the discussions side where I solicited questions from everyone for this thread. These are in the order they were asked:

Q) What are the different types of tiles you can use in a bathroom and what are the advantages/disadvantages of each?

A) There are several types of tile available. They fall into two general groups: ceramic and natural stone. I'll take these one at a time:

Ceramic tile-- For purposes of this discussion, there's glazed conventional, unglazed porcelain, and glazed porcelain. All three are good tiles for bathroom use, but the porcelain is a better choice only because of its density and lack of water absorbsion, which makes upkeep and cleaning easier. Also, with reference to steam showers, you DO NOT want to use natural stone, being that the steam would tend to permeate into the stone even more readily than liquid water, and could end up giving you algae problems, as well as mold and mildew problems, unless you don't mind being tied down to your bathroom.

Natural Stone-- There are several types of stone that are used in bathrooms. It doesn't necessarily mean that they're all GOOD IDEAS for bathrooms, expecially the softer (and more absorbant) stones, such as slate or limestone. Now, I know I'm going to get a world of flack about this from epople who have bathrooms finished in these materials. I know they CAN be used.... so long as you're aware of the extra upkeep involved. But if you're someone who doesn't like to keep after things, you may want to pick an easier material to maintain. Generally speaking, the softer the stone, the more the upkeep. Limestone being the softer of the stones, and that would include travertine, next would be many slates (although some would actually be harder than even most marbles, such as brazilian and british slates), then marbles, with quartzite and granite rounding off the list as the harder and more dense stones that you could use.

Q) What should I be sure to look for when choosing tile for a bathroom?

A) Short answer-- something that you like! The bathroom is the one place that just about anything the showroom has can be used. The only limitations are basically the upkeep you want to put in, and slip resistance on the floors of your bathroom and shower. Now, although ceramic tile is basically maintenence free, you don't want to use something with a texture to it that will catch all kinds of junk in the shower, making it more difficult to keep clean. At the same time, you don't want to use a polished stone or bright glazed ceramic tile for the shower floor, either. These both CAN be used, but again, it comes down to upkeep for textured wall tile, and doing something to rectify the slippery floor.

Q) Where should I use tile and where not?

A) Tile can be used on every single surface in the bathroom, if that's what you like. This is all a matter of taste... for the most part. About the only place where there's a requirement is any place there's a showerhead involved. If tile is to be used either in a shower or a tub/ shower combo, The tile MUST go up to a minimum of 72" off the floor. Past that, it's up to the disgression of the owner.

Q) What size tile and what layout patterns to use in various areas?

A) Again, this is a subjective question that can really only be answered by the owner. The ONLY place where there's a recommendation for mechaincal reasons is on a shower floor. TCNA recommends that mothing bigger than 6" be used on shower floors due to the cone shape of the floor's pitch. In addition, most installers will request no bigger than 4", and prefer a 2x2 tile to work with on the shower floor. This is also advantageous to the homeowner who'll be showering in there, because the added grout joints will add more traction to the floor.

Now, I've heard many times that you shouldn't use large format tiles in a small area like a powder room floor, and if you have a wide open bathroom, you don't want to use real small tiles. My response to both is the same-- HORSEHOCKEY. I've done bathrooms both ways-- 24x24 diagonal in a 3' wide powder room, and 1" hex ceramic mosaics in an open 100 sq. ft. bathroom floor. The rule of thumb is if you like it, it's right!

Q) How do I find/choose someone to install the tile?

A) Many people will tell you to get names from the showroom you get your tile from. This is no good, unless the showroom is willing to take responsibility for the installer by either having them on payrool, or as a subcontract. Then they have something to lose if they give you a bad installer. Many people will also tell you to get references and to actually check them out. This ALSO doesn't work. I've been in this work for just under 30 years now, and I've yet to find a single installer who ever gave the name of someone they had a problem with. They say even a blind squirrel will find a nut once in a while. The same can be said for "fly-by-nights" and good work.

So if you can't trust recommendations, and checking references is a lost cause, what do you do? REVERSE THE PROCESS!! Instead of finding an installer and getting references, get references, and thru them, find your installer!! No matter where you live, if you drive around, you'll find constructions sites and developements. Stop and ask who the GC uses. Get a name and phone number. Sooner or later, after asking around enough, you're going to find that the same names will begin to show up time and time again. THESE are the guys you want to use. But don't expect a bargain price, and be prepared to wait, because these guys will be in high demand, even in the worst of times, and they may demand a bit higher price, but they'll be worth every penny, if for no other reason, just because of the peace of mind they'll give you in knowing you're getting a good quality installation. Ask anyone who's gone through this experience, good or bad-- that alone is worth its weight in gold.

Q) What are the proper underlayments for tile?

A) There are several, and I'll take them one at a time:

CBU (cementitious Backer Units)-- This is the term that generally covers all cement boards (such as Wonderboard or Durock) or cement fiber boards (such as Hardibacker). This is the most common used tile underlayment. Generally speaking, it comes in two thicknesses-- 1/2" and 1/4"-- and each has its use. !/2" must be used for wall installations, due to the fact that the 1/4" is way too flimsy with nothing to back it up, and would flex too much to last. Besides, the 1/2" CBU will usually match up nicely to most sheetrocks. The 1/4" is used for floor installations, unless the added height of the 1/2" is needed to match up to other floorings. Being that neither has very much structural strength, so long as the subfloor is 3/4" or more, the 1/4" CBU is all that's needed. Keep in mind that even though it's basically fiberglass reinforced concrete, the only thing it adds to the floor is a stable bonding surface, so the 1/4" will do just fine. One place where alot of contractors will try and shortcut is by using greenboard instead of CBU for shower walls. This is expressly forbidden in the IRC (International Residential Code) by the following code:

IRC Greenboard Code:
The 2006 International Residential Code (IRC) states in
Section R702.4.2 that "Cement, fiber-cement or glass mat
gypsum backers in compliance with ASTM C1288, C1325
or C1178 and installed in accordance with manufacturers
recommendations shall be used as backers for wall tile in
tub and shower areas and wall panels in shower areas."

The 2006 IRC also states in Section R702.3.8.1 that
"Water-resistant gypsum backing board [Greenboard] shall
not be used where there will be direct exposure to water."

Membranes-- There are several around that work well over many different surfaces. Most of them are what's called "Crack Isolation Membranes". Just about every manufacturer has one, from trowel ons or roll ons, such as Hydroment's Ultraset or Laticrete's 9235 or Hydroban, to sheet membranes such as Noble's CIS membrane. All will give the tile a little more protection against movement than just going over CBU. However, there's another class of membranes called "uncoupling membranes" of which the most popular by far is Schluter's Ditra, that are made from bonding two layers together, usually a fabric fleece backing and a plastic sheeting with dovetailed waffling to "lock" the thinset in place ( as opposed to accepting a thinset BOND). These membranes will, as their name implies, uncouple their two layers in case of movement, to save the floor, and for thinset floors, it's the most protection you can give your tile floor.

Plywood-- This is one where I get the most flack. I'm one of a dying breed that still believes in tiling directly over plywood. However, I can very well understand the reluctance of the industry to embrace this installation method, even though the TCNA DOES approve of its use for interior installations (Those with a handbook can check Method F-149). The reason I say that is it's a very "tempermental installation method. You need to be very familiar with what you're doing, or you risk failure. There are even many pros I wouldn't trust to tile using this method. Everything you do is important, from the species of plywood used, to the direction the grain is laid with relation to the joists, to how it's gapped, and a host of other specs, as well-- many of which won't be found in the handbook, and if you miss just one of them, you're flirtin with disaster. All in all, when people ask me about it, I tell them that with the membranes available, there's no need to go directly over plywood. There are other methods that will give you just as long lasting a floor, and aren't NEARLY as sensitive.

Mudset-- This is the oldest, and still, after THOUSANDS of years of use, the strongest installation method available. In a mudset installation, a minimum of 1 1/4" of mortar called "drypack" (mixed to the consistancy of damp sand) is either bonded to a concrete slab, or laid down over tarpaper or 6 mil poly with wire reinforcement, packed, and then screaded off to flat level (or pitched) subfloor. This is what most people see when tiling a shower pan. Initially, the mud will be a somewhat soft subfloor. But over time, if mixed properly, it'll be stronger than concrete.

Q) What are the proper tile setting compounds?

A) This is one where I could write a book. It all depends on what kind fo tile you're installing, and what the underlayment is that you're going over. I'll give a generalized list:

Polymer/ latex modified thinset: For all intents and purposes, this is the "cure-all". For almost any installation the modified thinset, which is basically portland cement, silica sand, and chemical polymers added for strength, will work. There are some that are specialized, such as the lightweight non-sag thinsets (such as Laticrete's 255 or Mapei's Ultralite), or the high latex content thinsets (like Latictrete's 254 Platinum or Hydroment's Reflex), but with the exception of going over some membranes, there's a modified thinset for every installation.

Unmodified thinset: This is the same as above, but with no polymers added. It's usually used in conjunction with a liquid latex additive, but will also be used mixed with water for going over some membranes. It's also used as a bedding for all CBU's.

Medium Bed Mortars-- This is a relatively new class of setting mortars, used mainly for large format tiles, where the normal notched trowels just don't put down enough material, and with thinset, it would be too much, causing too much shrinkage as it dries, causing voids under, and poor bond to, the tile, but at the same time, there's not enoough room for a mudset installation. This mortar is usually used with either a 1/2x1/2" or 1/2x3/4" notched trowel.

Mastics and Premixed Thinsets: THESE HAVE VERY LIMITED USES!! Let me say that again-- THESE HAVE VERY LIMITED USES!! They work well for vertical installations, where the tile used is 8x8 or less, and it's not a wet area. ALL THREE of those conditions must be met!! I know just about every pail of type 1 mastic says it can be used in showers except for the floor. DON'T BELIEVE IT!! Also, both mastic and premixed thinset (which is just mastic with a fine sand mixed in to give it bulk) claim they can be used for floor installations. Unfortunately, for the amount of material needed under virtually all floor tiles to bond to the subfloor, neither of these will fully harden. I had a personal experience where I helped a sister in law across country, telling her husband exactly how to do his main floor, what to use, and how to use it. Unfortunately, he went to the big box store to get his tile and materials, and they talked him into using premixed thinset. I didn't hear about it until SIX MONTHS LATER when his tile and grout joints started showing cracks all over the floor. When he called me I asked him what he used for thinset, and sure enough, this is when he told me. I told him to pull one of the tiles, and SIX MONTHS LATER, IT WAS STILL SOFT!!! DOn't let them talk you into it!! Use the proper thinset, and don't try and shortcut your installation. You're spending alot of money for it to be "just practice"!!

Q) How do you deal with different thicknesses of tile?

A) Whatever it takes. I've used membranes, built up the amount of thinset being used, I've even doubled up tiles when it worked out that way. Whatever it takes to get the two tiles to be flush toeach other.

Q) What are the typical tools required to lay tile?

A) Generally speaking, this is a list for just about all installations. Some may require specialized tools, but this would be for all:

Proper sized notched trowel
measuring tape
chalk line
margin trowel
nippers
high amp low speed drill and mixing paddle (best would be 6 amp or better and less than 400 rpm)
several buckets
score and snap cutter for straight ceramic cuts
4 1/2" grinder with a continuous rim dry diamond blade for ceramic, anything other than straight cuts
wet saw (can be used for ALL cuts, ceramic or stone)
grout float
hydra grout sponges (2-- once for grouting, one for cleaning)
24" and 48" levels (for vertical work)
heavy duty extension cords
KINEE PADS!! :-)
screwgun or nailgun (where CBU will be used)

Q) What about tile spacing and tpes of grout?

A) According to Dave Gobis from the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation in Pendleton, South Carolina, there will finally be a new standard for ceramic tile next year. The tolerances are shrinking. There will also be a standard for rectified tile. Along with that, there will be a revision to the installation standards that will specifically recommend a grout joint no less than 3 times the variation of the tile. For rectified tile the minimum grout joint width will be .075 or just over a 1/16".

As for grout, there's only one thing that determines whether you use sanded or unsanded grout, and that's the size of the grout joint. Anything less than 1/8" you use unsanded grout. 1/8" or larger, you need to use sanded grout. The reason is that the main ingredient in grout is porland cement, which tends to shrink as it dries. In joints 1/8" or larger, the grout will shrink way too much and end up cracking ans shrinking into the joint. The sand give the grout bulk, and the sanded grout won't shrink nearly as much and therefore, can be used in the larger joints.

NOTES:

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clipped on: 05.11.2011 at 01:58 pm    last updated on: 05.11.2011 at 01:58 pm

Stone Information and Advice (& Checklists)

posted by: buehl on 04.14.2008 at 02:56 am in Kitchens Forum

First off, I want to give a big thank-you to StoneGirl, Kevin, Joshua, Mimi, and others (past and current) on this forum who have given us many words of wisdom concerning stone countertops.

I've tried to compile everything I saved over the past 8 months that I've been on this Forum. Most of it was taken from a write-up by StoneGirl (Natural stone primer/granite 101); other threads and sources were used as well.

So...if the experts could review the information I've compiled below and send me comments (here or via email), I will talk to StarPooh about getting this on the FAQ.


Stone Information, Advice, and Checklists:

In an industry that has no set standards, there are many unscrupulous people trying to palm themselves off as fabricators. There are also a number of people with odd agendas trying to spread ill rumors about natural stone and propagate some very confusing and contradictory information. This is my small attempt at shedding a little light on the subject.

Slab Selection:

On the selection of the actual stone slabs - When you go to the slab yard to choose slabs for your kitchen, there are a few things you need to take note of:

  • Surface finish: The finish - be it polished, honed, flamed antiqued, or brushed, should be even. There should be no spots that have obvious machine marks, scratches, or other man made marks. You can judge by the crystal and vein pattern of the stone if the marks you see are man-made or naturally occurring. It is true that not all minerals will finish evenly and if you look at an angle on a polished slab with a larger crystal pattern, you can clearly see this. Tropic Brown would be a good example here. The black spots will not polish near as shiny as the brown ones and this will be very obvious on an unresined slab when looking at an acute angle against the light. The black specks will show as duller marks. The slab will feel smooth and appear shiny if seen from above, though. This effect will not be as pronounced on a resined slab.

    Bottom line when judging the quality of a surface finish: Look for unnatural appearing marks. If there are any on the face of the slab, it is not desirable. They might well be on the extreme edges, but this is normal and a result of the slab manufacturing process.

  • Mesh backing: Some slabs have a mesh backing. This was done at the plant where the slabs were finished. This backing adds support to brittle materials or materials with excessive veining or fissures. A number of exotic stones will have this. This does not necessarily make the material one of inferior quality, though. Quite often, these slabs will require special care in fabrication and transport, so be prepared for the fabricator to charge accordingly. If you are unsure about the slabs, ask your fabricator what his opinion of the material is.
  • Cracks and fissures: Yes - some slabs might have them. One could have quite the discussion on whether that line on the slab could be one or the other, so I'll try to explain it a little.

    • Fissures are naturally occurring features in stone. They will appear as little lines in the surface of the slabs (very visible in a material like Verde Peacock) and could even be of a different color than the majority of the stone (think of those crazed white lines sometimes appearing in Antique Brown). Sometimes they could be fused like in Antique Brown and other times they could be open, as is the case in the Verde Peacock example. They could often also go right through the body of the slab like in Crema Marfil, for instance. If you look at the light reflection across a fissure, you will never see a break - i.e., there will be no change in the plane on either side of a fissure.
    • A crack on the other hand is a problem... If you look at the slab at an oblique angle in the light, you will note the reflection of the shine on the surface of the stone. A crack will appear as a definite line through the reflection and the reflection will have a different appearance on either side of the line - there will be a break in the plane. Reject slabs like this. One could still work around fissures. Cracks are a whole other can of worms.
    • Resined slabs: The resin gets applied prior to the slabs being polished. Most of the resin then gets ground off in the polishing process. You should not be able to see just by looking at the surface of a slab whether it was resined or not. If you look at the rough sides of the slab, though, you will see some drippy shiny marks, almost like varnish drips. This should be the only indication that the slab is resined. There should never be a film or layer on the face of the stone. With extremely porous stones, the resining will alleviate, but not totally eliminate absorption issues and sealer could still be required. Lady's dream is an example. This material is always resined, but still absorbs liquids and requires sealer.
    • Test the material you have selected for absorption issues regardless - it is always best to know what your stone is capable of and to be prepared for any issues that might arise. Some stones indeed do not require sealer - be they resined or not. Baltic Brown would be an example here. It will not absorb one iota of anything, but it is still resined to eliminate a flaking issue.

Tests (especially for Absolute Black) (using a sample of YOUR slab):

  • To verify you have true AB and not dyed: Clean with denatured alcohol and rub marble polishing powder on the face. (Get denatured alcohol at Home Depot in the paint department)
  • Lemon Juice or better yet some Muratic Acid: will quickly show if the stone has alot of calcium content and will end up getting etched. This is usually chinese stone, not indian.
  • Acetone: The Dying usually is done on the same chinese stone. like the others said, acetone on a rag will reveal any dye that has been applied
  • Chips: Using something very hard & metalhit the granite sharply & hard on edges to see if it chips, breaks, or cracks


Measuring:

  • Before the templaters get there...
    • Make sure you have a pretty good idea of your faucet layout--where you want the holes drilled for all the fixtures and do a test mock up to make sure you have accounted for sufficient clearances between each fixture.
    • Be sure you test your faucet for clearances not just between each fixture, but also between the faucet and the wall behind the faucet (if there is one). You need to be sure the handle will function properly.
    • Make sure that the cabinets are totally level (not out by more than 1/8") before the counter installers come in.
    • Check how close they should come to a stove and make sure the stove sits up higher than the counter.
    • Make sure they have the sink/faucet templates to work from.
    • Make sure have your garbage disposal air switch on hand or know the diameter

  • If you are not putting in a backsplash, tell them
  • Double check the template. Make sure that the measurements are reasonable. Measure the opening for the range.
  • Seam Placement: Yet another kettle of fish (or can of worms, depending on how you look at it, I guess!) Seam placement is ultimately at the discretion of the fabricator. I know it is not a really popular point of view, but that is just the way it is. There really is more to deciding where the seam would go than just the size of the slab or where the seam would look best in the kitchen.

    Most stone installations will have seams. They are unavoidable in medium or large sized kitchens. One hallmark of a good fabricator is that they will keep the seams to a minimum. It seems that a good book could be written about seams, their quality, and their placementand still you will have some information that will be omitted! For something as seemingly simple as joining two pieces of stone, seams have evolved into their own universe of complexity far beyond what anybody should have fair cause to expect!

  • Factors determining seam placement:
    • The slab: size, color, veining, structure (fissures, strength of the material an other characteristics of the stone)
    • Transport to the job site: Will the fabricated pieces fit on whatever vehicle and A-frames he has available
    • Access to the job site: Is the house on stilts? (common in coastal areas) How will the installers get the pieces to where they need to go? Will the tops fit in the service elevator if the apartment is on the 10th floor? Do the installers need to turn tight corners to get to the kitchen? There could be 101 factors that will influence seam placement here alone.
    • Placement and size of undermount (or other) cut-outs. Some fabricators like to put seams in undermount sinks, some do not. We, for instance will do it if absolutely necessary, and have done so with great success, but will not do so as general practice. We do like to put seams in the middle of drop-in appliances and cut-outs and this is a great choice for appearances and ease of installation.
    • Location of the cabinets: Do the pieces need to go in between tall cabinets with finished sides? Do the pieces need to slide in under appliance garages or other cabinetry? How far do the upper cabinets hang over? Is there enough clearance between the vent hood and other cabinets? Again the possibilities are endless and would depend on each individual kitchen lay-out and - ultimately -
    • Install-ability of the fabricated pieces: Will that odd angle hold up to being moved and turned around to get on the peninsula if there is no seam in it? Will the extra large sink cut-out stay intact if we hold the piece flat and at a 45 degree angle to slide it in between those two tall towers? Again, 1,001 combinations of cabinetry and material choices will come into play on this question.

    You can ask your fabricator to put a seam at a certain location and most likely he will oblige, but if he disagrees with you, it is not (always) out of spite or laziness. Check on your fabricator's seams by going to actual kitchens he has installed. Do not trust what you see in a showroom as sole testament to your fabricator's ability to do seams.

    With modern glues and seaming methods, a seam could successfully be put anywhere in an installation without compromising the strength or integrity of the stone. If a seam is done well, there is - in theory - no "wrong" location for it. A reputable fabricator will also try to keep the number of seams in any installation to a minimum. It is not acceptable, for instance to have a seam in each corner, or at each point where the counter changes direction, like on an angled peninsula.

    Long or unusually large pieces are often done if they can fit in the constraints of a slab. Slabs as a rule of thumb will average at about 110"x65". There are bigger slabs and quite often smaller ones too. Check with the fabricator or the slab yard. They will be more than happy to tell you the different sizes of slabs they have available. Note, though, that the larger the slabs, the smaller the selection of possible colors. Slab sizes would depend in part on the capabilities of the quarry, integrity of the material or the capabilities of the machinery at the finishing plant. We have had slabs as wide as 75" and as long as 130" before, but those are monsters and not always readily available.

  • Generally, it is not a good idea to seam over a DW because there's no support for the granite, and anything heavy placed at or near the seam would stress the stone, possibly breaking it.
  • Rodding is another issue where a tremendous amount of mis-information and scary stories exist: The main purpose for rodding stone would be to add integrity to the material around cut-outs. This is primarily for transport and installation and serves no real purpose once the stone is secured and fully supported on the cabinets. It would also depend on the material. A fabricator would be more likely to rod Ubatuba than he would Black Galaxy, for instance. The flaky and delicate materials prone to fissures would be prime candidates for rodding. Rodding is basically when a fabricator cuts slots in the back of the stone and embeds steel or fiberglass rods with epoxy in the slots in the stone. You will not see this from the top or front of the installation. This is an "insurance policy" created by the fabricator to make sure that the stone tops make it to your cabinets all in one piece
  • Edges: The more rounded an edge is, the more stable it would be. Sharp, flat edges are prone to chipping under the right (or rather wrong) circumstances. Demi or full bullnose edges would almost entirely eliminate this issue. A properly milled and polished edge will be stable and durable regardless of the profile, though. My guess at why ogee and stacked edges are not more prevalent would be purely because of cost considerations. Edge pricing is determined by the amount of work needed to create it. The more intricate edge profiles also require an exponentially larger skill set and more time to perfect. The ogee edge is a very elegant edge and can be used to great effect, but could easily look overdone if it is used everywhere. We often advise our clients to combine edges for greater impact - i.e., eased edge on all work surfaces, and ogee on the island to emphasize the cabinetry or unusual shape.
    Edge profiles are largely dependent on what you like and can afford. There is no real pro or con for regular or laminated edges. They all have their place in the design world. Check with your fabricator what their capabilities and pricing are. Look at actual kitchens and ask for references.


Installation:

  • Seams:
    One hallmark of a good fabricator is that they will keep the seams to a minimum [StoneGirl]

    • A generic good quality seam should have the following characteristics:
      • It should be flat. According to the Marble Institute of America (MIA) a minimal amount of lippage is acceptable (1/32"), but conscientious fabricators all strive for a perfectly flat and smooth joint.
      • It should be narrow - as in smaller than 1/16". (I think the MIA stipulates no larger than 1/8", but that is pushing it - and only if the fabricator bevels the edges of the seam, almost similar to the edge of a stone tile. This is, thank goodness, not a standard practice any more!)
      • The color on either side of the seam should match as closely as possible. On regularly patterned stones like Ubatuba for example - there should be no variation. On stones with variation in colors or veins, the match should be made as close as was humanly possible.
      • Vein direction should flow. The MIA suggests a single direction of vein flow, but it is acceptable IF DISCUSSED WITH THE CLIENT to change vein direction on a seam if no other option is available. This would happen in book matched slabs - you will have a "butterfly" seam in this case. In other cases, the fabricator could put a miter seam in a corner and change vein direction 90 degrees. This is usually done with extremely linear veining like Bamboo Green, for example, but this is something that should be discussed with the fabricator and agreed upon by the client.
      • The seam on the finished edge of the stone should NOT dip in and create a divot in the edge. When you run your fingers over the edge, you should not be able to feel the location of the seam at all.
      • The thickness of the slabs on either side of the seam should be equal (or feathered out so that there is no discernible difference)
      • The glue in the seam should be of a color that matches the stone as closely as possible. Glue joints that are too light or too dark will show up something terrible. The idea behind tinting the glue is to try to make the seam "disappear" or something relatively close to it

  • Checklist:
    • Check the seams for evenness and smoothness.
      • Make sure that the seams are neat and clean.
      • Make sure that the seams are not obvious.
      • Make sure the seams are butted tight
      • Make sure that there are no scratches, pits, or cracks

    • If sealing is necessary (not all granites need to be sealed):
      • Make sure that the granite has been sealed
      • If more than one application of sealer was applied, ask how long they waited between applications
      • Ask which sealer has been used on the granite.

    • Make sure the sink reveal is consistent all the away around
    • Check the gap of the granite at the wall junctions.
    • Check for inconsistent overhangs from the counter edges
    • Check for chips. These can be filled.
    • Make sure the top drawers open & close
    • Make sure that you can open & close your dishwasher
    • Make sure the stove sits up higher than the counter
    • Make sure that you have the appropriate clearances for your appliances
    • Check the edge all around, a good edge should have the following characteristics:
      • Shine: The edge polish should match the top polish in depth and clarity. The edge should not be milky, dull, or waxy.
      • The edge should not have "waves". Eyeball along the edge. A good edge should have a mirror like reflection and be fairly flat. Waves that you can see or feel are not a good thing.
      • The aris (very top of the edge) should be crisp and straight, even on a bullnose edge. Once again you can see this by eyeballing along the very top end of the edge profile. A wavy, dippy aris is poor craftsmanship.
      • A good edge will have a consistent profile. It will not be larger in some spots or smaller in others.
      • A good edge should also have NO tooling lines. These will be fine lighter/white lines running along the edge. This is a mark of a poor edge polish, of a CNC machine that is not set correctly, and a lack of hand finishing. This is common when a company has only mechanical fabrication (i.e., CNC machines or line polishers) and no skilled hand fabricators to finish the work properly.

    • Run your hands around the entire laminated edge of yor counters to make sure they are smooth
    • Check surrounding walls & cabinets for damage

Miscellaneous Information:

  • More than all the above and below, though, is to be present for both the templating as well as having the templates placed on your slabs at the fabricator's
    If you canot be there, then have a lengthy conversation about seam placement, ways to match the movement, and ways to color-match the counters that will be joined at the seam
  • Find a fabricator who is a member of the SFA
  • When they polish your stone for you don't let them wax it. It will look terrible in 2 months when the wax wears off.
  • Don't use the Magic Eraser on granite--especially AB
  • Any slab with more fill (resin) than stone is certainly a no-no!!
  • When you do check for scratches, have overhead lighting shining down so scratches are easier to see
  • Don't let them do cutouts in place (granite dust becomes a major issue)
  • Granite dust can be a problem...some have heard of SS appliances & hoods damaged by the dust, others have heard of drawer glides being ruined by the dust
  • If you have wood floors--especially if you're in the process of staining or finishing them--make sure that they don't spill or drip granite sealer on the wood floors. Apparently the sealer interferes with the stain or finish process.
  • Suggested Prep for Installation:
    • Remove any drawers and pullouts beneath any sections that will be cut or drilled onsite, e.g., sink cutouts and/or faucet, soap dispenser, air gap, instant hot etc. holes, cooktop cutouts.
    • Then just cover the glides themselves with a few layers of blue painter's tape (or some combo of plastic wrap and tape)
    • If you make sure to cover the top of the glides and attach some of the tape to the cab wall as well (to form sort of a seal)and cover the rest of the glides completely with tape, you should be fine.
    • Usually the fabricators will have someone holding a vacuum hose right at the spot where they are drilling or cutting, so very little granite dust should be landing on the glides. What little dust escapes the vacuum will be blocked by the layer(s) of tape.
    • When done w/installation, remove the tape and use a DustBuster (or similar) on all the cabinets and glides

  • Countertop Support:
    • If your granite is 2 cm thick, then there can be no more then 6" of of unsupported span with a 5/8" subtop
    • If your granite is 3 cm thick, then there can be no more then 10" of unsupported span - no subtop required
    • If you need support, the to determine your corbel dimensions:
    • Thickness of Stone - Dimension of Unsupported Span = Corbel Dimensino
    • i.e., an 18" total overhang in 2 cm would require a 12" corbe; the same overhang in 3 cm would require an 8" corbel

NOTES:

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clipped on: 04.24.2011 at 09:03 pm    last updated on: 04.24.2011 at 09:03 pm

RE: Help! Pics of Bay Windows ASAP Please! (Follow-Up #4)

posted by: franki1962 on 05.19.2009 at 02:09 pm in Kitchens Forum

Here is our bay window in the kitchen (Anderson 30 degree bow)
through my window

and

sink cabinetry


NOTES:

kitchen window
clipped on: 04.24.2011 at 08:38 pm    last updated on: 04.24.2011 at 08:39 pm

RE: Show off your exotic granite countertops! (Follow-Up #27)

posted by: cloud_swift on 04.11.2011 at 06:23 pm in Kitchens Forum

Looking at the other posts, I figured that I should have added some pictures that show our Azul do Mar closer-up as one can't really appreciate the pattern in that picture. Our fabricator made trim pieces to go around our range top.

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Columbia Gorge Stoneworks made wall plates out of granite we sent them (mostly our sink cutouts) for the outlets and swtiches on the backsplash:

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NOTES:

Granite wall plates!!
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RE: Show off your exotic granite countertops! (Follow-Up #22)

posted by: marble_com on 04.11.2011 at 09:54 am in Kitchens Forum

I LOVE the Blue Bahia...one of my favorite stones! Blue coloring looks so funky and unique on granite, that is why it's so rare ;-) But the one that really makes my jaw drop every time I look at it, is the always stunning Van Gogh / Blue Louise:


NOTES:

van gogh/louise blue
clipped on: 04.18.2011 at 10:19 am    last updated on: 04.18.2011 at 10:19 am

From mid centurty ugly to my dream bathroom 95% done

posted by: jenskitchen on 12.30.2010 at 03:46 pm in Bathrooms Forum

We are almost done with our bathroom renovation. I'm too excited about it to wait for the finishing touches before I post it. Still to come is a mirror with 1" bevel to be installed in vanity, frameless glass to be installed in shower and baseboard heat cover being made. Thank you for all of your help during my many mini meltdowns.

We went from this...

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There was one electrical outlet in the hole bathroom and it was in the medicine cabinet.

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We closed off this door and moved the shower to that side.

So here is our new vanity...

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Our new shower
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We will put white wood blinds on the window and a cover for the heater

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Here are the details:

Shower fixtures, towel bars: Restoration Hardware Asbury
Floor and shower walls: 12x12 honed carrara tiles set in a running bond pattern with delorean gray grout
Floor in shower: Cobsa thin basketweave
Light: Landmark Lighting
Knobs: Lookintheattic.com
Vanity: Custom built
Makeup Mirror: Kimball Young hardwired
Paint: Trim and vanity is Glacier White and walls and ceiling is Stonington Gray

NOTES:

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clipped on: 03.22.2011 at 09:01 pm    last updated on: 03.22.2011 at 09:01 pm

RE: How to finish tile at shower ceiling? (Follow-Up #8)

posted by: bill_vincent on 11.08.2007 at 07:57 am in Bathrooms Forum

I'll usually run them so that as you come into the area, you're looking at the length of them.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket


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clipped on: 03.19.2011 at 11:10 am    last updated on: 03.19.2011 at 11:10 am

RE: How to End Pencil Liner - Photos Appreciated (Follow-Up #3)

posted by: pepperidge_farm on 05.22.2010 at 11:51 am in Bathrooms Forum

finally remembered the name of the poster that did a fantastic tile job that I think incorporates some of the elements you are trying to do...

unfortunately I think a post with lots of other pics got lost, but you can get the idea! He has a pencil that doesn't run all the way, I think, and he miters the chair and those incredible cuts!

(Bill if you read this, this was the one I was trying to remember some weeks back :-)

Here is a link that might be useful: A few of codnuggets photos


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clipped on: 03.19.2011 at 11:07 am    last updated on: 03.19.2011 at 11:07 am

RE: How to End Pencil Liner - Photos Appreciated (Follow-Up #2)

posted by: kitchenkrazed09 on 05.22.2010 at 10:53 am in Bathrooms Forum

Yes, you've pointed out the exact problem. If I end the pencil liner before the shower tile, the subways will be off. It should be in the shower only, so it may work. I didn't really want to run the pencil liner in the shower, because it will be rather low on the shower wall (about 39" up) and since it's so skinny (" - it's not like running a listello through the shower), that I'm afraid it will just look odd.

I'm attaching a link to a bathroom that will have a similar tile layout to what we will have installed. I couldn't really tell from the photos what was done in this bathroom, but it looks like the pencil liner was ended at the exact spot where the shower doors were installed. I'm a little worried about having to be that exact, however.

The chair rail for my tile does not have an end cap unfortunately. I was told at the tile store that two pieces can be mitered together, similar to how crown molding is ended. Not sure if this is accurate?

Here is a link that might be useful: Similar Tile Layout


NOTES:

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clipped on: 03.19.2011 at 11:07 am    last updated on: 03.19.2011 at 11:07 am