Thursday, April 16, 2009

Tiling the easy way

I've been slowly fixing up the boys' bathroom - I painted, repaired a hole, and then finally got around to changing the flooring. We had linoleum, which I hear is making a comeback. I love linoleum - it's durable, environmentally friendly, one-piece (no water seeping into cracks, great for bathrooms), and comes in tons of looks and patterns. Check out this article about linoleum on This Old House. Unfortunately, real linoleum is quite expensive and most dealers and big box stores just stock vinyl, which often gets called linoleum too (even though it's not).

My family is not sure how long we will be in our house, but it could be several year still. We wanted different flooring in the bathroom, but didn't want to spend a lot of money. In the end, I opted for vinyl tiles. They are cheap (around $1/sq ft), easy to install (self adhesive), and durable enough for us. They also come in lots of patterns, many mimicking the popular ceramic and slate tiles.

I chose to install the vinyl tiles right over my linoleum for a couple reasons: if water seeps between the tiles, the linoleum underneath is seamless and the water won't get to the foundation, but mostly because I was too lazy to rip out the old flooring and scrape glue off the concrete underneath.

When laying vinyl tiles over existing flooring, you have the choice to butt them up against the baseboards, or remove the baseboards and replace them again afterwards. I wanted new baseboards too, and since the cost was minimal in a small bathroom I ripped mine out. I did it during nap time one day on a whim. It took about 5 minutes. Unfortunately I didn't get around to installing the tile and new baseboards for about a month, but baby steps, right?

Here are the steps for removing baseboards:

1. Cut through the caulk between the baseboard and the wall. If you don't do this you can peel the paint right off the wall, or even the paper off the drywall. You can do the whole wall at once or work in 2-3 foot sections.

2. Use a tool to pry the baseboards from the wall. I use a special, angled screwdriver with a claw tip, but a regular one will do in a pinch. I use a hammer to wedge it in, then push out the moulding. You just have to be careful not to damage your wall. That's why I like the angle of this tool, because I have more room for leverage. Some people want to save the baseboards to re-install, but I was tossing mine, so I didn't worry about them cracking, splintering, or breaking. Demolition is very satisfying.

3. Vacuum up all the detritus that ends up underneath your walls. Are you sad that I'm covering up this gorgeous linoleum?

On to installing the new tile:

The first step is to make sure the floor is clean and dry, no matter what you are laying the tile over. The vinyl tiles have adhesive backs, so you just stick them down, but if there's dirt or dust they won't stay down well.

It is important to map out how you will lay the tile before you start. It's nice to start with one tile in a corner, to make for less cutting, but that's not always the best idea. You need to make sure your last row of tiles isn't less than 4 inches or something (whatever the directions say). Here's an example. This is my bathroom, roughly. I actually laid these tiles out, without attaching them. The figure on the left shows that the last tile will need to be cut a little. The figure on the right shows that the last tile will be a little short. And rather than have a small tile, it is better to cut the tiles on both ends of the row.

Do you have this?

You need to do the same for the width and length of the room. If your walls are not square you can end up with rows of tile that don't align with the walls. This is a bigger issue when you are tiling a larger room. With vinyl tiles that just match up to each other in the seams you can start in the middle of the room if you want. You don't have that luxury with tongue and groove flooring like laminate.

I started in the middle row, but next to my tub. I wanted a full tile next to the tub, where we stand a lot - even if that meant a slightly shorter tile on the opposite side (but still more than 6 inches). Basically I have the figure on the left and just cut down the last row of tiles a little. I laid the row next to the wall slightly past the linoleum underneath, so that they would extend about 1/2 inch underneath the new baseboards. This did make for a short row next to the wall behind the toilet - but no one walks back there so I didn't mind.

Now you just peel and stick. You have to peel the paper backing off slowly, so it doesn't rip. The adhesive is pretty good, but not like glue where you couldn't peel a tile up and reposition it. Place the tiles as close to each other as possible, keeping the seams exactly square at the corners. Once you put a tile down, secure it all over by applying pressure. Here's a shot of my first few tiles.

And now comes the cutting:

It's pretty satisfying to lay down whole tiles and you cover the area very quickly. And you can do all the whole tiles first if you want. But at some point you will get to the edges and need to cut a tile to fit. Vinyl tiles can be cute with heavy scissors, a utility knife, etc. The scissors worked the best for me. But even with a small bathroom my hands were sore and almost blistered the next day from the cutting - it's hard work! Straight line cuts are pretty easy. I used a measuring tape, a dry erase marker, and a straight edge. You can just measure the area you need to fill, mark it on the tile, and cut.

The official method of cutting tiles (of any material) is as follows:

* Lay a loose tile directly over the last tile in the row
* Lay another loose tile flat against the wall/bathtub/flat edge, overlapping the first loose tile
* Draw/cut along the line where the two loose tiles meet
* See the cutaway diagram below

The hardest part of laying tile comes when you need to cut for irregular objects. For bathrooms the round toilet base can be tricky. Vinyl tiles have an advantage over other tiles because you can do a curved cut. I will tell you how I fit these tiles, but I'm sure there are better ways. I was glad my tiles were only $1 each because I did start over a couple times.

I cut the tile down to roughly the correct size if necessary, then cut out the curved shape I needed. I totally free handed it, drawing the shape as shown, and then cutting in down again and again until it fit well. This is why my cutting hand was sore. Does anyone know a better way than this? It was labor intensive, but it worked for me since there were only a few tiles to cut this way.

When you finish all the tile, you can choose to caulk the edge in some spots. I caulked along the tub and around the base of the toilet. i just bought white bathroom caulk and followed the instructions roughly, although I use my fingers to smooth.

Here's a shot of the finished product. The new baseboard against the right wall was just laid in place to see how it would look. Watch for my upcoming post on installing baseboards! It's already half-way written.

Please check out my other Do It Herself projects. I'm very proud of them!

I submitted this post to DIY Day at A Soft Place to Land.


Megan said...

You are the woman! That kind of stuff brings out my neurotic perfectionism and freezes me in my tracks...

One other bit about linoleum... it actually has to be waxed. (Right?)

Kirby3131 said...

I love Lino. My dream is to have a kitchen floor in three or four different colors of lino in some fab design. It will cost a fortune. It will also be in some future house that can handle that type of floor LOL

Your bathroom floor turned out wonderful! The one thing I would have done was to make a template around the toilet base with a piece of newspaper or taped together sheets of printer paper. That way you would have only had to cut the tiles once.

Great job! Can't wait to see the rest.

Becky said...

Great explanation of how to do it! You rock as usual.

Jennie said...

Your bathroom floor looks beautiful! I am so impressed! Now, do you know how to take up real tile? That's what we need to do in our bathroom.

I have been meaning to tell you that good reads site has given me 2free books so far! Great deal.

jeanna eggers said...

You're amazing!! The bathroom looks great, baseboards, floor and all!! I still cant get over how you designed and installed your kitchen! Putting on the hinges were project enough for me :)

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