Chronicles of the Design & Construction of Two Waterfront Hurricane Proof Dry Stack Modular Green Custom Homes
1. Villa Lagoon, Wilder Italian Style Home
2. Nasello Italian Style Home

Dec 2008 - Whole House of Cement Tile Floors

A BIG job !

This is page 1 of 2. You can find the second page here.

Our crew of Mexican tile layers has been really busy the last week laying our cement tile on the top floor and a couple of places on first floor.

David was our primary tile setter. He spent days on his knee-pads and was still smiling at the end of the day.

We went thru a whole lot of sacks of thinset while putting down the magnesium oxide board underlayment and then later, the cement tile.

The first floor to get tile was the downstairs bathroom. I knew that we would be making cuts due to the irregular shape, so I told David to center the Sailboat "Sunnyday" cement tile design on the doorway and to use solid Light Turquoise in the threshold area. We had a bit of a language barrier, so I lay the tile out to show him.

We could see that we might run out of tile so I told David to use some less than perfect tile in the area where the sink cabinet was going to go. I wanted it tiled wall-to-wall in case anyone ever wanted to remodel the sink and cabinet but there are areas near the wall that I am pretty sure wouldn't be easily seen no matter what kind of sink was there. 

Back in the corner, under the eventual cabinet, I told David it was OK to use an non-matching section of tile. It will be covered anyway. We used some of the early strike-offs that the tile factory has sent. The yellow in the sunshine didn't show correctly and the color choice had to be adjusted. I was getting scared that we might not find any more boxes of this Sailboat 'Sunny Day' cement tile. Every day I kept moving boxes in the container and looking to see if more was buried under other tile.

On the left is Adrian measuring to cut a tile. The wet saw was out on the first floor porch and the mess didn't matter. Adrian ran back and forth mixing thinset and with cut pieces of tile.

The next day, I was there when Jorge and Louis started putting the tile up on the wall over the tub. I was doing a zillion other things besides taking the occasional photo of their progress. I did not stop to read the instructions on the adhesive they were using to put the tile on the walls. I don't think they did either. Maybe it wasn't in Spanish, but I doubt that.

When I got back the next morning, I saw that one of the special corner tile at the end of the Trellis Shell "Aqua" border was not set. I found the tile broken in the next room. This shows why it is imperative that one orders extra tile for any job. Luckily I had 2 more of the corner tiles, as this same border is suppose to go around a floor that is not laid. I will have to make sure to order extra for the floor in my next order.

I still had high-hope of using the beautiful gleaming aqua toilet that I had found after Hurricane Ivan and stored for four years. Dave had spent a whole afternoon scrubbing the three toilets I had salvaged. They were covered in layers of rust and gooey wax residue from the seal.

I also saw that something was strange about how wet the tile looked. I put a little space heater in there on a plastic tub and had it blowing around hot air in the area. My first realization was that the men had used a white mastic, not thinset, to attach the tile in this area. I also realized that they had soaked the tile prior to installation just like they are suppose to do when using cement based mortar like thinset. This stuff they used here is some plastic-y mastic and I am sure the tile should not have been wet. I do not even think they should have been using this mastic. I did some Internet reading and it said not to use it in showers and baths in wet areas.  The article also said not to lay the tile closely set (as mine are) since it was impossible to get grout adequately in the tight joints and water would eventually get behind the tile and mold... oh great !

Guest bathtub tile surround

I had originally planned to use the aqua toilet that I found on the side of the road a few years ago in this bathroom. Dave pointed out to me that it was a great match in the upstairs half bath and I would see it every day, unlike this one downstairs. Also, when I asked for a white bathtub, I didnt notice until much later (after it was installed) that the tub is really a bone color, not white. Of the other toilets I had, one from the house that got torn down next door, is a great match to the bone colored tub. But, see toilet fiasco for update.

Meanwhile, David was up in the living room laying the Villa Lagoon Tile Surf 'Agua' cement tile which goes bumper to bumper up there. It is a big room and we did a little preliminary dry layout to see what would result in fewest cuts and still look good.

I think the living room/kitchen turned out great. I love the energetic feel of the tile floor.

Placing bathroom cement tile.

The upstairs main bathroom is getting Foliage Corner 'Antique' cement tile as a field tile bumper to bumper - no border. I told David where I wanted full tile to go and where the sink cabinet would be and cut pieces would be hidden. This tile is really a corner for a border pattern, but just as most corners do, it makes a nice filed tile when used in 4's and rotated 90 degrees each time.

Here the tile is still wet from the soaking prior to being laid. It also has some haze from having mortar wiped off. The tile will have to be clean and dry before a coat of penetrating sealer is applied prior to grouting. I have to be careful to not let the sealer run over the edges of the tile or the grout will not adhere properly. Sealing prior to grouting makes the excess grout so much easier to get off.

We are using cement tile Ribbon Border "Caribbean" in the hall half-bath. I showed Roy, the boss of the tile layers, how I had calculated the tile layout to use five whole tile (almost, some cutting on edges) across in this bath. I wanted to lay it out to minimize the number of tile we used.

I also printed out a colored computer layout to show him what I wanted. This is almost a necessity when you have a language barrier and also it is a kind of tile they have never laid before. All my Mexican tile guys were familiar with cement tile from their homeland, but I do not think they had worked with it before.

We laid the cement tile on the diagonal and I love it. The half-bath is a perfect match for the aqua toilet. This is actually a border tile called Ribbon Border 'Caribbean' and we just used the straight border pieces and laid it side by side. The aqua potty is a great match and I am excited to be using it in this bathroom. Opps - see update, toilet fiasco.

It was a huge job to dig out the tile we needed from the storage container. Every box of tile weighs just under 50 pounds, so they are really difficult to move around. Plus there is an open isle of about 8 inches between the right and left stacks. I am sore in muscles that I did not even know I had.  Dave is too. He has been a huge help in dealing with this massive tile project.

Boxes and boxes of tile in storage.

Go to the second page to see more cement tile photos.