Okay folks... it's the post you have been waiting for... tile time! My parents came down this weekend to help out. We started Thursday and ended on Saturday. It was a lot of hard work so a big 'thank you' to my dad, who suffered all the aches and pains of tiling a cement floor with me. First off, I have to say that I am in love with our tile. The ivory travertine is b-e-a-utiful. Before my parents arrived, I did my best to place the full 12 inch tiles where I wanted them and centered in the space. Since the last row will be hidden by cabinets, it was okay to make it pretty thin. Normally, you would want to even out the spacing. But, in this case, I favored the portion that would be visible.
Then, it was time for tile cutting. Wet saws can make a mess, so we went outside, and directed the back spray towards the bushes. I borrowed the saw from one of my friends in the area. Since we only had a few cuts, it was much more economical to do that than buy a saw. The travertine is a natural stone, and is quite porous. As such, the tile cut like butter. I found the wet saw pretty straightforward to use. It has a tray to sit the tile in, and you push it towards the blade. None of our cuts were complicated, so it was a matter of lining up the blade with the measurement. I used pencil to line up the cuts, which was washed off by the water.
We used the spacers so we had accurate measurements for everything.
We then carefully removed the tiles from the space and used a chalk line to mark our rows. This became extremely useful when laying the tiles the next day. We also marked the center line.
We laid out the same pattern on the carpet so we could move them over easily and quickly.
Despite the use of the self-leveling cement (which made a huge difference), there was still a bulge in the concrete. My dad brought a grinder to grind it down and make the surface smoother.
The next day, we set the tile. We used my paddle mixer to mix it up. There are no absolute directions in terms of water to thin set proportions. The main thing is to mix it to a mayonnaise-like consistency. Once the thin set is mixed, wait 5 minutes before starting to use it, This gives the chemical reaction time to start.
My dad and I split the job of applying the thin set. The main thing is to spread a bunch down...
and then use a trowel to make ridges.
Then, carefully place the tiles and spacers. We were very careful of minding the chalk lines so that the tile was set evenly.
I didn't take a huge amount of pictures because the thin set is time sensitive (you need to finish working with it before it has time to set up). We did the back 2 rows first, gave those about an hour to set, and then finished the job. This allowed us to have something to push against for alignment. It also meant mixing up the thin set in small batches.
The next day, the tile was all set and ready to go. We cut back the carpet to size. I had forgotten to mention that we had pre-installed the carpet tack strips before we set the tile. I don't have carpet pictures because it was honestly the worst part of the whole job. Carpet is a huge pain to work with. It is hard to cut, and the space was hard to work with. We ended up having to glue the tack strips down in lieu of using nails because we just couldn't get a good angle on the nails. For more information on carpet to tile transitions, check out this post. We basically followed this advice, although we installed the tack strips before the tile. The carpet in these pictures still needs to be tucked in, which is why it doesn't look clean yet. I will do that after the sealing is done.
My dad also cleaned out the thin set in the grout lines. It's a good idea to do this, so you have room for the grout.
The grout was mixed up to a toothpaste-like consistency. We didn't need very much of it. The basic technique is to press the grout into the cracks with a rubber float.
And then wipe away with a damp sponge. J got involved with cleaning and wringing the sponges as I was wiping down the tile.
The grout is darker when wet. The grout needs some moisture to set correctly, so we dampened it a few hours after we originally set it and then again a day later. We also mixed the grout using admixture rather than water. Admixture is latex-based and less prone to cracking.
The finished product (carpet still not tucked in).
I'll seal it next weekend at some point. But, I absolutely love it. We worked hard to get this done, but the result is quite beautiful. I can't wait to get the rest of the wet bar done, now. It should be mentioned that this project made me quite sore. Working on the floor for 3 days is rough. And again, a huge thank you to my parents for their help. It would have been pretty tough without the help. Overall, I feel more confident about tiling. It was scary beforehand, but turned out to be not too bad. It's funny how things work that way.