Installing stone field tile in your bathroom is a great way to create a custom look. It is also an easy project that adds value to your home.
Before you begin, you must have the proper tools and techniques. This includes a wet saw with the correct blade, preferably a diamond blade for natural stone.
Adding stunning stone tile to your bathroom can elevate your bathroom design and add to the resale value of your home. Using the same techniques used for ceramic tiles, you can install natural stone field tile in your bathroom. However, because of the unique characteristics of stone and its installation methods, there are a few important differences that you should know.
When laying any type of tile, it is necessary to establish accurate layout lines. This will ensure that your tiles are installed square and evenly spaced, which is essential for an attractive, professional-looking finished product. Snapping a chalk line is an easy and effective way to mark layout lines.
Start by running a chalk line along one dominant wall. Next, run a second line perpendicular to the first. The point where the two lines meet will be the center of your room. Use the resulting grid as your reference for installing the tile. Apply thin-set to the floor within the grid lines and install your tile, making sure to use plastic spacers between each row.
Preparing the Surface
There are many options when it comes to choosing tile for your bathroom floor, but few offer the elegance of natural stone. Marble, limestone and travertine are among the most popular choices, and each can add a unique look to your bathroom. While these stone tiles are expensive, installing them in your bathroom will increase the value of your home.
Before you begin installing your tile, prepare the surface by using an antimicrobial cement board to cover the framing. You should also use a fluid-applied membrane that will help prevent leaks.
After the membrane is in place, snap chalk lines for your grid on the floor of your lavatory. Spread unmodified thin-set over the area, and comb out parallel ridges with your notched trowel. Before setting your tile, apply thin set to the back of each stone tile (called buttering the tile), then set the tiles within the confines of each grid. Use plastic spacers between the tiles to maintain proper spacing. When you’re done, let the thin-set cure for several hours. This will allow the mortar to harden so that your stone tiles stay secure in your bathroom.
Applying the Thin-Set
You’ll need a good quality thin-set to hold your new stone tile in place. It is a mortar-based adhesive made of cement, fine sand, and water-retaining additives such as cellulose. It also contains latex to help prevent the tile from cracking once installed.
Before starting the installation, pad your estimate of the total tile needed by 10 percent to allow for waste and breakage. Home improvement centers and tile specialty shops stock many common tile styles, but some specialties require a custom order. Also purchase any required trim pieces such as base tiles, edge trim and bullnose top trim to create a finished and smooth transition between the tile and wall.
Using a tile trowel, spread the thin-set across the floor or wall. Ensure that the surface is completely covered with no voids or trowel lines. Then, set the first tile into the thin-set and firmly apply pressure. As you continue to set tile, periodically lift it up and check the back side for adequate thin-set coverage. The ridges should collapse with no voids and the mortar should cover at least 80% of the back of the tile for dry, interior residential applications; 95% is recommended for wet or natural stone application.
Setting the Tiles
When installing stone tile in your bathroom, you’ll want to lay all the full tiles first (called field tiles). Ensure you have enough full tiles for all the grid lines and leave a space at each end of each row for a cut tile. This will give you a nice even pattern across the floor and account for any irregularities in your subfloor or wall.
When laying tile, step back and look down the tile edges often to check for alignment as you go. If you notice any problems, it’s easier to straighten them before the mortar starts to dry.
Some tiles have directional arrows on the back, which should be oriented in the same direction as your layout line to ensure pattern consistency. You can also use plastic spacers between tiles to help keep them straight. Remember that natural stone is a porous material, which means it will absorb moisture and could crack over time if exposed to too much water. So, it’s important to use a waterproof grout for your bathroom and protect it with an effective barrier.
As with any tile installation, a good grouting job is key. For stone, this is even more important to prevent moisture damage. Before grouting, use a damp sponge to wipe off any thinset residue on the surface of the stones.
Grout your tiles using a grout float, pushing the grout into the joints in long, sweeping arcs. Be sure to fill all the joints completely and don’t leave any open spaces. As you work, step back and look over the tiles’ lines to ensure they are straight. Do this often, before the mortar has a chance to set and the tiles to shift.
For the best results, seal your stone after the grout is dry. This will protect the stone from stains, especially if you have chosen a light color for your grout. A quality sealer will also help to extend the life of your stone tile bathroom.
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