Tile On, Ye Kings of New England!

And so it came to be that we decided we would lay the tile floor ourselves.  We had no money to hire it done.  Anyway, we wouldn’t learn anything that way, would we?

By golly, we could do it! We are cut from the do-it-yourself cloth. So when we decided to tile the bathrooms and the kitchens we took classes at Home Depot and watched videos to prepare ourselves. When we felt sufficiently prepared we went out,  bought the tile and supplies and started in.

Now we’re almost done with the “practice” bathroom. We just have the grouting to do.  We are taking a break. It has been, shall we say, a learning experience.  I found that I could do 5 or 6 tiles every 3 days and then I got sick so I could do even less. Tile. Let it dry. Get distracted by some other project. Start in again. Marty could not lay tile. He gets the thin set all over the place and becomes frustrated.  I, on the other hand, have patience and confidence.  Probably unjustified confidence. I just believe I can do it and actually have no investment in it if I fail. My cake baking experience has shown me how to spread frosting on a cake. Thin set is not unlike frosting for consistency.  So, me. I get to lay all the tile except the two Marty did.  What Marty does is power tools. I hate power tools. They frighten me. So he uses the tile saw and cuts tiles. He also mixes the thin set. Teamwork. He gets to use the table and sit down in a chair while he does his job. I get to hunker down on the floor and get a good old-fashioned charley horse. Hmmm, let’s see. It’s keeping me young, right? Use it or lose it. At least that’s what I keep telling myself.

me tiling
Put long gray hair on this guy, get him to lose a few pounds and it’s…me!

Thankfully it’s only a 50 square foot floor. It will take us 3 weeks to completely finish. That’s not so bad. We have another bathroom so we’re fine. Getting the odd-shaped tiles that go back behind where the toilet was is the hardest. And why do the toilet connections always have to leak? There I am trying to contort myself around the bowl that’s catching the slow drip. I’m also enjoying (not) being near the toilet connection in the floor and lovely stench of the septic tank wafts up through the hole.

What crazy maniac set this tile?

Here I feel compelled to say this to the professional tile setter: We are not worthy! You, O Amazing One, have the mystery! In the doing of it I find that the Home Depot classes definitely don’t tell you everything. They trot out the premixed thin set so you don’t get to learn how to mix thin set correctly and dependably. They lay a cement board for a practice surface on a table, give you a few small rubber backed tiles and a spatula and say “want to try it?”. They don’t tell you anything about over or under mixing thin set, letting thin set harden around your newly laid tile (don’t) and, of course, it’s all done standing up at a table. Where in the world will anyone lay floor tile while standing at a table? They should conduct the class on the floor! Then you get the correct idea. Bring in the knee pads? Wash your ibuprofen down with a fine single malt scotch! Now we’re cooking with gas as me dear old farver would say!

It’s back-breaking work, folks. There you are, down on the floor, bending over, slapping thin set all over the place, spreading it, combing it and hefting heavy tiles into place and, lord forbid, if you make a mistake you’re prying said heavy tile off the floor and the thin set won’t let go. Dadgummit! Let go!

Of course, as with anything the more we do it the better we will get. By the time we finish the kitchen we’re going to be experts.


2 thoughts on “Tile On, Ye Kings of New England!”

  1. I admire your can-do spirit! Don’t you think all toilets and sinks should float above the floor? That would make tiling simpler. Why is it taking you 3 weeks, though? Is that how long it’s supposed to take? Congrats on starting!

    1. Sorry it took me so long to approve your comment and reply! Everything that is not immediate and essential takes a long time around here because we are busy working at our jobs. That’s the short of it. Other than that I set a little bit, stand back and see that it’s good and then a few days later I start again. When you’re setting tile you have to make sure everything is level and exact before you continue. Also for the wall tile I did not use any braces to keep the tile from succumbing to gravity. The thoroughly dried lower row supported the one above it. This “technique” made it take a lot longer. When I set my floor tile, say, on my 10 foot square bathroom floor I could do it in 3 to 4 days start to finish.

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