Tiling, or, actually, backerboard

We have not installed large swaths of tile before. Don has done a square foot here or there, and patched the odd bit of tile, but never done a whole bath.

LaGrange Park kitchen tile Re-adhering tile in Myra's shower

We have four to do. So, with our construction loan’s February deadline looming, we did the sensible thing and hired a tile guy.

Who got the flu the day before he was to start.

Whose daughter then was involved in a serious car wreck. In Oregon.

So we’re doing the tile ourselves. My main jobs are to read the instructions and buy more tools and supplies. I went to the big box stores three times on Monday. Plus once on Sunday and once on Tuesday. At least once on Wednesday. Twice on Thursday. No, three times: I went to two stores to get almost enough tile (for next week). This after Don and our neighbor bought everything we’d need the week before. We haven’t started tiling yet.

After working most of the week, we have got the backerboard down, except in the showers. And I’ve laid out reference lines for one bathroom floor, and figured a layout for another one’s walls.

What we’ve learned:

  1. My Taunton Press books call backerboard CBU (cementitious board units, I think), but most people don’t.
    1. The two tile books I already owned were not enough, so I had to buy another one, which didn’t go into as much detail. My favorite one was by Tom Meehan (not shown), but it was written 15 years ago. He has a great explanation of how to do the 3-4-5 layout, and then rotate it for a diagonal layout. (Not relevant to the CBU installation, but we just used it yesterday.)
    2. The bathroom idea book showed some tile installations that contradicted the directions from the other books so maybe we don’t have to be perfect.
    3. Three Taunton Press books

  2. No need to make thinset from scratch, unlike cakes. Premixed thinset is much easier.
    1. Especially if your drill is underpowered, and your water is 50°F instead of 70°F. (No hot water heater yet, and it’s winter.)
    2. If you choose to mix it yourself, mix it thoroughly, and borrow a drill that won’t burn up while mixing. (If you insist on mixing, you might want to start with premixed so you know how thick the scratch thinset should be. Undermixed thinset is very, very thick.)
    3. The price difference isn’t too much, and premix doesn’t set up in the bucket overnight.
    4. Read the fine print. Twice. Some premix thinset is specifically not for adhering backerboard to subfloors. (The one shown says it is not for subfloors. It’s fine for the backerboard to drywall. AcrylPro seems to be OK for subfloors.)
  3. Unmixed thinset Pre-mixed thinset

  4. Sometimes the ends of the backerboard flap around because they’re far from a stud, and you have to be creative. This solution worked. (You should remove the board before setting tile.)
  5. Holding backerboard in place until thinset sets

  6. You should do the final dry fit before you spread the thinset. That’s why it’s called dry fitting.
  7. After stepping in thinset

  8. We like the Hardie cement board. It cuts easily with scoring on just one side, and is lightweight. (You need a 1/8″ space between boards and a 1/4″ expansion joint at walls, floors, tubs, and so forth.)
  9. Cool tools you can buy to help with the CBU installation include: a paddle mixer, comfortable handled carbide tipped scoring knife, carbide tipped radius hole cutter bit (cuts holes between 2 inches and 6 inches, MOL), 1 3/8″ carbide hole saw (perfect for water pipe holes, and sold in the tile tools area — not in the bits for your drill area of big box stores), nibblers, and a utility knife (powerful drill not shown). Oh, and the spacers (not shown) which are circles with crosses on one side and a straight line on the other. Much easier to hold onto.
  10. Paddle mixer More cool tools

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