Small bathroom floor, many challenges

Old 08-20-01, 04:18 PM
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I am in the middle of a bathroom remodel where a contractor is doing most of the work. I am doing all of the finish work -- paint, light fixtures, etc. -- as well as installing a new tile floor and the vanity/top/faucet combo. The contractor is almost done, so this past Saturday I started laying the floor.

The existing floor was concrete slab/old layer of tile/newer layer of tile. Prior to the contractor starting, I had torn up the top layer of tiles using a floor buddy -- a nice shovel-like tool that really gets under the tiles. Most of it came up quick, revealing the old god-awful 1950s era yellow tile. The floor buddy couldn't make a dent in that layer, however. It must be set directly in concrete. (It was on the walls, too -- but all of the tile on the walls is gone and going to stay gone.)

Having to leave the tile in place, I am left with an uneven surface and was considering using self-leveling cement, but the package said not for use in wet areas.

Oh, and did I mention that I am putting in an electric radiant heating grid (Warmly Yours) which is 1/8" thick and supposed to be covered by another 1/4" of mortar (so 3/8" layer total. But the grid only covers half of the floor (the toilet and vanity sit on the other half.

Mainly because of the warning on the self-leveling cement and partly because I liked the idea of doing a little bit at a time so I can work up the expertise, I went with a standard thinset/acrylic admix mixture. I scuffed up (wire wheel drill bit and palm sander) the yellow tile, layed out the heating grid and started working the thinset over the grid. Because the wires of the grid were an 1/8" thick, I had a ready-made guide for the thickness I wanted. It troweled out pretty well and I did a fair job of smoothing it. There are a few small ridge lines, but nothing terrible. The tops of the wires are just barely visible and the edge where it meets the rest of the yellow tile is feathered nicely.

My main question is what to do about the remaining 2' swath of yellow tile (3' wide of heating grid + 2 ' = 5' width (4' length from door to start of tub) of my tiny bathroom). I want a level floor when the tile goes on. Do I mix another box of mortar and use it to fill the remaining half of the floor (and the voids along the wall)? (Call this Option 1.)

Or is there a self leveling mix I can use in a bathroom that I can do the entire 20 sq. ft. area with at once, bringing the surface up to the 1/4" over the grid I need and set the tiles directly into that? (Call this Option 2.)

It seemed to me from reading the bag of self-leveling mix that I would have lots of time to work with the surface once it started to set up. Can I get all the tiles set in time? I'd have to start at the doorway and work out -- meaning I'd be putting my weight onto freshly set tiles (but I could kneel on a shelf board or something to distribute it). Do you butter tiles with self-leveling mix? Or just give them a good twist?

My concern with thinset is that I won't be able to level the floor properly if I have to work in small sections.

I am considering using a thin layer of self leveling over the current grid and mortar (another 1/8") and thicker in the other parts of the floor, letting that cure, then going back with a skim coat of thinset, buttering each tile as I go. (Call this Option 3.) But the resulting Oreo cookie layering has me concerned.

What approach can you recommend? Any hints for what I should see along the way? (Especially if I go all self-leveling -- what consistency/tackiness should I be at when setting tile?)

Many thanks for the assistance.
Old 08-21-01, 06:52 PM
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Sorry, I didn't read your whole post, but a similar discussion is going on right now on my own message board. I don't try to take people from this board, but the dialog is extensive. You need to be there.


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