Building a Home – Tile
Watching the guys prep for and install the bathroom and laundry room tile made me realize how little I actually knew about tile. Every job requires the right foundation for things to move forward smoothly and for a lasting product. In the case of tile, installing the foundation took much more time than the actual tiling. For the walls, the tilers used a substrate called Permabase. Permabase is a rigid combination of portland cement, fiberglass mesh and aggregate filler. It resists prolonged exposure to moisture and is very durable. After the Permabase wall board went up, there were still seams to deal with. To seal the seams and otherwise add another layer of water proofing protection, the tilers used an elastomeric (rubber) seal coat called Redgard. Once Redgard cures, it not only waterproofs the Permabase surface and seams but tile can be directly applied to the surface.
Tile can normally be installed directly on top of unfinished concrete floors. Since we were putting in hardwood floors throughout the house though, all the rooms with tile floors needed to be raised an additional 1 1/4″ so all the surfaces would be flush. The solution was to raise the floor using a low viscosity mortar, self leveling mortar. I arrived a little late to see this step, and in fact they may have used a more viscous mortar that did not self level. In that case, an expert hand would be required to get the mortar level. UPDATE: They did in fact use a more viscous mortar and leveled it with using a technique I’m still not sure about. They used the same technique to form the funnel in the master shower, directing the water to the center drain. Video of tile being cut. This is interesting: Video of tile guy trying to cut his finger on tile saw.
As I said before, once the foundation was down putting the tile up appeared to be a breeze. They would score the wall tile using a manual saw then break it perfectly in the shape they needed. To grind down the rough edges, they used a whetstone similar to the ones used to sharpen knives. For the ceramic floor tile, they used a wet saw to do the cuts. Work would slow when they rounded corners or had to install an insert as they did in the master bathroom wall.