It was 1999. We were looking for a home and knew exactly what we wanted.
A mid-century, concrete block, terrazzo floor-laden home.
Our realtor found one. It had the flat sweeping roof line and terrazzo made of black, gray and pink stone—it was perfect.
But perfectly creepy. Like someone-just-died-in-the-home-and-they’re-still-there creepy.
So overwhelmingly creepy that we chose to pass on the perfect little house despite the original (and super rare) pink martha washington appliances.
But then the very next house we looked at was THE ONE.
THE ONE was far from perfect. It had the roof, it had the terrazzo, but it had an update sometime during the 70s. And it had been vacant for quite a while.
Well, vacant of humans.
I won’t go into that part. But long story short, we bought it and I basically needed to gut the 70s kitchen and start over.
I had a very limited budget (like $5K) and had to do a full kitchen and full bathroom.
Well, here’s where we ended up when the hammers stopped flying:
So, overlook the mess. We were loading in a bunch of stuff after not having any kitchen for like six months.
It worked for us. And over time we’ve learned.
We learned the black and white tile showed everything. It looked dirty even when it wasn’t. And after 15 years of dropping things, many of the tiles (ceramic tiles) have chips and nicks and whatevers in them.
So time to retile. Or re-tile. Oh, just do the floors over again.
This time it needs to be bulletproof. I would just leave the terrazzo, but we had the whole house diamond-ground the first time around, and the kitchen floor was stained pretty badly.
Just so you know, anything oil-based can stain terrazzo over time. The carpet padding they had in the house was oil-based. The stick-on tile in the kitchen was oil-based, or had oil-based adhesive.
Anyway, back to bulletproof: I want porcelain tile, darker color or even-toned, thin grout lines with NO WHITE GROUT.
But I had to start by removing the old tile.
This is how I tore up the old floor. Four-pound sledge. Aim, pound, repeat. Times 8000.
I had some thinset still stuck to the floor after removing the old tile. There is no good way to remove the thinset. Only bad ways. Hammer and chisel. SDS rotary hammer with tile/chisel attachment, or various ways of grinding. I chose the cheap way. I had a 4″ grinder with a masonry disk so I taped off the kitchen with some plastic drop cloth. I taped it off for like two hours. It was gonna be dusty. My post war kitchen is small. And there was only a little bit of thinset to deal with. And it still took like 4 hours.
I emerged from my makeshift quarantine tent to find that not only did dust escape from my perceived masterful taping job, but almost all of the dust escaped.
COVERING EVERY INCH OF MY HOUSE.
Every book. Vase. TV. Plant.
It got on my new fridge. The microwave. Every box of cereal and even the fresh bananas on the counter.
There are no pictures of this as I do not want to record this memory. There are more words to describe this but I want to maintain Dadand as a family-friendly blog.
Time to move on. But look on the bright side, #SpringIsCalling so some spring cleaning was in order anyway.
I laid out some tiles just to get a bearing on where tiles will fall under the base cabinets and against the wall. There’s a whole bunch of thinkery going on here, and then I’ll measure again and strike some chalk lines so I know where to start the first course. You’ll notice the fridge to the left. Yeah, I have no room left in my house to move it so I’ll work around it, move it and tile under its spot. I know this is the long way around, and probably adds a day to to the whole project.
I’m using some 12″ x 24″ porcelain tiles in a charcoal gray. I picked them up at Lowe’s…well, I had the dudes in the tile department actually pick them up since I don’t want to lift these any more than I have to. Oh, yeah, before I get emails about them, they are Style Selections Galvano Porcelain floor tile in charcoal. (P/N 487338)
I struck some chalk lines to keep it all straight and narrow. This was after some fiddlin’ around with some layout patterns.
I mixed up some porcelain tile thinset in my shiny new bucket. I chose gray thinset since the tiles were gray. You’re supposed to mix it for like 5 minutes, then let it set up for 10, then mix again for two minutes. I don’t usually wear a watch so I slowly went through the alphabet in my head like ten times (5 minutes). You know, like when you brush your teeth—each quadrant of your mouth gets the full alphabet.
I mentioned tile patterns earlier. We chose this brick pattern although I was thinking about setting them stacked since we have some exposed concrete block walls in our house set the same way. I oriented them this way since the kitchen entrance is to the left of the photo. And upon entering the kitchen, the long side of the tiles actually make the kitchen look bigger. Our house was built in ’56, so anything to make it look bigger is welcomed. Heck, cars in the ’50s were bigger than my kitchen.
I only needed to cut a few tiles for the whole layout. I bought this little wet saw about 15 years ago when I tiled the kitchen the first time around. It’s still going and didn’t do too bad when ripping the length of the tiles. Oh, I also wore eye and hearing protection here. I wasn’t up for shards of porcelain in my eyes.
This shot is from the next day showing where I tiled around the fridge. It also gave us a little pathway to get to the master bedroom during the night—only had to step over two tiles to get to bed. Anyway, I’m about to finish this off.
Here’s a little trick I do so a bunch of thinset doesn’t squeeze up between tiles. I take a putty knife at a 45-degree angle and run it along the sides of the adjacent tiles. It beats having to use the little tile spacers to scrape out thinset after you’ve set the tile. Or worse yet, having scrape out dry thinset later on.
Enter shiny new bucket #2. Filled with clean water and a sponge, it’ll help me clean up while I grout. The Bostik NeverSeal grout is in charcoal gray, and like the name says, you never need to seal it. Years ago, I used an epoxy-based grout, which worked great (and still looks new) but was a mess to clean up. The NeverSeal is urethane-based and floats in nicely with a hard rubber float. It cleans up real easy, but you have to clean as you go. Don’t wait until the end because this stuff dries quick. Oh, and if you have excess grout on the floor, you can dump it right back into the bucket to use next time. It was pricey at $65, but worth it—you’ll never have to seal, bleach, scrape or scrub it clean. (P/N442167)
Before I grouted, I went around with this little grout saw and took care of any squeeze-through mortar that came close to the top of the tiles.
The grout saw has two blades, but I removed the one with the serrated edge since my tiles were spaced 1/16″ apart.
So this stuff floats in real nice. I did find that the grout started to stiffen up pretty quickly, but working in small, arms-length areas kept it easy to float in, and easy to clean. With 1/16″ tile spacing, I barely used 1/4 of the NeverSeal grout. I’m not sure when I’ll ever use the rest but I can put it on the shelf, see how long it lasts and keep you updated. Nah, I won’t.
So there it is. I love the larger tiles. It’s a simple look that goes well with our new stainless steel appliances (got a good deal on them at Lowe’s as well.) We’re already picking out paint colors, and I’m going to do some new base cabinets and a countertop. That’s for another post.
The grout dried to nearly the same color as the tiles. I like the look. My wife posted it on FB and her photo got 26 likes. So BAM!
Let me know what you think of the tile job, or what you’ll be tackling for spring. Use the #SpringIsCalling hashtag and post it to our FB wall. I know next on my list is painting this kitchen and doing some base cabinets—watch for it in another post.
Spring is calling! Stay on track this spring with special values, tips and how-to’s from Lowes: http://www.lowes.com/improve
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