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How to Lay Floor Tile Part 2: Mortar

The tile chips on top of the tile are ones I set out to use in the border.

I knew I was going to have trouble making the edges look good. When I laid out the tile ahead of time I could see the edge go from thick on one end to thin on the other though I had started off perfectly even with the end. I was going to have to make little adjustments along the way.

I drew a line on the concrete where I wanted the edge to be. Then I realized the mortar was going to cover it up. Doy. So, I taped a piece of string a few inches above the floor to act as a guide. For the most part this only got in the way, though there were a couple of times I dropped a plumb line from it to figure out which way to go.

I had a cylindrical bucket for the mortar. My intention had been to pour in the powdered mortar and the water, turn it on it’s side, and roll it around like a cement mixer. Didn’t work out that way. The lid kept trying to pop off, and I couldn’t tell the mortar was getting wet. I ended up mixing it with a hand trowel just like in the picture on the side of the package. I don’t know if one of the $30 buckets from Home Depot would have worked better or not, but don’t intend to shell out for one in the future, as mixing my hand worked fine.

I was afraid the mortar would set too fast, so I only put out enough at a time to set one or two rows of tile. Keep in mind these tiles are about a foot long on each side. I’ll have to come back to the “about” part in a minute. Then I filled in the outside edges with broken pieces before moving to the next section.

Check out the gaps between tiles

I probably should have set the mortar out thicker, but so far have seen no problems with the way I did it. With the help of a board, I was able to kneel on the newly set tiles while I worked around the edges. Getting them in exactly the right position wasn’t easy.

The mortar isn’t sticky like adhesive, but it does act like a suction cup on the tiles so they don’t lift off easily once down. With tiles that big, plus leaning over awkwardly so I didn’t swim in fresh mortar, some of the tiles went down poorly. If I shoved them around, which was easier than prying them up, then I got too much mortar piled up on one side which had to be wiped away, and too little on the other so I had to re-do the mortar step. It wasn’t a big deal, just an annoyance.

I used little blue spacers betweenTile spacers intact tiles. This became a problem when it turned out the medium-brown tiles are an eighth of an inch smaller than the others. I didn’t realize it, and didn’t compensate the way I would have otherwise until I got to the high-traffic area in front of the door, then ended up putting in spaces that were too big and sometimes gollywampus. The tile I set earlier had already dried, so there was no going back. I simply let it ride.

With a lot of stopping and starting, interruptions by kids and a certain man, and middle-aged-housewife-grunting It took about two hours to do all of the floor except the little bit of around the closet, which I’ll discuss at way-too-much length next week.

Also see:

How to Lay Floor Tile, Part 1
How to Lay Floor Tile Part 2: Mortar
How to Lay Floor Tile Part 3: Tilus Interuptus

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