A kitchen transformation, 7 of 8: tiling the floor
April Dykman | Improvement Center Columnist | March 2, 2015
When it came to the kitchen floor, what I really wanted more than anything else was stone. But as a stonemason's daughter, I already knew that was a pipe dream. The foundation wasn't poured to accommodate stone floors, so I started hunting for tile that looked like stone.
I found a creamy-white, ceramic tile flooring at the Big Orange (Home Depot), and it came in three sizes. That's when a light bulb went on -- what if we used different sizes, placed in a random pattern, to make the floors look a little more like stone? Genius!
Only that flash of genius made the project take about a week or two longer. In fact, the whole project took about a month, and it was a struggle. Not so much for me, since I was off painting the bedrooms, but more for my dad, who was really the only one who could cut and lay the tile.
Why I was useless as a tile laborer
There are two reasons why the floors were mostly a one-man job:
- It turned out that the three sizes of tile weren't compatible. For instance, the largest tile was one inch too long to work into a pattern with the small and middle size tile. So Dad ended up cutting tiles as he laid them. He said it was a cross between laying stone and laying tile, and he reassured us that he was an expert in at least one of the two.
- The kitchen floor had more slopes and dips than a Crested Butte ski resort. In other words, it was horribly un-level. So Dad had to freestyle, building up the floors in some places with concrete and sanding them down in others. Again, he reassuringly told us that he was making it up as he went along.
So Dad spent weeks leveling the floor, making tons of custom cuts, checking his work, and tearing out and re-laying tile as needed.
Grouting the tile
Once the tile was in place, we cleaned it up and cleaned out the joints. Now we were ready to grout.
Grouting was an all-day affair, and we got to know every square inch of the kitchen floor quite intimately. The tricky part was making sure we covered the cut edges of tile with some grout, so the hard grey edge wouldn't show.
Tip: Give the grout a slightly concave shape by dragging a tool across the joints. You can use the rounded end of a grout float, toothbrush handle, or a paintbrush handle (my choice). Just don't use a scrap piece of tile: it can leave marks or scratches on the flooring tiles.
Once the grout was dry, we sealed it, and the floors were finally finished. The project took much longer than planned and delayed our move-in, but it was worth it. The delays and frustrations lasted a couple of weeks, but now, months later, I still want to hug my kitchen floor.