Tile your entry area
Has the carpeting in our entry area been made old and worn before its time by your family’s comings and goings? You’ve probably tried, over the years, the two common protective measures for carpets in heavily traveled areas: plastic mats and area rugs. But mats are unsightly, and rugs catch wear. And new carpeting, which won’t solve the problem, is expensive.
For a fraction of the cost of re-carpeting, you can tile your entry area and say goodbye to ugly mats and unfriendly rugs. Glazed ceramic tile is durable, comes clean with soapy water, and is easy to install.
The possibilities for your entry are almost endless with ceramic tile. It comes in a wide selection of patterns, shapes, and sizes. And colors range from electric blue through all the pastels to various shades of white. Tiled floors can look like a brick walkway or can form an abstract pattern of colors and shades. Sizes range from an inch-square (or diameter) up to one square foot.
This wide range of sizes comes in handy. If the area you plan to tile is small, narrow, or unevenly shaped, penny tiles(round tiles an inch or less in diameter) or one-inch squares make cutting and laying easy. If the area is basically square and there’s room to maneuver, larger tile will fit and entail less labor. For my area, I chose tiles eight inches square.
Tile is sold by the square foot, so the first step is to measure the area you plan to redo. Buy at least one extra square foot of tile. Cutting tile takes a certain touch, and you might have to sacrifice several of them before hitting your stride. A square foot usually costs two to seven dollars, so buying extra won’t overload your budget. Be sure to get glazed ceramic floor tiles; the types designed for bathroom-wall decoration won’t hold up under foot traffic.
My front door opens directly into the living room, so I chose a light-almond tile to complement existing furnishings. I decided to tackle a 56-by-68-inch area, which is big enough for two people carrying packages. To enhance both the look and practicality of the area, I gave it a curve and extended the tiles into an adjacent closet. Running tile behind closed doors also saves you from having to put an edging in an awkward area.
Use dressmaker’s chalk, which is soft and comes in colors, to mark the tile area. Cut away the carpet and the mat underneath. Tape a plastic tarp to the adjacent carpet. (In the step-by-step shots I didn’t bother with a drop cloth because the carpeting was soon to be replaced.)
The floor beneath the carpet is bound to have some imperfections–unevenness or abrasions–that might lead to cracked tiles. For a secure, workable surface, cut a base from 1/4-inch exterior-grade plywood (it won’t delaminate) to the exact dimensions of the tile area, then nail it down. Any minor imperfections in the plywood surface will be filled or smoothed over when the adhesive is applied.
Place the tiles down to establish the width of the grout lines and to get a count of the number of tiles that will need cutting. If you’re using tile that comes in sheets, such as penny tile, the grout lines between tiles are set, so you’re one step ahead here.
If you’re cutting tile to fit a curve or an irregular shape, use a tile nipper. Mark the cut line with a pencil, and nibble away small areas at a time. Don’t try to cut off large chunks, as tiles crack easily. And wear safety glasses for protection from flying ceramic fragments. A tile cutter–which you can rent from a tile dealer for a nominal fee–can be used to cut along a straight edge. Rough edges can be smoothed out with a whetstone and a little water.
Spread the tile adhesive over an area that you can comfortably tile before the epoxy sets (it sets fairly quickly). I recommend Latacreek liquid floor mix, which is a mild epoxy and, therefore, has more give than the conventional rigid adhesives, which can eventually lead to cracked tiles.
Set each tile in place with a gentle twisting motion. Lay one at a time, and check the alignment each time. If you don’t feel confident enough to space by evey, use plastic spacers available from a hardware store, or make them out of uniform wood scrap.
You can bed the tile in a number of ways. I recommend wrapping a piece of wood in carpet, placing it on the tile, and tapping it with a hammer. A rubber-head hammer will also work, as will a fist. The extra pressure creates a better bond with the adhesive and ensures an even level.
Floor grout comes in a variety of colors. White grout, however, shows dirt quickly–which would defeat the purpose of this project. I chose an almond color to blend with the tile.
Prepare for grouting by wiping the adhesive off the tile and removing the spacers, if any. Then use a rubber-faced float to spread the grout along the tiles an into the joints. Smooth over air bubbles, and scrape off excess grout with the float. Apply a damp sponge in a circular motion to clean the tile, and smooth and set the joints even with the level of the tile. Use a jointer tool to compact and smooth out the grout lines.
Let the tiles sit for an hour or so before you start removing the haze of grout nd whatever adhesive is left. Clean and polish the tiles with a soft cloth or a sponge.
Try to stay off the tiles for about a day, until the adhesive and grout dry. To be on the safe side, keep foot traffic light through the entry for the next several days.