Tag Archives: flooring

Pantry floor

I would like to ease out of the bathroom topic into something a little different, like hardwood floors. Let’s attempt this transition with a post about tiles on a floor…

What is now our pantry was originally a staircase down to the basement. We had decided to eliminate that staircase and after some simple framing, I had it closed up. That left us, however, with one room on the 1st floor that did not have an existing floor covering – the new pantry.

Because we are sitting on a bunch of salvaged floor tiles, so much so that we have enough beyond the bathrooms, we decided to also use them for the pantry floor.

The plywood cover is certainly suitable as a subfloor, but not for the tiles. I needed a layer of underlayment, such as cement board or fiberock (R), onto which I could install the floor tiles.

Because the pantry floor promised to be a simpler installation than the bathroom – i.e. no sloping floors – I dared to take on the installation myself rather than falling back onto Cathy’s tiling skills.

It turned out OK for a pantry, and should look presentable once I grout the joints.

Bathroom floor tiling

I had my floor tiling experience in the basement bathroom – and it didn’t go too well. Cathy had to swoop in to fix my first tiling attempt.

This time round, for the 1st floor bathroom, I thought it would be a good idea to have the pro (Cathy) do the work, rather than me trying once more in vain.

We found the perfect floor tiles a while back on Craigslist. Two inch hexagonal tiles that came in 12 by 12 inch sheets. Perfect because they work with our contoured bathroom floors, which slope towards the shower and floor drain.

What wasn’t quite perfect, is the joint spacing between each tile within each sheet. It takes some skill and adjustment to even out these irregularities. A skill that Cathy masters.

The other issue is that the tile spacing needs adjustment for the slopes. If all the floor slopes would be subtle and even, it probably wouldn’t matter. But around the shower drain, the slopes are not subtle and vary a lot.

We could have pushed the shower drain further away from the wall to even out the slopes. But then we could not convert the shower drain to a tub drain, should we ever decide to convert.

So we are stuck with a shower drain close to the wall, varying slopes and floor tiles that need a lot of joint adjustment.

I watched Cathy for a while working around the shower drain. There was close to a half inch discrepancy in the tile spacing and I was dead-on convinced that this would not work. She proved me wrong (once again) and with a lot of patience, spaced out each hexagonal two inch tile until they were all spaced out evenly around and across the shower drain.

Did I mention how impressed I was?

Treasure hunt – bathroom tiles

Whenever possible we purchase salvaged or used materials for our deep energy retrofit. Only if we cannot find an item on the salvaged or reuse market, do we cave and buy it new — as a last resort.

We had good luck a year ago, when we were hunting for bathroom floor tiles. Craigslist came to the rescue with enough two inch hexagonal floor tiles for all three bathrooms (basement, 1st and 2nd floor).

Finds like this, i.e. a perfect material match, are pretty rare. A lot of reuse sources have small amounts of tiles for sale, typically leftovers from a job site and hardly ever enough to get one full project done, such as a bathroom floor, let alone three bathroom floors.

Luck did strike again, this time at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore. What I found on one of my treasure hunt visits was a large quantity of six by six inch wall tiles. The color was just between off white and light beige, a color that matches the floor tiles perfectly.

The icing on the cake was a few of boxes with four by four cocoa colored wall tiles, which we could use as an accent, and enough bullnose tiles for all the edges.

We were already resigned to buy new tiles, but this set takes care of the 1st floor bathroom walls – colors that we like, and at a good price! I was happy to have the bunch in the back of my truck and taking them home.

Slippery Slopes?

While pouring the concrete for the new bathroom floors, I had to make sure I get the floor elevations right.

We want the floor at the exact same elevation and dead level around the bathroom perimeter. To guide me, I marked the finished elevation along the room edges.

Then there is the toilet flange and the two floor drains. One is the general floor drain, the other is the drain for the walk-in shower.

The day before we poured the concrete floor, I set the flange and two drains to the final elevation. The toilet flange is set just a notch below the perimeter elevation. The two floor drains are set one inch lower to have a positive slope.

If you look carefully you can see that I put two string lines across the bathroom to guide me during the concrete pour.

The lines basically divide the floor into three zones:

  1. Almost level with a very slight slope to the left
  2. Slopes towards the general floor drain
  3. Slopes towards the shower drain

The ridge between the general floor drain and shower drain is important. It contains the water in the shower area, while keeping the rest of the bathroom dry.

If you wonder why we installed a general floor drain in addition to the shower drain,  read the post ‘Problem area bathroom‘ and ‘Bathroom basics‘. You find our reasoning described there.

Pouring the bathroom floors

All occupied rooms that have an outside wall will have baseboard radiators, except one room – the bathroom. We decided that a radiant floor system would be a much better and more comfortable choice here.

The idea came about when I was demoing the old bathrooms, which had four- to five-inch deep concrete floors. They were a pain to bust up and rip out, but I had no choice. I had to get to the rotten floor joists below them.

The good news is that now, after we put new floor joists in place, we can pour a new concrete floor. And even better, we can run PEX tubing through it, which gives us the luxury of warm feet in the morning and throughout the day.

We looped the tubing through each 16 inch floor joist bay, attached it to the plywood subflooring, making sure there was at least one inch between the pex and the plywood. This assured that the tubing would be fully embedded in concrete.

We placed rigid foam insulation into some of the larger gaps between the tubing. This will reduce the overall thermal mass of the floor, but it will also reduce the overall weight. It is, like everything in this project, a balancing act.

Time to pour some concrete!

This is one of those time-sensitive tasks. Once you start, you can’t stop and you have to see it through until it’s finished.

To keep us out of trouble, I purchased two palettes of bagged, ready-mix concrete and rented a small concrete mixer. Cathy, although not in the picture, was really running the show. She was in charge of mixing the concrete batches and had set up shop in front of the house.

Robert, one of our neighbors, did the weightlifting – literally. He helped Cathy dump the bags of concrete into the mixer and carried the buckets filled with concrete into the building.

And myself? I just had a good day playing in the sandbox…

Because this job was so time sensitive, we took it in strides. A few hours on a Saturday, and the 1st floor bathroom was done. That left us with time and experience to finish the 2nd floor bathroom the next day, Sunday.