Of course it took longer than I would have liked, but I did finish tiling my family room floor. And I love it! I toyed with a few different tile options, but decided pretty quickly that I wanted to do a herringbone pattern, and I thought I wanted to use 12″ x 24″. It was then a matter of choosing the perfect tile. I went through several design options (read post HERE) but once I found this MARAZZI Montagna Rustic Bay tile at Home Depot, I was sold! These tiles are half the size I thought I wanted, at 6″ x 24″, but the size does a great job mimicking real wood. It’s awesome!
It was recommended that I use FlexBond Mortar because of my terribly uneven concrete floor. However it works, (I guess it’s the polymer formula) this stuff helps prevent cracks in the tile because the mortar has some flexibility. FlexBond is a good idea for any large tile. The bigger the tile, the more likely it is to crack. It worked really well for me, but I don’t have anything else to compare it to.
How I tiled my herringbone floor (and how you should do it instead)
1. Layout the tiles to find the best placement
I was right with this part. It took a lot of tiles to get the right idea, but I was able to layout the tiles in such a way that they ended nicely on the outside wall, up against the built-in bookshelves, and by the step and around the fireplace. Woohoo!
2. Determine where to begin tiling
For me that meant finding the highest spots on the floor. If the floor was level (and believe me I tried – post HERE) this step would not be necessary, of course. But things aren’t always easy around here. So I systematically determined the highest spots and circled them with a Sharpie. If my finished floor had any hope of being level, I knew I had to start with the highest point. This point happened to be pretty close to the center of the room, so I began tiling one row of herringbone down the middle of the floor.
How did I get the tile level? It makes me cringe just to write about it. I had to set each tile individually. Each tile was set with a different thickness of mortar. I had to buy 3 different trowel sizes to make this happen. Of course the mortar under any given tile could vary quite a bit too. I should have bought the cheapest trowels I could find because I had to throw them out when I was finished. Too many days of stopping and starting over — I just couldn’t get all the mortar off.
Dude, it was a pain in the butt! And probably why I could only get through one bag of mortar a day. It took a good 3-4 hours to use up one bag of mortar and I didn’t always have that kind of time on my hands. You know me, I’ve got self-diagnosed adult ADD and it’s hard for me to commit to such a long stretch of time. No but really, I’d always have to stop and get the kids or walk the dog. Oh wait, we don’t have any pets.
This is what it looked like at the end of Day 1.
Day 2 began like thisAnd ended with me passing out on the floor. Hubby tried to feed me, but it was too late. I must have been in bed before 7pm. I didn’t even finish the mortar. I just threw out the bucket the next day.Here’s a good time to point out why you shouldn’t use my method of tiling — you should definitely try to get all the tiling finished in one day. I made an extra, very annoying and time consuming, step for myself by allowing the mortar to dry between applications.Before I could move on to the next row in the herringbone tile pattern, I had to scrape off all the mortar that was exposed. There was just no getting around it because it would mess up the height of the next row, and they tiles wouldn’t fit snugly together. There was a lot of scraping and sweeping. And it was hard to get motivated to go back the next day. Poor me.
4. Cut all the tiles that hit the wall
On Day 3 (which probably was several days after Day 2) I was able to get the area in front of the window and fireplace hearth finished, but that required me to bust out the tile saw. My saw was still at my mom’s house, so I borrowed a friend’s saw. Thanks Shari. Note: I hate wearing gloves. Even when I’m working in the dirt, but OMG my fingers were raw from tiling. Trying to pick a tile up and adjust it was brutal on my fingers. I had no choice but to wear gloves!
And this is the main reason people freak when you tell them you are going to install a herringbone tile pattern yourself. Too many freaking cuts! Way too many. So I’ll show you my method… This was the first day of cutting and let me tell you the corners were the worse. I always started by drawing an outline of the tile on the floor.
I wrote a number on the floor inside each outline, and gave the corresponding piece of tile the same number. The hardest part is figuring out where to cut, but in doing that, you draw cut lines on the tile. (A more detailed explanation of marking the tiles is further down… keep reading!) Then it’s time to cut the tile! After it’s cut make sure you dry fit the tile before you go any further.
Don’t forget to cut around the floor vents. I did these cuts on the tile saw. Carefully. I made a cut along each horizontal line, then I made several cuts in between, always stopping at the line on the right. My friend Shari watched me do it and we were both pretty surprised that it worked so well.After the tiles are set in place, fine adjustments around the vent opening can be made with tile nippers. (This is totally the other floor vent in the room, but same idea.)
5. Build up any areas that are much lower than the rest
For me this was the corner by the kitchen and the built-ins. I put down a layer of Flexbond, let it dry overnight, then went back and used more F to set the tiles. It worked… but let’s hope you can skip this step! Let’s call this Day 4.This shot shows the same corner, now dry, on the bottom left of the picture.
6. Let tiles dry overnight before you walk on them
Remember — you can’t go back over areas you’ve already tiled until they are dry. Otherwise if you put your body weight down on a tile, you would squish it down and mortar would ooze out!
I managed to get everything finished on day 4 except one little bit. I ran out of mortar at about 2am and we were having a party at our house the next day. So Day 5 (which was about a week later!) was my last day of tiling! Woohoo!!!
So to summarize… I laid out the tiles. Figured out where the ones that touched the wall needed to be cut. Marked the tiles. Cut the tiles. Then used a variety of trowels with Flexbond mortar to adhere the tiles to the concrete subfloor. And now in more detail — Here is how to figure out where to mark the cut lines:
- Draw the outline of the tile on the floor by tracing along the edge of existing tiles and using a speed square where necessary.
- Turn the tile upside down and flip it over. Line the tile up along the shortest line, with one end of the tile at the wall. Mark where it hits the adjacent tile.
- Pick the tile up on its side and more it down until it hits the wall. *If the tile is not up on its end it will not slide far enough back. Mark where it hits the adjacent tile.
- Draw a line to connect the marks using the speed square.
Almost finished… But I have to show you this picture of how I finished tiling all the way to the corner. (I could have waited for some of the tiles to dry and then walk over to get the corner ones, but this was way more interesting.
And there you have it.
Grouting will be in the next post, because this one is already wicked long! But here’s a sneak peek at the finished product…
Here’s what’s been happening with the family room:
- Ladies Demo + Wine Night
- Family Room Can of Worms
- Family Room Gets Wired Up
- Making Progress on the Family Room
- Design Choices for the Family Room
- Family Effort this Weekend
- The Built-in Bookshelf and Why It’s Not Finished
- Built-in Bookshelf Using IKEA BESTA
- Self-Leveling Concrete
- Tiling Herringbone Floor <<You are here
- Grouting the Herringbone Floor
- New Step into Family Room
- Lego Coffee Table
- Under Couch Lego Storage