Wood Grain Tile Flooring that Transforms Your House
This project overview will cover everything you need to complete a wood grain tile flooring project yourself or make an informed decision on a vendor to complete the work for you. Let’s dive in.
- Total Price: $2,300 for 277 sq/ft, or $8.30 per. This included all the labor, tile, grout, thin-set, and grout sealer. The labor/material split was about 50/50.
- Time to Complete: Two days of work plus a day for the grout to dry; three days total.
- Level of Complexity: Medium +. A little bit of confidence with a tile saw and good planning makes this project manageable.
There were three design considerations for laying the tile we selected. Once the carpet and padding were removed we realized we had two more decisions to make but those are covered under Addressing Difficult Areas below.
- Tile Orientation. There is no absolute right or wrong way to orient tile but it is customary to lay the tile parallel to the long axis of a room. This is the design we chose. If you’re unsure, spending a few minutes reviewing hardwood and tile floors on www.houzz.com should help you make your decision. If you can’t decide you can always call a designer for advice.
- Tile Overlap. The manufacturer recommends two designs, 1) a random overlap and 2) 33% overlap or “brick” design. This has to do with how the tiles are manufactured and the corresponding spacing and gaps. After laying the tile on the ground to get a good visual we decided on a random overlap.
- Tile Spacer Size. The smaller the better. Consistent with our goal to imitate hardwood floor we wanted very small grout lines. The manufacturer suggested 1/8″ as the smallest tile spacer and that is what we selected.
Step 1: Materials. There are four things you will absolutely need for this project: 1) Tile, 2) Thin-set, 3) Grout and 4) Grout Sealer. All our materials were bought off the shelf at Home Depot. The tile used was MARAZZI Montagna Saddle 6 in. x 24 in. Make sure to add 10-20% extra tile to your order to account for waste. Because this project was fairly simple we only needed 10% extra. We decided on a dark brown grout (Sable Brown) to hide the grout lines and imitate hardwood. You can view pictures of all the materials in the photo gallery in the links below.
- MARAZZI Montagna Saddle Tile — Link to Home Depot
- PolyBlend Sanded Grout in Sable Brown — Link to Home Depot
- VersaBond Thin-Set (White) — Link to Home Depot
- Grout Shield – I cannot recommend this product because it is too new and has poor reviews.
Note: This project was completed on poured slab so we only needed thin-set. If you are putting this tile down on plywood subfloor make sure you put either 1/4″ or 1/2″ Hardie Backer or rock board down first.
Step 2: Demolition & Floor Preparation. The demolition on this project was simple. The carpet and padding were removed by cutting them into strips and hauling them out to the dumpster. Next, the tack board that held the carpet down was removed using a large chisel and a hammer. Make sure to get all the concrete nails up. To prepare the floor all the over spray needed to be scraped and the floor needed to be checked for levelness. Over sprayed paint can cause adhesion problems over time leading to loose tiles. If you splash a bit of water over the paint before you scrape, it will come right up (see picture). Checking the floor for levelness is very important to avoid high and low spots in your finished floor. The best tool for this job is an eight foot level. Small imperfections can be fixed with the thin-set. Larger ones may need to be fixed prior to tile installation. Consider fixing anything greater than 1/4″.
Step 3: Addressing Difficult Areas. Even on simple tile projects there may be difficult areas. In this case the two problem areas were around the fireplace and the transition to the kitchen floor. The existing tiles were thicker than the new floor tiles (about 1/8″ thicker) and the cuts were jagged. We decided to hide these imperfections by ripping 3″ strips of spare tile left from the original installation and build a border. This solved both problems and added a great new design element. Note: There is a gentle slope on the 3″ border to transition from the old to the new tile however it is very hard to see.
Step 4: Laying Tile. Pick the wall or area in the room that will be the focal point. That is the area where you want the straightest lines with the fewest cuts. You will absolutely need to use a chalk line to snap guide lines down on the floor to use as reference points. Working in small areas, apply the thin-set with a notched trowel and lay the tiles. On this project, we started on the far wall and around the fireplace since it is the room’s focus point.
Apply the thin-set liberally working it onto the concrete and leaving even and consistent trowel notch marks. Lay each tile gently and then tap them into place making sure each tile is level. A quick trick is to very lightly brush your hands across the seam to identify and fix high points. Additionally, you can lay a level on the finished tile to see if you have any high or low spots. Occasionally you will have to remove a tile, add more thin-set and replace it to remove low spots. Note: I would invest the money in renting or buying a wet saw. The cuts will be clean and smooth and well worth the extra expense.
Step 5: Apply the Grout. Grouting is easy but messy. Work in small areas applying the grout and working it into all the grout lines. I have found the best technique is to work the rubber float at a 45 degree angle to the grout lines. With this method you don’t pull the grout out of the joints. Once you’ve applied the grout make sure to lightly sponge up the excess. You may need to go over it a couple of times. Note: Don’t worry about the light chalky haze. You can mop that up once the grout fully cures. If you try to get the floor perfectly clean while the grout is wet you will likely ruin your grout job by pulling up grout from the seams. (see photo in gallery)
Step 6: Clean & Enjoy. Once the grout has thoroughly dried (usually 24 hours or so), a mop and a bucket of clean water is all you need to remove the grout haze. It is possible that you may need to go over the floor twice. After the floor dries move the furniture back and enjoy.