Lazy landlord series Tiling step by step

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Hello Bigger Pockets family 

I have finally finished my 520 sqft tiling project. I would like to share with you all some tips that I have learned along the way. Hopefully this will help you not make the mistakes I made. So first let me set the stage. I am converting my downstairs into a one bedroom apartment complete with two entrances and a laundry area. i wanted to have one flooring choice throughout the whole space with no thresholds in the doorways. my only options that seemed practical were vinyl and porcelain  tile. I ultimately went with tile because although lazy I am also forward thinking.  I realized the tile floor while being the most labor intensive and potentially the most expensive to install. It would also be the least costly in the long term due to the durability.  Not to mention tile and wood flooring increase a homes value. 

I opted for a 24 inch plank wood look tile. the particular item i chose was called redwood from home depot this floor really does resemble wood even close up. having the 24 inch size allowed enough length to look like the real thing.  Enough of the set up lets get to the tips.

Many days where I wished i had chosen an easier floor choice like peel and stick vinyl. Which by the way is not a bad option for a bathroom (but that is another thread) So the first thing I must discuss is patience which is really the only way to get through this process. Especially if you are choosing to lay so much tile.  If you have never done tiling I would not recommend such a big project to start. out. I did two bathrooms and a countertop, before I tackled this job. and even so I was out of my element. 

you can find countless books on tiling, so i will not go into what you need. 

but I will recommend if you are doing a very large job using a scoring tile cutter along with a wet saw comes in handy. also a 1/2 inch drill is essential so that you can mix your thinset. some sort of multi max multi mate or or other oscillating tool with a diamond attachment.  

Tip one get a helper preferably one who is a pro. 

After laying 255 sqft of tile I hit a wall (meaning I couldnt go any further I mentally shut down)  I was going to just carpet the bedroom instead of wrestling with more tile. That is when my contractor said if I help him by mixing the thinset and cutting the tile he would finish the remaining rooms for 500.00

I learned a ton from him.  So my advice to you beginners is try to get a similar situation. if you have three rooms you would like to tile perhaps hire someone to lay tile in one room with a little discount if you function as laborer.  tell him you will cut all the tile for him and change the water. this will considerably lessen his time. and therefore cut your price.  but even if you do not manage to reduce the price being an assistant will allow you first hand how to do this tile thing. once that one room is complete you may be ready to try your hand at the other two rooms.

Tip Two be clean. 

cleanliness is very important. Make sure your room is swept as clean as you can get it. brooms are fine for the big stuff but you want one of those handheld brooms with softish bristles they really get all the dirt up.  nails from carpet tack strips pebbles all need to come up the floor needs to be as clean as you can get it. 

tip three keep a level head. 

fix low spots with a  floor leveling product. which you basically mix and spread out on the floor. this works when you have low spots. If you have high spots, a concrete removal tool such as an angle grinder witha  diamond wheel is an option.  this thing is very aggressive kicks up a lot of dust and is not for the faint of heart. a cold chisel and hammer work very well you just sit on the floor and with chisel in hand begin to chip away at the mound.  you are not chipping into it mind you.  you are chipping across the top skimming it using angles of 22 or 45 degrees.  what you are looking to do is flake off little chunks. with a little bit of practice you can really master this ancient stone cutter technique. I had so much fun doing this part of the job I started looking for other rocks to chip away at.  

once your floor is level its time to begin. your very first course of tile is very important/

I did not really understand all the books methodology of measuring and finding the square etc. what I did is laid one or two courses without thinset but with spacers.

once I was confident that these were straight I laid the next tile next to them. 

point to note when laying the first cemented row of tile next to the trial run be sure not to push the the trial row out of position or you will end up being crooked. 

tip four get the right consistecy 

do not mix too much at once. for a beginner perhaps 1/4 of a bag then try 1/2 bag. My contractor was only doing 1/2 a bag at a time.  consistency of the thinset. essentially it should be like tooth paste. this allows it to plop down on the floor without spreading on its own you can put it where you want it without it creeping. read the bag it will tell you how to mix it.  always put water in the bucket first add the thinset powder on top of it. put the drill paddle to the very bottom of the bucket and mix. do this until thoroughly mixed about 4 min and then let it sit for a few minutes and mix again for another 30 sec to a min

I prefer mixing as opposed to purchasing ready mix. first of all the ready mix is more expensive and to me it is much harder to handle. 

tip 5 organize your work area.

preparing the area.  have most of your tile that you will need. nearby unboxed and spread out behind or beside you.  

lay out your tile in a trial run first without cementing it . 

This is important because you can now do all of your cuts before cementing.  It may seem like more work to lay the tile twice. but the elimination of having to pull up tile or trying to do cuts while your thinset is drying will  be worth the extra effort. 

Finally the art of laying tile. 

using a putty knife scoop out your blobs of thinset and spread it over a small workable area.  first with the flat edge then with the tooth edge. this scored thinset is what allows you to more or less level the tile with the adjacent tile. 

I tended to use a mallet to settle the tile level  this pushed thinset up through the spaces making it necessary to clean with a sponge. 

My contractor placed the tile with one corner first and allowed it to gently drop into place moving it back and forth gently massaging it into place.

both methods work 

let me wrap this up. 

if you are laying a long flooring tile . you will sometimes find that the tile may rock when putting it down meaning one side is too high the other side is too low. my solution was to add thinset to the low side this sometimes made the tile uneven with the adjacent tile. 

my contractors solution was to cut the tile at that point of the rocking. so that now two pieces of were  on either side of the high point. this method proved effective although shortening the tile considerably. so this is a method to be used sparingly and only when necessary. 

all in all my floor came out very good both the floors my contractor did and the flooring i did. there are more tips but I see this is becoming way too long to sit and read. 

If there are any questions please ask away I will be happy to pass along both things I learned from trial and error and what I learned from my contractor.

@Steven Maduro "It would also be the least costly in the long term due to the durability."  Perhaps, but only if it's installed correctly. If it's not, it will be your worst nightmare. 

Not to discourage you but, if you like doing tile work, you should learn the proper methods and techniques...especially before writing articles instructing others.  There's so much more to doing a quality, durable job than most people realize.  There are tile institutes, where you can get training or you can apprentice with a professional tile installer (it doesn't sound like your contractor friend is a tile installer).  

Finally, perhaps it's a matter of personal taste but I don't care for tile on bedroom floors:  it's cold, hard and I think it t looks 'out of place'.  

@Steven Maduro Thanks for sharing your project experiences.  Sounds like you will be better equipped for the next one. 😊

This series is about sharing discoveries and perspectives

When I did body work. I soon discovered that there were hundreds of ways to approach painting and repairing a car. I dont think any two body men I ran into had the same approach.  

It is with this same spirit of more than one way to skin a cat that I offer this lazy landlord series. 

It is not meant to put myself as an expert. 

I am a landlord who sometimes finds myself lacking the cash to hire a professional. 

I agree that learning through a school or taking a class or apprenticing will be a good thing to do if you like tiling.  I don't like tiling 

In fact i don't like manual labor of any kind. that's the whole point of this series its for those people who have to tackle a job they may be dreading and probably are already in place to do the job and perhaps have done it before.  This series offers a few tips and compare and contrast different methods.

When I got my masters degree  in business education 

I was taught that we were not being taught a method we were being taught how to learn methodology. 

Thats what the lazy landlord series is an opportunity to  observe  methodology. 

good or bad right or wrong. I especially am vigilant to outline my missteps as well as what I think was successful. 

As a professional you already having a methodology that works for you and puts bread on your table which is why you scoff at a novice sharing advice. 

This is a photo of Mazarri porcelain tile

I have Caribbean grandparents so I believe the love of tile is in my genes. 

probably just a matter of personal taste. 

this is my contractor laying the redwood tile in the bedroom 

O

this is the room I did this was day three I was finished by day five I was a lot messier than my contractor hence all the crap on the tile so I will be going back in to clean up 

the aftermath the foreground is his tile my tile one foot past the doorway

this floor was extremely un level and required the use of the angle grinder as well as my ancient art of chiseling still there was serious pitch issues but my contractor managed to make a great entryway here 

here are some photos that hopefully show why I wanted one uniform type of flooring 

Can you see how the view from the bedroom goes past two hallways Living area into the bathroom

Every room does that from every doorway you can see two or more rooms 

so they say a picture says a thousand words 

Is the floor perfect no

But it is certainly good enough for me to sell as a rental once painting is done baseboard ceiling fans cabinets and appliances are in and the floor is grouted and cleaned 

I will be happy that I tackled this job myself And because I started myself I managed to get the remaing labor of 300 sqft laid for 500 dollars 

From a landlord perspective it's a big win

Good luck 

Great Job @Steven Maduro . I have also done a handful of tile jobs myself. IMO it is the most satisfying DIY work because the before/after results are always so striking in their difference.

Like you I have mostly only done small jobs - bathroom floors, shower surrounds, kitchen backsplashes. I recently did a large kitchen and bathroom floor and made one regrettable mistake. I didn't do the best job leveling the tiles as I laid them, so there are a few corners of tiles that are a little higher than the one's around them.

Oh well! I am the only one who notices, and the job looks great. I'll know better for next time.

I still recommend tile to anyone I know and usually offer to help. The markup on labor is huge for such a simple process. Every time I do a job I get better. My latest was a kitchen backsplash. I used beveled subway tiles and ran them in a herringbone pattern, and it came out perfect.

Looks good.  I did wood grain in my commercial building but in vinyl.  Very difficult to clean and I think porcelain would have been easier.  I've done porcelain tile myself before in a sfr and although hard to do, the satisfaction is worth it afterwards.

Originally posted by @Karen Bickford :

I agree with @Account Closed that tile in a bedroom would be cold in the North but not so much in the south.

 Hey Karen: I live in the California Desert and even here, floors are cold in the winter. I like to be able to walk around barefoot in my bedroom so I still prefer to have carpet there. Admittedly, I almost always have cold feet so am probably biased.

I certainly hear you guys on the cold floor thing. If I had the money I would have purchased at least the floor warmer for the bedroom..  but even that was pushing my budget really high. 

I may try living in the apartment through the winter so I know first hand what the climate is down there. 

This is my first from scratch conversion. 

So hopefully I can only get better from a design perspective from here. 

Thanks everyone for your input 

I think it looks good. Very wood like. I would love to do tile in all my rentals throughout as it is so durable.

@Maggie Tasseron I wear socks to bed September through May because my feet are always cold 😊

Originally posted by @Karen Bickford :

I think it looks good. Very wood like. I would love to do tile in all my rentals throughout as it is so durable.

@Maggie Tasseron I wear socks to bed September through May because my feet are always cold 😊

 You know what they say: Cold feet, warm heart LOL.

This is probably the best tile to use in a rental, as far as appearance. I usually use the cheap (around 50 cents per ft^2) tile, but may switch to this style.

@Steven Maduro Thank you for sharing.  I think it turned out beautifully.  I had never even thought about doing a porcelain tile that looks like wood!  

@Steven Maduro

Congratulations on taking on and conquering your tile challenge - It looks great!

I have a rental property in Florida I'm debating between "premium" vinyl wood plank flooring and a similar tile you installed.  Looking back, would you still have chosen the tile over vinyl?

Originally posted by @Account Closed :

@Steven Maduro "It would also be the least costly in the long term due to the durability."  Perhaps, but only if it's installed correctly. If it's not, it will be your worst nightmare. 

Not to discourage you but, if you like doing tile work, you should learn the proper methods and techniques...especially before writing articles instructing others.  There's so much more to doing a quality, durable job than most people realize.  There are tile institutes, where you can get training or you can apprentice with a professional tile installer (it doesn't sound like your contractor friend is a tile installer).  

Finally, perhaps it's a matter of personal taste but I don't care for tile on bedroom floors:  it's cold, hard and I think it t looks 'out of place'.  

I've walked away from a couple smaller margin rehabs with DIY tile that needed to be pulled.  So far I've been able to resell them as-is for a small profit (one to an owner occupant, one to a DIY landlord buyer).  1000 or 1500 square feet of tile demo is killer. Full house tile is popular in some of my farms.  And so is really taste specific, big busy pattern tile (18-24").  I have found affordable crews for pretty much everything, but tile demo has a weird mark up where I am.  It appears to be because of floor prep needed after the demo.

IMO, the wood plank look tile is a good choice when looking for one floor covering for the entire house/unit.   Even though I dislike tile for my own spaces (and Santa Barbara and CA is all about the tile), I've seen some good-looking installs of the wood like tile planks in both commercial and residential..  I'm sure your tenant will be thrilled!

@steve Sager

Yes tile I've vinyl even with the headaches

Just because of the durability and ease of repairing a section

But I do believe vinyl has it's place

When time constraints and budget limitations are present

Or the design calls for uniformity and tile is not an option because of your sub floor

My subfloor was concrete so it made the tile an easier option

I hope that helps 

thanks Marie for the vote of confidence

Demo of tile is a chore and a half

I had to pull up 89sqft in order to lay this

It's not hard it's just not a pleasant task 

One you could definitely do without

Yeah Marie k pope

I am still going all out for my tenants I have done lots of special things in here and I really pulled out all my design teeth on this one 

Originally posted by @Steven S. :

@Steven Maduro

Congratulations on taking on and conquering your tile challenge - It looks great!

I have a rental property in Florida I'm debating between "premium" vinyl wood plank flooring and a similar tile you installed.  Looking back, would you still have chosen the tile over vinyl?

Square ceramic tile has gotten so cheap and a it is often on clearance at the big box stores.  I believe it is due to the growing popularity of the wood look planks.  A large tile with very little grout is the way to go long term.  I always look a this way, "would I live there"?  NOT "I am going to live there".  Clean and neat is my goal for projects.  If you are doing projects in A areas you will need to consider the wow factor as well.  I have a good flooring guy in Jacksonville, hit me up on private message and I will connect you.       

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