Many people dream of doing their own tile flooring. The internet is full of DIY tile flooring tutorials and when you read them you feel like it’ll be an easy one day project that you can gaze upon with pride the very evening that you lay your first tile. However that is not always the case and the truth sometimes alludes the Pinterest project seekers. How easy is DIY tile? Is it as easy as they make it look on TV or Pinterest?
Sit back while your back will still bend without pain and let me tell you a little tale.
Once upon a time we returned from a four day trip and took our first steps into our home to be met with the sound of “squish, squish, squish”. Our newly installed dishwasher had leaked the entire four days we were gone, flooding one of our downstairs room. The carpet was soaked and had to be pulled up and thrown away.
We lived with bare concrete floors in a small room for many months while we tossed up our options. We could replace it with wood, more carpet, brick, or tile. But even if we made a decision, who would install it and how much would that cost? We live in a huge area with big companies that charge a lot for installation, even in tiny rooms.
My heart was set on brick to match our entry way but the cost was way too high.
Then while browsing the tile section at our local big box store once again I happened upon a large amount of wood look tile that was on clearance for a price that could not be beat. It was decided. Our plan quickly became to install wood look tile ourselves.
Later that night we piled our three kids into our minivan, with my husband taking his car as well – just in case, and headed off to purchase the tile and bring it home.
Let’s just say that this is where our eyes were opened to what lay before us.
We calculated that with extra tiles for breakage we would need 40 boxes of tiles that were 2ft long. My husband grabbed a huge cart and slowly we started loading the tile onto the cart, having to inspect the boxes for signs of broken tiles as we went. After ten boxes we were starting to get tired. 20 boxes were exhausting. 30 was torture. 40 were a nightmare and our poor kids were beyond themselves with the time we had now been there in the store.
After getting all the other supplies and paying, we then had to load all that we could into the van with the seats folded down and then loaded the remaining 15 boxes into his car.
And of course then we had to unload them all into our garage. Before the work even began we were sore and tired.
Thankfully before we started the project, our in-laws came and picked up our kids for a few days because we thought we would be done in a day, perhaps two. (Insert laughter here.)
The first day of our project we wound up starting as most projects start, by making a trip to the store to purchase a better wet saw when we found out that our simple manual tile saw wouldn’t cut the porcelain tiles. Our attempt to save money by not hiring installers was already taking a hit.
Yes we could have rented a tile saw but at that time we still were optimistic to say that buying one was only a slight bit more and we could use it on future tile jobs.
Back home we went to finally get started. But then there were little details such as the fact that our cordless drill battery couldn’t handle mixing the mortar so my husband had to go back to the store to buy a cheap corded drill. Another purchase to help us save money.
Finally as the sun was starting to go down we laid the first few tiles. The first day we finished 1/4th of the tiles but had faith that the next day would be our day.
However the next day got a late start because the up / down / up / down of laying tiles had finally caught up with us and rolling out of be literally required that – rolling. It went on like this for three more days. Then the next part started – the grout.
We did finish the grout in one day but when you’re tired from all the days before it was difficult and we didn’t pay attention to detail like we should have. After the grout was dried there was the scraping off of dried grout on the tiles (because we had been sloppy out of exhaustion) and then caulking the area between the tile and baseboards.
Since then anyone we find that have laid their own tiles recount the tales of sore muscles and pain in your knees like a war story and usually followed by the words, “never again”. Of course many do lay their own tiles again because with time you forget.
So if you want to lay your own tiles here’s what you need to know:
- The first day your body will hurt. The next day you will carefully consider if going to the bathroom is worth the torture of getting out of bed. The final day you will be able to point out ever muscle that you might ever have – because it will hurt.
- It will not go as planned. You’ll buy the wrong mortar and need more tools than you first anticipate. You’ll break tiles and have a hard time figuring out the wet saw.
- There is a lot of up / down from sitting on the floor to kneeling and standing again. When you’re not doing that you’re carrying heavy buckets of mortar or heavy boxes of tile. The physical toll is heavy.
- The mortar is messy. The caulk is even worse.
- It is hard work and no where near as easy as you see on TV.
But yet, you forget because the results are usually beautiful. The money you hopefully saved can go towards a massage (or five) and you’ll feel good about what you’ve accomplished. It’s hard work but it has great rewards.
Should you try DIY tile? That’s up to you but hopefully now you’ll realized that it’s not as easy as they make it look on TV. And if you do hire a tile guy instead of doing it yourself? Give him a hug and make him some cookies.
So soon we’ll tile another room and maybe one day our bathroom. Each time hopefully it will go quicker and easier.
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