Now that your floor looks like a can of silly string exploded (figure 8 ) its time to add more layers to it and cover up all your hard work. If you have not yet done all the hard work then your floor doesn’t look like that. Check out How to install WarmWire Part 1. I’ll wait.
Okay, you may want to check out a speed reading class. Just sayin’. My preferred method is Schluter Ditra underlayment installed atop the WarmWire for your tile installation.
The best method of leveling out your floor for your Ditra would be an SLC or Self-Leveling Cement. This product is mixed with water and poured over your WarmWire. When mixed properly (follow the instructions to the letter – really) and poured it will – wait for it – level itself. When cured you will be left with a level, flat floor.
You can actually install your tile directly to this layer if you chose to do so. I do not chose to do so. I prefer to have an additional uncoupling membrane above these layers then my tile. That’s just how I roll.
One of the best upgrades for a bathroom or kitchen tile floor is the use of in-floor heating. There are several different products available to accomplish the coveted ‘warm tootsies when it is forty below’. One of the more popular products (around here, anyway) is the Suntouch WarmWire radiant in-floor heating. That’s just a really long term for wires that heat your floor (and warm your tootsies).
Now that I’ve used the word ‘tootsies’ twice in one paragraph I believe it’s time to move on.
As an ‘official’ reference the manufacturer’s installation guide can be found online in one of those fancy-ass pdf thingies HERE. It contains all sorts of things that you need to be aware of before starting your installation. While this post will walk you through how I do it, your installation may differ in aspects of which you are unaware. You need to read through the manufacturers information as well before you actually install you WarmWire.
This is as close as I’ll ever get to an official disclaimer: Be aware that the methods I use will differ somewhat from the manufacturer’s instructions intended for the do-it-yourselfer. I am a professional tile guy (really – what are you laughing about?) I accept liability with everything I touch in a customer’s home and accept that risk with the methods I choose to utilize. Read the manufacturer’s instructions before installing your WarmWire!
The days of grabbing a three dollar bag of “thinset” and sticking floor tile right to the plywood in a bathroom are long gone (for professionals, anyway). For a proper tile installation you need a proper substrate. One of the most readily available are cement backerboards. These include products such as Hardiebacker, Durock, Fiberboard, wonderboard and a host of others.
When properly installed on your floor it is an ideal tile substrate for a quality and lasting installation. Notice I said typed “properly installed”? Laying them down on the floor and shooting drywall screws through them does not constitute proper installation.
Choose your weapon. I prefer Hardiebacker or Fiberboard. Whichever you choose make sure you get the proper thickness. With rare exception the 1/2″ variety would be the best choice simply because I like to overbuild stuff. With proper floor framing and deflection ratios, though, you can use 1/4″ to minimize height differences. This is not to say that 1/2″ adds significant sturdiness to your floor – it does not.
To understand this you should understand what designates a particular tile as a ‘floor’ tile. A couple of different things determine this including the PEI Rating and Static Coefficient of Friction (that’s just fancy ass talk for how slippery a tile’s surface is).
When picking out your tile how do you make sure that the surface is durable enough to last in that particular area? Well, being a hands-on kinda guy I use to walk into the tile shop with a belt sander and test it. If the sandpaper wore out before the surface of the tile we found a winner! This tended to piss people off, though. Then I found out there is, as most things I do, an easier way.
For everyone else in the world this is determined by using what is called the PEI, or Porcelain Enamel Institute, rating of your tile. The PEI rating is between I and V with a V being the most durable. Those are Roman numerals, not the 19 letters between I and V. I’ll just call them 1 to 5 – you know, since I’m not from, nor am I in, Rome.
This scale is used by most tile manufacturers to determine the surface wear durability and should be printed on the box of tile somewhere. If it is not you can always contact your tile manufacturer for the information.
General guidelines for proper installation areas are as follows:
Group I: Tile suitable only for residential or commercial walls – stuff you don’t walk on unless you’re Spiderman. Not suitable or recommended for foot traffic (unless you are, indeed, Spiderman).
Group II: Tile suitable for general light residential traffic. Not recommended for kitchens, entryways, heavily used bathroom floors or any other area subject to continuous use foot traffic.
Group III: Tile suitable for all residential and light use commercial foot traffic areas. You can pretty much put this everywhere in your house except your garage floor.
Group IV: Tile suited to all residential, medium commercial, and light industrial applications such as restaurants, hotels, and hospital lobbies.
Group V: Tile suitable for all residential, heavy commercial, and industrial applications such as airports, malls, subways, and the Space Shuttle.
Once you have your entire perimeter done you simply need to pack deck mud into the rest of the base from the perimeter to the drain. Once again – beat the hell out of it. Seriously, pack it in there really well. The more dense your floor is the better. You need to ensure that the line of the floor is straight from the wall to the drain all the way around without any major humps or dips. It takes time and patience – use both. This step is critical since this is the substrate your tile will be installed upon.
Well, you’ve made it to the final step. If you have arrived at this portion of the instructions without first reading the rest, start with How to Create a Shower Floor. Go ahead, I’ll be right here when you get back. I’ll just sit back and drink this beer Pepsi while I wait.
Okay, now that we’ve ensured that your shower liner is indeed waterproof and won’t leak into your dining room and carve the Grand Canyon into your basement we’re ready for the final portion. The top mud bed is the surface onto which your shower floor tile is actually installed.
What we will now be doing is fabricating your top mud bed directly over the top of your waterproof liner. The top bed will be 1 1/4″ to 1 1/2″ thick – consistent throughout from the drain to the wall. Since you have a pre-slope beneath your liner (umm, you DO have a pre-slope beneath your liner, right?) you already have the correct slope for drainage. By making a consistent mudbed for your top slope it will follow the slope for the same amount. Know what I mean?