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How to tile wooden bathroom floors

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22 Mar 2012

Tiles are clean, hygienic and water-resistant and look beautiful in a bathroom, however, not all floor bases are suitable for tiles. For example, laying tiles on wooden floors can often be problematic – here are a few things to look out for if you would like to tile your wooden bathroom floors:

Ceramic tiles will suffer drastically if the floors are bouncy. They should therefore be laid on a rigid base to prevent any cracking.

Check for movement

 Check your floors and if they have movement of any sort, you need to reinforce them or choose another form of more suitable floor covering.

Carpet and vinyl flooring can be successfully laid over these kinds of floors. Ceramic tiles will suffer drastically if the floors are bouncy. They should therefore be laid on a rigid base to prevent any cracking.

Reinforcing

 If you are going to tile over a floor that does not feel very rigid, it is important to reinforce the floor from underneath. If you cannot get under your floor, forget about tiling it, because no matter what you do to the surface of the wooden floor, it will still move.

If you have space under your floor then you can get a carpenter in to reinforce the floor with more support beams installed closer together. One can also use steel I-beams to reinforce the floor - this will immediately stiffen the floor, and allow for the use of ceramic tiles.

Subflooring

 Once the floor has been reinforced, remove all the old tiles and tile glue from the floor boards.

Check around the bath and basin for any water damage to the wood. If all is fine, check for any loose planks and screw them down. Ensure the screws are recessed well below the surface of the wooden floorboards so they cannot cause the tiles to crack.

Once all the boards are screwed down, use a lightweight, gypsum levelling compound to fill and level voids or low spots. This is time consuming, but will ensure that your tiles don’t crack over time.

Backerboard

 Now you need to lay the cement backerboard over the wooden floor. This is relatively inexpensive and can be bought at most hardware shops.

Measure your area and get the board cut to size at the shop you buy it from. The boards need to be screwed down with corrosion-resistant screws, and all the joints must be glued and covered with tape.

Your floor should now be a level, smooth and solid surface that is perfect for laying tiles. 

Fix the doors

 Before the tiles are laid the bathroom door needs to be removed and a section needs to be cut off the bottom, as your floor will now be considerably higher than before.

If you have any vanity or built-in cupboards in the bathroom, these doors will also need to be cut.

Tiling

The tiler can now lay the tiles as he normally would.

Speak to your supplier and find out the correct adhesive and grout that you will need for laying the tiles on the wooden floor.

Do not walk on the tiled floor until all the grout has dried, to prevent the floor from cracking.

Because the wooden floor will expand and contract, all the areas around the bath, basins and along the walls, need to have silicone strips inserted in between the last row of tiles and the edge to keep it flexible and prevent cracking.

Choosing tiles

 A good tip to remember, is if you are still unsure whether the floor is stable enough, choose a smaller tile as this will not crack as easily if there is any movement in the floor.

Your tiles should now last as long as if they were laid on concrete. Stability is the key, so ensure that the floor is rigid and you will have no problem with your tiles laid on the wooden floor. - Antonella Desi 

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