How to Easily: Fix Floor

Next on your project list, 'Fix Floor'.

The real question is where do you start?

That depends. Do you have existing flooring? Is it tile, laminate, just plain hedious? Ok, that was a joke and I couldn't resist.

When I moved into my current house, our main bathroom had beige squares with the brightest blue accent square tile pattern. While I am sure it was perfect for the previous home owners it was far from ideal for us. Ok, we hated it.

We knew when we first saw it - Fix floor - had to go on the honey do list. However, when you just start out in a new house, you tend to 'live with what you have'.

So, we lived with it...for 4 years....nasty! Not to mention the tile in the shower was molding....nasty - this was literally one of those bathrooms where you had to wear thongs on your feet to feel somewhat comfortable.

Well, after a promotion at work, we decided it was time for a little do it yourself home floor repair project. Ok it was more of a remodel project.

When we looked around and talked to a few people who could possibly fix the floor, (and do our fix floors project for us) the quotes came back in the thousands of dollars (yes, $1,000+). And that was just for their labor - not to mention the materials.

***Jeff's Helpful fix Floor Tips: The large discount stores will typically charge anywhere from $5 to $6 per square foot for their services. This doesn't include any materials - yes, those are additional costs.

To easily figure out their cost - simply take $5 - $6 per square foot, multiply by the number of square feet you are doing on your fix floor project, and you have their cost.***

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Time for a do it yourself - repair floor yourself - project.

We saved THOUSANDS. We ended up doing our entire floor for about $600. Not bad for the largest bathroom we had ever used (double sinks, shower, bath tub, toilet and double entry)

Next on YOUR Honey Do list: FIX FLOOR

So, where do you start?

Good question. For me, it started in one 'inconspicuous' corner of the bathroom with a sledge hammer and a screw driver.

It seemed to be the easiest place because I was able to get under the tile and the cement board at the same time (big plus).

I hammered away and with in about 15 minutes had taken out about a 1 foot square of tile.

Needless to say, my ears were ringing and I learned very quickly you need long sleeves, jeans, kneepads, and ear plugs.

So, where do you actually start?

A big question like that deserves a big answer.

Recently, I helped a friend of mine, Bernice, with her fix floor project. Let's follow her project ans show you how to do you fix floors project easily (and cheaply).

Your first steps is to get to the under layment.If this is a new build or a renovation and you are currently stripped down to the 'under lyament' then you are golden.

Most of us - 99% - aren't going to be that fortunate and we'll need to first remove something to get to the under layment.

If you have tile, you will need to do a little 'fix floor' planning ahead.

So, what do I mean by that?

Let's look at how tile is laid (this will also be a preview to what you'll do if you are going to be laying tile).

Tile is a multi layer/multi step process. There are basically 4 layers to tile (5 steps). they are:

1) base layer of mortar2) layer of 'cement board' that is either nailed down or screwed down3) another layer of mortar4) a layer of tile on top of the mortar5) Grout in between the tiles

So, when you need to remove a current tile floor, realize that you need to get through ALL of those layers in order to get to the under layment (the plywood that is on top of your floor joists).

***If you do have existing tile that is laid down, then the fix floors project is probably closer to 10 Band Aids on the Band Aid Scale of 1-10.

Not that you need a lot of specialized knowledge to do this, you just need to have patience and realize that this project will take time and be somewhat labor intensive.


How do you do this? - that's the million dollar 'replace floor' question.

First, you'll need a few tools.

1) face mask (keeps the dust out)
2) ear plugs (it gets noisy)
3) mini sledge hammer - a hammer will work as well and is easier to swing. (if you would rather get a tool kit, check out this kit)
4) flat bar - a pry bar that is flat
5) EYE PROTECTION - when tile breaks, it has a tendency to shatter and little shards will go everywhere
6) knee pads - get used to being on your knees
7) long sleeves, jeans, and gloves - you have to protect yourself
8) open the window and set a fan in the window - this will help with getting the dust out of the room.
9) floor scraper or a flat scraping tool of some sort

Feel Free to Check out my 'Tool Shed' for additional tools that I use and you might find helpful

Second - you need to remove all of the bathroom items you can. this will make it so much easier when you replace floors. This includes toilets, cabinets (if you choose), the pedestal on a pedestal sink (if possible), base boards, EVERYTHING that is movable.

Third: Whack away!

When we were kids, we always wanted to break things. This is you chance!

Put on the long sleeves, knee pads, earplugs, eye protection, grab you sledge hammer and your flat bar and GO AT IT!

It is best if you can start on an open edge (doorway) and then work into the bathroom from there.

***Jeff's Helpful Fix Floor Hints: What I found works best is to really pound on the grout lines. It tends to break up the grout with out breaking the tile - this will allow you to remove larger pieces at a time.

Once the piece of tile comes up, put it to the side.

Underneath the tile you will find the 'cement board'. The cement board is composed of two layers of a mesh with cement in between the layers - typically is is going to be 3/8 or 1/2 of an inch thick.

This is going to be mounted to the floor with grout as well as nails or screws. Hopefully it is only nails and you can use your flat bar to take them out of the floor or the back of a hammer.

You won't be able to get all of the cement board off of the floor in the first shot. This is where the floor scraper comes in handy. You can use it to scrape across the floor and get under the loose ends.

There will be a lot of dust and a lot of noise so make sure you protect yourself.

Just remember - this is absolutely the worst it will be. It only gets better from here on out - much less noise and dust. Keep your eye on the prize!

**Jeff's Helpful Fix Floor Hint: Get some bath rugs to cover where you have worked and where you haven't worked. You will still probably want to use the bathroom while you are working on it and this will help you to make it just a little more livable.***

You now have a GREAT start on the 'Fix Floor' honey do project.

Now the FUN Begins!!!

Get ready to see your floor take on a life of its own. All of your hard prep work will come to fruition and you will being to see your new floor take shape.

Fortunately for the project I completed with Bernice, we didn't have to take up an existing floor. Bernice had vinyl peel and stick flooring down already and we just went over the top of it.

Here are the steps we followed on her fix floor project.

Step 1: Clean the area:
You just got done ripping out your existing floor. Make sure you remove all of the debris and clean the area. Not with sponges or anything like that, but you should have the floor 'broom clean' meaning that you have swept several times and gotten all of the dust off of the floor you can.

Step 2: Lay out the cement board:
Take a look at your space and start to cut out your cement board. I don't feel there is a 'pattern' that you'll need to follow, you'll just want to make sure that you cover from wall to wall with no gaps between boards.

***Jeff's Rules of Thumb for the Fix Floor Project: Make sure to not have a continuous joint that runs the length of the room - you will want to follow more of a 'brick pattern' as you are laying out your cement board***

Start in a corner where you can lay a full sheet of cement board. Mix up some grout and trowel it on to the floor.

Once the board is laid, screw/nail it down (ok, I like screws - I feel they'll hold better in the long run - less squeaks).

When you are troweling the grout on you'll start with a 'glop' of grout on the floor, you'll smooth it out with the flat edge of the trowel and then you'll take the grooved/notched edge at a 45 - 90 degree angel and trowel the excess grout off of the floor.

***Jeff's Helpful Fix Floor Hint: Only cover as much floor as you need to lay that one sheet of cement board. Mortar can dry very quickly once on the floor.

Next, put your cement board on top of the freshly laid mortar and nail/screw it down. It's best to try to lay it straight down versus tilting it into place. The tilting motion will disturb the mortar under neath and cause gaps where you won't have any left.

Repeat this process through out your entire floor.

***Jeff's Helpful Fix Floor Hints: I like to let the floor dry for at least 24 hours before I move on to the next step. I want to make sure it cures before I put any pressure on it. Read the manufactures specifications on the back of the grout package and follow them.***

***Jeff's Fixing Like A Pro Tip: When cutting the cement board, score the board and then 'snap it' using another board underneath for a pivot point. You will be left with a pretty clean edge.***

***Jeff's Additional Notes: Cement Board helps to form a very solid base. This will help your home floor repair or remodel project last for a long time.***

Step 3: Lay the Tile:

This is where the fun part of the fix floor project really starts. This is where you'll start to see your hard work paying off.

A good tile job looks as if it was laid before any walls were put up and it was centered on the room. So, it is always best to start your tiling in the center of a room.

First, find the center of the room.

Measure the length of one wall and mark the center of the wall. Repeat for the other 3 walls. Now, simply draw a line from the center of one wall to the center of the opposite wall. Repeat for the other 2 walls.

Now you have your center of the room. As strange as it seems, this is the BEST place to START tiling.

***Fix Floor Tricks of the Trade: Don't leave small and difficult cuts for you when it comes to the edges of your walls. First lay out a row of tiles on your floor. If the tile that meets the wall is less than 1/2 of a normal tile length, remove the tile, center the rest of the tiles (even if that means you are on your chalk line). this will help you to not have those difficult cuts when you come to the edge of your walls.***

In laying the tile, it is best to be working in a small area at a time. The mortar will dry quickly.

Start at the center of the room, lay out enough grout for about 2-3 tiles. These are the most important tiles you will lay. The rest will follow suit and it will be critical that these tiles are done well.

In laying out your mortar, use the same process described above when we were laying out the cement board.

Lay your first tile. Put it into place trying your best to simply lay it from above versus sliding it into place. Then wiggle it a little bit (yes, that song popped into my head as well). As you are pressing the tile down, simply give it a little back and forth turn. This will help the mortar adhere to the back of the tile completely.

Continue working down your chalk line that is on the floor. Once you have a section ready, fill it in. Paying special attending to making sure that the grout lines are matching up.

***Jeff's Side notes for your Fix Floor project: Straight grout lines are key when you have 'fix floor' on your honey do list. This is the first thing someone will see. Take your time and take pride in your work. One option is to pick up some 'spacers' at your local hard ware store - you'll find them next to the grout and tiel.***

Repeat this process until you are done.

"But Jeff, what about the edges? The corners? How do I do those?"

That's a GREAT fix floor question.

Simply put...exactly the same way. The only difference is that you'll want to make sure you cut the tile to fit that location.

So, how do you cut tile?

I use a 'wet saw' and cut the tile. It is a little table saw that has a bucket of watter under it and a very smooth circular blade on it.

I take a black marker and mark my tile where I want the cuts, go to the wet saw and make my cuts.

***Side Note: The wet saws are actually wet. You will get a little wet while using one.***

You do have another can use a pair of tile clippers.

Tile clippers are a unique set of pliers designed specifically for tile.

Simply mark your cut and take the tile clippers and start to snip off very small pieces at a time. Too large of a snip will ruin the tile.

(it gives a whole new meaning to 'biting off more than you can chew')

So, why a wet saw over tile clippers?

I like the wet saw for a few reasons.1) If I use tile clippers and take off too much of a bite, I could easily snap off more than I wanted to take off.2) I feel the wet saw allows me a much cleaner cut and much smoother edges. I like the finished project better.

Once you have your cut, then put the tile in place using the same process.

LET IT DRY! This is a HUGE key for your floor repair project. I typically recommend at least 24 hours. Read the directions on the back of the grout mixture and allow your grout to dry and follow the manufacturers directions.

STEP 4: Grout your Floor:
Now your floor has tile on it and you are sitting pretty. You are almost done. You can see the finish line and it looks good. You have even picked out the PERFECT grout color for your fix floor project (yes, grout does come in a variety of colors).

Applying the grout will go much quicker than anything you have done so far. Mix up your grout to the same consistency as you did with your mortar - peanut butterish. Take your 'float' and scoop out a bunch of grout. Slap it on to your floor and work across your tile lines at a 45 degree angle.

By working at the angle, it will help you to push the grout into the cracks evenly and look like a professional did your fix floor project. I like to go over each line 2-3 times while the grout is still wet. This means that I'll have the maximum amount of grout in between each tile.

When you come to the edges and tight spots, use your fingers. Work at the same 45 degree angle and push the grout into the cracks.

There is one more piece to the grouting - wiping off the grout.

The grout that is on the top of your tile will start to dry pretty quickly and 'frost' over. I'll usually give my tile at least 30 minutes or so (enough time to complete the entire floor and then come back to wipe it away).

Grab your sponge and a bucket. Fill the bucket with just a little bit of water and lightly wet your sponge.

***Jeff's Helpful Fix Floor Tips: Your sponge should only be damp. Wring it out as much as you can. Also, keep your sponge as clean as possible. Clean your sponge often and refresh your water frequently.***

You will wipe off the frosted grout and at the same time 'clean up' your grout lines.

You will end up wiping off the 'frosted' grout 2-3 times before you have it all up.

You're almost done with the fix floor project.

Step 5: Wait for it to dry
Read the manufacturers directions for the appropriate amount of wait time. Again, I'll wait at least 24 hours.

While allowing your grout to dry, mist it with a spray bottle. If you can keep the grout wet while it cures it will cure much harder and you'll end up with a floor that will last a lot longer.

Step 6: Seal your floor:
There are numerous products out on the market that you can use to help seal up your floor and protect against stains. Pick the best one for you and apply using manufactures directions.

Congratulations! Take fix floor off of your honey do list!

So, what is the cost of a home floor repair project like this for someone who has never done it before?

I'll give you some rough numbers. Realize that each bathroom is going to be a different size and some of the materials (TILE) come in a variety of price ranges. No Matter what, you saved a ton of money doing it yourself.

Grout (on top of the tile) - 2 bags at $10 each = $20.00Sledge hammer - $10Float - $2ear plugs - $1Knee Pads - $25 (for some really nice ones that will last a long time.)Flat Bar - $7Floor Scraper - $25Fan (if needed) to blow air out an open window - $10 - you can go cheapTile (biggest variable) - $1 - $5 per square foot.Cement Board (enough to cover the floor) - this is a variable because you will want to make sure you have enough to cover your floor and everyones bathroom is going to be a different size. The cement board comes in at about $5.00 per sheet and a sheet is roughly about 3' x 5'.

And what about the Band-Aid Scale of Home Repair?

How does the fix floor or replace floor project compare?

I'm ranking this project as a 6!

Band Aid Scale of Home Repair = 6

Why a 6?

Basically, the entire process isn't that technical, however, there are a lot of steps.

You will get good at the steps (you are doing them over and over), however, this project does take a long time, it is best if you have a helper, and there are a few little 'tricks of the trade' that can make or break the project.

So, overall, not all that difficult to grasp, however, challenging enough.

Congratulations again! You've just completed your Fix Floor Project.

What's next on your 'Honey Do' list?Jeff Hensiek

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