So… our slate tile saga. It all began when we discovered dry rot – a lot of dry rot – under the sliding glass door. My Charles started to chip away at the flaky wood and discovered, much to our horror, that the previous owners had POURED CONCRETE and tiled above the rotten subfloor.
My Charles used his manly muscles to sledgehammer – seriously, he did that – through the concrete in order to get down to the rotten floor. Then we replaced the bad stuff with sound, thick plywood, and instead of doing the insane thing of adding two inches of concrete back on top, we added another piece of plywood to make sure everything was at the same level.
A very small amount of self-leveling concrete was poured on top of the sublfloor, and we had a nice, safe, sturdy surface to replace the slate.
This is when things really became difficult – because whacking through inches of concrete wasn’t hard enough. Finding tile that matched was impossible. We hit up every home improvement and tile place within an hour’s drive in our attempt to find what had been used previously, but to no avail. So, admitting defeat, we purchased the closest substitution we could find at our local tile shop. Called “Butterscotch,” the colors looked like they would blend in.
Two weeks later, when the special order arrived, the tiles weren’t as butterscotch as they had looked in the sample, but the colors that ran through the slate were the same as the colors that ran through the current floor, just in different concentrations. The 16 X 16 squares were laid, and then winter hit before we were able to finish.
Since we don’t have a garage or shop or even a basement, our deck is the only place where a wet saw can be used. We waited for warmer weather and tried not to look at our unfinished living room floor.
Our early spring meant that we were able to rent a wet saw the Sunday before last and finally finish the project. Cutting slate tile was really simple with the saw. Slate is fragile, but it’s also pretty soft. It was like butter. (Think Mike Myers in Coffee Talk.) Each area near the wall was measured, the tile was measured and then cut. We dry fitted the tiles and made sure the arrangement worked and the spaces between tiles were correct, and then we got down to thin setting those suckers, using tile spacers to keep things accurate and never letting the level get too far away. The tiles set up nice and even and level. We let everything set up over night and grouted with a sanded grout the next day.
*A note about the thin-set we used: we followed the instructions on the bag, and that worked perfectly for us. The thin-set was of a toothpaste consistency. We used a notched trowel to apply it to the floor as well as back-buttering each tile. Everything set up so well, when my Charles decided to remove a tile because it was slightly crooked, he had to chip that mofo out piece by tiny, shattered piece with a heavy duty chisel.
I wet the tiles before my Charles grouted in hopes of easier clean up. He then sponged up the excess grout on the tiles, I wet the next batch, he grouted and sponged off, and we worked our way down the replaced floor. After waiting two hours, we swiped the sponge over the grout and buffed away the film on the slate. It took me a few passes to clean all of the film away.
And then we had a complete floor in our living room once again. A beautiful, slate floor with no rotten subfloor and a new sliding glass door – what bliss! After months and months of our furniture being just a little too close to the walk way, everything was finally back in its proper placement. The slate may not match as perfectly as we had hoped, but it’s close enough, and having a floor is a beautiful thing – something this home insists upon reminding us again and again.
A blog about writing, art, projects, or whatever else tickles my fancy.