Lessons learnt from the ground up

New floors are not flat!

I had thought that it was a reasonable expectation that a newly boarded floor would be perfectly flat and ready to tile straight onto. The reality, however, is that no building has perfectly square corners or flat surfaces; floor, wall or ceiling. What I should have used sooner on the floor tiling was a longer baton to check straight and cross levels and of course a thicker bed of adhesive on the dips.

Our choice of tile was a long narrow wood effect mini plank but a normal offset cut would have been too easy so instead the design called for a staggered pattern set every quarter tile.

Tile cutting was fine when armed with my father in law’s electric tile saw and long traditional cutter that he’d purchased for large porcelain tiles. My biggest challenge, however, was cutting out the holes for the radiator pipes. I couldn’t work out why using the adjustable tile hole drill was so hard but perhaps not having enough water on the cut might have contributed, as did using the cordless drill rather than mains powered. While trying all options I even had a go with my mini Dremmel multi tool with engraving heads. My only success was confining the Dremmel to the bin with a worn out chuck!

My final piece of learning – this is just from the floor remember – was how to grout. I was nervous about taking off the excess grout too early so went the other way and ended up leaving a haze on top rather than buffing at the time. This was exacerbated by the tiles having a grained matt finish (like wood funnily enough!) that held the grout. Next time I’ll be polishing them off much more quickly and making sure that no residue is left that then has to be removed with grout cleaner – which I also should have done before the skirting board and bathroom fittings went in. My logic was that if I was going to clean the floor then I should only do it once when the work was finished by all trades. In practice I now realise that the floor has to be cleaned when it’s easiest to do it (i.e. with no fittings) and then protected while other works take place.

It’s all so blindingly obvious that I can’t understand why I couldn’t work it out in the first place. The worst thing is, by the time I get onto the next bathroom, I’ll probably have to learn everything all over again…

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