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Author Topic: Installing ceramic tile on plywood subfloor  (Read 8504 times)

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Offline Mongo

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Installing ceramic tile on plywood subfloor
« on: February 03, 2005, 08:28:13 am »
I recently laid new subflooring (3/4" plywood) in my girlfriends house (actually an older trailer) and have been waiting on her to make up her mind what she wanted over it. I thought she was going to go with T&G pine (cheap!) but she found a closeout sale at Lowe's and bought a bunch of ceramic tile (only 78 cents ft2, so real cheap, lol)

I've seen some places say that it could be installed directly on the plywood, and other places say it needs to have something else put down over the plywood first, such as cement backer board.

In yet another place, I saw what looked like some type of plastic netting type stuff over the plywood and the mortar/tile laid on top of that.

Anyone have any experience doing ceramic tile flooring?  Also, I checked HD and Lowe's websites, but they don't list the price for the cement backer board, anyone know offhand roughly how much that will be per sheet if we go that route?

That's going to take care of kitchen and bath, now if she'd just figure out what she wants in the living room....

Offline Faron

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Re: Installing ceramic tile on plywood subfloor
« Reply #1 on: February 03, 2005, 08:44:14 am »
Mongo, I use the cement backer board.  I think you can level out the floor better, and I think the concrete board will help deal with moisture concerns between the plywood and tile.  The board runs about $10 per 3 by 4 foot piece.  There are special concrete screws you need to use.   Some smaller tile come attached to nylon netting in about 12" squares.  Might that be the nylon you were talking about?  I like laying those smaller tiles better that 12" squares but  hey, at 78 cents I could lay anything!
Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for dinner.  Liberty is a well armed lamb contesting the vote. - Ben Franklin

Offline Mongo

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Re: Installing ceramic tile on plywood subfloor
« Reply #2 on: February 03, 2005, 08:49:52 am »
Wow, $10 for 3x4?  Lol, that's going to more than double the price since that's more per ft2 than the tile itself was. So much for the tile being cheaper than the pine T&G, lol

That's not going to make her happy...can I give you her number and you call and break the news to her?  ;D  :o

Offline Faron

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Re: Installing ceramic tile on plywood subfloor
« Reply #3 on: February 03, 2005, 09:07:15 am »
Well, we could go the good news-bad news route.  The good news? "It's only money!"   :D
Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for dinner.  Liberty is a well armed lamb contesting the vote. - Ben Franklin

Kirk_Allen

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Re: Installing ceramic tile on plywood subfloor
« Reply #4 on: February 03, 2005, 09:50:02 am »
DO NOT PUT THE TILE DIRECTLY ON PLYWOOD

Chances are the tile purchased at the Box store is not a commercial quality in relation to hardness.  With expansion and contraction of the wood from season to season, and flexing from walking on it, there is NOY enough stiffness in 3/4 plywood to prevent future cracks in the tile. 

When we put our tile floor in, the company we purchased it from would not warranty the tile unless there was a minimum of 1 1/2" of backer support, of which 3/4" could be plywood but the direct backer had to be 3/4" cement board. Even after ensuring everything was done as needed, we now have tow tiles next to a air duct that have small hairline cracks. 

Now for the fine print.  When those tiles cracked I called the company about having it warrantied.  They asked if I had 1 1/2" of backer support as described above.  Sure do , 3/4" ply and 3/4" cement board.  They then told me they cant warranty it because I dont have an 1 1/2" of support.  They then went on to tell me, which is true, that 3/4" plywood is actually less than 3/4".  That being the case they are not obligated to warranty it. 

I could have fought it but it wasnt worth the hassle.  I had purchased extra tiles just in case so I am covered on the tile.  Its the labor Im not looking forward to.

Our neighbor put their tile directly on plywood.  They have about 10 tiles that have NOT cracked yet. 

Offline Mark M

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Re: Installing ceramic tile on plywood subfloor
« Reply #5 on: February 03, 2005, 11:03:33 am »
There are about 3 or 4 types of backer board, depending on the application and moisture level. I also read where there should be 1.5 inches of support but I thought that was in addition to cement board. I got some 3x5 sheets for about $9, they are either 3/8 or 1/2, can't remember for sure.

Offline Mongo

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Re: Installing ceramic tile on plywood subfloor
« Reply #6 on: February 03, 2005, 11:07:16 am »
I didn't want to do it this way, but the guy that helped me (family friend of hers) insisted that we lay the new plywood down on top of the old subflooring (particle board)  so actually she does have 1.5" of material down now in most places (except for where we had to cut out the humps in the particle board due to cracks along the joists that forced the material up between joists) 

I really wanted to tear it all up and start fresh, but he insisted...maybe he had the right idea after all.


Offline TArmstrong

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Re: Installing ceramic tile on plywood subfloor
« Reply #7 on: February 03, 2005, 11:44:59 am »
If you have that much down now, I'd just put down 1/4" cement backer board or the easier to use Hardibacker (~$10 for 3x5). Hardi has a website, HardiFlooring.com. You definitely need the 3/4" plywood as particle board wouldn't support it well. I've laid lots of tile using 1/4" or 1/2" backer board over 3/4" plywood and it still looks great. This includes the .88 stuff from HD and the high-end $7 sq ft stuff. Just make sure you use mortar on both sides and screw the backer board down (don't use roofing nails).

Tom

Offline rebocardo

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Re: Installing ceramic tile on plywood subfloor
« Reply #8 on: February 03, 2005, 12:58:10 pm »
I have only done a few floors, but, I agree with KirkAllen as the how to on the install. Even then, you can get cracks near thresholds and vents. You have to drive a lot of screws to hold whatever backing material down, so I would make sure I had a hefty 120v drill for a screw driver. Sink the screws below the surface and then cover them with filler/cement along with the seams between boards. Leave about 1/4 inch between the tiles and walls/cabinets and cover the gap with toe moulding.


Offline Mongo

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Re: Installing ceramic tile on plywood subfloor
« Reply #9 on: February 03, 2005, 03:29:32 pm »
If you have that much down now, I'd just put down 1/4" cement backer board or the easier to use Hardibacker (~$10 for 3x5). Hardi has a website, HardiFlooring.com. You definitely need the 3/4" plywood as particle board wouldn't support it well. I've laid lots of tile using 1/4" or 1/2" backer board over 3/4" plywood and it still looks great. This includes the .88 stuff from HD and the high-end $7 sq ft stuff. Just make sure you use mortar on both sides and screw the backer board down (don't use roofing nails).

Tom

Eh? Mortar on both sides of the backer board? Or did you mean mortar on both the topside of backer board and bottom of tile?

Offline IndyIan

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Re: Installing ceramic tile on plywood subfloor
« Reply #10 on: February 03, 2005, 03:39:05 pm »
In my bathroom we used the 1/4" backerboard on plywood and spread motar between the backerboard and plywood.  Then we screwed it down with the correct screws every 6".  I haven't tiled it yet but that floor is noticebly more stiff than the rest of the subfloor.  Also we left small gaps between the sheets of backerboard as recommended.

This was all out of the homedepot flooring book.
Ian

Offline TArmstrong

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Re: Installing ceramic tile on plywood subfloor
« Reply #11 on: February 03, 2005, 06:15:10 pm »
Oh, I mean make sure you use mortar between the plywood and backer board and then, of course, between the tile and backer board. Sorry for the confusion. :)  I've seen some operators not use mortar between the plywood and backer board. The mortar vendors put out a good pamphlet that you can pick up at the box stores. It describes the whole process. Actually it's pretty easy to do, just time consuming and a bit hard on the knees and back. The only part I hate is cleaning up the mortar buckets...

Offline Tom

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Re: Installing ceramic tile on plywood subfloor
« Reply #12 on: February 03, 2005, 06:36:08 pm »



Welcome to the Forestry Forum, Tom Armstrong.  :)
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Offline Brucer

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Re: Installing ceramic tile on plywood subfloor
« Reply #13 on: February 03, 2005, 08:18:49 pm »
When I replaced my wood stove 7 years ago, I put down ceramic tile under it. The subfloor was
5/8" T&G plywood. On top of that I added another 5/8" of plywood, glued to the subfloor. Then
I glued down 3/8" G1S plywood with the "grain" at right angles, using drywall screws. I
vacuumed off any sawdust and then washed down the wood with a damp cloth to make sure
there was no construction dust residue. Then I applied the tile cement directly to the plywood.
The stove weighs 500 pounds, and I stand on the tile every week to clean behind the stove --
no sign of cracking and nothing has come loose.

My tile are high quality European tiles, nearly half an inch thick, so that helps a lot.
Bruce    LT40HDG28 bandsaw with two 6' extensions, ED22 twin blade edger.
"Complex problems have simple, easy to understand wrong answers."

Offline TArmstrong

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Re: Installing ceramic tile on plywood subfloor
« Reply #14 on: February 03, 2005, 08:25:33 pm »
Tom, Thanks for the welcome! I've been lurking for months, but will be getting serious real soon. Looking at either a WM for TK mill, since they are nearby. Of course, I'm leaning toward the WM, but I've got to give the locals a shot at my business.

Mongo, sorry to hijack you thread for a bit, but here's some additional tips for the tile:

1) Make sure the backer board is as level as possible as you transition between sheets. Use the tape and mortar between them as well. Try to lay all of the BB together with the same batch of mortar. Small variations become larger as you're laying the tile.

2) One difference with the cheap tile is that the tiles aren't very uniform in size. This matters when trying to get nice lines and solid corners. It may look bad when you're laying them (the corners, etc.), but it really isn't that noticeable once you get the grout in, just keep this in mind.

3) Also, the .88 tile isn't quite 12x12 so remember than when measuring and laying out the tile. I once did a 6x5 (exact) bathroom with it and I was off by 3/4" or so at the back so I had to cut halfs on each side to compensate.

4) The trick when laying grout is the step when you remove the grout with the sponge. Get the grout in good, but take your time with the sponge when wiping the excess. This is the critical step when laying the grout, and if you take your time here, it will turn out great.

Thats it for now. I'm looking forward to learning more about sawing!

Offline Avalancher

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Re: Installing ceramic tile on plywood subfloor
« Reply #15 on: February 04, 2005, 08:02:43 am »
Yep, I agree with everyone about the backer board, dont even think about laying tile without it. Think of it this way, would you want to save some money now and forget about the backer board, and 6 months later have to tear it all up and try again? talk about expensive.
I have layed a number of tile floors, and on only one did not use the backer board at the customers request. I had him sign the work order stating he did not want the backerboard used, and there was no warranty to cracks.
3 months later he called me crying, his floor was a mess. I went and took a look later in the week, the floor looked like a spider web.
I gave him a price to tear it all up and do things my way, he actually almost cried.
Later that week he called me and gave me the job. 3/4 backerboard, a good quality tile this time, and 4 long days of my labor. He wrote me a check this time for $3700 and I didnt make a lot on the job. I later calculated that if he had done the job right the first time, it would have only cost him $800 more to use the backer board, a good quality tile instead of the junk he bought, and let me come back in a week to seal the grout.
My opinion is, if you cant afford to do the job right, save your $$$ until you can, its like buying cheap tools. They will always break when you really need them.

Offline rebocardo

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Re: Installing ceramic tile on plywood subfloor
« Reply #16 on: February 04, 2005, 07:04:59 pm »
>  Also, the .88 tile isn't quite 12x12 so remember than when measuring
>  and laying out the tile

True, it is 12x12 when you count the spacer you use between tiles. Sort of like buying an eight foot section of picket fence. It is 8 feet across WITH the pole.

Offline Furby

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Re: Installing ceramic tile on plywood subfloor
« Reply #17 on: February 05, 2005, 02:41:58 am »
Kirk,
You are not alone!
Last winter my parents had tile installed in their kitchen/dinning room. My mom got so sick of the old floor, she broke down and went with tile even after I told her not to many, many times. She picked out some mid range stuff price wise, and had a fellow from church install it. He does it for a living, and knows what he is doing, even used the backer board. Even with a discount, it still cost some big $$$.
Well when my mom was in the showroom looking, she explained that she needed some thing that would hold up to the kids and animals.
They told her this stuff would do the trick!

Well under 9 MONTHS later, the finish has worn off! Not down to the actual tile backer, but the color is wearing and the top coats are gone and the whole floor looks yellow. She called the supplier and they called the installer. He came back out and said that it was indeed bad, and would do what he could. The supplier sent a guy out to look at the floor, and he said it was indeed bad. But.....they would not cover it under warranty because my mom didn't get "sand wear rated" tile. She told him what the sales people told her, but they refused to cover it. He offered her a "deal" on some tile to do the front steps. She said she would rather use the "peel and stick" squares, then buy any more of their junk.
They had a guy come into the area from Florida, for other business reasons and sent him out as well. HE said it was bad, but they wouldn't cover it. He did take a extra tile with him for "testing", buy they have not heard anything yet, and that was several months ago. ::)

I will say that the floor is over a year old now, and not a single crack! With the abuse that floor lives with..............that is amazing!!!