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Lay a cement board subfloor for tile (not fun, but a great way to save)

This is not a fun, cute, see beautiful results of your sweaty hard work kind of project.  This is a dirty, hard, back-breaking job.  However, it is also a money saving project that with some physical labor really isn’t that hard to figure out…..heck, I did it (this is our cabin kitchen floor)!  If you’re looking to tile a floor, below are the steps to teach you how to lay the proper subfloor.

***I will soon be posting ’how to tile’ & ’how to grout’ , so stay tuned.  Also, please don’t mind the hideous wood paneling…that is getting worked on as well!

The proper subfloor is very important when laying tile.  You can’t just lay tile over plywood or linoleum; the thin-set (tile adhesive/mortar) won’t adhere and the tiles can crack as the floor moves and swells from moisture variations.  You can, however, lay tile over concrete or an existing tile floor (as long as it is secure and you have the height clearance).  You also want to make sure the floor under this project is stable.  Cement board and tile create a lot of weight.

What you’ll need:

  • 1/4 inch cement board - I like using ‘Hardiebacker’ (use 1/2 inch if you need to build height)
  • Mortar (thin-set, mud, etc)
  • A 1/4 inch notch trowel
  • Screws - 1 1/4  inch deck screws (they won’t rust)
  • Cement board tape (same idea as sheet rock tape)
  • Tools like a screwdriver, razor (for scoring the board), a large ’egg-beater’ drill attachment for ease of mixing mortar, a bucket
  • Knee pads, rubber gloves, etc  – anything to make the job more pleasant, so booze can fit in this category as well

Mix your mortar with water.  You want it to be a peanut butter consistency and to hold the trowel marks as you spread it.  Slop some on the floor and begin spreading it out, creating a ‘fan’ effect for even coverage.  The notches in the trowel help regulate how much mortar is left on the floor….handy little tool!

As you lay the board screw them in *do not step on boards until they are screwed into place*. Install screws in a random pattern all over the board. Give about 8 inches of space between screws, 2 inches in from corners, and 1 1/2 inches in from the sides. Make the screw heads level with the board (don’t over screw).

After all the boards are laid you will need to mud and tape your seams.  First, fill the spaces between boards with mud and smooth the line along the seam (you can use the flat side of your trowel for this). Second, lay a line of cement board tape along the seams.  Third, smooth another thin layer of mud over the tape.  Allow it to dry.

The project is done and now ready for tiling!  oofda, I need a massage!