Old Stone House

Preparing the Floor – On the Level…

August 4, 2006

Filed under: Master Bathroom @ 1:13 pm

cement1b.jpgThe rolled flooring in the bathroom can best be described as ugly camouflage. Although easily removed with a sharpened spade, beneath which lay a pathetic mess. The built-in tub had been set up in some wooden shims to level it and sat on a simple 2×4” frame. This is fairly standard, and was done as imagined, however, whoever decided to level the floor, obviously hated me, or at least wanted to frustrate “the next guy”.

The floor had been levelled with what can only be called a “collage of found objects”. Cardboard, old rolled flooring, shims, hunks of plywood etc. had all been stapled, screwed or nailed randomly on top of one another, and then ‘levelled’ with a good slopping of Thinset. The resulting mass of junk was strangely interesting, but rather unpleasant to remove.

We removed any sub floor that was soft, or had any give, and replaced it with some ¾” plywood. Next, we glued and screwed down ¼” plywood over the entire area – this was done to help increase the thickness of the floor so that when the tile was installed, it would be level with the floors in the hallway, help solidify the rest of the flooring, and give us a cleaner surface to cut wholes such as the vent hole. Once the 1000th screw was driven, we cut in the heating vent, toilet drain etc. and ran a check on how level the floor was.

The floor fell one inch in five feet… I put on another coat of drywall mud, and thought of my options.

(An aside: a clawfoot tub, like all other tubs, needs to be level. In our case, the floor sloped away from the drain, so the floor had to be made level at the very least. As well, unlike new acrylic inserts tubs which can be shimmed, the clawfoot tub needs to rest firmly on all four feet – otherwise it will rock and shake.)

Because we were going to be tiling the floor, we would be able to level the floor using cement. We decided on the standard application of wire mesh and cement as a base for the tiles. I loosely stapled the wire mesh to the floor, and in the process managed to remove most of the flesh from my hands (Wire mesh is sharp. Yet, every time I cut myself, I resisted the temptation to run to the basement to grab some gloves. My wife tells me this is very telling of my character…). Once the mesh was down, I took a few 2” finishing nails and starting from the highest spot in the floor, layed down the four foot level across a two foot square grid – driving a finishing nail down at each axes, setting the level atop each nail and checking the bubble for true between the high point and each axes. In no time I had a number of little nails inserted in the floor to help as spacers for pouring the cement.

We mixed several buckets of scratch coat (cement) in a bucket and poured it on top of the mesh. I have only laid tile once before, and from that experience I have learned a great deal. First, we made the mix a little wetter – it allows it to flow more easily and smoothes over better. Second, I learned that its worth taking the time to get the cement perfect as the tile will install much easier. Taking a two foot trowel, I sloshed the cement around ensuring that it penetrated the mesh and was level to each of the nail heads. Once I was satisfied with the level, I pulled each nail out and continued along. In about an hour the entire floor was covered with cement, level and fairly smooth.

It was hugely satisfying to look inside the room to see that there was no longer any evidence of the old bathroom – just our unfinished handiwork. Hooray!

Tomorrow, we tile!


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