Tiling my laundry and and toilet floor area

This page is about my experience tiling the laundry and toilet area in our house.  The tiling was completed on a “yellow tounge” wooden floor surface.  Prior to undertaking this tiling job I’d had minimal tiling experience. I had completed two short courses at Holmesglen TAFE several years ago.  I had also accessed a few books (listed below), brochures, a video (listed below), talked to some people and researched a little online about tiling.

Tiling Floors
I found this video really valuable. On one level tiling appears pretty simple, but there’s a lot of experience necessary to prepare surfaces correctly and other tricks of the trade involved in laying tiles. Michael shares many of these techniques. Some of the terms like “thinset” are not what I’ve heard used in Australia and some of the common building materials and surfaces are different in Australia as well, but the basic ideas are similar. It will not tell you everything you possibly need to know about tiling but it does share some things in a way that a book just can’t do.


I used both of the books listed here to assist with this tiling job. I typically found Taunton’s tiling complete easier to access as the material is very clearly presented.
Taunton’s Tiling Complete: Expert Advice from Start to Finish (Taunton’s Complete)

Setting Tile (Fine Homebuilding)

Getting started

I needed to make some initial decisions about what I should remove before commencing tiling.  I’d been advised in the Holmesglen tiling course to remove the toilet rather than tile around it.  If I did this it would be the first toilet I’d ever removed and although I had a fair idea how it worked I’d never really examined the connections nor thought much about disconnecting a toilet prior to this!  I wasn’t totally confident with how I’d do this and I didn’t want water (or worse) going everywhere.  However, after a quick chat over the phone to my local plumber, who re-assured me it would be straightforward, I successfully disconnected and removed the toilet.  I did however, call him again before I commenced the tiling as it was clear the floor tiling would change the height of the toilet once re-installed and I wanted to be certain I didn’t end up creating a big issue for the re-installation of the toilet.  At this stage I conviced our plumber to drop in.  Which he did and after some brief advice I was reassured that reinstallation would be simple enough if I followed a few steps.  The end result was that the plumber had no major issues re-installing the toilet at the conclusion of the tiling and I felt assured that I wasn’t creating a big plumbing job in the way I was about to tile around the remaining connections. 

I also wasn’t sure whether to leave or remove the skirting board.  Being a wet area I thought removing the skirting board and replacing it with a row of wall tiles or reinstalling skiriting board above the floor tiles may have been the best course of action. However, this would add a significant amount of work and I’d seen samples of work where the skirting board had remained and the tiling was subsequently completed right up to it.   Hence In most locations throughout the laundry/toilet area I left the skiritng board.  The exception was for a short section of the wall which was behind the washing machine, where I removed the skirting board and after tiling the floor put some wall tiles in its place.   I also thought about removing the laundry wash trough and tiling under it but as with the toilet; removing and subsequently replacing these items meant some plumbing work and as there appeared to be minimal advantages I opted for leaving the laudry tub and its supporing cabinet in situ and tiling around it.

The following picture shows the toilet area with the actual toilet removed.  Note the tools (electic planer, etc) which can be seen in the photo.  I used these tools to plane and strip off some of the bumps in the flooring.  Althoug the “yellow tounge” should have been fairly level, it had been exposed to traffic for many years and had been damaged and had lifted at the edges.  I beleived I needed to remove these bumps if I was to be able to lay the fibre cement underlay flat and subsequently the lay the tiles flat and level.  In the end I did manage to lay the tiles reasonably flat so it appears to have been the right way to go. 

Tile Underlay

Next was to add the tile underlay.  At this point there appears to be quite confusing and contradictory advice on how things can be done. Firstly – was tile underlay (6mm fibre cement) required at all given some advice suggesting it was possible to lay tiles directly on the “yellow tounge”.  Secondly how exactly do you fit and lay the underlay.  I’d read some American tiling books and they’d indicated that the tile underlay should have a small gap at the wall in which space you’d add foam to avoid any wall movement compressing the underlay as a result of the wall movement and subsequently damaging the tiles.  I accessed a pdf from BGC (who make fibre cement underlay)  entitled “Ceramic Tile Floor Underlay Fibre Cement” which indicated I should place control joints using a cempressible backing rod when tiling is carried through a doorway.  Local suppliers didn’t know anything about such foam and backing rods, and suggested they were unnecessary.  Given the size of the job I was tiling and the fact that the house was unlikley to move much given its age (>10 yrs) and the fact that the yellow tounge went under the walls and there was no reason I could see for movement to occur at the doorway I didn’t bother with gaps, foam or flexible backing rods.  I subsequently placed and cut the underlay to best cover all of the floor and this included going all the way with the underlay right up to the skirting board.  However, the underlay is not perfectly straight and unless I was to spend an impossible amount of time there would be small gaps where the sections abutted a neighbouring sheet, where the sheets abutted the wall (which was the actual skirting board in most cases) and where I abutted other fixed objects (ie the laudry trough cabinet).  Hence there were many small gaps (typically a few mm’s wide around the various sheets).  These gaps I reasoned would not be significant as they would represent, at worst, a few percent of the surface which would be attahced to the tile via the tile adhesive.  So I coudn’t see that the small gaps would weaken the fixing of the tiles in any significant manner. The cement sheet was then nailed with special nails for the purpose.  I purchased the nails (Paslode Underlay-Fibre Cement Bright 25 x 2.5mm) from Bunnings and I became quite good at using a hammer after about a day of it.  In total I used some 600 nails.  The following photo shows the tile underlay after it was fixed.

Final preparations and laying the tiles

The instructions on the MPP adhesive, I was to use,  indicated that the fibre cement sheet was to be treated with a primer solution and the joints covered with PVC ducting tape prior to tiling.  I wasn’t too sure about either of these steps as the various suppliers weren’t really recommending either of these steps and hadn’t suggestd it.  It seemed reasonable to put the primer down as it was supposed to improve adhesion.  However, I wasn’t sure about the PVC duct tape as I wasn’t clear on the purpse of the tape.  A fairly junior representative at Bunnings in Bendigo suggested that using a painted on water barrier might be better than the PVC as the PVC might lift.  However, it was not clear that the purpose of the PVC was as a moisture barrier.  Hence I decided to try sticking some PVC tape onto a clean and primed fibre cement sheet joint.  If it stuck I’d leave it and duct tape over all the other joints.  It did stick well and I subsequently taped all joints and was then ready to start tiling.

In the following photo some initial tiling, the duct tape and parts of the tile underlay can be seen as the job was progressing.

Tiling, grouting and silicone

Even though I’d done some tiling before completing the actual tiling, and the grouting was quite a learning curve for me.  Some of the problems I encountered were adhesive shooting up between the joints as tiles were layed.  I was able to reduce this by scraping back some of the adhesive at the locations where the edge of the tile would be prior to placing the tile.  Cutting tiles to go around complex shapes and dealing with the adhesive all required a significant amount of time.  However, in the end I was pretty happy with the finished job, although if I was to do it again I’d try to reduce size of the spacers used for the gaps between the tiles. I had used 3mm spacers between tiles and I think it may have been preferable to have used 2mm spacers.  In some cases areas the my gaps next to edges and walls ranged from virtually nothing to more than 5 or 6mms, which was either too little or too much and a general a bit sloppy.  Nevertheless all the gaps were eventually filled with grouting or silicone and it all looked quite reasonable in the end.

The following two photos are of the finished job.

2 responses

15 07 2010
Tiling « Warren Sutton's Blog

[…] Tiling 15 07 2010 Over the recent school holiday break I completed a job tiling our laundry and adjoined toilet.  I placed a description of what I did here: https://warrensutton.wordpress.com/science-of-building/tiling/. […]

15 04 2013

Nice work! It’s look like professional work. Maybe you have to change your profession 🙂 Great!

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