Dear James: We have vinyl kitchen flooring which is badly worn. We think a ceramic tile floor would look good and wear well. Can this be put over any old floor and what are some installation tips? -- Michael T.
Dear Michael: Ceramic tile is an excellent material for kitchen floors. Not only is it very attractive, but it also is durable and maintains it like-new appearance with minimal care. The tiles themselves are easy to clean and the grout, although rough in texture, can be scrubbed clean periodically.
Your family will like how the ceramic tile feels on their feet. The surface is hard, but its recessed grout lines and slight variations in tile thickness almost massage your feet as you walk on it barefoot. When cooking a large dinner, the tile will absorb the heat from the room and moderate the air temperature swings.
Tile can be placed on any rigid floor. If your existing has a springy, bouncy feeling, then the grout between the tile will begin to crumble quickly as it flexes. If the springiness is severe and there is a lot of movement as you walk on it, the tiles themselves may crack.
When a flexible floor is found, you must strengthen the floor so it is stiffer. The complexity of this job depends on the ease of access you have to the underside of the floor. Keep in mind that a springy floor may still have been built to code because, other than ceramic tile, the flexing is not a problem for typical floor finishing materials.
If you have access beneath the floor, you may want to double up some of the long floor joists in the springy areas. You will probably find they currently are the maximum length per code. Installing a second joist next to several of them will reduce the flexing of the floor. Installing some vertical supports and a second beam to support the joists will also work.
With a strong supporting structure, next make sure the subflooring is attached securely to the joists. Some of the nails may have come loose over the years. If you find any loose spots, attach them again with drywall screws this time. These will hold much better than flooring nails.
When the subflooring is securely attached, cover this with cement board or plywood. Cement board is the better material to use and it will provide an excellent rigid base for the tile. It is just a little more difficult to cut and work with than plywood. When using plywood, offset the pieces so the new seams are not directly over seams in the old subfloor.
When using cement board, a latex-modified cement works best as the tile adhesive. On a plywood subfloor, an organic adhesive or epoxy mortar is effective. Follow the detailed instructions for the use of each adhesive material listed on its packaging.
Grouting the tiles after they are fixed to the floor is your last task. It is time-consuming, but not difficult. If this is your first time grouting tile, start in an obscure corner of the kitchen to get a feel for it. Don't make your grouting sponge too wet to speed the process. This will allow water to penetrate the grout and result in a weakened surface when set.
Send your questions to Here's How, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit www.dulley.com.