Lockdown has meant that we can work on finishing the South container for Louis and Gwen. And that means working on their private bathroom! it has been awesome watching the bathroom progress as each day passes. But it also meant that we had to work out the best way for tiling fibre cement boards. There is a correct way and then there’s our lockdown way…
The Correct Way to Tile Fibre Cement Boards
Many people know how to tile. Most people in South Africa have worked with brick walls and know exactly what to do in those circumstances. But what do you do when your house is not built with bricks? In this case, the bathroom is at the end of a shipping container, in a space clad with fibre cement boards. (We used fibre cement boards in the bathroom, rather than the reclaimed OSB, because it can better withstand the moisture found in a bathroom environment).
In a perfect world, the best product to use to stick tiles to a surface such as fibre cement board, is TAL Flex tile adhesive. But we had two problems: 1) it’s quite pricey and 2) you can’t buy it during lockdown. So, we used a different method.
How We Tiled Our First Bathroom
Once your bathroom is clad, with all the pipes fitted, make a thick slurry mixture using cement and Tylon Key-It. Paint the boards with this mixture. It’s not the easiest job; it is messy, and the Key-It smells awful. But once it is dry, you’ll be able to tile your bathroom as if it were any brick structure. The other advantage is that the Key-It has water resistant properties, further protecting your bathroom from moisture.
We painted the walls and the floors in preparation for tiles, as per the photos above. The Key-It/cement mixture dries an ominous dark grey.
Key-It can also be mixed with grout to further waterproof a bathroom. It is especially useful in areas such as a shower.
This bathroom is tiled using large tiles, measuring about 800mm long. Most tile cutters cannot manage tiles of that size, so alternate means of cutting might have to be used. If you find yourself in the same predicament, you can use a grinder (noisy and dusty), or score and break as required. You might need to experiment a bit to find what works best for your particular tiles using the tools you have on hand.
In the photo above, we are experimenting by scoring the tile with a glass cutting drill-bit, as we weren’t entirely happy with the other tile cutting tool that we had. In the second photo, we are attempting to crack the tile along the score line.
But what do you do if you need a hole in the tile where a pipe is coming through?
We used a drill press with a diamond core hole saw and slowly drilled through the tile. We used lots of water to keep the tile cool to reduce the chances of it cracking.
You need lots of patience for this! It took three of us to cut these holes because we did not want the tile to accidentally break which would have meant starting again. Louis held the tile still and steady, Kevin operated the drill press and I kept the area wet.
Smart Tiling Tips
I am sure that you have noticed that some tiling jobs just look better than others. What’s the secret? Here are some top tips for you to use on your own projects:
- Choose your focal point as the line of symmetry around which to lay your tiles. In a bathroom, this would be the basin. Make sure your tiles line up on the centre point of where the basin will be.
- Do a dry run with the tiles (ie, just lay them out and see where your cuts are going to be). This way you don’t end up by a door where you have to cut a 10mm sliver all along the wall, door, or somewhere else.
- Use a straight edge and a level to determine the highest spot on a floor or a wall and start on the high spot if possible, and tile from there. This way you don’t end up with a bubble in the floor or the wall
- Make sure of the spacing between your tiles. Some tiles are of a lower quality and will need bigger spaces to hide size discrepancies.
- If you have to tile with very thick cement due to a dip in the wall or floor, mix in some sand and cement with your tile cement. The sand and cement mixture ratio will be one cement to two sand; and mix this ratio 50% tile glue, 50% tile cement. “Butter” the tile with plain tile cement and the surface with plain tile cement (thin) and then put the thick mixture between it. This helps the cement dry faster so that the tile does not sag so easily.
- Use your level! Don’t be afraid to double check yourself a couple of tiles back.
- Whatever you do, don’t start at the door and work into the room (when tiling a floor).
Before you know it, your tiling project will be complete (unlike the photo below)
One last word from Kevin: Be warned! Tiling is slow, hard, back-breaking work; especially if you want it to look good. If you can, rather get a professional in.
Oh, and watch this space! We’ll be sharing pictures of the completed bathroom as soon as we have all the fittings in.