Preparing Your Floor for Natural Stone Tile
Natural Stone Tile flooring materials such as slate, granite, limestone, and even marble, are becoming very popular in architectural installations. This is part of an overall design trend in which we are bringing the real world of nature back into our modern lives, by using materials which are taken from the earth.
With some materials you can install the tile right over existing flooring if it is sturdy enough. However with natural stone this can be risky, as even the slightest defect in the underlayment can hurt a tile project. Therefore the old floor will have to be removed. This will be easier with some materials such as vinyl, and harder with others such as ceramic and stone.
When installing natural stone the most important thing you have to pay attention to is the quality of the underlayment you are installing on. Underlayment refers to the layer which is placed between the subfloor and whatever surface flooring you choose. When removing old tiles, be very careful not to damage this layer with knives or scrapers. When finished with removal, be sure to repair this surface by sanding or using leveling compound.
Often when removing old tiles, it is easier and desirable to simply remove the old underlayment and replace it. This is often done when removing natural stone, ceramic, or other materials which are difficult to pull up without damaging the underlayment.
Stone tile requires an underlayment which is resistant to changes due to temperature and moisture. Plywood is alright for installing ceramic tile in a dry room, but for natural stone you will want to put something such as cement board down to ensure the quality of the installation.
Before installing check the surface of your underlayment carefully to ensure that it is perfectly smooth and free from defect. Be on the lookout for irregularities, water damage, or weak joists. If there are rises or dips in the surface, a leveling compound can be applied to fill them in. Imperfections at this level can result in tiled floors which are uneven, or where tiles stick out crookedly and break when stepped on. Even if a problem doesn’t arise immediately after installation, a poor underpayment can lead to maintenance problems down the line.
Once you have a smooth, durable, level surface to work on, you can start developing design ideas. It is always a good idea to take careful measurements and layout your stone flooring on graph paper before actually grouting the tile. If necessary, do a dry run where you actually place the tiles on the floor with spacer, before actually installing.