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Replacing your Bathroom Floor

Before you can install your new flooring, it is best to remove the old flooring. However if your old floor is a sheet vinyl that is in good shape, you can usually lay the new floor over it. But if you are demolishing the entire bathroom, you will probably want to tear out the old. If you do, you will need to remove the old adhesive which can be very labor intensive.

Before you install your new floor, you will need to prepare the sub-floor to receive the new surface. The type of sub-floor you have will help determine the method you use for installing your new floor and will also effect how difficult the preparation will be but regardless of what type of floor you are installing, the rules are basically the same. The sub-floor should be smooth, clean and stable.

Almost any type of flooring can be used in a bathroom. However, if you use carpeting it should be water, mildew and stain resistant and it should have a waterproof barrier to keep water out of the pad. Even stain resistant carpet can become worn quicker than more common surfaces such as tile. Hard wood can be used but it must be sealed to protect it from water damage. Laminates are probably not the best choice because minor swelling can occur at the joints after prolonged exposure to water. While these joints, if installed correctly should be very tight, there is no way to seal these joints and some moisture can seep through.

One piece “sheet” vinyl, ceramic, porcelain and natural stone are the best choice because they are easy to clean and effectively resist staining and water penetration. Ceramic tiles are fairly brittle and easy to cut and they come in a variety of surfaces. Porcelain and natural stone are often more expensive because the color goes all the way through the tile. They are a bit more difficult to cut but with the right equipment, they are easy enough to work with. Vinyl flooring is fairly easy to work with and is inexpensive but it can get a little complicated cutting it to the correct size and shape.

If you choose to install "sheet" vinyl, start by preparing the sub-floor first. All low points and cracks should be filled with a latex- based floor patch. Next you will need to make a template of the floor plan. Roll out a large piece of scribing felt and cut holes for plumbing as necessary. (Tape the edges of the felt to the wall to hold it down) then cut out the perimeter. When the template is complete, pull it up and move it to a large open space with a flat surface to cut the vinyl. Roll out the vinyl on the flat surface then orient the template on top of the vinyl so that the pattern runs as desired, then cut around the perimeter of the template using a sharp utility knife, changing blades as necessary.

Test fit the vinyl in the bathroom before gluing. Perimeter type vinyl flooring requires the perimeter only to be glued but “sheet” vinyl requires the entire floor to be glued. You should follow the manufacturer instructions when gluing the vinyl but generally you will apply the adhesive using a notched trowel. If you have a seam in your vinyl flooring, you need to overlap the seem, make sure the patterns match up and then lay a straight edge along the seam, press down firmly and cut through both layers. A base board placed around the perimeter is a good addition to finish it off and help to insure the edges stay down.

Ceramic and similar tiles all install in generally the same manor as each other. Again start by preparing the sub floor with a good underlayment. Use tile adhesive to fill in cracks and low places.

It is wise to lay out the tile on the floor before using the adhesive. Strike straight lines in the center of the floor in both directions then work away from the line on either side with the tile using spacers to assure the tiles continue straight. To make necessary cuts, it is best to buy or rent a “wet saw”. You should follow the instructions that accompany the saw. (Always use safety glasses)To make irregular cuts that can’t be made with the “wet saw”, you can use snips to chip away at the tile. If you are using ceramic tiles and you don’t need to make a lot of intricate cuts, manual tile cutters are available. These are relatively inexpensive but are not best to use on thicker porcelain or natural stone as these are thicker and more difficult to cut.

To lay the new tile, you should use an adhesive that shows on the label that it is good for use in bathrooms and with the materials that you are using. Spread the adhesive to the underlayment with the straight edge of a trowel and then make grooves in the adhesive with the notched side. Do the same to the bottom of each tile then firmly push the tile into place carefully tapping each side in order to level the tile and make it even with the others. You should once again use spacers specifically designed for laying tile to ensure consistent grout lines. Generally, the smaller the tile you’re installing, the smaller the spacer you should use for a thinner grout line. Larger tiles generally look better with a larger grout line. After the tile is in place, allow the adhesive to dry for 48 hours before removing the spacers and applying the grout.

Choose a sanded grout in a color that coordinates well with your design. White is generally not a good choice for floors because it will show off any dirt that collects. To apply grout, mix the grout according to the directions on the label. Apply the grout with a padded grout float. Cover the floor in sections then wipe off excess grout with a damp sponge then allow it to dry. After it turns cloudy, wipe it down again with a clean wet sponge and keep repeating the process until it dries clear.
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