Peeled…and Stuck – Replacing Tile

Original Tile Flooring

Original Tile Flooring

March’s lions are roaring away outside as the wind blows. It’s a gorgeous sunny day in the Shenandoah Valley, but we aren’t really enjoying it.

We’re stuck inside because motivation struck late last night, and now the tile in the foyer has been replaced with a more modern version. My wrist is aching from scraping, and the house smells a little like burnt dog hair, but everything looks brighter, and another home-improvement job is complete!

The first time we walked in the door of the house that would be our home, we knew the tile in the foyer could never stay. It soaked up every little bit of light and just made the room look pretty dreary. A few pieces were loose and moved around the floor like a sliding-number puzzle. After two-plus years of complaining, we decided to replace it.

I had planned to tile the floor over my Christmas vacation with a nice stone. I researched tileset and grout and had started inquiring where to rent a tile saw. Dad’s health put a little snag in those plans, so I considered the next best option: peel and stick. Yeah, not the most glamorous of choices, but we had one day, and we didn’t want to put it off again.

Subflooring With Tile Removed

Subflooring With Tile Removed

Nontraditional Tools to Remove Tile

Nontraditional Tools to Remove Tile

After cleaning the floor (because who wants to handle dirty tile), we set to work removing it. The first few pieces were easy! They were probably in the highest traffic spot, and what was not already loose came loose easily just by lifting up an edge. We pulled some boxes from recycling and started dropping in full tile. Easy!

Well, that was a nice start to a project that ended up taking three hours…for only 80 square feet! As we moved along, the tiles were firmly affixed to the subfloor, and our fingers didn’t cut it.

We resorted to using whatever tools we could find. (Side note, when you’re a new DIYer, you probably won’t have all of the fancy tools the HGTV gang brings to a home, so you make do.) We voided the warranty on a nice Craftsmen screwdriver and we requisitioned a few putty knives. After grabbing a drywall-mud smoother (no, I don’t know what it’s really called) and a hammer to get under the tile, a little light bulb went off, and I grabbed my embossing heat tool to loosen the glue. This helped remove the tiles, but it also explains the burnt-dog-hair smell. Turns out some of the previous owners’ dogs were under the tiles near the door…or at least their hair was. The heat gun softened the glue, which made that area of the floor a nightmare to clean later, but at least the floor was finally clear of tiles.

Newly Tiled Floor

Newly Tiled Floor

A good vacuuming, scrubbing, and drying, and the floor was ready for its new tile. I didn’t photograph the peel-and-stick portion of the day because it’s pretty straight forward. After finding the center of the floor, we pulled off the backing paper, carefully positioned each tile, and then pressed the tile to the floor. We choose a tile with beveled edges and “grout lines,” which I thought would be a little more forgiving. We snugged each tile next to its neighbor. I didn’t see any subflooring at the end, so I guess we did it right :-)

If there is a blessing from working with vinyl before working with “real” tile, it’s that I have a better understanding of cutting pieces to fit, corner pieces, and edge pieces. We bought 90 square feet, and we may return 10 of the tiles…or we may save them for repairs.

Now, I try to make my choices with an environmental slant. I’m a little ashamed to admit I did not even consider the environmental impact of using vinyl tiles. I was looking for a quick, affordable fix, which is not the most responsible way to move toward a mostly green home. We will use low VOC paint to spruce up the walls!

So I think painting the foyer is next. We painted beige when we moved in, but I think I’m in the mood for color. What was your more recent home improvement project? 

 

*** This personal blog is comprised solely of the opinions, views, projects, and travels of its author, Stacey Morgan Smith. She is lucky enough to have loving family and friends whom she drags along with her on her adventures and whom she puts to work on her little farm. She uses this blog to help promote living in the mountains of the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, from Roanoke to the Potomac River.**

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