(n.) Cabindo: A condo on a lake, among tall old trees. Half cabin, half condo. My first home. This is a running journal of the renovations, projects, and general shoestring budget craziness.

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Thursday, July 18, 2013

A Clean Slate Floor

Those who knows me well know that I unequivocally, absolutely, with few to no exceptions; hate hearts.
Not the ones that pump our blood, I'm quite fond of those. 
The heart shape as an image. Yuck. Not a fan. There was even a christmas gift incident where a matching set of swarovski heart shaped jewelry had to be exchanged. Probably was a bit bratty of me, but the bf could tell upon my unwrapping of them that I was never, never, never going to open that box again. Like, ever.
Moral of the story: me no likey the hearts.
Enter this floor:

oh yeah, there was some wall reconstruction involved too

I did not notice the hearts on the master bathroom floor due to a big fluffy white rug that was down during it's showing, inspection, and final walkthrough. I knew it was pink n white n ugly, but untill daily use: the hearts eluded me. Note to self for future home purchases: look at the freekin bathrooms in tremendous detail and take pictures!

Large scale slate had caught my eye as a replacement possibility. 

In particular, I liked the use of light grout with a herringbone pattern.


Real slate was out of the picture due to price and the fact that large tiles are difficult to lay on an uneven floor like mine. I was not going to rip up all the existing tiles and go down to the concrete subfloor, as I did not want to move the toilet or vanity. I also knew water could permeate through cracks and slab joints in the concrete, and the floor seemed to be watertight as it was. Thus, I figured best to leave it alone and tile overtop. Further down, I'll go over how I prepared the existing floor for the new tile.
But I digress. My main goals with a new floor were: I wanted to keep the materials cost as low as possible, for the installation to be easy enough to do myself, for the result be durable, and of course attractive.
I started seeing information on groutable vinyl based tiles which were thicker and more durable than normal peel-n-stick vinyl.   
They looked fantastic and came in a slate version from Home Depot.

The reviews were overwhelmingly positive and the 'success' pictures looked great

You go Kotzwoods.

I thought I could do the job with one $50 box, but ordered two to make sure I had enough.
The existing floor needed to be flat and smooth. It had both grout lines, tiles with raised heart designs (barf), and ramped up edges where the floor met the wall due to curling laminate beneath the tile. 

I am an artiste.

I started by tackling the ramped up edges with a chisel and a mallet.  Removing the outer row of tiles and the laminate beneath exposed a little of the concrete subfloor, created a trench all the way around the room, but otherwise made the remaining surface flat(er). 
I applied premixed leveling concrete compound with a float to smooth the textured surface. I really wanted everything to stick and make the floor last, so I'd sanded and primed the tiles before the leveling compound went on.

$9 for 1Qt. Not nearly enough. Even for a small space, get the big bucket.

This stuff was great! The first coat filled in the trench and most of the grout lines. A second coat finished off the top of the grout lines and skimmed over the raised texture on the tiles. I scraped and sanded any ridges off the surface and swept, vacuumed, and wiped all dust off the surface in preparation for laying the tile.  

But how should I lay the tile? I knew I liked herringbone, but wanted to test out my options before committing. I tried subway (both long and short ways), and standard grid pattern, but still loved the herringbone. 

you can see the skimmed floors with a filled in trench by the wall
Doing that pattern on a diagonal with the big 12x24 tiles totally overwhelmed the small space. I decided to rotate the pattern 45 degrees and go in right angles to the walls.

comme ca.
or in german: folgenderma├čen.
oh you germans.

The tiles are peel and stick, but you can also use mortar to make them bomb proof. Because my subfloor was slightly wavy, I was going to lay these down on top of existing tile, and moisture would be involved; I picked up some pre-mixed mortar to stick those suckers down. 

$22 and way more than I needed.
I put the tiles down in standard tile laying fashion with a trowel, applying mortar, and pressing the tile down onto the mortar. I used spacers to keep everything even. For cutting the tile, I used a utility knife and a dremel. The utility knife probably would have sufficed, but who am I to stand in the way of a power tool's destiny.
I put in all straight-cut pieces first then went back to tackle curved cuts for around the toilet and door jam.

When I proudly sent my mom the above picture with the toilet, she said "congratulations, you are truly a homeowner if a picture of the base of your toilet makes you giddy". She was right, it was terribly exciting.

floor down, waiting for grout
I let the mortar dry for 72 or so hours and proceeded to grout. The grout that was recommended for the vinyl tile is a flexible pre-mix, again from simpleset. I went with the off white 'Alabaster' variety.

$11 at Home Depot. Good amount for the job.

There is a difference in how you put grout on vinyl tiles and regular tiles. For vinyl, keep it as much to only the grout line as possible. I used a float, but if I did it again, would have used an icing bag and a spatula. It was a royal pain to scrub it off the tiles, and I'm sure a good bit of residue did not come completely off by the time I gave up. I'm telling myself lies and saying it looks more 'stone like' this way.

Voila! Beautiful floor and another huge improvement for the room! With a 30 year guarantee to boot.

cost breakdown:

tile (ended up needing only one box) $50
mortar $22
grout $11
leveling compound ~$30
    float $3   

Boom. One of the best bang-for-the-buck projects I've done here.
Everyone who sees them thinks they are real tiles. I however, cant keep my mouth shut and enjoy telling everyone the gloriousness of their vinyl-osity. An agent girlfriend came over and thought it instantly upped the value of the place, and said she would be recommending it to all her clients that needed low-investment floor fixes to get their places sold.

I'm a veritable vinyl flooring PSA.



  1. Hello Lindsay, I'm remodeling my bathroom and am researching these exact vinyl tiles. Can you tell me how the tiles and grout have held up over time?
    Thanks, and great blog you've got here :)

    1. Sure! The tiles have held up GREAT over time. Be careful when installing them; I scratched one up somehow and though no one has ever noticed: I know. And it haunts my dreams (not really....but you know what I mean).
      The grout has done well too. I'd recommend an additional sealer. I went back after a month to super scrub and seal them, and it definitely makes a difference in looking good for longer and not attracting schmutz.
      I'm helping my parents work on their home, and will be using the same kind, but in a lighter color, for one of their bathrooms soon.
      One day I'll get back to this little blog.....life seems to have eaten all my time lately. :)

  2. Hi- Did you have any issues with your grout cracking? I am planning on doing this next month in our kitchen. We do have a very little amount of flex in our floors but not much. I wasnt sure if you did too or not and could offer any advice.


    1. I've had no problems with cracking, but this was done over a concrete sub floor. That being said, I know the concrete slab has a lot of temperature variations, which has caused my engineered flooring to gap like crazy. I know that type of pre-mixed grout is supposed to be more elastic, so I'm guessing it's doing it's job and actually moving with the temp changes a bit.

    2. **engineered wood flooring. in other rooms

  3. Love the floor! I was wondering if you have any leftover Coastal Gray tiles that you'd like to sell? I need 6 more to complete my project and do not want to buy a whole case.


    1. I know I did keep some leftovers, but unsure how much. If I have 6, they're all yours. Let me check and get back to you in a day or two.

    2. I just realised I'd never gotten back to you, I'm so sorry! When I looked I only had 1 full tile left, so wouldn't have been helpful to you anyway.

  4. I have been debating over the 12 X 12 or the 12 X 24 for like a year now, and seeing your bathroom (which is set up EXCATLY like mine) I am totally set on the 12 X 24! Did you start in the center of the room or did you start in the corners? FYI to others, my mom just did these peel and stick tiles in her home and the bank appraiser thought they were real ceramic tiles. (I don't remember which color she chose, it was something beige-ish.)

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