Powder room floor: Tiling a small space

We measured our first floor powder room to be 5′ x 5′ — it’s very tight. We brought home one or two different tiles until we found our final selection. In about 45 minutes from mixing the thin set mortar to sliding the last tile into place, we got the floor done earlier this week.

To get to that point, though, we took our time. We started with a mock up in living room. To do this, I laid paper down on the powder room floor.

cover the floor with paperI used masking tape to attach all the pieces together (similar to my past work with sewing patterns), rolled it up and moved the paper floor to the living room.

move paper from bathroom to living room

I outlined this with masking tape. I removed the newspaper so we could lay the tiles down in different orientations, patterns, etc. until all five of us had a chance to give an opinion. We settled on a 1′ x 2′ tile with a 1/3 running course, running parallel to the other flooring.

bathroom floor mock up

I want to point out the doorway here. It’s the little bumped out space closest to the front. We looked at all the other doorways in the house and eventually eliminated it from the tiling plan. This 1) made the flooring consistent with the rest of the house and 2) eliminated a difficult tile cutting situation.

Before we could start cutting tile, we decided to pour some leveling compound on the floor to even everything out. Pulling up the linoleum left the floor so rough that we couldn’t tell how uneven the floor was. At the very least, the compound would smooth out the floor (which was torn up wood and adhesive at this point), and give some leveling if it was needed.

leveling compound evens out the floor

We did not check the floor for level post-compound, but we should have. There was still another inch of pitch below level under the sink’s future home. We didn’t check for level until after Mr. TellBlast installed hardiboard.

hardiboard over leveling compound

He put in a couple strips of hardiboard on top of the offending areas to bring up the level, which were filled with thinset mortar during the tile installation. The larger the tile, the more important leveling is.

BUT FIRST, WE MADE A PLAN OF ATTACK. Knowing that the thinset would begin to harden immediately, we needed to use our time efficiently. We didn’t want to have mortar already hard and set with several tiles yet unlaid. We cut the tiles and made a dry fit in the powder room to check for fit. We numbered each tile with a grid matrix system and marked the joints, then figured out the order to place the tiles.

dry fit, numbered and marked the joints

Here is our order. Proofread the list — we forgot one tile. I think this was key to our flooring job. Knowing where to put your feet and which area to spread the thinset next were important steps to figure out before opening that bag of mortar.

our order plan of attackWith the order established, we removed the tiles in reverse order and lined them along the hallway.

tiles lining the hallwayA closeup of the marks we made:

tile marked and numbered

You can mark your tiles however you want. We used a caret mark to show grout joints, and letters and numbers like a map grid.

Although thinset is ready to receive weight after three hours, we let it set overnight. Here are our tiles and spacers, done in 45 minutes from mixing the thinset to sliding that last tile (numbered 5A in the lower left hand corner) into place.

10 done waiting for grout

Side note: We happened to watch a show called Yard Crashers. The host wetted the hardiboard before spreading thinset to prevent it from setting up too quickly. We noticed this happened when we made our countertop, and definitely feel that wetting down the board gave us more time to work with the mortar.

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