A DIY Tile Cover-Up: Master Bathroom Floor.

Saturday, May 8, 2021

self leveling concrete and brass inlay
So yeah, I finally finally finished up that master shower tear-out and rebuild (nearly) all by my DIY lonesome self, right?  Glaring up at me as even more blah than ever?  The brown-orange ceramic tile floor.  Next to the newly minted shower, yikes it was bad.  Gotta get rid of it, like stat, omg.  So bad.

master bathroom tile before
Before.  Bleh.
At this point I was incredibly tired of tiling, whew.  Soooooooo......what could I do instead?, myself asked myself.

Well.  Heh.  I experimented. 

See.  I figured if I goofed this up, no harm no foul, I could rip out whatever errant way I went and just keep ripping until that sad tile went too. 

I needed something fast.  As in fast to do.  Something easy.  Something with immediate returns.

Having pulled out the flimsy metal threshold, I noticed the tile is an eighth of an inch-ish below the wood floor.  Hm.

metal threshold being ripped out
If you're going to put in a nice wood floor, please put in a nicer threshold than this.
Hm.  Ponder ponder ponder. 

The rooms on the second floor slope, as in the floors, they all pitch like a funnel towards the center of the house.  This particular floor goes from the mirror wall towards the shower.  If you’re wearing shoes, you don’t notice it.  If you’re sock- or barefooted, yeah, quite noticeable. 

In my I-won-the-lottery-dream-world, I would install Gaudi tiles* and radiant heat.  Whooo.  I should buy a lottery ticket.  Yeah like pronto. 

Buuuut, as I haven't won the lottery, and in thinking about all the available flooring options out there, I opted to give self-leveling underpayment concrete a whirl.  Fast, fast, cover up, fast, not meant for this application but whatever, and maybe it'll fix the slope.

Yeah.

To gussy it up, let’s do some inlay too.  I had it stuck in my goofy brain to do strips of brass in a radial type pattern. 

Yeah.  For real. 

So what did I do?   That. 

brass layout test run
Testing the layout.
Ok, before we get into the whos and whats and wheres, I just wanna point out, don’t be afraid to experiment.  Let go and learn.  If you screw up (we all do) (and screw ups are a matter of opinion) it’s a lesson, not a mistake.  Everything that can be done can be undone.  

So this post isn’t necessarily too so much about my whackadoo floor and a how-to as it is about the importance of taking chances.  You don't have to go over the edge, but dipping your toes in is a good start.

Mmk!

Brass search.  At issue here?  Many places don’t sell to just a person or shipping was outrageous or I couldn’t meet a minimum or some such other irksome nonsense. 

MSC Industrial Supply was my hookup.  I picked rectangular brass bars, 1/4” wide by 1/8” thick, three pieces of six foot, two at three feet long.  Yeah, real brass!  Now I was excited.  

The brass arrived and it was not exciting.  It was dull, not shiny.  More research later, how to get this shiny. and I ended up with some random bit in my rotary tool,* burnishing away the dull, revealing the shiny. 

cleaning up brass and spraying lacquer
I was trying everything I had to bring out the shine to no avail, until the rotary tool.
Next, I trimmed the brass so I had six, five, four, three, and two foot lengths.  Easy enough to do with my grinder.* 

A quick couple sprays of lacquer* to retain the shine and the brass was ready.   ........Was I?

Last purchasing step, the commitment to the cause, the concrete.   I also grabbed a liquid pint of black colorant* hoping it would darken things up. 

self leveling concrete bag and liquid colorant in black
In the end, I don't think the colorant made much of a difference.
Now it was real.  I was nervous.

I’d never done this before!  Further, Mike had zero idea of this scheming. 

Ok!

Day of. 

Ready?!   .......hahaha..........

Out skootched the vanity which of course was easy:  disconnect the drain and water lines, shuffle it into the bedroom. 

Out came the toilet, easy enough as I’ve done this:  shut off the water, flush several times to drain the bowl, unscrew the tank, unscrew the base via the floor bolts, boing toilet out. 

Remove the quarter round and caulk gaps and clean floor and make makeshift forms.

caulking gaps to prevent leaks and cleaning floor
Is it just me or does Simple Green* make everyone cough hysterically?

forms around door and toilet floor hole
Makeshift forms around the toilet hole and at the door to stop concrete seeping.
Nerves fired up to ten, I followed the instructions on the bag, dumped in all the liquid colorant and subtracted that equal amount of water, then used my corded drill* and a mixer paddle*  .....and the clock started.  

The bag said ten minutes open pour time.  That's it.  Ten.

Holy sh*t, right?!

I started with dunking a cup and pouring it out and quickly realized that was not brisk enough so I began to pour right out of the bucket. 

As I went along, it was starting to dry out on the floor so I sped up the pouring.  Panicking.

All poured, it was time to lay the brass.  Stressin’ now, crap...

They were floppy and bent and bowed and dunking below the surface and omg not at all as it was supposed to go as it did in my head!!, but eventually I got it close enough. 

concrete poured over tile and brass inlaid
Done!  
Ok!!  Ha!  Ok!  Whew.  Breathe. 

This stuff set up in two flippin' hours so I was able to skootch the vanity and toilet back in before Mike even got home.  

set after two hours
As you can see, I messed with the spot right by the door.  Figures, right by the door.  But here's the floor two hours later.
Well hot damn, insta-floor.  Hot damn!  What a feat!

Sadly once the concrete lost its moisture, it became thinner, the brass was proud of the surface in spots.  Hm, did not realize that was gonna happen.  Doh.

Days after the fact, I then made the mistake of using car wax that had color to it to seal the floor.  Come back later for how I fixed that disaster. 

car wax settled into popped bubbles
See, to the left of the buffer,* the car wax settled into popped bubbles and dried white.  Boo! 
The Mike Reveal?  He came home, flipped on the light, ”Oh.”  

hazy car wax finish on self leveling concrete floor
This was much later, with the car wax.  You can see how I messed up by the door and the car wax dried white.
Pause.  Silence.

Me:

Mike:  “What is this?”  He stepped back then in and then directly onto a piece of brass, sock-footed.  A wince-y displeased look crossed his face.  Head tilt, eye blink and slight roll, “ok.”

No more words were spoken.  I do like it, I'm not sorry.  Well, I am sorry the brass is sticky-uppy.  But at least this is better than that sad icky tile. 

brass inlay in concrete bowed
Ah, yeah, see, bowed and not flush with the concrete floor surface.  Dang it.
Sooooo.....! 

Would I do this again?  Absolutely. 

finished floor
I mean, it looks cool, yeah?
Would I make some changes?  Absolutely!

First I'd locate an additive that would provide the concrete some flexibility, maybe use that instead of water.  Some hairline cracks have appeared which surprisingly don’t bother me and some tiny chips have chipped. 

First and a half, I'd also aim to pour the concrete thicker if possible but here I was locked into an eighth inch thick.  Even so, I could have poured more evenly.

First and three quarters, I could have torn out the tile, put in radiant heat (though powering it was my hang up), and poured thicker.  Or, heh, retiled.  (Nooooooooo!)  

This adventure cost....
  • $20 for the concrete
  • $45 for the brass
  • $6 for the colorant
Total:  $71.  Much cheaper, faster, easier, less messy, less demo-y than tiling.

Second I'd be sure not to disturb the goo at all after it went down, meaning I wouldn't try to smear anything smooth or touch up.  I would also pour faster so that trying to smear anything smooth wouldn't come into play.

Once it’s down, it’s done being manipulated and any manipulation you try will result in messy unevenness.  This sh*t is pour and run, baby.  

Oh.  Did it fix the slope?  Nope.  Self-leveling means levels itself, not the floor.

Third I'd definitely inlay again for sure, now knowing I shouldn't keep picking it up and re-laying it back in.  Plan and aim better!

Third and a half, I'd try for a much more even pour so the inlay wouldn't stick up.  It was tough getting the brass pieces completely flat and straight the longer they were though.

Fourth, I would not use car wax.  Or lemme rephrase, I would use car wax again so long as it dried clear.

So this was a learning experience indeed, one I'm very glad for.

poured self leveling concrete floor with brass inlay

Be sure to come back for more on this because there are follow-ups, details, and updates to this adventure!

*The Gaudi tiles I am dyyyyying to get are a Home Depot affiliate link.  The rotary tool, lacquer, grinder, colorant, Simple Green, drill, paddles, and buffers are Amazon affiliate links.  Mwah, thanks!  Please see the "boring stuff" tab for more info.

2 comments

  1. And now, you could go back and get really famcy with a layer of resin!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. OoooOOooohh, look at that fancy idea! Huh! Thank you!

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