I Can’t Believe It’s Not Marble

The homeowners wanted an antique looking tile for their 1940’s home.  I encouraged them to pick out this porcelain mock Carrera marble tile. 

The tile had a honed finish rather than a typical shiny finish on the top of the tile.

The benefits to selecting this porcelain tile over real marble are:

  • Real marble needs to be frequently sealed, especially Carrera due to its porous nature.
  • Real marble is soft and scratches easily.
  • Real marble can stain permanently with products that contain acid, even when sealed.
  • Carrera marble absorbs water from your feet and shower splashes and darkens the marble noticeably until it dries out.

Hairspray Stains on Tile

I was called in to inspect a floor that had mysterious white spots on the darkened tile.  Plumbers had worked under the homeowner’s vanity and she thought that the plumbers had done something to her floor.

I grabbed some scouring powder and a damp rag and made a circle in the center of the tile with the powder and some elbow grease.  The dark finish came right off, revealing the bright original finish of the tile.

Moral of the story:  make sure you put a large mat or beach towel down before using hairspray over a tile floor!

How to Remove Grout Film on Non-glazed Porcelain Tile

Sometimes, when using heavily pigmented grout over a non-glazed surface you get a grout film, despite your best efforts to prevent it. 

Here I used clean wash water, and I didn’t let the grout sit too long on the tile surface and I still got heavy grout film.

I waited four days for the grout to cure.  Then, fortunately a mild dilution of phosphoric acid took care of the problem and brought it back to a nice clean surface.

Changing Your Mind on Grout Color

The homeowner originally chose a dark brown grout when this floor was installed eight years ago, but always wished that she had chosen a color that matched the tile better.  We showed her color samples and she chose Sandstone as the new grout color.

Tedius but rewarding work.

Not all grout colorants are created equal.  It’s important that you choose an epoxy-based colorant for durability.  It’s also important that the grout joints be very clean in order for the colorant to adhere and bond.

The new grout color matches both the field tiles and the accent dots.

Eichler Home Grout Transformation

My latest project transforming the grout color to better match the tile. This house was a trip with plants growing through openings in the floor! Joseph Eichler was the premier builder of the late mid-century. He believed in bringing the outside in and he was among the first builders to install very large windows in middle class homes which also brought nature and light into the house.

Joseph Eichler hired several architects to apply Frank Loyd Wright’s ideas to suburban track homes for middle-class families. Interestingly he also became known for advocating fair housing during an era when builders and realtors often refused to sell homes to minorities. In 1958, Eichler resigned from the National Association of Homebuilders to protest the organization’s policies of racial discrimination.

Crack in cement slab

Typical slab crack running under contiguous tiles. 

To protect the house from dust we installed a plastic tent enclosure to the ceiling.

We use a 2-part system (powder and liquid) especially made for movement by Sienna, EP200.  This is an expensive product but worth the price.  Over the years I have successfully spanned large slab cracks with this product and the tiles set with it do not re-crack.

Cleaning Grout


Cleaning_groutMany people with new tile installations think that they only have to use water to keep their new grout on their new floor clean.  This is not true.  A neutral soap should be used in the daily/weekly cleanup process.   Another common mistake is to use chemically infused disposable mop heads on tiled floors.  Disposable mop heads have some sort of chemical that darkens grout over time. 

Here you can see very dirty grout.  This person had used a disposable mop head sweeper for years to sweep their floor.  Using hot steam I was able to get this grout clean using 2-3 different cleaning products.  Sometimes simply one product will work.

Hardiebacker Installation Under Tile Floors


Lately in my travels, I’ve come across many improperly laid Hardiebacker board floors.  Installers are skipping important steps.

The most common indicators of improperly installed backer board are that the tiles are bouncing loose/and cracking and grout is coming out as well.  The installers are not following the manufacturers’ instructions.

First when cutting the boards, allow at least a 1/8 to ¼ inch gap between the boards and at the outside walls for expansion.

Second, you must use non-modified or minimally modified thin set underneath the board, applying it with a ¼ inch square notched trowel.  The thin set must be wet enough to stick to the porous and dry Hardiebacker board but stiff enough to hold up the trowel ridges.

Then, before the thin set dries, screw or nail the board in all the specified places.  The ¼ board has small impressions indicating where to nail.  If you are using nails, they should be galvanized so as not to bleed rust into the grout joints.  Each board requires 66 fasteners.  Be sure to use fasteners that are at least 1 ¼ inch long.  Problems also occur when the installers are not screwing or nailing in enough places.

When the subfloor is plank and not plywood, I use the thicker ½ inch Hardiebacker board for more density and structural strength.  Be sure to use longer fasteners; at least 1 5/8 inch long. There are no impressions showing you where to nail on the 1/2 thick board.  I screw/nail every 6 inches, just ½ inch in from the perimeters and every 8 inches on the interior surface of the board.

Self adhesive mesh tape is applied on the seams.  Then a light coat of thin set is applied over the tape.

Be sure to use a quality modified thin set to adhere the tile to the backer board.  A special tip:  Take a moist, but not drenching wet sponge and lightly wipe the dust off of the surface of the Hardiebacker board for better thin set adhesion to the board.  Be sure not to let the thin set glaze over before applying the tile. Perform a simple test if your thin set ridges have been uncovered for a while; lightly brush your fingers over the edges.  If the thin set doesn’t stick to your fingers, it’s time to re-comb the thin set.  Also, when first setting the tiles, always pull up a tile to see if you are getting 90% coverage on the backside of the tile.

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Wood!

This plank tile has the look of real hardwood with the durability of ceramic tile.  Imagine never having to re-finish your floors!  This tile is also scratch, stain, chemical and frost resistant.

This is the medium dark tile called “Saddle”.  There is one more darker option called “Spice”.  These tiles are made in the USA by Marazzi.

Here you can see the surface texture of the tile, which has been crafted to resemble the grains in real wood.  They obtain the grain look through a 3-D printing technique.



Changing grout color around plank tile

This plank floor was in a brand new home and the builder did not allow the homeowner to choose light colored, narrow grout joints.  The homeowner was worried the grout would darken and take on a grid-like appearance over time.  The best option was to lighten the grout color by applying an epoxy-based grout colorant which also resists staining.