Floor tiling question for Bill V.

rem1970January 22, 2013

Hi Bill,

In getting bids for a bathroom remodel, one of the contractors kept talking about how he would install a floating floor and that it was superior to using wonderboard or hardiebacker for our application. Three of the walls will be tiled up to a chair railing, and the walls where the tub is located will be tiled up to the ceiling.

Is this accurate? My floor tiles will be 12x12 porcelain. I'm just trying to understand the different options for installation and what the pros or cons may be. Thanks!

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A floating porcelain floor? I think you need to clarify exactly what products and intallation method is being talked about here. A floating tile floor is a recipe for a cracked tile floor. Now, tile installed properly over an uncoupling membrane is an entirely different case of beer.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2013 at 10:55AM
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I'm not Bill, but I would RUN, not walk, away from anyone suggesting a tile floating floor, particularly in a bathroom. Think about this for a minute. Tile does not bend. If it is not FULLY supported underneath and you put pressure on it (walk on it) it will crack. The contractor is probably calling floating tile floor superior because he is not capable of producing industry-standard work.

At the very least, ask to see one of his floating installs that has been in place for a year or longer. Look for cracked tiles and grout that had cracked or separated from the tiles.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2013 at 10:59AM
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I think that they are talking about the "old school" method of "floating" a mortar bed over chicken wire. This method can be superior to using cement board.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2013 at 11:52AM
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I had stayed away from posting since this question was directed towards Bill.

rem1970, without a doubt you need to clarify what "floating" means in this case.

It could be a floated mud bed, as terricks mentioned. And that would indeed be a fine installation.

Or it could be a no kidding floated tile floor. There are two versions that I know of:

The first one, you install a plastic grid/mesh on the floor. Then you snap tiles into the grid. The floor then gets "grouted" with a caulk-type of "grout". I've walked on those at a showroom, they sound horribly hollow underfoot.

The second one is made up of porcelain tiles mounted on a rubberized backing mat, the backing has lugs or fingers around the perimeter of the tile. The lugs lock one tile to the next and create the "grout" joint. Same thing there, the tiled floor then gets "grouted" with a caulk-type of material. That floor wasn't as hollow sounding as the first, but to me it still didn't have the same solid feel underfoot that a traditionally thinsetted-down tile floor has. There was a little vertical movement in the floor here and there when it was walked upon. The display I saw had a little waffling in it from the tiles not laying perfectly flat on the floor. I was told the floor was fine when first installed, but started lifting in areas over time.

Regarding performance and durability?

The tile thinsetted down over a floated portland cement-based mud bed? That installation could very well outlast you, me, and the destruction of this planet. Have no fear if you go that route.

The last two floors, the no-thinset, no-kidding, "floating tile floors" with flexible "grout"? There is no hard data on how they will perform long-term. But they are advertised as having the potential to be temporary flooring. You're moving? You can no kidding dismantle your tile floor and take it with you. For better or worse.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2013 at 12:37PM
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Thanks so much to all of you for the information, boy do I love this forum! The floating floor sounded a little suspect to me, but I know nothing about tile setting. As it turns out, the guy who did my kitchen finally came through with a quote today, after I'd given up on hearing back from him. And guess what? His quote is significantly lower than the "floating" guy's, so it's an easy decision. Thanks again, everyone.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2013 at 2:24AM
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I would question a quote that was "significantly lower" than another. Doesn't sound like the guy who did your kitchen is a "tile guy".

    Bookmark   January 25, 2013 at 11:29AM
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