Flooring for your home can cost a lot of money. Just because you are on a budget doesn’t mean you have to have boring cheap looking floors. Add style to your home with budget travertine tile in an awesome pattern. The travertine 16” x 16” (natural stone) used for this project is only $1.66/sq-ft at Home Depot. Most of the cost of tile floors comes from the labor, and you can do that yourself!
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Pick a floor pattern, in this tutorial I am using Herringbone Inserted with 16” x 16” travertine tiles. Determine square footage of the area that you are laying tile. Area is measured by Length x Width = Area.
length in inches x width in inches = area in square inches divide that by 144 to get square feet.
When buying your tile, you’ll want to order about 15% extra to account for cracked tiles, edge pieces, etc. Multiply the square footage of your room by 1.15 to get the amount of tile that you should buy.
If using natural stone, rinse all of the tiles off and let them dry. Then apply natural stone sealer to the finished face of the tiles and allow to dry.
An important part of any tile floor is the cement bed under the tile. There are a number of different products out there for the cement bed. I use ¼” Hardiebacker cement board. Cement board is an easy to use product for the DIY-er. Before laying the cement board, scrape your floors removing high spots. Mix thinset mortar in a 5 gallon bucket according to the bag. You’ll need a ½ inch drill and a thinset mixing paddle. Evenly spread the thinset on the plywood floor using a ¼” x ¼” x ¼” square notch trowel. Hold the trowel at a 45 degree angle on the last pass.
Lay the cement board on the thinset and use 1 ¼” cement board screws (I prefer Rock-on) to secure the cement board every 8”, make sure the screw head is flush or lower than the cement board. A Ryobi impact driver is essential for this part. When laying the cement board stagger them, you should never have 4 corners meet. Never lay a seam of cement board on a seam in the plywood. If this is going to happen, cut your cement board to miss the plywood seam. Leave a 1/8" or so gap between cement boards and between wall edges. Try and remove any thinset squeeze out while wet. Let the thinset cure for a 24 hours before laying the tile.
Fill the cement board gaps with thinset, and then apply the 2" glass seam tape over the joint. Cover the seam tape with thinset, and smooth the joint. Try not to leave high points.
Time to cut tiles! For the herringbone inserted, mark the tiles in half (8”) and for every 2 tiles that you cut in half cut 1 tile in quarters. When making the cuts you can either mark the cut lines with a pencil or set up your saw fence for repeat cuts.
Fill your tile saw reservoir with water, check and refill the reservoir after every 4-5 tiles. When cutting natural stone, I like to make a small cut on one end, then turn the tile around and make the cut. This helps with breakout of the stone. Rinse the tiles with water after cutting.
Decide how you want your floor laid out. Use chalk lines to mark straight lines. For this layout using 16” x 16” tiles and 1/8” tile spacers, the spacing between center-lines of the diamonds is about 17 1/8”. These are the reference lines that keep the pattern going straight.
Mix a batch of thinset according to the instructions on the bag. Spread the thinset with a ¼” x 3/8” x ¼” trowel. Begin setting the travertine tiles in the pattern. If your travertine tiles are very holey on the backside, it will be easier to keep your tiles level by filling the holes with a thin coat of thinset.
Check and make sure your tiles are level. If you have a dipping edge that you can't get level, sometimes you can lift the edge with your spatula and put a glob of thinset under it, and lay the tile back down and level it. As you lay the tiles, your thinset may start getting dry. The thinset it too dry when you lay the tile on the troweled thinset and lift it up, if the thinset doesn't leave messy lines and adhere to the tile bottom don't continue to use it. Make a new batch.
Allow the thinset to cure for 48 hours before walking on the tiles and grouting. The general rule of thumb for grout, is lines larger than 1/8" use sanded grout and lines 1/8" and smaller use unsanded grout. I prefer to do small batches of grout at a time, ¼ of the bag. Using your grout float, fill the grout line very full of grout. With the side of the float, squeegee off the excess grout. Let the grout lines dry for a while 30 min to 1 hr.
With an extra large orange grout sponge and a bucket or large bowl of clean water, wipe up the excess grout. Keep wiping until the grout is at the height that you prefer, generally just below the top of the tile. Change your water often and wipe all of the residue from the grout off of the tile. Let the tiles dry for a couple of days. Clean the tiles again really well with water and a sponge. Let the water dry and reapply the natural stone and grout sealer according to the instructions on the bottle.