Americans generally reserve tile flooring for the kitchen or the bathroom. But if you’ve ever spent time in a Mexican hacienda, you know the deep, exotic pleasure of walking barefoot across beautiful tiles in a space not meant for dripping dishwater or stepping out of the shower.
My husband and I honeymooned in San Miguel de Allende, in a villa with Saltillo tile flooring. When we bought a house last year with some ratty carpeting in the living room, we started wondering, what’s stopping us from recreating that here?
At first we were looking at terra cotta colored ceramic tiles, with the idea of bringing our honeymoon into our home in as exact a replica as possible. Honestly, I think we would have loved that, too. Those were the most romantic days of our lives, after all.
But we live in Portland, Oregon, where the rain falls and the grass grows green, and it seemed a little out of place. We wanted a tile floor that referenced Mexico, but also honored Portland. You know, Be Here Now.
Then we happened upon natural stone tiles, and we fell in love all over again. We chose a random sized mosaic of sliced pebbles in a shade of green called “Taipei” (after the capital of Taiwan) that reminded us for all the world of creek beds on hikes we take in the Oregon mountains.
Here is a little tutorial on DIY tile flooring, based on our experience. We’ve been walking across our pebbled living room for six months now, and I swear I’ve never felt so much peace in a non-vacation home. Married bliss, or just one fine damn floor? A little of both, if we do say so, ourselves.
1. Make sure the floor is clean. Get on your hands and knees and scrub, basically. Dust, oil, wax or grease will prevent the tile adhesive from working properly.
2. Work from the center as you plan your layout. You want any cut tiles at the wall edges. (Ideally you want the cut tiles at each end of the room to be the same size, but with our pebble mosaics, we didn’t have to worry about this.)
3. Lay all the whole tiles first. When you are ready to do all the cut tile, go and hire a professional tile cutter. Seriously. I won’t name names, but a certain someone I’ve vowed to love through sickness and health, etc. thought he could cut the tiles himself with his circular saw, and basically, long story short, we had to order another batch of tiles. Live and learn!
4. Grouting pebble mosaics is time-consuming, I won’t lie. It’s also a little tricky. This tip is important: SEAL THE PEBBLE TILE BEFORE YOU GROUT. Because the pebbles have a natural finish, they absorb the grout. Insert frowny face here. But if you seal the tiles (once the adhesive dries), voila, no absorption. Insert happy face.
5. Cover the entire tile with grout. Gulp. Wait 20 minutes. Wipe with a damp sponge till it’s pretty again. Hey perfectionist, don’t wipe so hard that the grout between the pebbles disappears!
6. Allow the grouted tile flooring to dry for 24 hours. For the first few of those hours, go out for a drink, you two. You deserve it.
7. Seal it.
8. Hi, honey, I’m home? You can leave your hat on, but please, leave your shoes by the door.