Tiling the Sun Porch: Part 1


Yes, we had another exciting weekend.  If you consider a Home Depot run and a hardware store run and a whole lot of tiling exciting that is.  But what’s not exciting about concrete, thin-set, and tiles?  Ok, pretty much everything.  It’s a lot of work, but we had to do it.  And doing it ourselves saved us a ton of money. Gone is the cheapo sketchy carpet that somebody set on top of our concrete, and now we have a very nice floor that doesn’t make us cringe.  It is a big undertaking for a DIYer, but it’s doable.

We honestly spent our Friday night at the Home Depot…..again.  Good time to go.  There are lots of employees free to help you when they see you floundering.  And we left with a big load.  Although we wanted stone, we decided on porcelain tile because it is a lot more durable, and it doesn’t need to be sealed since it comes pre-glazed.  We picked a very neutral “Chablis” tile in 13×13 squares.  Our room is approximately 10×10 so we bought 6 boxes of 14 tiles and 4 individual tiles just in case.  Our tiling purchase also required one large bag of thin-set, one bag of grout, tile spacers, and a chisel.  Luckily, the rest of the tools we either already owned or could borrow from Dain’s dad.

We knew it wouldn’t be pretty under our sun porch carpet since we had pulled up a corner a few weeks ago.

So we weren’t surprised to see that the entire slab had shifted away from the house after we took out the whole roll of carpet (which is now in our garage waiting to be cut into squares and emptied into the garbage week by week.)  Dain also took out all of the unfinished baseboards.  Unfortunately, they were so cheaply made that a few of them cracked in the process so we will have to invest in new ones down the road.  You can see that someone tried to patch in between the original slab and the house once already after it shifted.

Because it had shifted so far in some areas, Dain decided to mortar the holes.  He used the chisel to chip away some of the concrete by the sliding glass door, and then he filled in the gaps with concrete, which we had in our garage since this was not our first concrete rodeo.

Of course we had to let this dry overnight so we didn’t even get around to our tiling until yesterday.  But Dain used Saturday to make all of his measurements, and we decided that we would cut small, awkward pieces by the door so if there is any movement where we patched hopefully only the grout will crack instead of a whole tile.

Bright and early on Sunday morning we got to it.  The first step was to make a chalk line down the center.  Dain essentially marked the midpoint of the floor with pencil.  And then you use this little gadget to make a line of chalk all the way down the room.  Very nifty.  I was tasked with holding the side by the door to the house while Dain pulled it taut by the door to the deck and snapped it.  He told me I did “pretty good for my first time.”  So apparently there is room for improvement.

We quickly moved on, and thank goodness Dain knows what he is doing.  He began by laying them out on the floor to see what kind of cuts we would have to make.  As he said, professional tilers probably don’t do this, but it was the easiest way for us to visualize all of the spacing and placement so we didn’t have any weird cuts to make.

Once we had it all planned out, Dain began to cut the small pieces to go along the sliding glass door.  They varied in size from 2 1/4 inches to 3 inches wide.  We were lucky enough to be able to borrow a wet tile saw so we set it up on the deck, and Dain was able to make his cuts as he went.

Then just to be extra safe, we set these ones out again to make sure they would fit.  As you can see, these cuts were kind of awkward, but we don’t think you’ll be able to notice once it is all grouted.

Once Dain was happy with the first row placement, we mixed the thin-set.  This is essentially flexible mortar that adheres to the concrete slab and holds the tiles in place.

A whole bag gets mixed with about 4.7 liters of water, but we started with half of the bag because it does set fairly quickly, and Dain didn’t think he would be able to move that fast.  Dain was rocking his stylish weekend look with his kneepads and tape measure as he mixed away.  To do that, you use a paddle mixer that attaches to a drill and allows you bring it to a nice consistency.  The consistency of toothpaste to be exact.

Once this was ready, Dain began to spread it on the floor.  He used a 1/4″ notch trowel to lay a base on the floor, which gave it a texture to help the tile adhere evenly to the floor.  He would spread out enough for only 2-4 tiles at a time to ensure that it wouldn’t dry out while he was setting the tiles in place.

He started from the inside and worked out from the chalk line and used small spacers to ensure exactly 1/4 inch in between every tile.  After the tiles were in place, he used a wooden board and rubber mallet to hammer down any high spots where the tiles met.

It took longer than expected, but Dain is a perfectionist so he didn’t give up.  Even if we were missing a beautiful Minnesota day.

Then disaster struck.  Our 25 lb bag of thin-set advertised coverage for 100-150 square feet, but somehow we used it all up with 8 tiles left.

I quickly drove up to the hardware store that is about a one minute drive from our house, and they had a little bag of thin-set tucked away down a back aisle.  I was pretty sure I would have to drive all the way to the Depot, but our local store did the trick.  So it added a little hassle and $12 more to the project, but it sure is nice to have a hardware store right up the street.

Dain mixed up the remaining thin-set and finished his tiling.  We cut it pretty close with our tile estimating.  The rule of thumb is to buy 10% extra, which we didn’t do.  Instead, we have exactly 2 extra tiles.  After Dain miscut one tile, he got his head back in the game to prevent another trip to the Depot.  We now need to let it sit for at least 24 hours before being able to walk on it, but we already love it.

Once it has set, we will grout it and seal the grout.  Then it will be ready to use.  In all, our Home Depot total was $248.86 (thanks to a 10% off coupon) plus the extra $12 from the hardware store.  For under $300 (even once you add the grout sealer that we forgot on our first trip to buy supplies), we have transformed the look of our sun porch and freed it from the gross carpet.  We are one step closer to total sun porch domination before the snow flies.  Now we just have to finish painting the trim, buy and install new baseboards, paint both door frames, stencil the ceiling, paint the beam over the door, craft custom built-in tables, touch-up the walls, and decorate the heck out of it.

(P.S.- If you’ve missed our other sun porch posts, you can check them out here, here, and here.  It’s obviously a slow process.)

4 Comments on "Tiling the Sun Porch: Part 1"

  1. Paula in MN says:

    It looks great. I’d hang on to the carpet. We use ours in our gardens as a weed barrier – works great!

  2. Tamsyn says:

    You guys did a great job. We’re tiling for the first time next weekend, I’m actually really nervous about it.

    • weheartmn says:

      Don’t be nervous. Just remember to keep it all level and straight as you go and figure out all of your cuts before you dead end and have to make some really odd cuts.


Got something to say? Go for it!