A few things to keep in mind prior to selecting a natural stone ..
1. It comes from a natural source, so expect variation and some unusable tile .. we opted to get about 10% extra to account for cuts, "ugly" tiles, and damage (a few of the tiles had some chipping) but most of it is unique and super gorgeous!
2. It's pricier than ceramic tile, we spent around $1,000 for our space. Since we were completing the entire renovation ourselves, we decided to splurge! Once seeing it in person, I knew I wasn't going to be happy with anything else.
3. It may be more fragile. We were told when installing it to handle it like glass .. we did break a few (which we used for the cut edges..)
Here's our process: (*This was our first time installing tile, so a few of the tips we picked up from Mosaic Tile Co. while checking out and the rest we figured out as we went. This is what worked well for us.)
You will need:
Marble tile (we use a 3x12 of this)
Trowel (like this, this, and this)
Thin Set Mortar
Grout (we used polyblend new taupe)
2 Gallon bucket (2 or 3)
Microfiber cloth / large sponge
Tile spacers (we used 1/16")
Corded drill with mixing attachment
Eye protection / hearing protection when using the tile saw
Disposable gloves when applying sealant
1. Clean off the dust. When removed from the box, the tile has a thin layer of white dust .. we used a bucket of water and sponge / micro fiber cloth and wiped them off
2. Apply a layer of sealer. I'm not sure if this was necessary prior to installation, but we decided that it would help if any mortar got on the tile.
3. Mix up a batch of mortar (about as much as you can work with prior to it getting hard) we filled a 2 gallon paint bucket up about half way. Use a mixing attachment on a corded drill. Since our mortar came in a large bag, we sectioned it off and wrote how much water each section would need. Follow the directions for mixing (I believe ours was mix for 5 minutes, let it sit for 10 minutes) (*We were told, when selecting mortar, use the whitest that they sell, any color in the mortar will seep through the natural stone)
4. (while you wait for the mortar to firm up) Lay your tile in a herringbone pattern to get an idea of what it will look like. *Make sure it is straight. The rest of the tile will go off of this line. (Do not walk on tile prior to securing it with mortar, it will break!)
5. Working in small sections, spread some mortar with a spackle knife / trowel.
6. Smooth it with the flat side of a notch trowel
8. Back butter the tile. On the back side of the tile, run a thin, smooth layer of mortar over the entire back side. This ensures even coverage and adhesion. (I found it easiest to hold the tile over the mortar bucket, apply extra and scrape it off of the tile in the bucket as you go.)
9. Firmly press the tile in place with spacers (we used 1/16" / 2 per side) *After it has set for a little, go back and check to make sure it hasn't floated away, you want to make sure the spacing is consistent. For the first row, Make sure it is straight. I'd recommend to let the first row firm up prior to installing more.
(*Note: we were told to expect moisture on top of the marble, which was normal after installation, but that didn't occur for us, maybe because we applied a layer of sealer first?)
10. If any mortar comes out the side, remove all excess around the edges so that it doesn't rise above the tile. (As you go, make sure to wipe off any excess mortar from the top of the tile before it dries)
11. We applied all center tiles first and saved the cuts for last. To calculate our cuts, we cut a 3x12 piece of thin cardboard and bent to fit.
12. Then we drew it on the tile (make sure to think about how the tile fits in the space, so it is right side up and the veining is the correct direction)
13. We purchased this tile saw (tile saws have water running through them to cool the blade and prevent chipping) and free handed the cuts using the previously drawn line. The guide that came with the saw wasn't long enough for all of the cuts, and free handing it worked well for us.
As you can see, the 6x6 posts complicated our cuts (baseboard trim doesn't surround the posts).. it took a while!
14. After the tile dried for the allotted time, apply grout (we used Polyblend new taupe) (non sanded grout is used for 1/8" and under spacing). (Make sure to use the correct amount of water for each batch, improper mixing can result in inconsistent grout color) Mix following directions on the package.
15. Apply by dragging a float over it. Make sure to get all the crevices.
16. Once it has sat for about 15 minutes (or what specific directions say) wipe off all excess with a sponge. Change your water frequently.
17. After the grout has cured, remove grout haze. We simply wiped it with a damp micro fiber cloth followed by a dry microfiber cloth (x2) I've heard some have had to wipe down the tile forever, but that wasn't the case for us .. not sure why (maybe because we sealed it first? since it's a natural stone?)
18. Finally, we applied a few more coats of sealant with a micro fiber cloth (the same as the first photo) and that was it.
Honestly, this took what seemed like forever .. I was excited to tile in the beginning and over it by the end .. BUT I love how it turned out!!
I'll be talking about the built-ins tomorrow, make sure to come back!