Front Hall Overhaul – Part 5
Front Hall Overhaul – Part 5

Front Hall Overhaul – Part 5

I think this is the longest I’ve gone without posting in a while.  There’s been some drama going on behind the scenes which has affected my focus in terms of blogging.  But that doesn’t mean stuff hasn’t been getting done in the front hall!  I laid 12 tiles on Saturday and 11 more today, making me about ⅔ done!

I started working on the front hall last April by taking the door off the closet, ripping out the ugly closet carpet, and painting everything grey.  I also bought wood for a new closet shelf, and a new area rug to replace the nasty old one.  Then I spent most of the summer working on the outdoor cat enclosure / catio and had no time for the front hall.  By the end of August I finally had time to work on it again and spent a few days smashing out the old, boring, white tile.

Last weekend I bought a roll of Schluter Ditra tile underlayment and some thin-set mortar at Home Depot, and started laying it Tuesday after work.  I cut a piece to run across the width of the hall & closet:

208a        208b

Then spread sections of thin set-mortar using the flat end of my mortar trowel, raked lines in it using the notched end of the trowel, and laid down the orange underlayment:

208e        208c

I used my grout float to push any air bubbles out to the sides, securing it to the mortar in the process:

208d       208f

Once I was done with that one section I called it a night:


On Thursday after work I went to Home Depot and bought a cheap wet saw:


My friends Abbie & Briggs offered to let me borrow theirs, but I decided to buy my own since I plan to also re-tile the laundry room and master bath at some point.

On Saturday morning I got up bright and early and drank my tea in the yard while the cats enjoyed their catio.  I’ve been trying to teach Bonkers how to use the ramp leading from 2nd floor to the 3rd, but all he does is stand up and eat the treats off it without stepping on it:

208h        208i

Then I spent an hour taking the wet saw parts out of the box and setting it up:

208k        208l

I spent the next 2 hours spreading thin-set mortar, raking it into lines, and laying the rest of the underlayment:

208m        208n

208o        208p

I was SO GLAD when it was finished!  That stuff is a bitch to kneel on.  Next time I tile anything I’m buying knee pads:

208q        208r

When I smashed out the old tiles I noticed there were pieces of metal edging trim in the doorway leading from the front hall into the house and the entrance to the closet [separating the white tiles from the closet carpet].  I read about it online and it acts as a solid barrier between tile and other types of flooring, allowing the tiles to by laid perfectly straight.  So I bought an 8 foot piece at Home Depot [the only length it comes in] and used my hack saw to cut it down to size:


I laid it in the doorway leading from the front hall into the house and smothered it with thin-set mortar to secure it:

208t        208u

I placed 3 tiles on it to weigh it down while the mortar set.  It also gave me a chance to see if the inner door would shut over the edge trim and tiles:

208v        208w


Meanwhile, Darwin was doing his best to stalk and “catch” the birds in the living room window feeder:

208x        208y

Almost, buddy!  Maybe next time 🙂

After lunch I headed back to the front hall and lay down some tiles in a test pattern.  I used my ¼” spacers to lay out a grid of offset squares, making sure none of the edges would be too skinny to cut:


Looks good to me!  Then I laid my first 3 tiles:


Which required the use of my wet saw to cut that middle one in half – it was SO MUCH FUN!

The process I used to lay each tile was as follows:

Spread thin-set mortar on the orange underlayment to fill in the divets, making sure it’s smooth and flat:


Add some glops of thin-set to the back of a tile and use the flat edge of the mortar trowel to spread it like frosting:

208zf        208zg

Then use the notched end of the trowel to drag lines through it:

208zc        208zd

Lay it on the floor, add ¼” spacers, and sponge off any mortar remnants:



When it was necessary to cut a piece down, I measured the space carefully, took into account the ¼” spacers, marked it with a red china marker, then cut it with the wet saw.  I always wore my construction earmuffs and goggles!  I didn’t wear gloves because the instructions say gloves can get snagged by the blade *shudder* – no thanks!:

208zi        208zh

208zj        208zk

After 3 hours I had 12 tiles laid down:


I was so exhausted from 7 hours of work that I felt nauseous.  So after cleaning up I had some dinner and collapsed into bed at the ridiculous hour of 7pm!  I spent all day yesterday doing nothing.  I was so sore from all the crouching, sitting, crawling, kneeling, cutting, hauling, mortaring, and wet-sawing on Saturday.  But it was so worth it – it’s looking gorgeous!

Today I slept until noon then got to work on the front hall.  I wanted to mention that when I use the wet saw I always cut the tile face up.  It means that any blade marks are on the back:

208zm        208zn

After 2 hours I had 11 more tiles laid, for a total of 23.  Here’s what it looks like from the front stoop looking in:


And here’s what it looks like from inside the house:


Darwin spotted a bug in the closet, which he proceeded to catch and eat.  Ew 🙂

Hubby and I took tomorrow off from work.  The Ipswich Building Inspector is coming over to inspect our replacement windows, and we both have appointments in the afternoon.  Hopefully at some point I’ll have time to lay the rest of the tiles!  Then I’ll seal them, grout them, and DONE.

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  1. Jo

    Just gorgeous! I’m so impressed. As you know I wimped out on our tiling. Your hints and tips are terrific: “always cut the tile face up”. Perfect. Someday, maybe, I’ll get some gumption but you’ve pretty much convinced me that tiling a floor is beyond my endurance. Jo @ Let’s Face the Music

    1. Nine Dark Moons

      Thanks, Jo! tiling the floor is way more work than i expected, and quite hard on the arms and knees! the tiles are heavy, the mortar is awkward to spread while trying to balance a tile, etc. I would definitely hire out the tiling if I had as much to do as you guys!

    1. Nine Dark Moons

      that explains why my biceps are so sore after tiling a section! those tiles ARE heavy! balancing them sort of in my lap while i add mortar is also hard. my arms are so tired at the end of it! And thanks!

    1. Nine Dark Moons

      Thanks, Dad! It’s not hard – I never thought I could do it either until I read my fellow bloggers’ tales of tiling their own floors and they made it seem so easy! I also watched a LOT of youtube instructional videos on how to lay the orange underlayment, how to cut tiles with a wet saw, how to lay slate tile, etc.

    1. Nine Dark Moons

      Says the girl who tiled her entire kitchen in one day/night! I’m so impressed by that! But OMG. Now that I’ve done some tiling, I’m double impressed – it’s so much work! But thanks 🙂 We’re loving it so far!

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