Friday, April 13, 2012

Foyer Fix Up - Part 2

First off, I have to apologize for the quality, or lack there of, in the photos for this post. Some were taken with my old camera which was in the process of breaking down and some were taken with my old Blackberry which didn't have the best camera.

In the end it doesn't matter since the tile in the foyer looks a-mazing, if I do say so myself.  I know D agrees since over a year later, we still stop to look at it as we walk down the hall.

As you may remember, we started this journey with a blandness.

No, this isn't our stuff.  This is one of the listing photos.
We have replaced the light, painted and added our furniture. (see Foyer Fix Up -Part 1 for the details)

Now it is onto the biggest job.


When we moved in, we knew the flooring was laminate. What we didn't know realize is the poor job one of the previous owners did on installation since there was a big rug covering much of the floor. It was baaaad. Though it was click and lock flooring, many of the pieces were neither clicked or locked. To make up for that there was liberal used of finish nails through the top of many of the pieces. In the sunlight it looked like someone spilled glitter on the floor there were that many nail heads glinting.

See what I mean.

Love the huge gap. Perfect for catching dirt and pebbles.
So one night in a fit of "I can't take this anymore" and "Something must be done," I ripped out the flooring.

I have to say that ripping out the flooring before we had a total plan on what to replace it with may not have been one of my smarter moments. I mean, we had a vague and general plan on what we thought we wanted to do. Slate. 12 x 12 tiles. Laid on the diagonal. Easy and peasy. However, we hadn't done any measuring, we hadn't purchased any supplies, we didn't have a tile saw, I think you are getting where I am going with all this. 

Once we went tile shopping, the plan quickly spiraled out of control into uncharted territory. In both a good way and bad way. The good? If we could pull it off, it would look a-freaking-mazing. The bad? It was waaaaay complicated and we hadn't done complicated tile yet. Yeah, I think for a moment we were possessed by the spirits of professional tile installers.

The new plan?  Still slate but in addition to the 12 x 12s there will be a pinwheel tile for the inner border and 6 x 6s in the middle. Like I said, waaaaay complicated. Plus, we had the added bonus of the room being narrower by 1.5" at door end and the wall with the closet is just over 1" shorter than the other wall. [sigh] Thank goodness D is a Math Wizard.

This is why a dry fit is key! If you do a dry fit you can make the allowances and deal with the wonkiness before you are elbow deep in thinset.

So we began the loooooooooooooong process of dry fitting the tiles. I have to tell you, this stage took f.o.r.e.v.e.r. Like several weekends and a number of evenings. Mainly because of all the measuring, and double checking the measuring, then cutting, then fitting, then needing to make tweaks (more measuring and cutting)and then starting all over again on another tile/section/etc. In some ways it was brutal. But as the design started to unfold, we could tell it would totally be worth it. 

Let the dry-fit fun begin!

See what I mean by complicated? What were we thinking?
The little triangles were a total pain since the slate kept splitting into layers.
Dry fit is all done!! Let the celebration begin!
Once we had all the tiles cut and marked, we moved them into to the living room, where they were laid out on some blankets in the exact layout for the install.  Then we were were onto the next step...


First up, underlayment. We are lucky enough to have 1.5" thick subfloors so we didn't need to add any additional plywood. This meant we could move directly to installing the Ditra. We used this product for a couple of reasons. We like that it adds some waterproofing since this is the front door. Since we were using a natural stone, we liked the fact that it minimized the movement between the layers of flooring (subfloor and slate).

I could go into some detail how to install it but will instead refer you to the Installation Handbook and instead tell you some tricks we used and tools that we found came in handy.

1. Kneepads: Wear them. This stuff is HARD on the knees. Even now mine ached when I think about crawling around on that stuff.

2. A Level (the longer the better): to make sure you don't have any high spots in the Ditra

3. A board wrapped in carpet and a rubber mallet: This will help you make sure the Ditra is pressed into thinset. If you find a high spot, you can place the board on top and use the mallet to hammer it down until it is level.

4. Some sort of palm protection: See #1. This stuff is hard on the hands too. I actually ended up tracking down a pair of my old biking gloves since they had padded palms to save myself some major pain.

5.  You can see pieces of painters tape in the dry fit pics.  We used those to make sure the pieces were lined up right. We marked out a bunch of stuff, where the grout lines were along the hall floor, how adjoining tiles were to line up, etc.  We figured that since we only had one shot at this, we would try to make every effort to minimize where we could go totally wrong.

Once the Ditra was down and the thinset underneath was dry, it was tile laying time!!

Thanks to all our planning and the complete dry fit, this step went quite quickly and we were done in about 2 hours.

Another day of thinset drying and it was onto grouting. The knees pads were again a great help since slate is hard too. :-)

Grouting is a dirty business, so no pics at all, but as the clean up began, we knew we had a winner. The darker tiles on the outside, the lighter ones on the inside. It looked just as we had hoped.

A couple of days of the grout drying and we were left with this.  It is beginning to look pretty darn fab at this stage.

At this point we only had one more step to go.   


We were in the home stretch.  I couldn't have been happier.  We used the glossy stuff since we wanted the tiles to look wet and really bring out the color.

4 coats later, we were done!!

How gorgeous did it turn out! We just love it!! All the long weekends and late nights were totally worth it.

But we will probably never, ever, never, never, ever do another tile project as complicated as this one again!

We went from bland 


Cost of Foyer Fix Up - Part 2 (approximate since I can't find all the receipts)

$   70.00 Tile Saw
     60.00 12 x 12 slate tiles
     40.00 pinwheel tiles
   120.00 6x6 tiles
     70.00 Ditra
      40.00 Grout & Thinset
      20.00 sealer
      10.00 tile spacers 
        0.00 sponges, floats, etc. (we already had this stuff from a previous tile job)
$  430.00 Total Part 2
      84.50 Total Part 1
$514.50 Running Total to Date

The last step is installation of baseboards and trim pieces.  However, that won't happen until we do all the baseboards and trim in the hallways and living room later this summer.

But even without the new baseboards and trim, I think it looks amazing!


  1. I am 100% impressed with your tile laying ability! Your foyer looks amazing! :)

    1. Thanks! I still can't believe we were able to pull it off with our limited tiling skills.

  2. Oh my jealous over here! I love it. The tile is gorgeous. Thanks so much for sharing at Whimsy Wednesdays!

    1. Thanks! I still have nightmares of fitting all those tiles.

  3. Wow! What a difference! So beautiful!

    1. Thanks! We love it and, even with all the work, are glad we did it.

  4. This is absolutely gorgeous and I can't believe you tackled this project yourselves. It looks so professional!

    1. Thanks so much! At times, I can't believe it myself. Thank goodness for D and his math skills otherwise we would have been in big trouble on the layout.

  5. Oh wow! What an amazing transformation! Those tiles look awesome!

    Thanks for linking to a Round Tuit!
    Hope you have a fabulous week!
    Jill @ Creating my way to Success

  6. What a stunning entrance that turned out to be! It was a labor of love and you both should be very proud!

    1. Thanks! I still can't believe it turned out so well.

  7. You've done an amazing job. I love the design. You must have a lot of patience. Thanks for sharing at Terrific Tuesdays.

    1. Thanks so much and you have no idea. We had to rework the center 6x6 tiles 3 or 4 times to get the dry fit just right. Which is why we will never to anything so complicated again. :-) And why I am a huge believe in doing a complete dry fit on something this complicated.


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