Ter­razzo was orig­i­nally invented by Venet­ian con­struc­tion work­ers as a low cost floor­ing mate­r­ial using mar­ble chips from upscale jobs. The work­ers would usu­ally set them in clay to sur­face the patios around their liv­ing quar­ters. Con­sist­ing orig­i­nally of mar­ble chips, clay, and goat milk (as the sealer), pro­duc­tion of ter­razzo became much eas­ier after the 1920s and the intro­duc­tion of elec­tric indus­trial grinders and other power equip­ment.

Condensation in bathrooms

Decorative materials with cold surfaces, such as ceramic tiles, are renowned for the rapid formation of condensation. The build-up can be quickly dispersed by opening the windows. An extractor fan set into the window or mounted on (or ducted to) an exterior wall will also help remove vapour – quickly. You can reduce condensation in cold bathrooms by heating the room for a short time before running the bath water. Or you could use heated mirror cabinets like in the picture bellow – the type recommended for bathrooms.
bathroom heated mirror cabinets
Try running a little cold water into the bath before you turn on the hot tap, as this will also help reduce condensation. Other wall surfaces The real problem areas are patches of condensation which sometimes appear in odd corners of the home. Often these go unnoticed until a patch of mould appears. Poor circulation of air is one of the prime causes and on a damp day a short burst of warm air from a fan heater, or a hair dryer, will help to check condensation. If mould persists and the surface is not wall papered, rinse the wall with a strong solution of anti-mould. If the surface is wallpapered you will have to remove the paper and line the wall with rolls of expanded polystyrene which you can then wallpaper over or paint with emulsion. In severe cases this may not be completely successful and a painted wall, which can be treated with anti-mould cleaners from time to time is preferable.

Laying carpet tiles

Carpet tiles are not recommended for bathrooms and kitchens, they work best for office floors and other large areas.
The advantage of carpet tiles is they can be loose laid; this means you can move them around from time to time to distribute the wear evenly and replace individual tiles should they become damaged. If you spill something you can simply remove the affected square, wash it clean and leave it to dry flat, away from direct heat, before replacing it. Carpet tiles are easy to lay and awkward shapes can be dealt with one by one so mistakes in cutting will be confined to individual tiles.

They are available in a variety of fibres, surfaces and colours and are usually either mottled or plain; you can achieve a patterned or chequerboard effect by using different colours together or by laying tiles of the same colour so the piles run at right-angles to each other – or you can make a contrasting border. The backing is usually PVC or rubber and some tiles have a self-adhesive backing which is reusable should you want, or need, to move them about.When buying carpet tiles, check there is a guarantee on the stability of their dimensions so there is no expansion or contraction after they have been laid.

Estimating quantity

Since there may be a variation in shade between different batches, buy all you need at the same time. Even so, it is a good idea to open several packets of tiles and mix them up before you lay them so any slight variation in shade is barely noticeable. The sizes available make it easy to calculate the quantity you need. Make a plan of the room on squared paper and work out the area to be covered. You may have to cut tiles to fit round the edges of the room but, if the border is less than half of one tile, allow only one for every two border tiles.

Preparing the sub-floor
The sub-floor must be clean, dry, level and sound. If it is bumpy, it will cause the carpet to wear in patches; so always remove old or damaged floor coverings. If there is a gap between the skirting and the floor, the tiles may work their way underneath the skirting. Prevent this by closing the gap with hardwood beading (this will also keep out draughts) or by sticking down the border tiles.

Timber floors
Make sure there is adequate ventilation below the floor. Fill any gaps between the floorboards with a tough wood filler. Make sure all floorboards are nailed securely down so there is no movement and punch all nail heads well below the surface of the timber with a nail punch. If the floor is very uneven, cover it with hardboard before laying the tiles. Timber floors treated with wood preservative are unsuitable for most types of carpet tiles, so check first with the tile manufacturer’s instructions.
Solid floors
Don’t lay carpet tiles on a concrete floor which has underfloor heating. If the concrete floor is laid directly onto the ground, bear in mind it must have a damp proof membrane. Fill any cracks or holes and smooth off an uneven floor with a levelling compound you may be able to rub down any bumps or rough spots.

Laying the tiles
If you cannot clear all the furniture out of the room, tile one half at a time. Generally speaking it is better to loose-lay the tiles so they are movable, but you should stick them down in areas where there is likely to be a 1ot of movement. You can fix them down permanently with a flooring adhesive (use the one recommended by the manufacturer) or with double-sided adhesive tape so you can move them if necessary. If you place the tape round three sides only, you will find it easier to remove the tile. Always fit the first tile with tape so you have a stable base to work from.

Repairing Ceramic or quarry tiles

If the floor tiles are very uneven, you may decide to replace them or re-cover the floor; a self-smoothing floor screeding compound is applied directly over the tiles to form an ideal sub-floor. Cracked or crazed tiles cannot be repaired; they must be replaced with new ones. You can, however, make a temporary repair on slightly pitted tiles with cementwork or adhesive filler. Remove the damaged tile carefully so you do not damage adjacent tiles.

quarry tiles

You should wear protective spectacles when breaking up the tile with a hammer and small cold chisel; start at the centre of the tile and work outwards. When the tile has been removed piece by piece, chip away the bedding mortar so the new tile will lie just below the surface of the existing tiles. Coat the back of the new tile with a thin layer of floor tile adhesive, using a notched spreader. Press the tile into place so it is level with adjacent tiles and move it so there is an equal gap around all its edges. After 24 hours you can fill the joints around the tile with grout or a mortar mix consisting of four parts fine, sharp sand to one part Portland cement.

Laying sheet vinyl

Sheet vinyl is a practical, hard-wearing flooring material which only needs to be swept, washed and occasionally polished to keep it in condition. It is therefore suitable for rooms where there are likely to be spills and water splashes, for example bathrooms and kitchens.

Buying vinyl
Vinyl is available in a variety of colours, patterns and effects such as ceramic tiles, cork, natural stone and timber and surfaces are both smooth and textured. Cushioned vinyl, which has a layer of foam material between the vinyl and the backing, is quieter, warmer and more comfortable than uncushioned vinyl and is particularly suitable in the kitchen, where you may spend time standing.

Estimating quantity
Most vinyl flooring comes in 2m widths; it is also available in 4m widths, which may eliminate the need for joins. If the room is wider than that, you will have to cut the vinyl into suitable lengths and join them. Remember to allow an extra 75mm for each length. Manufacturers will normally state pattern repeats for the material, so when you are matching patterns you will be able to estimate how much extra is needed. Usually you should allow for an extra pattern repeat on each length except the first. Most suppliers will give you a free estimate on the quantity needed if you submit a floor plan before ordering the material.

Preparing the sub-floor
Vinyl can be laid on almost any floor provided the surface is smooth, level, dry, clean and free from polish or grease – and of sound construction.

Solid floor
A solid floor should incorporate a damp proof membrane; if it does not, this is a good opportunity to have one installed and thus save problems later on. Fill any cracks or holes in the floor with a levelling compound which should also be used to level off a slightly sloping floor. To fix sheets of plywood or hardboard you must drill and plug holes and secure with countersunk screws.

Timber floor
Check there is adequate ventilation below the floorboards; installation of air bricks will solve problems in this area. Secure any loose boards and punch down protruding nail heads. If the floor is uneven, plane down any projections. Always lay hardboard sheets rough side up and fix them to the floor with ring shank or serrated nails at 100mm intervals. The rough surface enables the nail heads to be well bedded in and provides a better key for the adhesive. Hardboard has a low moisture content and if it absorbs any moisture it will expand; when it dries out, it will then shrink. You should wet the hardboard with water, using a dampened sponge, at least 48 hours before laying it. When it dries out, it will grip tightly around the nail heads. For a very uneven floor, screw down 12 or 18mm flooring grade chipboard at 300mm intervals, using countersunk screws, to provide a level surface. Alternatively, if the boards are severely warped, rotten or otherwise damaged, it is worth removing them and laying a new floor to avoid trouble later.

Laying Vinyl tiles

Preparing the surface
Thorough preparation of the fixing surface is essential for good results. Make sure it is clean, dry and level so the tiles lie perfectly flat.

If your fixing surface is slightly uneven, first cover it with plywood or tempered hardboard, smooth side up. You can use hardboard nails if fixing to a timber floor, but with concrete you will have to drill holes, insert suitable plugs and fix the hardboard into position with countersunk screws, making sure the screw heads lie flush with or slightly below the surface.
If the fixing surface is very uneven, cover it with 12 or l8mm chipboard or plywood screwed into position. Use flooring grade chipboard when fixing to timber, and resin-bonded plywood for concrete. On an old, worn, uneven concrete floor you may need to use a levelling compound. When mixed with water the compound finds its own level and provides a smooth, even surface.

Laying the tiles
Start laying tiles from the centre of the room, which can be located by stretching two lengths of string (preferably chalked) from the mid-point of each pair of opposite walls across the floor so they cross at the centre. Make sure the pieces of string cross at right-angles and secure the ends with nails or pins. Position two rows of dry tiles, working from the mid-point to the skirting boards .

This will give you the width of the tiles around the perimeter. If only a very narrow strip is left, the floor will have an unbalanced look, especially if you are using vinyl tiles in a dual colour or chess board design. To prevent this, adjust the string line half a tile width off centre to leave wider perimeter tiles. If using chalked string, pluck it and the chalk will leave an accurate impression on the floor. Alternatively, use a straight-edge and a pencil to trace the string lines accurately.

Complete each section of the room with as many full tiles as possible, leaving all cutting jobs until later. If using tiles that are not self-adhesive, spread a thin layer of adhesive on the floor (not on the back of the tile) about a square metre (or square yard) at a time. Don’t spread more than this because the adhesive sets quickly and the tiles must be laid while it is still tacky. Start laying the tiles, pressing each one firmly into position from the centre of the tile outwards to prevent air being trapped underneath.

Vinyl tiles

Vinyl tiles are ideal as floor coverings in different areas of the home and offer a wide range of colours and designs. Using the correct methods, these tiles are quite straightforward to put down, as long as you ensure the surface on which they are laid is dry, firm and level.

One of the real advantages of tiles rather than sheet flooring material is that, when laying, you can deal with awkward shapes one by one and any mistakes in cutting will be confined to individual tiles; you may even be able to reshape those cut in error and put them elsewhere. A mistake in cutting sheet material could involve much greater wastage. Vinyl and cork flooring come in tile form: vinyl is waterproof, resistant to oil, grease and most domestic chemicals; cork is non-slip, has good thermal insulation and reduces noise.

Vinyl tiles
These offer a wide choice of designs, from alternate rows in two or more colours and chess board effects to more complicated diamond patterns or squares-within-squares using a variety of colours. If you choose a complicated pattern, draw the design on paper to make laying easier – some manufacturers provide blank squared paper for this purpose. Vinyl tiles are sold in packs sufficient to cover a square metre (or square yard) and the most common size tile is 300mm square.

Always buy a few extra tiles since, apart from cutting mistakes, spares can be useful later on when worn tiles need replacing. Pure vinyl tiles are supple and easy to lay. They have a smooth gloss finish and come in a wide variety of patterns and colours. Most vinyl tiles are self-adhesive; if wrongly placed, these can be removed immediately and repositioned but, if you move them more than once, the adhesive tends to become less effective. Self-adhesive tiles are protected by a paper backing and you should always cut the tiles to shape before you remove this. If the tiles you choose are not self-adhesive, fix them with special vinyl flooring adhesive.

Looking after tiles
To maintain the surface of vinyl , clean them periodically with a mop or sponge and a little mild, liquid detergent. Never use excessive water, strong cleaning agents or abrasives which might damage the finish. Use white spirit to remove stubborn marks from rubber-soled shoes and, should the vinyl become scratched, apply an emulsion wax polish. Prevent spirit-based polishes, rubber compounds and nail varnish remover coming into contact with the surface since these could cause permanent damage to the vinyl.

Grouting floor tiles

When all the tiles have been fixed, leave them for at least 12 hours before grouting. Don’t walk on them during this time since any disturbance may affect the bonding of the adhesive. If you used card or matchsticks for spacing, remove them after 24 hours. It is a good idea to wait for 24-48 hours before grouting. Most tile manufacturers recommend a powder grout which has to be mixed with water to a creamy consistency. Mix only enough to last for about 40 minutes since it becomes unworkable after that time.
marble floor tiles
Cover a small area at a time and rub the grout into the joints with a sponge or the straight side of a notched spreader, making sure all joints are filled. Leave the grout to harden in the joints for about 30 minutes before wiping off the surplus with a dampened cloth. Wipe away all traces of grout from the tiles, rinsing frequently with clean water. You can blend the grout with the tiles by colouring it: mix grout colour mix with the grout powder before adding water. Try to avoid washing the floor for a week or two, since water may dilute the adhesive and affect the strength of the bond.