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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 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.

Laying ceramic floor tiles

Traditionally ceramic tiles have been used to cover areas around basins, baths and sinks, where splashing is likely to occur. But they are also very practical for covering floors. Now that central heating has taken the chill from ceramic floor tiles, people are beginning to appreciate their hard-wearing qualities and easy maintenance. Provided it is correctly laid on a properly prepared sub-floor, ceramic flooring has good resistance to impact and general wear and high resistance to crazing. It only needs to be swept regularly and washed from time to time with water and detergent. Stubborn stains can be removed from this type of tile with a household abrasive or paint brush cleaner.

ceramic bathroom floor tiles

Types of tiles
It is essential to use only flooring grade tiles – wall tiles are much thinner and would break under pressure. Flooring tiles are available glazed or unglazed. Glazed tiles come in a wide range of colours and patterns and some have a roughened glaze to make them slip-resistant. Unglazed tiles are produced only in plain or mottled colours; but they are the most durable form of tile and are available in a range of anti-slip surfaces and also coving tiles to provide a clean curve from floor to wall. They are more difficult to cut than glazed tiles, but you can hire or buy a special tool for cutting them. Tiles are made in a variety of shapes, square ones being the easiest to lay. Always buy six or so extra ones for cutting in or in case of breakages. Mosaic tiles are small squares of glazed or unglazed ceramic covered with peel-off sheets 305mm square which you remove alter laying.

Preparing the surface
It is essential to lay ceramic tiles on a clean, dry, level surface; any distortions may cause the tiles to move and crack under pressure. They can be laid on a solid floor of concrete or existing hard flooring such as terrazzo or quarry tiles or on a suspended timber floor. But in each case the floor needs some preparation before the tiles are laid.

The concrete must be dry, clean and flat. Tiling will not cure damp, so if the concrete is letting moisture through, 1ay a damp proof membrane and screed. Fill any small depressions in the concrete with sand and cement, using a mixture of three parts washed sharp sand and one part cement and make sure you level off after filling. If there is a slight fall-away in the surface in any direction, correct it with a concrete levelling compound. A badly depressed surface should be levelled with a waterproof screed. Chip away any small nibs of concrete and sweep the surface thoroughly.

Hard flooring
Tiled or terrazzo floors should be flat and firmly fixed. Remove any traces of grease or polish and make sure it is dry before you start tiling. Any loose sections, such as a loose quarry tile, should be securely glued back in place.

Timber floor
Make sure there is adequate ventilation below the floorboards to prevent rot forming alter tiling. Don’t lay tiles directly onto a suspended timber floor made of tongued and grooved boards since the movement of the floor would cause the tiles to shift and crack. Make the floor more stable by covering it with sheets of plywood at least l2mm thick, fixed at 300mm intervals with countersunk screws. If the floor is likely to be splashed with water, such as in a shower area, use exterior grade plywood. When all existing floorboards have to be removed, due to rot for example, you can screw flooring grade chipboard directly to the joists and lay tiles on this. Use screws for fixing sheet flooring since nails cannot be relied on to hold the material securely in place once the tiles have been bonded to them. Make sure the panels butt closely together; if any small gaps do appear, pack them tightly with a filler or the floor tiles may crack along the joint lines due to movement on the sub-floor. Before laying tiles over plywood or chipboard, always brush the surface with a priming coat; most manufacturers recommend a water-based polymer for this purpose. The primer must be properly dry before you begin tiling, so leave it overnight.

bathroom floor tiles

Working with adhesive
Manufacturers recommend a cement-based powder adhesive which can be used as a thin or thick-bed adhesive. Use a thin bed of about 3mm for flat-backed tiles; if the tiles have studs on the back or there is a slight unevenness in the floor (test with a straight-edge), use a thick bed of about 6mm. For thin-bed fixing, you will need about 3.5kg of adhesive per square metre.

Allow double this quantity for a thick bed. There is also a bitumen-based adhesive which can be used for thin-bed fixing. Cement-based adhesive can be used on concrete or timber floors, but it is not suitable on concrete which has not fully dried out or on ground floors which are affected by damp. In these cases, and for areas subjected to prolonged soaking with water (such as shower floors) use a waterproof adhesive. Always mix the adhesive according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Setting out the tiles
The best way to set out tiles is from the centre of the room so you have an even border all round the edge. To find the centre, mark the halfway point on the two pairs of opposite walls and stretch a piece of string (preferably chalked) between each set of marks. Ensure the strings cross at right-angles and secure the ends with nails or pins. If the strings are chalked, pluck them to leave marks on the floor. Before fixing down any tiles, try out the layout with dry tiles. Lay one row of tiles in each direction from the point where the strings cross. If the space remaining at the end of a row is less than half a tile, adjust the string lines half a tile off centre to give a bigger space for the perimeter tiles. This will give a balanced border and avoids having to cut narrow pieces of tile. Check the door will open over the laid tiles; if not, remove the door and trim the bottom edge with a block plane.

Fixing the tiles
Tile one quarter of the room at a time, starting with the section furthest from the door and finishing at the door. Starting from the centre, spread the adhesive evenly over the floor with a notched spreader, which is often supplied with the adhesive. Don’t cover more than 1sq at a time. Place the tiles in position, starting in the angle of the chalked lines. Don’t slide them into place or adhesive will build up against the front edge of the tile. When laying studded tiles on thick-bed adhesive, spread a thin layer of adhesive on the back of the tile to ensure a solid bed when it comes into contact with the adhesive on the floor. Most tiles have spacer lugs to ensure the distance between each one is correct; if yours do not have these, place pieces of card or matchsticks between the tiles to give a space of 3mm. Remove any adhesive that oozes up between the joints (to leave space for grouting) and clean off any adhesive on the tiles before it sets. Tile each section of the room in turn, leaving the border until last. If you need to kneel on the tiled area while working, place a board across it to avoid damaging or disturbing the tiles.

Cutting border tiles
To cut a tile for the border, lay it face down on top of the last whole tile and slide it forward so the front edge butts against the wall. Mark the back of the tile at each side where the edge of the last tile finishes. Place it on a firm, flat surface and join up the two marks, using a straightedge as a guide. Score and cut the tile along this line with a tile cutter. The front section of the cut tile will fit neatly in the gap.

Cutting corner tiles
Place a new tile face down over the last whole one near the corner. Place a second tile on it, slide it flush to the wall and mark its edge on the tile below. Then move the marked tile to the last whole tile round the corner without turning it. Place the second tile over it, butt it against the wall and mark as before. Score and cut along these lines and nibble the corner away with pincers or tile nippers to give an L-shaped tile which will fit round the corner. Take away only very sma1l pieces at a time; if you try to cut too much at once, you may break the tile. When you have cut the shape you want, smooth the rough edge with a carborundum stone.

Cutting shapes
To cut curved shapes, use a contour tracer or make a template and scribe the outline onto the tile. Then nibble away the tile with pincers or tile nippers as before. To fit a tile round a pipe, cut the tile in two where the pipe falls, cut out a semi-circle from each piece and fit them round the pipe. When tiling round a WC or wash-basin pedestal, lay full tiles as far as possible round the pedestal. To avoid having to cut very narrow sections you may have to adjust the layout when setting out the loose tiles. Cut a template for each tile, using a contour tracer to mark the curve and with this cut the tile; lay it in place before making a template for the adjacent tile. When all the tiles are cut and smoothed, fix them in position. Remember to leave enough space between tiles and pedestal for grouting.

Preparing the surface for tiling

tiling bathroom walls

Preparing the surface
As with nearly all decorative covering jobs it is the preparation that makes or breaks the finish. And this applies particularly with ceramic tiles as, like wallpaper or paint, they have to be fixed to a really smooth, flat surface, which must also be dry and firm. A good way of finding out just how smooth your walls are is by using a timber straight-edge, about 1m long. Place this at different points across the surface, checking vertically, horizontally and diagonally. If you are getting a noticeable seesaw action a certain amount of levelling will be necessary.

Where only minor areas are affected, use a proprietary plaster filler. Follow the manufacturer’s mixing instructions and then apply with a filling knife to the low areas of the surface. Two or three applications may be necessary to build up to the correct level. As you become more expert this will not be necessary since you will be able to level shallow depressions accurately when applying the wet mix, using a straight-edge or filling knife. Bad irregularities over large areas must be completely replastered, a job best left to the professional plasterer. New plaster must be allowed to dry out for at least a month before tiling and, as the surface is porous, sealed with a coat of plaster primer. This sealing is also necessary where a plaster filler has been used.

This must be completely stripped first and the plaster underneath raked out where loose and levelled as above.

Glasspaper down to remove any flaking areas and provide a key for the tile adhesive. Where the paint is direct onto plaster, uneven patches must be levelled as above.

Plane level and give the bare wood a coat of wood primer before tiling.

Ceramic tiles
Existing tiles are probably the best, thin ceramics being specifically designed to suit tile-on-tile fixing. But as with all other surfaces the base must be sound. So make sure the existing tiles are clean, flat and firmly fixed. Remove any loose ones and refix with tile adhesive so they are level with adjacent tiles.

Half-tiled wall
If you intend retiling here and taking the new tiles to ceiling height, you will need to build out the untiled part of the wall level with the existing area to avoid being left with a recess. This levelling up of the wall section can be done with plaster, plasterboard or other suitable building board.

Lining the wall
Where the surface of your wall is so uneven that refilling is impossible and replastering would be too costly, you can create a ‘new’ wall by lining with plywood, chipboard or plasterboard. First construct a timber framework on the wall from horizontal and vertical 50 x 25mm battens. Drill countersunk holes in the battens at about 400mm spacing. Drill corresponding holes in the wall to take masonry plugs and screw the battens loosely to these using 50mm long No 8 countersunk screws. Start with the top and bottom horizontal battens. Follow these by the vertical battens spaced at 400mm intervals, working from left to right. Finally fill in with short horizontal battens spaced at 610mm intervals. Using a straight-edge horizontally, vertically and diagonally, level up the battens using pieces of scrap hardboard, laminate etc. as packing between the battens and ‘low’ areas of wall before tightening up the screws. Take care with this stage of the job as the final accuracy of the lining could otherwise be affected. Apply a coat of primer or sealer to all board surfaces and edges, then screw to the battens with 32mm long No 8 countersunk screws through countersunk holes drilled in the boards.

Ceramic tiles

tiler tiling bathroom

Ceramic tiles provide not only a practical those problem areas in the bathroom or kitchen and ruin the ordinary wall decorations. Consider first what sort or combination of tiles – plain, patterned or textured. or a mixture of the two will best suit your colour scheme.

Plain tiles
Produced to match the standard colours of bathroom and kitchen ware, this type is the cheapest and plain colours allow greater flexibility when changing other patterns in your rooms.

Patterned tiles
Usually based on standard plain tile colours, these feature either a complete pattern or are used in groups of four to form a single motif. They are seen to their best advantage when used as a contrast to plain tiles and can also look attractive when concentrated on small areas.

Textured tiles
In similar colours to plain, these are most striking when highlighting one particular area or covering an end wall between two plain walls. There is a limited range of ‘feature’ tiles with either a special motif or a rural scene. And you can even make up a mural to be hung on the wall like a picture or set into a plain-tiled area.

Heat-resistant tiles
For fireplace surrounds and other areas likely to be subjected to extreme heat.