Let’s assume that, after carefully shopping around, and weighing all the pros and cons, you’ve decided that natural stone flooring is for you.
It’s the one that meets the desires of your heart: it’s beautiful, unique and timeless.
It also meets the needs of your head: it’s durable, practical and functional.
No doubt in your mind, it’s the flooring solution for the way you live.
The decision is done and it’s purchase time, right?
Not so fast. There’s more information you should be aware of:
Preparing for the installation of your exciting new flooring.
Preparation is a must.
It will make the whole process easier, faster and hopefully eliminate that dreaded phrase “I wish I’d asked about…”
Being prepared will be a lot less stressful on you -- and your home.
So check out the following, be prepared and anticipate, then look forward with confidence to the day your new natural stone flooring arrives.
Advisement #1: installing natural stone flooring yourself doesn’t come naturally.
Installing this type of floor is heavy, difficult work; labor intensive and extremely exacting. It’s simply not for the do-it-yourselfer.
We strongly recommend you call upon a reliable, seasoned, dedicated professional to install your natural stone floor. Ask your retailer for help in this matter.
That way you can be assured of a beautiful, efficient and correct installation. Which is precisely what our goal is for you.
However, while installing natural stone flooring is a skill that is developed through years of experience, your understanding of the basics of installation will increase your knowledge of the process, and enhance your confidence in the professionals working in your home.
So please allow us to cover some of the basic steps your professional installers will perform.
There’s no substitute for a good substrate.
As with most flooring products, the first step is to prepare the substrate, the surface on which the stone tile will be laid.
With cement subfloors, installers can opt to apply the mortar directly to it and simply lay the tile.
Wood subfloors, however, usually require a CBU or cement backer unit for support and a moisture barrier.
It’s important to note that movement in the substrate material can sometimes occur. For example, water penetrating the grout and/or freezing and thawing temperatures can sometimes cause tile to rise, crack or chip.
To help prevent this, some installers will use a material called Ditra.
Ditra is an underlayment that provides a solid foundation for the tile, while still allowing for slight movement of the substrate without damage.
For example, in the event that water penetrates the grout in a bathroom, it provides a protective waterproof barrier.
Smile, it’s time to lay your tile.
The installer will measure the area and snap chalk lines for an accurate layout, then determine which pieces of tile will need to be cut to fit the area. Tiles that need to be cut are measured and marked with a pencil.
The installer then uses a wet saw with a 10-inch diamond blade to cut through the stone tile.
The freshly cut edges are smoothed by hand with a white stone.
Once the layout has been determined, the installer can begin setting the tile. Your beautiful new floor is about to be born.
Thinset mortar, which is a cement based adhesive, is applied to the surface with a notched or grooved trowel.
The tile is then placed into the thinset and pressed firmly into place.
To grout, wedge or butter, that is the question.
Stone tile is typically installed with narrow grout joints, meaning the tiles are laid very close to each other on all sides.
If it is a large tiled area, installers may use plastic tile wedges or spacers to maintain consistent spacing between each tile. In small areas they may not use these at all.
The installer may back butter the back of the tile with thinset mortar which will strengthen the bond between the tile and mortar already laid on the substrate.
We’ll level with you, this is precise work.
As the installers move along setting the tile, they continually check to make sure the newly tiled area is as level as possible.
Since stone tiles vary in thickness and size, the amount of thinset mortar applied is adjusted where needed.
At this point think joint.
After all the tiles are set and the thinset mortar has fully cured, the installer fills the joints between the tiles with grout.
Un-sanded grout is most commonly used in natural stone installations.
This type of grout is used because it is able to fill the small joints more easily and will not scratch soft stones like sanded grout might. Your installers think of everything.
Un-sanded grout is a dry, Portland cement-based product that is mixed with water onsite.
The grout mixture is spread over the tiled area with a grout float to fill in all the joints.
A sponge is then used to remove excess grout from the surface of the tile, while leaving the grout in the joints to cure.
And that is how your beautiful natural stone floor is professionally installed.
What to do before the day of installation
Begin prepping with your big three: furniture, appliances and toilets.
Remove all your furniture and other objects and materials from the areas where the installation will take place.
Some installers will move your furniture, but there may be an additional charge for doing so. Before moving, you’ll also need to empty the contents of china cabinets, closets, refrigerators and the like. And yes, it’s a hassle.
You should check with your retailer regarding the disconnection and removal of appliances. Some installers may disconnect and move your electrical appliances and furniture for an additional charge.
But prior arrangements should be made with your salesperson. For your safety, and that of your family, we recommend that the gas company or appliance company disconnect and reconnect all gas appliances.
Ask your retailer about the possibility and cost of disconnecting and reconnecting such items as icemakers, stereo equipment and computers; and the removal of heavy items like pianos.
Also, consult with your retailer to determine if there is a charge for the removal and replacement of toilets in bathrooms if that is necessary.
Be aware that the area of installation must be climate controlled (heated or air conditioned). Indoor humidity should be maintained between 45-65%
Out with the old – remove your present floor covering.
Please consider how your old floor covering will be taken up and disposed of. This can be a time consuming task. We recommend that you check with your retailer about the cost and the method of disposal. So there are no surprises for you.
If you prefer to remove your present floor covering, do it at least one day prior to arrival of your natural stone product to allow for cleanup and floor preparation. If removing old carpet, please remove all materials, the tackless and the pad, including staples.
Don’t be left out on a limb about your trim.
You should know that, in many cases, moldings and baseboards need to be removed for natural stone installation. Your installer may do this but at an additional charge and they will probably not be responsible for damage or breakage due to dry or brittle wood.
Painted baseboards, woodwork and paint may need retouching after the installation is complete. If necessary, this is your responsibility.
There’s no substitute for subflooring.
Your existing subfloor may need to be prepared to receive the natural stone flooring, or a new subfloor may be required. We suggest you discuss this with your retailer and, if subfloor work is necessary, that it be done by qualified professionals. It is important that the subfloor be as clean and level as possible. That helps insure your new natural stone flooring will be as beautiful and well supported as possible.
Do this to insure an open door policy.
When natural stone flooring is installed, there’s always the possibility that the doors, especially closet doors, basement and bedroom doors, may not clear the new natural stone and swing free. Some installers will remove doors in order to install the natural stone and re-hang them if possible. They probably won’t shave or cut down doors to insure clearance. You should check with your retailer/installer as to their policy and the cost. You may need to arrange for a qualified carpenter to provide this service after the installation of your new natural stone floor.
Check-up on the clean-up.
Installing new natural stone flooring will produce waste. Usually these materials are collected by your installer and left at your trash collection site. Check with your retailer before the day of installation so you’re clear about the clean up, if there are added costs to do so, and ask about the plan for natural stone remnants.
What to do during installation
Install yourself at home on installation day.
Be prepared to be at home the day of installation and be available in case the installation crew has questions. Your presence will insure that the correct natural stone flooring is installed in the right areas. Because it is difficult to estimate the length and circumstances of each job, some installers may not be able to give you an exact time of arrival. We suggest you be flexible and keep in touch with your retailer/installer.
Your safety, first and last.
Your installers will use a variety of tools and techniques that can make the work area hazardous. Please make sure that your children and pets are kept out of the work area on installation day. Your safety and your family’s is priority for the installation crew.
The walk-thru is your final step.
We recommend that, prior to the completion of the installation, you walk thru the job with the chief installer. This will give you the opportunity to ask questions and be clear on any final details. Your retailer and the installation crew want you to be completely satisfied with your new natural stone flooring.
What to do after installation
Give yourself breathing room.
If you are sensitive to dust and odors, good ventilation should be established for 48 to 72 hours after installation.
Prepare today for tomorrow.
When it comes to your natural stone flooring installation, we want you to be as well prepared as possible.
It will make installation day easier on you and your home and provide you with an enjoyable floor covering experience for years to come.