It has been a while since I’ve posted in the blog — where has the time gone?! I decided to do a series of “questions and answers,” inspired by years of talking on the phone with my customers. I hope this will be helpful. The first will be on the subject of installing the tiles, with a few tips and hints. This is a DIY guide to installing brick tiles, geared to home owners who would like to do this themselves.
As with any tile, you want to be sure you are installing over a firm surface. If you are installing over cement, you already have a solid bed. If you are installing over a wooden subfloor, you need to add a substrate, like concrete board. You may not realize it, but when you walk across a wooden floor, it sets up a bounce. Inglenook brick tiles will not be harmed by this, but you may pop the grout over time. Regular 1/2″ cement board is most often used. You would lay this over the plywood subfloor, and screw it down securely with deck screws every 6 to 8 inches. Your hand-held electric screwdriver makes this job fast and easy. You may even want to put a material like liquid nails between the layers. Then you would tape the joints to create a seamless bed for your tiles. If the height is a problem with 1/2″ cement board, Schluter makes a product called Ditra, which is very thin. Blanke Permat is another similar product that our customers like to use.
The quantity of tiles we send for an order assumes a 1/4″ between the tiles. Some of our tumbled tiles have a ledge around the edge, and that ledge is covered by the grout. For the grout stability, it is important that you still have a gap between the tiles, so that the grout is not just laying on the shallow shelf, but also reaches to the substrate. The tumbled edges create a “thick and thin” grout line.
You will cut the tiles on a wet saw. They are too tough to score and snap. Working with a wet saw is like working with a circular saw that spits water. These can be rented from an equipment rental business, but you can buy a tabletop model from a box store — probably cheaper than you can rent it for a day or two. I have always been glad I have mine, and have been happy to loan it to friends. You will often need to cut your tiles when you come to the edge of your tiling area.
If you are laying the tiles on top of cement, you will want to dampen the cement. This is so the moisture isn’t pulled out of the thin-set skim coat too quickly, which weakens the bond. You may also make the tiles damp, for the same reason. You want this to dry relatively slowly on a cement base. Trowel the thin-set adhesive over the base, and spread with a 1/2″ notched trowel. Nest the tiles over the thin-set, and use light pressure to create a bond. Let your floor dry thoroughly, but not too quickly. Some installers will cover the floor with tarps for a day or two, to create a better bond.
If you are laying the tiles over subfloor and cement board, then use any thin-set adhesive. Some installers will use a quick-set material. Nest the tiles in the thin-set the same as above, and then let the floor dry. This drying time will vary, depending on the material used, the temperature and the humidity. If you are covering a wall or ceiling, then use a non-sagging adhesive. Laticrete Multimax is a great choice for walls and ceilings.
When your thin-set is dry, you are ready to grout. Use either a brick mortar, or a sanded grout. There are many colors available at box stores. For most installations, I personally prefer a basic off-white/pale gray color of a traditional lime mortar. Another color I like is Haystack, by Polyblend. That is easily found at Home Depot. I don’t think that gray grouts with blue tones in them compliment the tiles. There are grays that have tan tones, and that is warmer with the brick color. Remember that the sealer you use may darken the grout. If you want to get more creative, Lime Works (www.limeworks.us) makes historic lime mortars, and some have slag flecks or ground-up oyster shells in the mix. When choosing your grout, I sometimes suggest that you buy small boxes of a few different colors, and mix them up in a paper cup. Put the wet grout on a piece of aluminum foil or a paper plate, smooth it out a bit, and let it dry. If you are impatient, you can put the setting grout near a heat source (or in the sun) to hurry the experiment. When completely dry, put some of the sealer on them. That way you will have a better idea of how the grouts may be transformed by the sealers. There is one penetrating sealer that I often suggest, which dries back to the original color, but others will darken or enhance the color.
Mix to the manufacturer’s directions. When you think about the method of grouting your tiles, consider the look you want. Do you want a smooth, sponged grout line that is level with the top, a slightly indented smooth line, or one that is more rough? How you grout will also affect the amount of clean-up after filling the joints.
Some people like to bag in their grout, or use a refillable caulking gun. Others mix a thicker mortar or grout consistency, and then trowel it in. You will mix smaller batches to do this. This is the traditional way masons fill in the joints of brick and stone. The nice part about this method is that the surface stays cleaner. Just let the excess grout or mortar lay on the top, and sweep it away when it sets up. Put the mix on a board, hold the board along the joint, and cut a line of it into the gap. Tamp it down with the edge of the trowel to remove air pockets, then turn the trowel sideways to “strike the joint.” That is removing any excess material that is sticking up above the surface. You will get a rougher joint when you do this. You can also use the curved bowl of a spoon to smooth the line, and make the joint a little lower than the surface, if you prefer that look. Alternately, you can use a wet sponge to make the grout level with the top. You will have more clean up to remove the grout haze later when you use a sponge (unless you seal with Enrich ‘N’ Seal). Some people “float” the grout. Do not expect to get it out of the texture of our more rustic tiles, if you do that. However, many people like the grout in the texture. You just need to be sure you are one of them before you grout this way. If you are using one of the tiles in our Manor Collection, you won’t have to worry about it sticking in the texture. After rinsing the floor until the water runs clear, you let it dry. Then you can use a commercial grout haze remover, or a dilute muriatic acid wash (rinse it well afterward, and wear chemical gloves) to clean off the cloudy haze. Some customers have used white vinegar, but it is more time-consuming to let it sit on the top and keep rinsing. You can also seal with Aqua Mix Enrich ‘N’ Seal to remove the haze. Be sure you want a matte finish if you use it, though, because no shiny top coat will adhere to it.
Your last step will be sealing your floor or wall. There are sealers that will give high shines and low shines, and others that are invisible and matte. There are many products on the market. You can get them at any box store, or on line. I have found primetimesolutions.com to be a good source for online ordering.
I like Enrich ‘N’ Seal (Aqua Mix) as a penetrating sealer. Not only does it do a great job sealing, but it also will remove any haze that you may have on your tile surface. Just be sure not to let it puddle on the tiles — remove excess before it dries. You will also be sealing the grout. The tiles will be darker after using this product. If you love the color exactly as it is, then Tile Lab makes Surfaceguard Penetrating Sealer. That will not remove haze, but it will dry to the color the tiles were before sealing them. Tile Lab, Behr, Aqua Mix, Miracle Sealants all make different levels of shine, and so do other companies. The penetrating sealers are one coat, and good for about 15 years. The ones with a shine require several coats, and may need to be refreshed in high traffic areas every few years.
Done! Take a picture and send it to me!
Jake and Gretchen Lea bought their lovely farm in Berks County, Pennsylvania, in 1972, and raised their twins there. The twins grew up, and the Leas decided that they needed a more private place to stay when they visited their childhood home with their families.
Gretchen is a designer, and saw our tiles at the Historic Home Show, in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. She and Jake were planning a guest house on their property, and knew right away that our tiles would be ideal for the floors. Gretchen is full of imagination, and could see the possibilities in the touches of whimsy we could provide for her floors. In her work, she likes to include little “surprises” in the rooms she designs…which makes her a kindred spirit to Julie, owner/designer at Inglenook Tile.
Jake enjoys piloting his small plane, so one day he and Gretchen flew to a small Lancaster County airport to see the tiles again. Julie picked them up at the airport, and brought them to the warehouse, so that they could see the full selection of styles and colors, and customize their order.
In 2007, Jake and Gretchen decided to level the old pig sty on the property, where they raised pigs when the children were young. On the site, they built a new “pig sty” guest house, designed to complement the other buildings on the property. It has two bedrooms, a powder room, a full bath with a washer/dryer, a kitchen/dining room, a living room, and upstairs hallway. When Gretchen was planning the floors, she wanted a few tiles of pigs, to reflect the history of the old pig house that once stood on the site. We created a brick tile with an inset pig sculpture, to be placed randomly in the floor (see detail picture).
Now when the twins visit, they stay in their own guesthouse. There are other guests that also enjoy the “pig house”; for example, a director from California recently took up residence there for a month and a half, while he worked with a local non-profit theater. Visitors can fish in the pond, swim in the pool, and walk the 2 fields of wildflowers on the Lea’s eighty acres of Berks County farmland. They have allowed their property to be used as a site for Geocaching (www.geocaching.com), and sometimes they enjoy seeing families digging for the “treasure” in their woods. Gretchen’s creativity is not yet satisfied with the “pig house” — she has plans to create additional living space in the tower silo.
When asked how she feels about the tiles, now that they are installed, Gretchen says, “They fit in beautifully, and gave us a rustic look at a reasonable price.” She added that, as a designer, she appreciates working with companies that take pride in their work.
These installation pictures feature an interior wall in a home office. Our customer, Steven, wanted brick shelves incorporated into the walls for candles and other accent pieces. Lancaster Running Bond 2×8″ brick tile and custom brick tile shelves created the effect he desired.
“The tiles I purchased from Ingelnook were great. Their customer service is excellent and all the advice and guidance on how to complete the project was very much appreciated. Everyone loves this wall in my home office. I get compliments from everyone that walks in. I’m very happy that I went forward with this project and Ingelnook was a great choice.
I’m definitely going back to Ingelnook for my next tile project!!!”
Watch for more new installation photos, coming soon!!
Historic Site, Salisbury MD
Wright’s Ferry 4×8″ Brick Tiles, Running Bond Pattern
This thin brick veneer installation is in the Visitors Center of historic Pemberton Hall, a circa 1741 plantation home in Salisbury, MD. The buildings and surrounding land have been made into a park with miles of wetland trails and many day camps and outdoors groups often using the space for learning and play.
The Visitors Center building is a reproduction tobacco barn used for educational purposes. Inglenook’s 4×8″ brick paver designs fit the ticket for the interior brick flooring that is both historic-looking and rugged enough for the pounding of many little feet. This project was commissioned by the Maryland Parks and recreation system. In the picture above, the Pemberton Hall with an inset of the reproduction tobacco barn that used Inglenook brick tiles.
The entryway of the Visitors Center, by itself with an inset of children emerging from the learning center. This entire installation used Inglenook Tile “Wright’s Ferry” 4×8″ brick tiles in Old Strasburg color mix.
The educational room from various angles.
Inglenook is the Scottish word for “chimney” and is often used to describe a warm central hearth in the homes of Northern Europe. Therefore, it is only fitting that this feature project is a collection of chimneys and hearths, installed in the home of a customer in the Philadelphia area.
David and Margaret, our customers, live in a beautiful traditional-style home in mainline Philadelphia. They first contacted our company and came to visit our warehouse in Winter of 2007 to pick out and order tile for their home. Since then, they have ordered from us two more times for other areas in their home! David and Margaret found Inglenook Tile because of they were unhappy with the plain tiles they had installed in their entryway and had decided that brick tile might give them the look they wanted. Margaret told us when we came to visit, “Now that these (Inglenook tiles) are down, we just love it! We’re sending you a family friend who wants to use these tiles, too.”
Below are the pictures of David and Margaret’s installations, a chimney, an entryway, and two hearths. (pictured above: their home. directly below: the beautiful hydrangeas in their front yard.) All the tiles shown are in Marietta color mix.
It’s a little rough– our first time with our new video camera– but it gives you a feeling for the project.
We’ll start outside where David and Margaret used Lancaster Running Bond 2×8″ brick tiles and corner pieces to cover the outside of their chimney. You’d never know that it wasn’t full-sized antique brick!
Inside, we see the entryway that was David and Margaret’s first installation with Inglenook Tiles. They used Wright’s Ferry 4×8″ brick tiles in an offset basketweave pattern.
David and Margaret installed our brick tiles for two hearths as well. One of these hearths covers a large region around the hearth outlining a beautiful oriental rug. Both hearths used Wright’s Ferry 4×8″ brick tile.
First pictured is a closeup of the hearth. They used a herringbone pattern on the inside of the hearth base with a running bond border. The rest of the floor area is in a herringbone pattern. The second picture shows an image of the entire area. The final picture shows a clear detail of the herringbone pattern along the side of the rug.
The second hearth is smaller, using Wright’s Ferry 4×8″ brick tiles in a running bond for the base. The surround uses 2×8″ corner pieces to achieve the appearance of full sized brick.
Thank you, David and Margaret, for giving us the time to see your home and the beautiful installations! We really appreciate it!
At Inglenook Tile Design, we are in the middle of lots of exciting changes and expansion of our products and our equipment!
New Product Development
This week and last, we are surging ahead with the development of our two new floor tile collections – the Castles and Abbeys Collection and the Old World Collection. Much of last week I spent deciding which designs to offer first, and then sizing them for the molds.
To make these new tiles, we needed a ram press, so about a month ago, I flew to Taos, NM to look at the press and arrange for the shipment to Pennsylvania after several months of talking with its former owners. There has been a lot of anticipation around here about having it running! Finally, last week, the electricians were here to run lines to our new ram press, and this week we are ready for the mechanic. Watch our blog for updates as we create the first samples of our new tile designs. We will also use it to make roof tile in the future.
We also ordered a much larger gas kiln from Bailey Ceramics last week, and can hardly wait to get it! This kiln will allow us to increase our production of tiles in the brown and deep red tones, the beautiful Providence, Mount Gretna, and Honeybrook color mixes (Read more about color mixes). The picture to the left shows an example of a Bailey gas kiln-ours will be much larger.
This new kiln will be easier to load and unload, and we won’t have to babysit it until 10:00 PM on the days we fire, like the one we have now. I should have bought a Bailey kiln last time! Several people would fit in the kiln we have, so I guess we could make a room out of the new one. We are also ordering a second electric slab roller from Bailey, so that we can add another line of making tiles (we love the one we have).
New Installations: Visiting Customers
Emily and I visited our customers, Walt and Tandy, last week, and pictures of their home are now posted on the blog under “Feature Project: Harvest Moon farms.” Walt and I pose for a picture with their floor to the left. Next week, we will be visiting another customer who has our tiles on both interior and exterior areas of his home. Watch for this blog posting and and maybe a video on YouTube.
Welcome to Tom – another veteran who started today. He recently returned, injured, from Afghanistan, and is on the road to recovery. We are happy to have him!
On a personal note, Emily drove to Buffalo, NY, to pick up her two new Siberian kittens. They are regaling the family with their playful antics! Visit her breeder’s website. See the picture of our new little friends.
As you see, we are really growing here! Subscribe to our blog to keep updated on all the changes and our new products and pictures. As of last week, you can now subscribe to our blog via email or RSS. See the link on the right hand side of the blog.
Happy 4th of July! We hope you have a wonderful time with your families!