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!!
This past weekend, Emily and Julie went to visit Harvest Moon Farm, the home of some of our customers. The beautiful horse farm is tucked back in the woods outside Coatesville, PA, and we were lucky enough to have fabulous weather to photograph indoors and out.
Harvest Moon Farm’s home, barn, and windmill:
A few of their friendly horses.
Brick Tile Installation
The Harvest Moon farm installation used Wright’s Ferry 4×8″ brick tiles in Marietta color mix, across their entryway, into a powder room, and throughout their kitchen.
Below, Julie, Inglenook Tile co-owner, and Walt, the homeowner, in the kitchen. Walt told us: “We love it, love it, love it! People who visit just can’t believe how much it has changed our home.”
We start looking in the front door at the brick tiles, their herringbone installation pattern stretching out into the kitchen area at the far end.
Here, a close up of the floor and a pair of riding boots.
A side view of the entryway, the front door, and a lovely wardrobe.
Part way down the hallway, our thin brick tiles make a foray into the powder room, where a horse rug complements the thin brick flooring. Also, looking back into the hallway from the powder room.
The powder room door, made of reclaimed wood from the 1700’s, has a notch in it to allow the home’s Jack Russell terriers free access. The door molding and wainscoting are both from fences at Harvest moon farm, reclaimed for the house when they were replaced outdoors.
Next, we walk into the kitchen, where Julie admires the thin brick tiles.
Several views of the kitchen toward the island and its Inglenook brick floor:
The kitchen table, overlooking the backyard, barn, and pastures and a closeup of our thin brick.
Finally, the transition from the kitchen’s brick tile flooring to the dining room’s wood floor.
Thank you so much to Walt and Tandy for inviting us to visit your home. We’re so glad that you are pleased with your Inglenook Tiles!
Every now and then, we plan to pick out a special project and feature it on our blog. This is the first of these posts. Click on images to enlarge.
This “New Old Home” project is a historic reproduction of a building called “Primitive Hall.” The home is located in Chester county, Pennsylvania, an area steeped in antique homes and historic sites, such as Valley Forge, where Washington’s troops weathered the winter in the Revolutionary war. Like many of our customers, this family loved the look of an old home but wanted to avoid the constant maintenance often associated with them. Inglenook Tile was their choice for several areas of their home, including in the sunroom, dining room, and hallway and on a custom kitchen backsplash.
The first picture captures the sunroom where”Traditional Antique” 4×8″ brick tiles are installed in a classic herringbone pattern. Primitive Hall has “Old Strasburg” color mix for all its Inglenook brick tiles.
From the sunroom, the brick tile flooring moves into the dining room. The graceful transition between herringbone pattern and the dining room’s running bond is marked by a step.
Inside the dining room, the antique corner cupboard and table set complete the authentic historic appearance.
Outside the dining room, the “Traditional Antique” 4×8″ brick tiles continue into the hallway.
Inglenook Tiles also find their way into the kitchen, taking a prominent place on the stovetop backsplash. The custom backsplash design uses 4×4″ brick toned tiles bordered by 2×2″ tiles. Our Vegetable accent tiles, taken from antique German candy molds and glazed in “Fern” glaze, punctuate the design. The image below shows a close up of the backsplash design.
Visit our website: www.inglenooktile.com or call 717.442.0514 for more information.
Before installations are put on our website, we will be posting them here, giving you a first look at new projects. We are excited to share these nine recent installations with you!
Click on images to enlarge.
Wall Installation: Lancaster Running Bond 2×8″ brick tile: Custom color mix including many white and fire-scorched pieces.
Arched Ceiling in a Home Bar: Lancaster Running Bond 2×8″ brick tile: “Old Strasburg” color mix. Second photo shows a closeup of the arched ceiling.
Sunroom floor with Accent Tiles: Wright’s Ferry 4×8″ brick tile: “Marietta” color mix. Second photo has tile accent piece detail. This project used a wide grout line with its herringbone installation pattern.
Entryway floor: Wright’s Ferry 4×8″ brick tile: “Old Strasburg” color mix. This installation in running bond pattern extends through the hall into the front vestibule.
Kitchen Wall and Floor: Wright’s Ferry 4×8″ brick tile laid on the floor in Basketweave pattern: Marietta color mix. On the wall, Lancaster Running Bond 2×8″ brick tile: “Marietta” color mix.
Kitchen Backsplash and Gas Fireplace surround: All portions of the installation use 2×8″ Lancaster Running Bond brick tile in a custom color mix.
Kitchen Nook: 2×8″ Lancaster Running Bond brick tile: “Marietta” color mix.
Kitchen floor: Wright’s Ferry 4×8″ brick tile: “Marietta” color mix. Second photo shows the transition from the brick tile to the dining room’s wood floor.
Mudroom: Wright’s Ferry 4×8″ brick tile: custom color mix. This installation left grout in the tile texture, adding to the mudroom’s rustic look. Notice the great “dog shower” in the back left hand area!
Visit our website: www.inglenooktile.com or call 717.442.0514 for more information.
The photographs pictured here are of “Private Residence Delancey Street,” winner of the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia 2008 Award of Recognition. We are very excited to have our brick tile flooring showcased in the kitchen of this beautiful historic home. The renovation was done by Hanson General Contracting in Philadelphia, PA. If you have a renovation project in the Philadelphia area we strongly recommend this great company– their contact information is below.
Here is the house after the renovation (above and below right) and in its “younger” years:
Finally, the sunlight streaming across our Wright’s Ferry antique brick tiles in the home’s breakfast nook. The tile color mix is “Old Strasburg,” and the brick pavers are installed in a classic “running bond” pattern throughout the kitchen area. Click to enlarge image.
Visit our website: www.inglenooktile.com or call 717.442.0514 for more information.
Hanson General Contracting, Inc., Fine Building and Historic Preservation
Christopher M. Hanson, principal
214 Kalos Street
Philadelphia, PA 19128
Architect: John Milner Architects, Chadds Ford, PA