Archive | October, 2011

Laying Saltillo (terra cotta) Tiles Outdoors

27 Oct


1. Seal first

2. Use a large grout joint

What I used & prices:

  • About 320 12” x 12” unsealed saltillo tiles from Home Depot (the maker is Ladrillera Mecanizada in Mexico.  I contacted them and the US distr. rep, no way they could beat the HD price of $1.19/tile.
  • 20 Accent tiles, $50ish
  • Sakrete Original Sealant, $20 to $30ish per Gallon at paint shops
  • 6 bags of thinset
  • 1/2 ” notch trowel, tile saw, sponges, cloths
  • 3 bags of natural grey grout with coarse sand (Saltillo Grout), $8 per bag

1.  Yeah, some say, seal before you grout.  I say seal before you lay.  We sealed most tiles  before laying them.    The ones that we forgot to seal were very hard to clean (even before grouting), and not all of the dirt came off.  Laying tiles outdoors is never a completely clean job, so it’s worth the extra time to seal at least one coat, or the extra money to buy pre-sealed tiles.

Although oil-based sealants are said to last longer and give a darker color, I used water based because it was cheaper, doesn’t smell bad, and dries faster.   It’s working like a charm so far.  I tested 4 sealants and ended up choosing the Sakrete original.

The first coat, we sealed with a garden sprayer because the tiles absorb a lot and you can saturate the top of the tile without causing buildups.  Then, using a sponge worked better.  Second coat you won’t need much at all.

ALSO, I never found this anywhere, but you don’t want to seal the sides, nor the back.  If you do, the grout won’t adhere.

The sealers I tested were:

Dupont High Gloss Sealer & Finish
Glaze’NSeal multi-purpose clear sealer
Ole Mexican Tile sealer in/outdoor Saltillo, Terracotta
Sakrete Original

Before (left) and after applying sealant (right).  It darkens the tile, makes it more reflective to the light, and of course, creates a water seal so water does not penetrate the porous surface.

Here are the results:

As you can tell, the differences between the four products were minimal.  They all apply white and dry clear.  Sakrete was least reflective of sun, so we chose that one.

The easiest method of application is a garden sprayer for the first coat.  If you apply too much, remove with a sponge.  Second coat, use a high quality sponge.  Using a brush tends to leave marks.

2.  I told my tile guy who helped me tile (he had the tools and experience) that I wanted wide joints.  Like 1/2” inch or more.  He looked at a few tiles and we went with about 3/8” to 6/8”. Well, after going through a few rows of tiles, we found out there was indeed a lot of variation in size of the tiles, and some of these grout joints are less than perfect.  If I’d start over, I would go with 3/4” joints.

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27 Oct

Hi Everyone,  I’ll be posting what I hope to be useful lessons learned from remodeling a  California rancher.

This blog will hopefully be great for folks who want to improve energy efficiency in their homes and do other home improvements and didn’t know how affordable it could be by doing it themselves with the right products and a few tips.

I’ll share my results so that you can hopefully learn from my mistakes (and from smart research), and save money and time if you’re doing the same kind of home improvements and retrofits.  Plus it’ll be good for me to remember where I bought what for how much when I move on to my next project.

I grew up in Switzerland, and I can tell you that construction is a tad different there.  I hope to compare the two styles some day.  You know, they build something that lasts 700 years.  When I arrived here, my first room had drafts to the outside, it was in freezing Chicago.  I’m still recovering from the amazement of building with 2x4s, 4x4s, plywood, why crawlspaces exist, why everyone wants central air, etc

Okay, welcome and write lots of comments!

Coming up: how I installed hydronic radiant heat system for less than $2000