How to Install Privacy Film on WindowsHow to Install Privacy Film on Windows

Do you have a window in your house that puts you on full display? Or maybe your neighbor’s house is very close to your’s and you feel like they can see in your window (especially a bathroom or bedroom window.) Sure you can add curtains or blinds, but then you won’t get the natural light you want from your windows. Today I have the solution to your privacy needs without blocking the light. Let me show you how easy it is to install privacy film to your windows with professional looking results.

Materials:

(I’ve included affiliate links for your convenience. I earn a small percentage from a purchase using these links. There is no additional cost to you. You can read more about affiliate links here.)

About the Privacy Film:

Before we begin, I have to tell you when Stick Pretty approached me about using their product I was thrilled to find they have some very attractive options for privacy film! Those of us that shop at the big home improvement stores know the options for privacy film are fairly limited. Feast your eyes on just a few of the beautiful adhesive film patterns Stick Pretty has to offer:

And there is a semi-transparent option for blurred viewing (less opaque.)

That’s not all. You can also order any of the patterns in a sheer adhesive film to dress up your windows. All the adhesive window films are customizable with white, fog, mushroom, or black designs.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Stick Pretty also sells tile decals (to brighten your tiles or cover up ugly tiles.)

And they offer decorative adhesive panels for use on walls, furniture, or anywhere your imagination can think of.

If you find yourself falling in love with any of the products on the Stick Pretty website, don’t forget to get 20% OFF your order if you use the code: “PrettyHandyGirl” at checkout.

Now, on to the tutorial for installing privacy film on  your windows.

Instructions:

Watch this quick video to see how easy it is to install privacy film to any window.

Step 1. Clean

Use glass cleaner and a lint free rag to clean the window really well. Make sure there’s nothing on the glass that will stick under the adhesive film (which would stick there forever until you take it off).

Step 2. Measure & Cut

Measure each pane of glass on your window. Add 1/8 of an inch, because it’s better to cut the film too big. We will cut off the excess at the end.

Transfer your measurements onto the privacy film. Use a sharp x-acto blade and a metal ruler to guide your cuts. Apply gentle pressure as you cut the film.

3. Installing the Privacy Film

Carefully peel up your privacy film and take it to the window immediately. If you wait, dust can settle onto your film.

The key to a really good adherence of the film to the window (with no bubbles or wrinkles) is to use a mixture of water and a few drops of dish soap in a spray bottle.

It also helps to use a good squeegee.

Spray a liberal amount of the water and soap mixture onto the glass. If you find the film sticking too much to the glass, spray more of the mixture onto the glass.

Line up the film at the top. Using your hands, push from the center, down and out to set the privacy film. If needed, lift the film and reposition.

Use the squeegee to push out any water and air bubbles. Again, working from the center out and top down.

Use a clean rag and run it along the edges to clean up any water that has squirted out.

Step 4. Trimming Excess

If your film is too large and overlaps off the glass, take a sharp x-acto knife and cut off the excess. Peel off the trimmed excess.

Then squeegee the film again and clean it up any water from the edges.

You can see the difference between the regular window glass and the glass with privacy film on it below.

Half installed window privacy film see the difference

After installing your privacy film, you may see some ghosting between the film and the window. As long as you have pushed all the air bubbles out of the film, the ghosting should go away after a few days. (Can you spot the ghost spots in the picture below? Within 48 hours they had disappeared.)

Hopefully this tutorial will help someone reclaim some privacy in their home without giving up natural light! Pin this image to share with a friend:

How to Install Privacy Film on Windows

Friends, I have a question for you:

I decided to let the video tutorial guide you through the process on this tutorial instead of the usual step-by-step photos. Let me know what you think and if you miss the photos when there is a video tutorial. Thanks for your feedback.

Disclosure: Stick Pretty sent me the privacy film at no cost to try out on the Saving Etta project. I was not told what to say. All opinions are my own. If you use the coupon code: “PrettyHandyGirl” on the StickPretty.com website, you will receive a discount and I will receive a small percentage of the sale. As always, I am very particular about the brands I represent on this website and will always let you know if you are reading a sponsored post or if I received free materials.

If you liked this tutorial and want to add a layer of security to your glass doors or windows, you’ll appreciate my tutorial for adding security film to your home.

How to Add Security Film to Glass Doors & Windows | Pretty Handy Girl

Saving Etta: Master Bathroom Reveal

This is a master bathroom reveal I’ve been dying to share with you. The master bathroom in the Saving Etta house acted as a room I could experiment in and test some ideas for my own personal bathroom (that is currently stuck in 1978). I used a lot of elements I had pinned for my own bathroom ideas. Many of them looked amazing, but a few of the elements I learned are not as amazing as I thought they were. Regardless, I am thrilled with how the master bathroom turned out.

But, before we move to the reveal, I need to give a big thank you to the Saving Etta sponsors. As you all know, I’m very particular about the brands I work with and I can honestly say my sponsors are the cream of the crop when it comes to selling products for your home and lifestyle.

The Bathroom Before:

When I bought the Saving Etta house, there was only one bathroom. And it was one sad excuse for a bathroom. The size was decent, but the condition was abysmal. The leaking roof had done a number on the ceiling and walls.

Saving Etta - The Story of Saving a House Built in 1900 | Pretty Handy Girl

There was so much mold in this one room, that I closed the door and sealed it up with plastic while I began demo in the other rooms.

In fact, I much preferred the port-a-potty to the indoor bathroom (which should explain how awful Etta’s original bathroom was.)

While demo progressed, I put together a mood board for the new Master Bathroom. You can see more inspiration photos and sources in the Master Bathroom design plans.

Demolition and New Framing:

This is the last time I laid eyes on that poor sad original bathroom. I never touched anything in that room. There wasn’t anything worth salvaging. Even the tub was in rough shape.

As soon as the back of the house was removed, work began on building the new addition in its place. But, once framing started, things really began to take shape. My plumber installed the shower pan for me.

The drywallers installed the Purple drywall in the bathroom (this drywall should never mold!)

There was some debate between my subcontractors about water-proofing the shower in the master bathroom. I finally added some thick plastic and caulked the seams around the shower niche to prevent any future issues with moisture.

Then PermaBase cement board was installed over the plastic by my drywallers.

This is one thing I learned from this experience. Next time I will let the tile setters install the backer board for the tile. Apparently my drywall installers did a very sloppy job and I ended up paying my tile setters to fix their mistakes.

For my own personal bathroom, I’m planning on trying some of the Schluter materials instead of the cement board. In fact I’ll be taking a two day class in a few weeks to learn proper installation techniques.

Beautiful marble outlined black white hex tiles in master bathroom

Once the tile floor went in, and the walls were painted Wedding Band gray from Magnolia Home paint, we were able to move the vanity and the toilet into the bathroom so the wood flooring could be installed in the rest of the house.

The Master Bathroom Reveal:

Ready to see the final reveal of the master bathroom? I can’t wait for you to see this! The style I steered toward in this small 5′ x 8′ bathroom is modern farmhouse.

I kept the elements clean, but also timeless. The rainfall shower head (with exterior mounted plumbing) appealed to my sense of a classic look.

The exhaust fan looks underwhelming, but let me tell you, it ROCKS! Really!

Inside the fan is a bluetooth speaker from Nutone. All you have to do is pair up your bluetooth device with the fan and you can rock out to tunes in the shower. My only complaint is the speaker won’t work when the fan switch is turned off. But, luckily the fan is ultra quiet.

Okay,  I know, the shower niche tile is a real show stopper. It’s from Best Tile, but I’ll have to find out what it’s called.

Even though I added a shower niche, I insisted on putting in a soap tray in the corner.

Now for the other tile choices that will knock your socks off. The floor has a beautiful marble hex tile from The Builder Depot.

This tile is most likely coming into my house! Although, I may look at the honed version of the same flooring.

The black and white tile theme continues into the shower floor. I couldn’t resist these 2″ black marble hex tiles for the shower floor.

I’m sure you spotted the drain cover. How could you miss this fun fixture in the shower?

This is a custom brass drain cover from Designer Drains.

Ignore the silver screws, later I swapped them out for the correct brass ones.

Let’s talk about the vanity. I love the look. The vanity has one operational drawer with a plumbing cut out to avoid the p-trap.

The drawer is perfect for storing things out of site. The bottom shelf allows the homeowners to add baskets and towels for more storage.

But, here’s what I don’t like about the vanity. To be completely honest, it was super lightweight (think balsa wood) and cost way too much for the materials to be so lightweight. I was really angry I paid so much for it, especially because I could have made it myself a lot better quality. Once the quartz countertop was installed, it weighs down the vanity, so it doesn’t feel so lightweight. If you like the look and want this vanity for your home here’s a link.

If I had the time I could have built a better vanity. This is definitely something I will do for my own bathroom.

Once the sink and countertop were in, the vanity felt more substantial. And I do love that countertop! I used the same marble look-a-like quartz countertop as was used in the kitchen.

The last thing I want to show you in the master bathroom is the privacy film I added to the Plygem Mira window. It’s a product from Stick Pretty and I love how it lets light in but not the view of nude bathers.

I’ll be sharing the tutorial for installing the privacy film soon. It came out great!

What do you think? Do you love the master bathroom at the Saving Etta house?

Sources:

(I’ve included affiliate links for your convenience. I earn a small percentage from a purchase using these links. There is no additional cost to you. You can read more about affiliate links here.)

Wall color: Wedding Band by Magnolia Home Paint

Floor Tile: Carrara Venato Polished Hexagon Nero Strip Marble Mosaic Tile by The Builder Depot

Shower Floor Tile Nero Marquina Polished Black Marble 2″ Hexagon Mosaic by the Builder Depot

Octopus Drain Cover by Designer Drains

Shower Wall Tile: White Subway Tiles by Jeffrey Court Tiles

Hanging Cone Pendant Lights from Houzz.com

Bath Exhaust Fan from Nutone

Sensonic Bath Fan Speaker Accessory from Nutone

Rainfall Shower Faucet Set from Rozin

48″ Farmhouse Vanity

More Saving Etta Fixture Sources Available Here

Disclosure: I received materials and/or compensation from the sponsors of the Saving Etta project. These were the bathroom sponsors: Ask for Purple, Plygem, Broan-Nutone, Schlage, Magnolia Home Paint, KILZ, Jeffrey Court Tile, Wilkinson, Designer Drains, The Builder Depot. I was not told what to write. All opinions and words are my own. As always, I will notify you if you are reading as sponsored post or if I was compensated. Rest assured I am very particular about the brands I work with. Only brands I use in my own home or that I’ve had a positive experience with will be showcased on this blog.

Saving Etta: Revealing the Downstairs Bedrooms

I’m thrilled to be able to reveal the downstairs bedrooms to you today. If there were two rooms that get me emotional in the Saving Etta house, it would be these two front bedrooms. They make up the majority of the 1900 portion of the house I was able to save. Except for the original kitchen, all the other rooms in the house were added on over the years. Unfortunately those additions weren’t built to last (or built with any building codes in mind.) Although we tried to save the original kitchen, one of the girders was completely rotted out and the rest of the floor joists were almost laying on the dirt. We determined it would be best to remove it and build completely new framing behind those front bedrooms.

Here is the proposed floor plan where I’ve highlighted the bedrooms you’re touring today:

Before we get this show on the road, I owe a huge thank you and a big shout out to all the Saving Etta sponsors. As you all know, I’m very particular about the brands I work with and I can honestly say my sponsors are the cream of the crop when it comes to selling products for your home and lifestyle.

(I’ve included affiliate links for your convenience. I earn a small percentage from a purchase using these links. There is no additional cost to you. You can read more about affiliate links here.)

Before Starting Demolition:

Before we get to the tour, I’m going to rewind the clock to show you how the rooms looked when I bought the house.

These photos are from the south bedroom (on the right when you enter from the front porch steps.)

The original mantel was still in the room. Although there was no hearth, I’m fortunate the mantel was left alone. Unfortunately the original door was replaced with a cheap hollow core door.

This room was a living room and had carpeting throughout. The moldings on the windows had some decorative trim, but otherwise the room was fairly devoid of architectural features.

The north bedroom had an identical mantel, but this room also had two closets. I think this room was used as a bedroom in recent years. But I’m not 100% sure because most of the contents had been removed because of the presence of black mold growing in here.

At first I thought the mold was caused by a roof leak, but I later learned it could be attributed to the window air conditioner unit. The moisture had been leaking down the wall and under the carpet, creating a toxic growth of black mold.

Despite this unwanted presence in the room, there was a very desirable element still in this room! See that closet door below? In the corner of the room I found one of the original 1900 doors. Luckily I also found another door to match in another local property that was slated to be completed demolished.

Demolition Begins:

After carefully removing all the carpeting from the front bedrooms, I began to pull up the particle board subfloor. It was tedious work involving a pry bar and a hammer to pull up all the nails from each board. Contrary to my initial thoughts, the particle board would only pry up in fist size pieces when I put a flat scraper underneath. Instead I had to remove ALL the nails first. Underneath a layer of resin paper, I found the old pine floor planks. I was really excited about the prospect of being able to refinish these original wood floors.

My optimism began to wane as I pulled up the sub-flooring in the south bedroom. Underneath it were several layers of vinyl, tar paper, and glued down lineoleum sheets. (Of course before pulling up these layers, I dutifully sent samples to be tested for asbestos.) When the results came back negative, I spent three days trying to get all the layers removed. But, I lost steam and this is where I stopped:

I was going to rent a floor scraper, but decided to wait for the mold remediation team to demo and clear the black mold from the north bedroom. After remediation, the full extent of the damage to the wood floor was revealed. There were many spots where the floor had rotted after being exposed to too much moisture. I also discovered patched areas using sheets of plywood in the foyer and the north bedroom.

After another trip into the crawlspace, I realized there was no subfloor under the pine planks. They were laid directly onto the joists. After wracking my brain trying to figure out how to salvage the old pine flooring (and how to find matching planks to fill in the holes), I realized my dream of restoring those original floors would be nearly impossible. Sadly, I decided to move forward and save time by putting in new flooring when the time came.

Post Asbestos Abatement:

As if that wasn’t enough of a hit to my budget, I had to test the sheet rock before demolition continued. Consequently we found asbestos in the joint compound. I quickly scheduled the asbestos abatement team (a company I had used in the past) to strip the drywall from the house. After a few days of abatement, I was finally allowed to enter the property and was greeted by this sight.

This is a view of the north bedroom (the one that previously had black mold.)

Across the hall in the south bedroom I was met with this amazing sight:

Vintage wallpaper was everywhere and it was exciting to see the little surprises hiding behind the drywall. Notice the two additional layers of wallpaper beneath the pastoral scene:

Besides the wallpaper, what made my mouth fall open was the view of the original ten foot ceilings! At some point in time the ceiling had been lowered to eight feet (most likely to make the space easier to heat).

Demo Help from Friends:

Pretty Handsome Guy, my friend Sarah, and I worked on removing the lathe to get down to the studs in the south side bedroom.

I can’t even begin to explain how sweaty, messy, and dirty this job was. The demolition required respirators and goggles. Regular dust masks were not enough protection.

Finally the entire south room was stripped down to the studs and all the lathe was thrown into the back of the house, while the insulation was shoveled into giant garbage bags. The view below is looking toward the foyer and into the north side bedroom.

You can see the big pile of lathe in the back room. During the removal of the additions, the excavator scooped it up and dropped it into the dumpster like they were a small pile of pick up sticks.

Completing Demolition:

To be completely truthful, after completing demo on the south bedroom, I had no desire to go through the same dirty demo labor in the north room. I asked my demo contractor to include that task in his bid. His guys breezed through the demo in record time. Sometimes it’s better to pay the professionals.

Below is the view from the north bedroom. The front door can be seen on the right.

This is all that was left of the house after demolition and removal of all those poorly built additions. Shortly after this photo was taken we had a big storm roll through Raleigh. I was terrified I’d find the house blown over when I made it back downtown the next day. But, this old gal was one tough old house.

Flooring Old to New:

While the footers were being dug, I set out on an excursion to find new flooring to replace the old. I was determined to find solid wood flooring with an aged appearance.

Luckily my friends at Impressions Hardwood Collection helped me find flooring perfect for a historic house. You won’t believe how good they look in the downstairs bedrooms!

With everything stripped down, it was time to rebuild. You can see the Saving Etta framing process here and a photo of the north bedroom during drywall here.

Downtairs Bedrooms Reveal:

The two downstairs bedrooms are exactly the same size as when the house was built. The walls and doorways were put back exactly where they were in 1900.

The only change was adding closets to each room to make them more functional as bedrooms.

Speaking of closets, you have to get a closer look of the beautiful door knobs and paint color.

The knobs are by Schlage and are the Hobson series glass knobs with Century backplates. I fell head over heels in love with these knobs and wish I could replace all the door knobs in my house with them.

The closet doors (and all new doors in the house) were painted Cupola by Magnolia Home paint.

You’ll notice the bedroom doors were left wood. After stripping the many layers of paint off them, I couldn’t bring myself to cover up the old growth wood grain and square peg construction. I felt their beauty needed to be appreciated and serve as a conversation starter for guests.

Hopefully a future homeowner won’t be tempted to paint them. ;-(

Because, then you wouldn’t see the beautiful square peg construction:

Isn’t it amazing how those Schlage glass knobs look beautiful on both natural wood and painted doors?

Speaking of amazing, let’s talk about attractive ceiling fans. If you live in the south, you know ceiling fans are non-negotiable. It’s important to have them for comfort. For years I was resigned to the fact that ceiling fans were utilitarian and therefore not stylish. (Or the stylish fans I found were too expensive for my budget.) Alas, that was before I discovered Fanimation’s ceiling fans.  The fans I selected for the downstairs bedrooms are the Distinction Fan with mix and match blades and light kits.

The white blades are a trick I use to help the fan disappear against the white ceiling. A schoolhouse glass light kit offers a subtle vintage appearance.

The north bedroom was staged an office, and as you can tell, the same Fanimation Distinction fan is right at home with modern decor.

When the fan is turned on, the blades virtually disappear:

Let’s talk about the other finishes in the bedrooms. You probably can’t take your eyes off the beautiful wood floors, right?! They are from the Impressions Hardwood Collection, Elegance Series in Flint stain color. The Elegance series is a pre-finished hardwood floor with a low luster top coat. It receives a wire brushing to bring out the grain in the wood, giving it an aged and antique look. Well, what do you think? Is the Elegance Series flooring a good solution for not being able to save the original?

One of the other original features I couldn’t save were the windows. They had no weights in them, and several of the panes had been repaired with plexiglass. Plus, I needed to block some of the sound from the street. Instead, I worked with the folks at Plygem to select windows that fit with the style of this historic house. These are Plygem Mira windows with a black frame interior and white exterior. What makes them so beautiful is the simulated divided light grilles. You’d have to get super close to see the grilles are on the outside of the glass, but there is a divider in between the energy efficient panes of glass.

Plygem Mira Simulated divided light windows

Best of all, they help block outdoor street noises. I chose double hung windows. Want to know why? Double hung means the upper and lower sashes move independently. Did you know if you lower the top sash and raise the bottom window, hot air will flow out the top and cool air rushes into the room from the bottom. It’s a natural way to cool a room in the summer!

Can we all agree, these rooms are the heart of the Saving Etta house?

What do you think? Do you like the flooring I chose?

What about those natural wood doors? Would you paint them? I hope not. Let me know if you have any questions in the comment section.

Disclosure: Impressions Hardwood Collection, Schlage, Fanimaton, Magnolia Home Paint and Plygem were all sponsors of the Saving Etta project. I was provided with complimentary products to use in the Saving Etta house. I was not told what to write or say about the products. 

How to Fix Cracks in Door Panels - An Easy RepairHow to Fix Cracks in Door Panels without Taking the Door Apart

Wooden doors will develop cracks over time, especially if the panels aren’t free to expand and contract. Most of the time, years of paint or caulking the seams around the panels will cause the wood to stick and not allow the panel to expand and contract with the weather. The result is a big vertical crack along the wood grain. Today I’m going to show you how to repair the crack without taking the door apart!

You may remember right before I purchased the Saving Etta house, I discovered a discarded door by the dumpster behind our local grocery store. It had a big crack in the panel and was very dirty. But, otherwise, it appeared to be structurally sound. Pretty Handsome Guy and I salvaged the door on a late night rescue mission, and had a good laugh about it afterwards.

The door sat in the garage until the addition was framed and rough openings were created at the Saving Etta house. With the windows set to arrive, I knew I had to take a day out of my busy schedule to repair the cracked door and prepare it for installation.

Dirty Front Door found in the Trash

First the door got a good cleaning with soapy water.

Cleaning Front Door with sponge and soapy water Looking better already!

Cleaned front doo

Now it was time to fix the door. Let’s learn how to repair a cracked door panel without taking the door apart.

Materials:

(I’ve included affiliate links for your convenience. I earn a small percentage from a purchase using these links. There is no additional cost to you. You can read more about affiliate links here.)

Instructions:

Lay the door on a flat surface like a workbench or saw horses.

burgundy side of dumpster found door

Using the Dremel with a cut off wheel, clean up the crack and open it to the width of your wood spline.

Open door panel crack with dremel cutting wheel

Sand smooth any jagged edges along the crack and any dings on the rest of the door.

Sanding door smooth

Test fit the spline into the crack. Make any adjustments to the crack as needed or cut a narrower spline on a table saw.

Insert wood spline into door crack

The spline should fit snuggly in the crack.

Test fit wood spline in door crack

Remove the spline and apply a liberal amount of wood glue into the crack.

Add lots of wood glue to door crack

Insert the spline and clamp the door until the glue hardens.

Clamp door repair overnight.

Chisel off the excess spline (you don’t need to get it perfect, but you’ll want to remove as much of the spline that protrudes beyond the door panel.)

Chisel off excess wood spline

Sand the repaired crack until the spline is even with the rest of the door panel.

Sand fixed door crack smooth

There will probably still be some minor cracks or voids, but these can be repaired with putty. Mix up a small amount of Durham’s Rock Hard Water Putty (just add water!) Apply along the repaired crack and fill in any small holes or dings on the door. Let the putty cure.

Use Durham wood hardener to smooth imperfections

Flip the door over and repeat the process of removing the excess spline material and adding the wood putty.

Add Durham Wood Hardener on back side of door repair

After the putty has dried, sand until smooth. Start with a 120 grit sandpaper and work your way up to 220 grit.

Sand cracked door panel repair smooth

Clean the door of any sanding dust. Tape off the window edges (if applicable). Prime the door on both sides (allowing one side to dry before priming the other side.)

Prime repaired door with KILZ 2 primer

Paint your door any color you like!

Paint repaired door with Magnolia Home Magnolia Green paint

Want to Stain Your Door Instead?

If you prefer the natural wood look on your door, be sure to choose a spline that matches your door’s wood species and skip the wood putty step.

Installing the Door:

Back at the house, my framers had some fun with the house wrap at the front door.

After I added an exterior door frame kit to my repaired door, the framers hung it in the rough opening.

Because I didn’t paint the exterior of the door yet, you can barely see the repair above. But, after a fresh coat of paint, I challenge you to spot the repaired crack!

Do you like the color I painted the door? You might remember my decision making process when selecting the exterior color scheme. Ultimately I chose Magnolia Green and Locally Sown in the Magnolia Paint line.

Magnolia Green Door with Locally Sown Magnolia Home Paint on Siding

And just in case you thought I was only good at saving doors, apparently now I’m also a house saver! The Saving Etta house received her plaque denoting her name as it’s registered in the list of National Historic Properties.

Saving Etta: 1900 Home Saved from Demolition and restored into a beautiful Triple A construction modern farmhouse.

Hopefully she’ll last another one hundred plus years!

A funny story about the green door: Originally I was going to hang the door with the handle on the opposite side, but made a last minute change. The interior of the door was supposed to get painted gray to match the rest of the doors in the house (minus the salvaged 1900 doors shown above. They were left raw to show off the original wood grain and square peg construction.)

Many of you loved the green color and voted on Instagram to keep the front door green on both sides. Which is why Etta has a green front door inside and out!

Saving Etta: 1900 Home Saved from Demolition and restored into a beautiful Triple A construction modern farmhouse.

What do you think? Do you like the double-sided green door? Do you have a cracked door panel in need of repair? I know you can fix it.

Avington Black & White Cement Tiles from TheBuilderDepot.com

How to Install Cement Tiles and Achieve Professional Results

How to Install Cement Tiles and Achieve Professional Results

If you’ve been browsing Pinterest lately or flipping through the pages of your favorite home design magazine, you’ve probably seen (and likely fallen in love with) real cement tiles. Cement tiles are trending, so much so that porcelain and ceramic lookalikes are popping up at most tile retail shops. The first thing you’ll notice about real cement tiles, is the price tag can be steep. What you probably don’t realize is cement tile can be a bit trickier to work with than standard ceramic or porcelain tiles. Don’t let this dissuade you, because today I’m going to show you how to install those beautiful authentic cement tiles and achieve professional results. Plus, because we’re friends, I’m going to share with you my affordable source for real encaustic cement tiles!

Cement Tile Look Alike on Bathroom Floor

Cement tiles purchased from most tile retailers can run upwards of $20 per square foot. But, I’m about to let you in on my secret tile source. Shhhh, lean close so I can whisper it in your ear. “TheBuilderDepot sells real cement tiles for less!”  In fact they sell more than just cement tiles and their prices can’t be beat! You might remember I used beautiful marble subway tiles from TheBuilderDepot when I was renovating my kitchen.) The Builder Depot offers popular tiles at a discount because they cut out the middle man. (Here’s a brief explanation on why their prices are lower than other retailers.)

How to Install Cement Tiles and Achieve Professional Results

Seeing those beautiful cement tiles and a great price prompted me to contact my friend at The Builder Depot and ask him about being a Saving Etta sponsor. He agreed but on one condition; he asked me to write a tutorial on How to Install Cement Tiles and discuss the pitfalls and risks associated with improper installation techniques. Apparently customers were unaware of the proper way to install cement tiles. In fact, even seasoned tile installers were making costly mistakes because they were treating cement tiles like ceramic and porcelain tiles. There is a big difference between them.

What’s the Difference Between Cement Tiles and Porcelain or Ceramic Tiles:

  • Ceramic and porcelain tiles are slick (often shiny) and aren’t absorbent on the surface.
  • Encaustic cement tiles are highly porous and absorbent from the surface to the base.
  • Porcelain and ceramic tiles can be grouted immediately after the thinset mortar has cured.
  • Cement tiles must be sealed before grouting or you risk the grout staining (or permanently sticking to) the surface.
  • Porcelain and ceramic tiles do not need to be sealed.
  • Cement tiles need careful handling to avoid staining and scratching the tiles.
  • Porcelain and ceramic tiles are forgiving and can stand up to a lot of abuse.
  • Encaustic cement tile patterns are created by pouring different colored clay baked into the tile. It’s not merely a coating.
  • Porcelain and ceramic tile patterns are applied in the glazes (painted on top of the tile).

Here’s a beautiful video showing exactly how encaustic cement tiles are made:

Now that you know more details about cement tiles, you can have a beautiful cement tile floor. But, you need to follow this tutorial closely. (Almost all these instructions will apply to installing cement tiles on a wall, so keep reading.)

Making Manzanita's tile shower niche cement tilesCheck out this beautiful bathroom makeover with a Cement Tile Niche
by Making Manzanita

How to Handle Your Cement Tiles:

When you receive your cement tiles you’re going to be tempted to rip open the box and rub your grubby hands all over the smooth tiles (or am I the only weirdo that likes to stroke tiles?) Regardless, before you open the box, wash your hands. Cement tiles are EXTREMELY porous and will absorb oils and stain easily. Until you get to the sealing step, you’re going to have to handle these tiles with care (kid gloves wouldn’t be a bad idea.) Lest you think you can seal the tiles before installation, don’t try it. The tiles have to be porous to release moisture while the mortar is curing. If you seal it ahead of time, there’s a good chance your tiles will develop a ghosting appearance.

Cement tiles can scratch easily. Keep the packing material between the tiles until you are ready to install them. Don’t mark your tiles with a pencil or pen for cutting (unless you will be cutting off the marks.) Even faint pencil lines can’t be easily removed from the tile surface.

How to Prepare Your Floor for Cement Tiles:

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Just like when you paint a room, you’ll get the best results if you take the time to prep your space before you begin.

Before laying tiles on your floor, you must put down a substrate to prevent future flexing that can lead to cracks in your grout or worse in your tiles. Typically tile installers will use cement backer board. But, because the cement tiles are so thick, I chose to use an uncoupling mat to reduce the finished floor thickness.

cutting uncoupling mats.

Measure and cut your mat (or cement board) with a utility knife. Dry fit the mats (or boards) before proceeding.

Whichever substrate you use, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s installation instructions. For improved waterproofing, you’ll want to cover seams with the recommended seam tape. For completely waterproofed floors, add seam tape around the perimeter of the room (as shown in this video.)

Installed uncoupling mats, finding center of room. Marking perpendicular lines.

Next find the center of your room and mark perfectly perpendicular guidelines to use as a guide when laying out your tiles.

Layout cement tiles starting in the center.

Dry fit the tiles with spacers in your room before you begin. Make any adjustments to the tile layout or pattern before you begin.

Dry run. Layout cement tiles before installation

How to Install Cement Tiles:

With your substrate installed, it’s time to install your tiles. Before we begin, make sure you have these tools and materials. A quick note on cutting the tiles. You can use a score and snap manual tile cutter for straight lines, but nothing beats a wet saw for angled and more complicated cuts. If you don’t want to buy a wet saw, you can rent one. Tile setting is a one person job, but it helps to have an assistant to speed things along by making cuts and mixing more mortar and grout.

Materials:

Instructions for Installing Cement Tiles:

Here’s a video I made to help you learn how to install cement tiles properly and keep them looking beautiful!

Mix your thinset mortar according to the package directions. (I usually try to achieve the consistency of peanut butter.)

Prepping Your Cement Tiles:

One of the most important tips for working with cement tiles is to soak them in water before installation. Allow them to soak for at least 30 seconds before laying them into the mortar. If you don’t soak them, the tile will absorb too much moisture from the mortar.

Soak tiles in water tub

Starting from the center of your room, apply the thinset mortar to a small area and use your 1/2” notched trowel to comb the thinset. Lay your tiles down. Lift one tile to check and see if the mortar is completely covering the back of the tile. If not, your mortar consistency may be too dry.

Avoid the temptation to lay more than a few tiles at a time.

Lay first four tiles in thinset mortar

After your first small group of tiles are set, insert spacers. Check to make sure the tiles are level and the same height. Then immediately clean any and all thinset off your tiles using a damp sponge.

Now you can move on to installing the next small grouping. Periodically check to make sure your tiles are lined up with each other and there are no lips between tiles. (Using these self leveling spacers will eliminate any lippage on tiles.)

After all your tiles are installed, block off the room and keep off the tiles for at least 24 hours while the thinset hardens.

How to Install Cement Tiles and Achieve Professional Results

Sealing Cement Tiles:

We’ve arrived at the most important step when installing cement tiles! You must seal the tiles before grouting them. Use a penetrating sealer made for porous stone or cement tiles. Before sealing, make sure your tiles (and the thinset for that matter) are completely dry. You can test the tiles for any remaining moisture by laying down a piece of plastic on the tiles after installing them. If there is moisture the next day when you lift the plastic, they aren’t dry enough. Wait for them to dry or you could risk discoloration of your tiles.

Clean the tiles by sweeping off any debris and clean with a ph balanced cleaner (a bucket of warm water with one drop of dish soap is a good cleaner.) Let the tiles dry. Wipe or buff with a rag.

Pour the sealer into the dish pan. Dip your pad applicator into the sealer liquid. Squeeze off excess sealer against the edge of the dish pan.

Apply sealer with pad applicator

Apply the sealer in thin coats working in one direction. Remove any excess sealer from the tiles BEFORE it dries. (See the streaks below? Those streaks and any puddling needs to be buffed off to avoid uneven drying.)

Avington Black & White Cement Tiles from TheBuilderDepot.com

Let the first coat of sealer dry completely. In fact you may want to take a break for 30 minutes or so between coats.

Buff off excess sealant from tiles.

Be prepared to apply many coats before your cement tiles are fully sealed. (My tiles needed 5 coats to seal them. Then I had to wait another 24 hours for the sealant to fully cure before grouting.) It may seem like a long process, but this insures the tiles will withstand regular use and resist stains.

After each coat of sealant dries, you need to test to see if the cement tiles are completely sealed. Drip water onto the tiles. If the water beads up, they are sealed. However, if the water absorbs into the tiles, add another layer of sealant and try the water test again later.

Water beading up on cement tiles means it's ready to grout.

Once your tiles are fully sealed, wait 24 hours before grouting.

How to Grout Tiles:

Because I work alone, it takes me a little longer to grout. To prevent my grout from hardening too quickly, I like to float my mixed grout container in a bucket of ice water to slow down the setting action.

Load up your float with fresh mixed grout. Holding your grout float at a 45 degree angle against the floor, spread the grout over the gaps between the tiles in a diagonal motion. Work in small 3 – 4 square foot areas. Then scrape any excess grout off the tiles using a clean grout float.

grouting tiles with grout float

Immediately wipe off any excess grout using a clean damp sponge. Ring out and refresh your sponge with clean water frequently.

It is imperative to get all the excess grout off the tiles or you risk the grout staining or settling into the tiles. Go ahead and move on to the next section, but go back to the previous tiles and buff off any haze with a dry rag.

Avington Black & White Cement Tiles from TheBuilderDepot.com

After the grout has cured, clean your floors with a pH neutral mild cleanser. Then apply one final coat of penetrating sealer. A new coat of sealer should be reapplied every 6-12 months for floors, and every 2-3 years for wall tiles.

Avington Black & White Cement Tiles from TheBuilderDepot.com

Cement Tile Maintenance:

To protect your beautiful cement tile floors, clean up any spills immediately. Never leave anything sitting on the floor that could stain or scratch your tiles. If your tiles get scratched or stained, you can use a fine grit sandpaper to sand off the stain. Just be sure to re-seal your tiles after sanding.

Still on the fence about installing cement tiles in your home? This is a good article breaking down the pros and cons of cement tiles.

A big thank you to The Builder Depot for providing the laundry room tiles for the Saving Etta project and for giving me excellent instructions for installing the cement tiles. What do you think? Do you love the cement tile look?

Laundry Room with Avington Cement Tile Floor.

I hope you found this tutorial helpful. Happy tiling!

How to Install Cement Tiles and Achieve Professional Results

Disclosure: The Builder Depot is a proud sponsor of the Saving Etta project.  I was provided with materials for this project. I was not told what to write. All opinions and ideas are my own.

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