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kaciuba 06-01-2010 10:47 PM

Polished porcelain - Executive decision needed!!
Hi all DIY’ers,

I am currently building a house and need to come to a decision on my flooring. This is for the entrance area, through to the main living area and kitchen. My wife is in love with the look of polished porcelain but who isn’t right? Anyway I need to do this flooring myself. Im building this house with my dad and brothers. We have a decent amount of experience with tiling in that we help each other with each others house. We just laid a ceramic tile at my brothers house and it looks great. Polished porcelain is different though. I did a whole bunch of research in to it and the difficulty level is up there. I know we need a perfectly level slab to work on. I know it needs to be degreased (to remove protective wax) after being laid and then sealed probably twice. It also may require a re-seal each year. I know its durable, I know it stains etc, etc.

I keep running the installation over and over in my head and most of the elements I think we can cover. It will take a lot more time than a simple ceramic tile but should be worth it. The thing I am most afraid of though is the laying and levelling of the tiles. Because its so reflective, if one of those tiles is mis-levelled, the whole effect is ruined. Not only that but it’ll look crabby. They also need to be laid a lot closer together than a regular ceramic so the room for error is much smaller. Adding to that, they typically don’t have a straight edge so that doesn’t help with the laying either.

I guess what im trying to get at is at this point I have talked myself out of laying polished porcelain. Have any of you DIY’ers laid polished porcelain successfully? Do you think I can I do it successfully? Do you think I should try or fall back to a safer ceramic installation? Any tips/hints or advice?

Thanks all!

oh'mike 06-02-2010 07:03 AM

First of all--you don't seal porcelain tile--ever --It is as dense and non absorbent as a tile can get.

I've installed tile for years--never ran into a wax coating on any porcelain tile--is this Crossville?

As to laying them--yes the floor needs to be very flat--1/16 inch space is common--your tiles should be cut perfectly at the factory---some cheap far east junk is not--

A tilers suction cup helps in the removal of tiles in order to add or remove the mud to get the surface flat to the adjoining tiles.

Plan on spending a little extra time on the install --due to lifting an occasional tile to add more mud.

Do not even think of sealing the tile--or your next post will be "How do I remove sealer from the face of my tiles"----Mike----

kaciuba 06-02-2010 09:52 AM

Hi Mike,

Thanks for your feedback.

Based on my initial research, the wax coatings I saw at the discount retailers threw me off a little too. I think you may be spot on with your far east junk appraisal. I am in Australia and the majority of imported tiles here come from China. They may or may not be taking shortcuts? Maybe its not fired as super hot as it is supposed to be so some require sealing? Im not sure.

Looking back at my (Australian) internet resources I am seeing some mixed results on the top sealing phase. Some are saying dont do it ever and others are saying I may need to but check with the manufacturer. What about penetrating sealers? Check this post out:

From what I have read, the high temperature firing of these tiles creates very slight morphing making the tiles not perfectly square. Like if you took a regular ceramic and compared it to a pp it would be a straighter cut? I have not checked this out with any real tiles though, just what I read about them.

In any case it sounds like I need to focus on finding a decent product to lay and steer clear of the junk.

So assuming I find a real polished porcelain tile with rectified, straight edges, are you confident I should not apply any sealer? top or penetrating? I'll take your double mention of it as a yes.

Am I going to struggle in keeping these things all perfectly flat? Im really afraid that once the job is done, ill look down at a mirror finish but one tile will be poking up and ruin the whole effect.

Check out this information (or mis-information):

Thanks Mike,

Any help appreciated.

oh'mike 06-02-2010 02:19 PM

Take my word for it--don't try to seal porcelain tile --it can't absorb any thing at all--you will just spoil the looks--

Tiling marble and granite are the same way as the highly polished tiles you are thinking of---

After your Durrock is laid--use a 6 foot straight edge--look for any low spots and fill them with Feather finish (or any floor leveler that can be troweled to a thin edge.

When setting mix your mud just a bit on the firm side.--Have your suction cup handy.
If you have any lippage --lift the tile and add more mud where needed to flatten out the lippage.

Like I said before --it will add more time to the setting--However,if you flattened the floor to the 6 foot straight edge before you started --you will be successful.---Mike--

kaciuba 06-02-2010 09:15 PM

Do you think I need to lay durock? It will be a fresh concrete slab which I imagine would require some levelling but didnt think a layer of durock would be needed?

akikomei 06-03-2010 12:47 AM

thank you guys for the info..
it's a great help.. :thumbsup:

oh'mike 06-03-2010 05:57 AM

Sorry--New slab is the best surface you could hope for---I am so use to wood framing--

You are good--flatten it out and start setting!--Mike--

Bud Cline 06-03-2010 08:41 PM


You guys are w-a-a-a-a-a-y over thinking this.

I'll try to get you back on track.

Highly polished anything will reflect more light than not so highly polished surfaces. For this reason your substrate must be as flat as possible or the variances in the tiles surface will in fact show up.

In some cases the unpolished and unglazed porcelain tiles do develop microscopic pores that can slightly cause the tile to discolor when grouted. Forget all that crap you won't have that problem.

The tile you are entertaining using CAN NOT BE SEALED, PERIOD. OK, That's the end of that subject.

Porcelain tiles that you buy will be fine when it comes to being square. If you want to spend more money on rectified tiles then that's your call but you don't need rectified tiles to have great results.

I can promise you your concrete is not flat. Highly polished tiles is not the best choice for installation over concrete for this reason. Unless of course you want to get it flat using Self Leveling Compound. I wouldn't suggest this in your case. With as much thought as you have already put into this project adding SLC will drive you and your brothers insane just trying to figure it out.:)

kaciuba 06-04-2010 07:24 AM

Yea ok, never seal polished tiles. Got it.

You are also right in that the level of the concrete slab is the wildcard here and I think will also be the deciding factor. Even if I get all my researched ducks in a row, I wont be making a decision until im standing on the slab and can check all the levels covering the area. If its going to be a nightmare to level then its likely we will play it safe and go to a nice textured ceramic. If I feel we can get away with just leveling a few areas then we might have a crack at it.

One last question on the installation though; What about the grout widths? Do we need to have the tiles closer together to get that brilliant relfecting effect? If so, is there a plastic spacer small enough to use or does it have to be so close that we have to judge it by eye? What kind of millimeter or fraction of inch should I be aiming for?

Thanks again for everyone's input. Really appreciate your expertise!!!

Bud Cline 06-04-2010 02:27 PM


If I feel we can get away with just leveling a few areas then we might have a crack at it.
If you want a quick snapshot of the condition of your floors surface use a bright worklight (or the like) and lay it on the floor so as to project plenty of bright light out across the floor surface. Don't look down on the floor look across the surface of the floor and note the occurence and seriousness of the deformities.:)

To lay tiles very very close to one another only serves to intensify any errors that may exist. A wider grout line affords you more foregivness when it comes to lippage.

Using spacers can only get you into trouble especially with narrow grout lines. The tiles will not be perfect. Using spacers only multiplies any irregularities there may be in the shape of the tile. Your installation will not stay square and your grout lines can wave.:)

Setting the tiles too close together won't allow the tiles to nest in the thinset properly because there will be no place the thinset squish to go without moving a previously set tile.:)

I think you are asking too much perfection from an imperfect product.

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