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Old 01-27-2010, 11:34 AM   #1
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Tile, Radiant Floor, Avoiding screwing into the water lines


Our entire house is hydronic radiant floors. In the basement, the pex is in the concrete. On the main floor and upstairs, the pex is under the sub-floor. The basement ceiling is, as yet, unfinished. It will be drop down when we finish it later. The main floor has finished ceilings.

There is a bathroom upstairs that I was going to have tiled. Currently they are tiling the main floor. So over the subfloor is: versabond, wonderboard, then screws. Then, of course, they set the tile.

It's the screws that are an issue. The screws are 1 1/4", and they come through the subfloor by about 1/8". But there are water tubes under the floor.

Sharp pointy screws + water tubes = a little stress

They have nicked two tubes (over about 1200 square feet). Easy to fix, really. Just a little...wet. But that is the main floor, with an unfinished ceiling in the basement.

Sorry for all the extra info, but it gives the best picture.

The problem is that upstairs bathroom. The ceiling under which is a finished tray ceiling.

The tile guys say they can use thicker versabond under the wonderboard, taking care of the very small amount of pointy tip that might protrude through the bottom of the subfloor. I'm not sure about this idea. Tile experts: is there a problem using thicker versabond?

The husband says: use shorter screws. Seems a little like a no brainer, but maybe this is not a good option for some reason. The tile guys don't seem to want to do this. Maybe it's because they have boxes of their regular screws and they don't want to buy special screws for this, or maybe their gun uses something special?

The husband also offers: can you use thicker wonderboard, or two sheets? I don't know about the logistics of this.

I'm absolutely ready to just lay freaking linoleum. It seems not worth the risk.

But the fellas are now all in that "we're going to do this and make it work" mentality.

Ideals, opinions, tile laying reality?

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Old 01-27-2010, 12:08 PM   #2
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Tile, Radiant Floor, Avoiding screwing into the water lines


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The tile guys say they can use thicker versabond under the wonderboard, taking care of the very small amount of pointy tip that might protrude through the bottom of the subfloor. I'm not sure about this idea. Tile experts: is there a problem using thicker versabond?
In theory it sounds wonderful, a little naive but none-the-less wonderful. In practice.....it ain't gonna happen.

Why didn't these geniuses in tile installations use Schluter's DITRA Mat? That would end all the worries for everybody. Schluter DITRA is installed using only thinset, no screws, no nails, no staples, no worries, nothing that will penetrate the subfloor to begin with. I would insist they use it on the second floor job and let them pay for it and eat their cement board.

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Old 01-27-2010, 12:15 PM   #3
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Tile, Radiant Floor, Avoiding screwing into the water lines


Here is a little radiant heat reality. DON'T PUT ANY POINTY OBJECT INTO ANY SURFACE WITH RADIANT LINES IN, UNDER, OR BEHIND IT. IF YOU DO MAKE SURE YOU HAVE IT IN WRITING THAT THE CONTRACTOR DOING THE JOB STANDS BEHIND PAYING FOR REBUILDING YOUR HOME. I personally have installed, fixed, repaired, and operated radiant systems for the past 15 years and the act of intentionally piercing an operating radiant surface at best is criminal negligence; at worst insanity. You say you have already fixed several leaks from puncturing the tubing under the subfloor on the first floor of your home. A leak can take a day or a month to show it's ugly head. It depends on the mineral content of your water and how hot you run your boiler/radiant system; also how often/long you have it on. Basicly how long it takes the screw to rust away in the puncture of the tube. Don't use screws or nails in any radiant surface. If you have to put down more subfloor on top of existing radiant subfloor either take up the entire floor down to the joists, letting the tubing hang, and start over or use a good quality mastic and stick your subfloor down to the existing subfloor.
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Old 01-27-2010, 12:18 PM   #4
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Tile, Radiant Floor, Avoiding screwing into the water lines


Actually, I am buying the materials! Well, the wonderboard and the Versabond. Not the screws or grout. No one around here would bid the job with materials.

And I would TOTALLY buy that to solve the problem. Thank you, Bud, for your expertise.

Now, do they use a different thinset than Versabond for that? If they haven't used that before, where can I learn about it? Does it matter how big the tile is?

What issues might they have with Ditra?
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Old 01-27-2010, 12:44 PM   #5
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Tile, Radiant Floor, Avoiding screwing into the water lines


Ah yes, Grampa, I'm totally with you on this!

We had a million questions while installing the radiant system. Wish you were closer, or I had known your cell phone number!

It's working great, and we are thrilled, but there will always be that fear that we'll spring a leak right in the middle of my dining room ceiling. That's a sick feeling.
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Old 01-27-2010, 01:07 PM   #6
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Tile, Radiant Floor, Avoiding screwing into the water lines


BUD CLINE gave you the solution--try Youtube for installation videos.

John bridge tile forum is also a good source of info.Shower Construction Info (a collection of posts) - Ceramic Tile Advice Forums - John Bridge Ceramic Tile

Goolge Schluter. Do not ever drive a screw or nail into that floor--If your tile installer gives you a hard time --find one who knows the proper way to work over a hydronic floor.--MIKE--
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Old 01-27-2010, 01:42 PM   #7
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Tile, Radiant Floor, Avoiding screwing into the water lines


Thanks so much for the advice.

So tell me (this is sort of off topic, but still flooring and pointy objects)...we had heart failure while the trim guys were screwing the subfloor to the floor joists. Granted, they snapped a chalk line to follow the joists, but still. Would you have done that? We really considered not doing it. It didn't get done before the radiant tubes went in. That would have been ideal.

The husband is snipping off all the tips from the basement, even as we speak.

Live and learn, right?
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Old 01-27-2010, 04:11 PM   #8
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Tile, Radiant Floor, Avoiding screwing into the water lines


Your carpenters were probably very careful (and a bit nervous) --Looks like they did their homework before risking a flood.

I would be willing to bet that if you hired a plumber to fix the heat pipes and made the lazy(careless) tile guys pay the bill-that they would not want to nail anything into a heated floor!!!


You were very nice to fix it for them. However you could just as easily billed them for the damage.

If they don't know about tiling membranes --they should learn!--MIKE--
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Old 01-28-2010, 02:16 PM   #9
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Now, do they use a different thinset than Versabond for that? If they haven't used that before, where can I learn about it? Does it matter how big the tile is?

What issues might they have with Ditra?
Versabond (a modified thinset mortar) is fine for the installation of the DITRA, HOWEVER, the tile is then to be installed using "unmodified thinset mortar".

All the information anyone needs can be found at the Schluter website.
http://www.schlutersystems.com

Doesn't matter how big the tile is as long as it is bigger than 2" square.

Also keep in mind that it is very possible a screw that may penetrate the heat pipe may also at that time seal the leak it has created only for the leak to occur sometime down the road.

What is being done there is really not the smartest thing I have ever heard of and should be stopped immediately in my opinion.

GOOD LUCK with this one!
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Old 01-28-2010, 02:30 PM   #10
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Tile, Radiant Floor, Avoiding screwing into the water lines


Okay, thanks Bud. I am on that website now, so hopefully I can get this all straightened out. What a nightmare.

Right now, they are laying the tile where they've already put the wonderboard. So after that, they'll move to the master bath, where they'll start with the ditra. That area already has insulation in the basement ceiling joist, and I wasn't really looking forward to pulling that out to snip off tips.
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Old 01-28-2010, 07:00 PM   #11
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DITRA is available in two thicknesses.

It comes 1/8" and 5/16" for dealing with varying height issues.

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