Best way to fill in missing floor tiles?
June 23, 2014 2:01 PM   Subscribe

When our staircase was remodeled several years ago, it left an area with no tile at the base of the new stairs (old stairs were curved, new ones are not.) It's been 6.5 years of stubbed toes and general unsightliness, and I need suggestions on what to do with this area.

Here is a before picture of the stairs, to help understand why we have this weird shape.

You can see the problematic area in these photos (taken 6.5 years apart.) 1 2

{Apologies for the mess, we're in the middle of renovating other parts of the room.}

Replacing the tile floor at this point is not an option. Our entire lower floor is in this tile, and while I'd like this eyesore to be remedied, it's not in the budget to replace it all. And I have no idea where to get replacement tile. This was put down before we purchased our house.

All ideas are welcome.
posted by pyjammy to Home & Garden (18 answers total)
Why not find some similar dimension + appearance tiles at Home Depot, chip out the 'partial' tiles, and install the new tiles in that area?
posted by wrok at 2:07 PM on June 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

Install some kind of contrasting tile for a landing at the bottom of the stairs? i'd think maybe a tiny tile border with darker large internal tiles for a decorative landing that looks like it belongs.
posted by TheAdamist at 2:09 PM on June 23, 2014 [14 favorites]

Our tiler just filled in our awkward gaps with more grout. It won't look amazing, but at least it would be level.

Or similar-sized tiles - they don't have to be identical.
posted by tinkletown at 2:09 PM on June 23, 2014

Best answer: If you have the creative inclination (i.e. if your attitude towards this is more just get this thing gone pls, then disregard), I think it would be cool to mosaic some colorful little tiles in there to fill the gap. Even though it's a completely random spot, and even though the rest of the room has zero to do with it, seeing a bright little area of color would make me happy every time I walked across it.
posted by phunniemee at 2:13 PM on June 23, 2014 [4 favorites]

The tile looks to be a relatively standard beige ceramic. I would bring a chunk of it to a tile place and find a close match, then just knock out the partials and replace it with the new stuff. It won't be perfect, but it will be an improvement.
posted by Think_Long at 2:14 PM on June 23, 2014

Definitely go with something with contrast. Remove the existing cut tiles and possibly a few more to create a symmetrical space around the base of the stairs. Then install a contrasting tile - perhaps something dark in a smaller size. Considering adding a border between the new and old tiled areas (I would say wood, but it doesn't look like you have enough depth for that, so perhaps you can find something reasonable looking in metal).
posted by ssg at 2:33 PM on June 23, 2014

Also, the stairs need a railing; it's a major safety improvement.
posted by theora55 at 2:38 PM on June 23, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks for the ideas...

- I've thought about the mosaic thing, but so much of the surrounding tile on the other side of the base of the stairs would have to be removed, and it would end up being a huge area. Also, I'm nervous about removing more tile. It seems...difficult. I'm imagining a jackhammer, but maybe I'm overreacting. :)

- Not to worry, theora55, there is a railing now. The pic without was taken mid-construction.
posted by pyjammy at 2:46 PM on June 23, 2014

Glad to hear it, pyjammy. Once I added the railing ot my staircase, I realized just how important it is.
posted by theora55 at 2:50 PM on June 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

You should be able to remove tile pretty easily with a hammer and chisel. Or you can rent a baby jackhammer. Look for something like a Hilti combihammer.
posted by ryanrs at 3:04 PM on June 23, 2014

Don't worry about removing more tile. The job would be a matter of something from minutes to a few hours with a hammer and chisel (the kind designed for this, not a wood chisel).
posted by ssg at 3:18 PM on June 23, 2014

From the department of cheap people with no pride:
We have a similar spot in our house (renovation left a gap in floor treatment, no budget to fix it right). My stopgap solution to prevent stubbed toes and dirt getting into weird spots has been to get a heavy rubber floor mat to sit over the discontinuity. The benefit is, you can go to the Home Depot and get a mat and just lay that sucker down this afternoon, no special supplies, and small budget.

Our gap is smaller than yours I think, so I was able to use a black rubber stair-tread mat ($3). But you will certainly be able to find something, rubber entry mat or similar, to lay over it for cheap if you decide to go this route as an interim solution. They may have fake-stone ones too, that would match your flooring more closely. Then you could take your time implementing a longer-term solution.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:22 PM on June 23, 2014

This isn't difficult actually, but sometimes it's easier and cheaper to hire the pro with the tools. In areas where tile floors are a thing (Florida) these guys are like weeds. Everywhere, once you know where to look.

Call your friends and ask if they know a tile guy. Someone will. Have tile dude or dudette come by and give you a price.

If you can, look around the basement, attic or garage for that box of leftover tiles. There's one somewhere. If not, then head out to Floor and Decor, or you local Big Box home improvement center. The person there can help you find comperable tiles. Buy a few more than you need.

Let the tile guru come and fix your tile.

If you find one that's close, but not an exact match, a nice area rug covers a multitude of sins.

But the big box folks can sell you/rent you everything you need. Tiling isn't hard, it's just a PITA.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 3:28 PM on June 23, 2014

Since cost is a factor, as a stopgap measure, you could fill the spot with plywood to level it out (cut with a jigsaw to fit) and have a piece of remnant carpet cut and bound that would wrap around the base of the stairs and the offending area. Just make sure you use carpet grip tape or a rug pad underneath so no one slips coming down the stairs.
posted by cecic at 3:57 PM on June 23, 2014

What about adding a small bit of hardwood flooring? Shouldn't take too much. That way you wouldn't have to worry about matching tile and it would make for a nice landing for the stairs. Kind of like the transition here.
posted by MayNicholas at 4:19 PM on June 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

You will of course be unable to match the tile. Consider straightening the uneven edges of the existing tile, then creating an 'area rug' of harmonious colored tiles at the bottom of the staircase.
posted by Cranberry at 4:20 PM on June 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I've thought about the mosaic thing, but so much of the surrounding tile on the other side of the base of the stairs would have to be removed

You don't have to do that, you can just mosaic the area that currently has no tiles.

Yes, it won't be symmetrical. Just like it's not symmetrical now. But you can make it all the same height.

You can buy just a sheet or two of little 1" square tiles at Home Depot and cut or pull off the backing. You'll also need thinset and grout from the hardware store, and some containers to mix them in. Cut off some juice or milk jugs and rinse them for cheap containers. You can probably get the tile stuck down with the thinset in a couple hours, then the next day the grout should take less than an hour.

If that's too much work, you can get floor leveler to pour in the open area.
posted by yohko at 4:42 PM on June 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

That's super common sized and colored tile, just buy some in the same size but a slightly different color (if you can't find the same) and pry up enough tile to have a regular square or rectangular shaped hole then re-tile that.
posted by fshgrl at 8:34 PM on June 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

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