Flooring options to replace ancient tile
January 22, 2015 7:19 AM   Subscribe

The ceramic tile throughout my house is old, crumbling, and needs to go. Please help me sort through my flooring options.

Our home was built in the 1950s and at some point the previous owners covered the existing (ugly) terrazzo flooring with ceramic tile. Age and a bad installation job has taken it's toll and the tile now cracks, crumbles, and breaks if we even look at it the wrong way.

We know the tile beyond saving and needs to come out entirely. What are our flooring options? Hiring someone to pull it out and replace it with new tile seems intimidatingly expensive but I have no interest in restoring the terrazzo underneath. Wood-look laminate floor panels of the Pergo variety are visually unappealing to me and the stick-and-peel squares seem like they aren't a good choice for situations like this (?). I've looked at the Pergo site and see there are some choices that resemble tile but I haven't seen them in person yet.

The house is an open floor plan so between the living room, sitting room, kitchen, and hallway, and two bathrooms, we're probably talking 1,000 square feet. Fortunately we don't have to worry about the bedroom floors since they were covered over with laminate fairly recently (which is why I know I don't care for the look of Pergo, ha).

I honestly don't want to spend our life savings reflooring the main parts of the house but we'll be here a while so I don't want to go super-cheap either. Other points of reference:

* We're in Florida so we don't need under-floor heating, etc.
* There are no kids or dogs to consider, so we only need something that's standardly sturdy. It doesn't need to survive toddlers and Great Danes.
* Carpeting is not an option.
* I love the look and feel of broad expanses of tile, plus it fits nicely with our decor so however close we can come to replicating that would be awesome.
posted by _Mona_ to Home & Garden (11 answers total)
Hiring someone to pull it out and replace it with new tile seems intimidatingly expensive but I have no interest in restoring the terrazzo underneath.

Why? Tiling is often the cheapest flooring option, especially as you're in FL and have no specialist requirements. Work out your square footage, find a tile you like on sale, and get some per-square-meter installation quotes. Easy.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:23 AM on January 22, 2015

I don't know what you consider to be "intimidatingly expensive" or "life savings" but I don't think that total cost for laminate tile (material and installation) will be much, much cheaper than regular tile, and it will be hard to install it in such a way that it feels the same as regular tile (floating floors over concrete feel just like that - a floating floor).

We recently had our floors done in both tile and (wood) laminate. Demo and installation of the laminate was cheaper, but the material cost per square foot was lower for tile even of comparable quality. If you're not super, super picky about your tile, discount floor warehouses will often have good quality large porcelain floor tiles at less than $1 per square foot, which goes a long way towards making up for the difference in labor cost.
posted by muddgirl at 8:04 AM on January 22, 2015

There is also "engineered hardwood", which is like laminate flooring but has a (thin) real wood surface and a solid wood core.
posted by Poldo at 8:16 AM on January 22, 2015

We had tile-looking laminate installed almost twelve years ago. The appearance is okay; it looks like tile if you squint just the right way, much like wood-looking laminate looks like hardwood if you squint just the right way. It also has all the same drawbacks of wood-looking laminate, though. There is a distinctive echo-type noise walking over it, and the thin "image" layer is easily chipped, punctured, or worn down. If you don't like the wood-looking laminate in the bedrooms, you won't like the tile-looking laminate any better.
posted by DrGail at 8:27 AM on January 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

What ever you do, going back to the terazzo floor as a starting point is probably going to be necessary. Leaving the crumbling tile in place probably isn't a great idea in the longer term.

Engineered flooring is quite sensitive to water migrating through the floor and so generally needs some sort of seal/underlay/subfloor on a concrete slab. If you have a slab on grade floor, that should be a consideration for you.

We use vinyl stick-on tiles at work on concrete and they look like hell itself after a couple of years---dirt gets worked into the seams. If you go that way, I'd consider sheet vinyl instead. It looks much better in the long term and isn't that much more difficult to install.
posted by bonehead at 8:35 AM on January 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

Tile is really not that expensive and it will last many times longer than whatever engineered, laminate or other composite material you will be able to install for a little bit less. If the floor underneath is uneven, that may be a source of your current problems, so make sure to get it well leveled before tiling again.
posted by ssg at 8:36 AM on January 22, 2015

You can't put anything on top of the bad tile, and expect to get a good outcome. You learned this with the bad ceramic tile installation that the other owner did. Do you plan to live in this house for at least 5 more years, or to sell it? If so, the investment in having the bad stuff ripped out, a good subfloor installed, and then new porcelain tiles will pay off for you. You really will enjoy the house with a good floor under your feet. First make sure that the slab is intact, and that the house is not shifted.

If you are willing to do some work you can save some money. It would be hard work to demolish the old tile down to the slab, haul it out, and dispose of it. Really heavy stuff. But if you do it you will save the demolition costs. On the other hand, a crew of tough unskilled guys can come and do it in a day. Your choice.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 8:37 AM on January 22, 2015


Gently remove the tile and polish the terrazzo. My heart is breaking that you think it's ugly. It's cool underfoot, it's pretty and it's so perfect for your 1950's house. You can use beautiful white Flokati rugs on the floor for warmth. Oh my. PLEASE save the Terrazzo!

Please look at the blog, Retro Renovation.

Get in touch with a pro and price it out. It may be the cheapest, easiest and most satisfying thing you'll ever do. And while you're at it, please preserve your pink bathroom.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:42 AM on January 22, 2015 [3 favorites]

I am assuming you have a concrete foundation/slab, since that is what Terrazo pretty much requires (you could DO terrazo on say a wood joist floor, but why would you?) and that style of foundation is common in Florida.

I would get either large tile installed (at least 1' square or bigger tile size) or get the concrete cleaned than stained, or the Terrazo fixed up. Wood flooring, of any kind-hardwood, pergo, engineered, do not generally work well on concrete and do not last long. Especially not in a warm, humid climate. The wood needs to breathe and be allowed to expand and contract, and putting it down on a concrete floor just doesn't allow for that. You can install some of the pergo/engineered wood as a floating floor, but I have yet to be on one that feels good 5 years later. It also screams cheap flip to me.

As a great 'bonus' for a warm climate is to install under floor radiant heat. I would try to go with a hydronic system that would let me run cool water under the floor on hot days as well as warm water on cold days (seems like a great way to cool in Florida-i could be wrong), but you can fairly easily install electric radiant heat under tile.
posted by bartonlong at 9:52 AM on January 22, 2015

Response by poster: Ruthless Bunny, I hate to break it to you but the pink bathroom is being replaced as I type this. I tried living with it for a few years but I just finally had to call it quits. No matter how I tried decorating it, we just couldn't get along. I'll say this, though, based on your plea and the link you provided, I'll give restoring the terrazzo another think. I'm just not sure it will go with the rather contemporary look of our paint and furniture (which I love and won't change). But I'll give it some thought. Promise.

Thanks, everyone, for calming me down a little about the price of tile and all the other great advice!

(Oh, and no matter what we do, we'll pull up all the old tile. I know trying to cover it would be a very bad plan.)
posted by _Mona_ at 10:32 AM on January 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

Ruthless Bunny, I hate to break it to you but the pink bathroom is being replaced as I type this.

posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:18 AM on January 22, 2015

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