Thursday, 2 May 2013

It looked easy ....

... on the B&Q and Homebase DIY videos:

-  Run a hot hair-dryer over the damaged plastic tile

-  Slide a putty knife under the tile and lift

-  Scrape off the softened old adhesive underneath

-  Apply fresh adhesive to the now clean floor

-  Place the new tile on the fresh adhesive

-  Smooth out air bubbles

-  Put a heavy book on top for 24 hours and voilà, flooring repaired

No mention of  what you do if, in lifting the damaged tile, half the floor underneath comes up as well.  Or how to cope if the plastic tiles are so old and brittle that the adjacent one starts to crack and lift.  Still, Steve, our builder, did a couple for us - mixing self-levelling compound that would even out the lumps and bumps under the tile and letting it flow slowly across the floor, placing the new tile on top and gently pressing it down into the concrete so it was at the same height as the neighbouring tiles.

Well it didn't look too difficult.

So the next evening, after Tod had left, I had a go with replacing the tiles we lifted in the kitchen.  Mixing the grey self-levelling compound in the small bucket took forever.  It just seemed too runny.  So I'd beat out all the lumpy bits, stir and stir, add more powder, beat out the fresh lumps, stir,.add more powder.      And then, suddenly, it wasn't runny any longer, it had gone like thick porridge.  That was the moment I should have thrown it away and started again, but after all that time mixing it seemed a shame to waste it.

So I plonked it on the floor in dollops and tried to smooth it out. Far from self-levelling, it determinedly formed a small mountain.  So I scraped most of it off, thought it looked reasonably level and then realised that, as it was now hard rather than runny, the tiles might not stick to it, so the addition of tile adhesive might be a good idea.  I squidged the new tiles onto this mess and reached for a heavy tub of paint to rest on top of a block of wood to keep the tiles flat, when I realised that the tile adhesive had tipped over and formed a small white lake behind me (where I wouldn't notice what was happening).  The pack warned me that while the adhesive was white I could clean it up, once clear (after about ten minutes) it became like super-glue.  I grabbed a roll of kitchen towel and mopped as fast as I could.

Twenty minutes later, I was still scraping a nasty mixture of self-levelling compound and tile adhesive off the floor that Tod had so carefully cleaned a couple of days previously. I was also conscious that my hands were becoming increasingly sticky and it was difficult to separate my fingers. I padded into the bathroom, leaving a trail of sticky concrete footprints along the (recently cleaned by Tod) corridor floor and lathered my fingers alternately with white spirit, soap and Nivea cream. They still felt tacky.

As I drove away later, I wondered whether I would be able to prise my fingers off the steering wheel when I reached my destination.

It was only as I was driving in the following morning it occurred to me I might not be able to unstick the block of wood with the paint tub on top from off the newly laid tiles.

It's at moments like this that the only thing I can do is sing Gerry Rafferty..... I hope he's right.


  1. You are brave tackling this ! Flat pack furniture assembling, even drilling a hole in the wall...none of these things ever happen as they are supposed to. I did some concrete patching up last summer....useless....the instructions looked so will need to be re done this summer. Well done....and good luck ! J.

  2. Hi Janice - only doing this because we have no choice! You and me both! And so many of our friends out here seem to take all of this in their stride - ugh!

  3. I have hideous memories of self leveling compound for repair jobs...I'd almost rather take up the whole floor, except for what I'd find under it.

    Friends here had an untoward experience...taking up some cracked tiles to replace they found that there was no floor underneath....water from a spring further up their property had washed everything out.

    Sharp work on draining the spring towards the garden and a telephone call for a ready mix concrete truck...

  4. OMG Helen, that is terrible! Put's our experiences into perspective. :)

  5. The instructions always look simple ( even in French and by having to use a magnifying glass) but following them is another matter.
    Best of luck.
    We always did this sort of stuff together so that the blame got spread. Nowadays, I am afraid that we have to pay for the jobs to be done and find out later if they were done properly!

  6. Hi Lesley, know what you mean about the magnifying glass. :) We work better when we each have our own space. I remember early on when "helping" in the kitchen I managed to throw away the stock he was so carefully saving! That was the moment we both realised we each needed our own tasks - ideally at opposite ends of the house! :) :)

  7. Crikey-had me laughing my head off reading this.

    I recently got locked out of my Portugal house when the front door jammed in a gust of wind. 10.45 at night and only 8 families 'home' in the village.Managed to rouse Jozefo and it took 1.5 hrs for us to force it open with loads of sign language,oaths and laughs.

    Next day I acted as the 'surgeon's assistant'-passing my tools across as he investigated the recalcitrant triple lock system.

    Lots of WD40 later and some 'laying on of hands'..........obrigadas all round. Gave him some lovely red wine and we are now amigos. unexpected DIY project. :))

  8. Hi m-ME, glad you found it amusing. :) I did too - eventually! At least I could walk away from mine - unlike your experience - good way to get to know the neighbours. :)