DIY porch remodeling guide: Reusing antique roofing slates as flooring material
A step-by-step, environmentally friendly guide to reusing products in interior and exterior design.
Monday, November 1, 2010 - 12:40
I am installing reused roofing slate on my back porch. I found these roofing slates — under years of banana tree growth — at a house I was renting in New Orleans. The slate tiles were grimy from the mildew and the foliage that had gotten between the stacks over the years, and they were weather-beaten from years of use on the roof. After cleaning off the grime on a few tiles, I discovered attractive slates with weathered surfaces and traces of iron where old nails had rusted over the years on a home subject to a lot of inclement weather. The texture and color variety convinced me that these were too good to waste, so I loaded the three stacks of roofing onto my truck one morning and offed them to Texas to be featured on my folks' back porch.
My parents and I have always admired New Orleans architecture and home decor, so I thought it would be nice to incorporate some of those elements on a small scale (because of budget reasons, of course) into their back porch. For the last five years, the old man has been painting the porch with green latex paint intermittently when the old coats began chipping from over use in some foot-traffic heavy spots.
But while there were some spots that refused to hold paint, there were other spots where the green latex paint clung most tenaciously to the concrete floor and nothing short of an industrial grinder could strip them off. The porch was painted green to symbolize the Earth and the ceiling is painted blue to symbolize the sky (there is also an added benefit to painting the ceiling sky blue: dirt dobbers, a.k.a. mud wasps, tend to skip on building their mud nests on blue ceilings because — or so it is believed by many — they think that the roof is actually the sky). So to keep consistent with the folks' color scheme on the porch, I suggested installing green recycled roofing slates on the floor instead off applying another coat of latex paint to the floor.
Want to do it yourself?
What you will need:
• Flooring material — I am using reused roofing slate. Make sure you get the amount necessary and that they are also clean before you begin installation
• Gray thin-setting mortar ("thin-set") — I used four 50-pound bags for 250 sq. ft. of slate
• Sanded grout — I went with a natural gray color because it is an industry standard and it also goes well with the hue of the tiles
• Tile and slate sealer — make sure that you get the right kind by reading the label on the back of the bottle and also mind the finish that the product yields
• Margin trowel — a handy implement that is useful on a construction site (and a barbecue, as well)
• 1/4 inch boxed ridge trowel
• 12 inch grout float
• 2 new sponges
• 1/4 inch spacers
• Tape measure
• Speed square
• Chalk line
• Tile saw or other means to cut tile (there are more ways than one to cut slate)
• An electric drill and whip to mix the mortar and grout
• 3 five-gallon buckets
Step one: Preparation
Prepare the surface where you are going to be laying the tile by first removing any dirt, debris, paint or whatever else may inhibit the contact of the mortared tile to the foundation with a good sweeping and then several passes with a mop or sponge (this step may also include chiseling down or off high spots or chunks on the surface of the concrete).
Arrange your slates so that they are easily accessible from your working area. Also, when bringing your slates to the work site, make sure they are clean and that you have a good mixture of colors and textures so as to avoid any visually repetitive spots in the final layout.
Set up your mortar mixing station. Of the three five-gallon buckets that are required for this job, fill one with about three or four gallons of water and dedicate this one to the drill and the whip. Every time you pull your drill out of a bucket of mortar or grout that you mixed, you will then want to set it into this bucket so as to avoid unsightly gobs of dried mortar on your whip (which will happen otherwise). One bucket should be dedicated to holding your mortar and the other bucket should be dedicated to holding your clean water, or working water.
Step two: Layout
Lay out a grid which you will use as your guide during the installation process. If you are going for a running bond pattern (the most common bricklaying pattern) or any other pattern that incorporates precise angles to execute the particular look you are going for, it is crucial that you execute this procedure well.
For this project I took the longest continuous visual plane featured and divided it in half. I then projected a 90 degree angle off of this point to the back wall (and edge of least visibility), and began laying full tiles off of the point created on the high-visibility edge, ultimately giving me a balanced look to the size of the tiles on the right and left side of my plane. This method doesn't always work out perfectly and sometimes a bit of line finagling is inevitable. (Luckily for me, this piece laid out perfectly — hardly ever happens for me this way, but this time was an exception!)
Step 3: Installation
It's time to mix your mortar. Follow the mixing instructions on the bag of thin-set and be sure to mind the mortar's slake time to ensure the most adhering and compressive strength your mortar offers.
With the long, flat side of your ridge trowel, gather a good-sized dollop of mortar and apply it to the area of the floor that you will be working and skim a consistent, flat coat, or a "skim coat." Make sure that this area is no larger than you are able to work, otherwise you will be wasting a lot of mortar (which also means wasting time and money). Now, with the ridged side of your trowel, gather another few good-sized dollops of mortar and apply the ridge coat on top of your skim coat. For this particular job, I am using a quarter-inch ridge trowel because most of my surfaces are relatively flat. If I was to be laying on a more irregular surface I would use a trowel with a larger-sized ridge. Apply the ridge coat evenly, applying straight, consistent lines of mortar by holding your trowel at a 45 degree angle to the surface to which you are applying your mortar.
Next, apply an even skim coat to the roofing slate and then, using your margin trowel, apply golf ball-sized dollops of mortar to the corners and a slightly larger one to the center of your tile and then install. Clean from the edges of the tile any mortar that might have squeezed out so that you have a tile that seems to be floating on an independent base, also clean any mortar that might have fallen on the surface of the tile during the installation process (five minutes of cleaning up today could save you an hour of cleaning tomorrow when the mortar has had time to dry and cure). Insert your spacers (two per edge of tile should suffice to ensure the fidelity to your layout lines) and then repeat the process until the slates are fully installed.
After allowing your installed tile to cure for 24 hours, you may then begin the grouting process. Seal tiles with the sealer of your choice; make sure that you read the label so that you know the product will work with your choice of flooring product. For this particular project, I went with a high-gloss sealer so that the slate will have a wet look — simply dynamite!
Make sure that there is no mortar rising up in the spaces between your tiles; you may need to take a razor knife or your margin trowel to knock out such spots. Then, mix your grout and mind the slake time on that, too, so that the tiles benefit from the grout's full tensile strength. Apply the grout to the spaces in between the tile, and be Zen about your approach: think like the grout, allow your working of the grout to move in between all the spaces and under the tile, too. This means coming from many different directions when passing the grout float over the spaces.
(Note: You may want a stiff or dry mixture of grout for spots such as ledges and corners because it is easier to sculpt and holds its form better than a wet mixture. In some spots you may want a wet, looser, or even soupy mixture when spreading over tiles with pockmarks or occasionally when you are working large areas and want to do it quickly — but if it is your first go at this type of project, I'd say it's better to keep it from getting too soupy. You'll have to clean a large area and during this you run the risk of adulterating the color of the grout if you pass a sponge over it too much, which leeches out the pigment.)
As you apply the grout, work manageable spaces. That is, work a space that is about a good arm's length so that you won't have to constantly be standing up and back on the ground again, which can tire you out quickly. Be economical with your movements and keep your clean working water near you.
After applying an area of grout, go back over your work with a semi-damp sponge and in a wax-on/wax-off movement, wake up the drying grout (do not apply any downward pressure to your sponge's circular motions because this will dig the grout out of the spaces between your tiles. Once again, think like the grout). Then with a clean and freshly-squeezed sponge, remove the grout from the surface of the tile, using a rolling action with your sponging hand so that you dirty the sponge incrementally, keeping a clean surface on the sponge throughout the whole of the arm-motion's swipe. Repeat this process until the face of the tiles are clean, then allow the grout to set-up for 24 hours.
Come back with a lint-free rag and wipe off the residue. Apply sealer once or twice more, wipe off excess, and enjoy your new antique-slate floor!
The home remodeling industry can generate huge amounts of waste when trends in home decor are out-with-the-old-and-in-with-the-new. These new looks can be so capricious that by the time winter tastes approach last fall's ballroom, some designers yawn in the face of last season's look and are ready for a new phase of remodeling. If the chic must be displaced by whims of style, then I must remind you of the cyclical nature of history and style and bid to those of you who are remodeling to try to reuse what you can from your previous remodel, or to at least salvage whatever materials are salvageable and then donate them to your green builder's depot. It always saves money to reuse, and more importantly, it saves resources.
Photo: Sean Deskin
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