You've probably seen a glimpse of our new tiles over the last few posts, because well, our kitchen renovation has been done in a kind of sporadic order, going back and forth between jobs like crazy. It's a job we started back in the late summer of last year (September, if I remember correctly!) and finished at the start of Spring this year. Yep, it really took us that long! It wasn't the actual process of tiling that took us so long, but having large appliances in the way that couldn't be moved until tiles had set, needing to constantly clean the area before starting again and then there was the small (big!) issue of needing to replace some (all!) joists in the dining room and re-concreting part of the kitchen floor before we could even begin to approach the finish line on this job.
But it's done now. And I've had so many questions about our flooring, where it's from, how we laid it, what we used, that this post is looooong overdue.
One of the first images I had pinned as inspiration for the kitchen was one that featured some gorgeous limestone tiles from Floors of Stone. I loved them. But the price tag? £52 p/m (!!!) and never in a million years could I justify spending that much money on some flooring. But they were everything I wanted in a kitchen floor and every other material flooring I looked at, just didn't cut it.
I searched what felt like the entire internet for a cheaper alternative and stumbled upon an eBay seller (Stoneworld-uk) who sells pretty much an EXACT match to the Umbrian limestone from Floors of Stone, but at HALF the price, £23/m. I ordered samples from both Floors of Stone and the cheaper eBay one and there was virtually no difference between the samples. The only real difference was the underside, which obviously is never going to be visible. I'm no limestone expert, so I can't vouch for the difference in quality in terms of how they're made/mined - but I can confirm, they definitely didn't look any different - And that's good enough for me!
The small sample in this photo below is from Floors of Stone and the large tiles underneath are from the seller Stoneworld-uk on eBay. They're both Umbrian Limestone and you can see - there's literally no difference!
So, excited as I was - I made the order instantly, they arrived within days in a giant crate and so perfectly packed that there was only one tiny breakage. Since we don't have a drive, the pallet had to be dropped off at the kerbside, which meant I did have to manually carry each tile from the crate into the house for storage. Let's just say I had some muscles by the end, but I was chuffed to bits with my new purchase! I even bought some dark grey cathedral limestone for our log burner hearth as well, which you can see in this post.
Fitting Limestone Tiles DIY-Style?
Even though we'd saved hundreds on finding affordable limestone, we still didn't have the budget to pay for a professional tiler to fit the floor for us. Luckily, I've tiled SO many times now that I may as well be pretty much qualified ;)
Generally speaking, there's not THAT much difference between laying other tile materials and limestone. Bigger tiles are always more awkward to lay, tiles that aren't consistent in thickness are also a bit harder and of course, natural stone is a little harder to cut. But really the same rules apply, it's all just a bit more fiddly. Unless you're totally new to tiling and DIY in general, fitting your own Limestone floor is totally 100% DIY-able and you can save a fortune!
The first step I took was the lay the limestone tiles out and I thoroughly recommend doing this so you can pick some kind of pattern in which to lay them - I've gone for a kind of brick-work pattern. Since limestone is a natural material, the tones vary from tile to tile as well, so it's also a good idea to do this so that you can mix up/blend the different tones to make sure the overall look of the floor is natural as possible.
Okay so this is pretty important as there's about a bazillion different adhesive's on the market. Firstly, you need one that's suitable for Natural Stone - these are usually cement based I think, don't quote me on that. And secondly, it depends on what kind of floor you're laying them onto. If you have any kind of underfloor heating, whether it's electric or water - you'll need a flexible adhesive. If there's any movement on the flooring beneath, such as movement from floorboards, then you'll also need to go flexible as well. We have underfloor heating in our kitchen (check out this post for how we DIYed that) so flexible was necessary for us. I've used mainly this Wickes Tile Adhesive, but also a couple of bags of Mapei Tile Adhesive as well. Both worked a treat!
Laying Limestone TilesMuch like any other kind of tiling the steps are pretty easy, but getting it all perfect is sometimes easier said than done. You'll need to trowel out an even bed of adhesive onto the floor, lay the limestone tile over the top, push onto the adhesive firmly and then check with a spirit level that it's perfectly level and matches up in height with adjacent tiles. If it isn't level, you need to press firmer into the adhesive where required. I actually find hitting the tile with a rubber mallet is easier to do this with, but you need to be careful not to hit too hard. If you find you haven't laid enough adhesive, you'll have to fight the tile off the floor and adhesive and try again. Adhesive is sticky sticky messy stuff - so you'll have great fun ;)
You'll also want to make sure that the tile has full contact with the adhesive and there are no air pockets underneath. This causes a weakness in the tile and if anything was to ever fall onto that spot of the tile, it would be much more likely to crack. It's also really important if you have underfloor heating, as air pockets are less effective at allowing the heat transfer between the cables to the tile. You can usually tap onto the tile and hear air pockets beneath them - but generally speaking, as long as your adhesive is evenly laid and you've pressed the tile firmly into it, you shouldn't go too wrong.
You'll also want to make sure to clean up any tile adhesive that forces its way out into the grout line - if you don't, you'll have a nightmare trying to remove it once it's dry. I also recommend clearing up adhesive around the tile if you need to take a break - it dries faster than you think and you certainly don't want raised bits on the floor pushing the tile up higher than it needs to be.
A word of caution - tile adhesive never goes as far as you think it will - or it says. We ended up spending way more than we had planned! EEP.
Normally with tiling, you'd use spacers to evenly space out the tiles - but Limestone tiles aren't perfectly square, so spacers here wont work. I used my finger as a rough guide to space out tiles, but gaged how square it was to adjacent tiles by eye. Some of the grout gaps are smaller than others, some are slightly larger - but this is really the beauty of limestone and its natural look.
You can cut limestone in a few different ways - but I just used a wet tile cutter with a Diamond blade suitable for natural stone. This probably isn't the most recommended method unless you have a cutter recessed into a table, purely because the size and weight of limestone can make it difficult to manage pushing through the cutter. If you have the ability to recess your cutter within the table so the limestone can rest onto it, you'll find it much easier! Otherwise it's a bit of a balancing act - but is still totally do-able if it's all you have, like us! Although I will say, expect the blade to jam fairly often going through a particularly long cut. You can also use an angle grinder with a diamond blade, which gives you much more control over the cut and means you don't have to move the tile itself during cutting. I was really nervous about snapping the tiles, but we didn't have a single breakage. They're 22mm thick and are really very tough tiles!
Sealing LimestonePrior to grouting, it's recommended to seal Limestone so that any colourings in the grout don't affect the pores of the Limestone. I made sure to clean up any adhesive on the tiles (thanks to the dogs, this was quite a bit!) by using a carpet brush and hot water. It took quite some scrubbing, but it does come off, so don't panic if you do have some adhesive on the tiles. The sealant I've used is this one by Mattstone which leaves the tiles brilliantly water resistant leaving actual droplets on the tile and it really brings out the colour of the tiles with a shine too, although it didn't half stink the house out!
Grouting LimestoneFor wide and deep grout lines I thoroughly recommend using a wide-gap grout like this one (we're using the colour 'limestone') and using a grout bag with it. A grout bag is basically like an icing bag, but for grout. Instead of smearing grout all over the tiles and pushing it into the line, like you typically would when grouting - it allows you to fill up the grout line from the bottom, without making a mess. It also means you can ensure the lines are properly filled without any air pockets underneath which could eventually cause the grout to crack and crumble - which is obviously far more likely to happen with deep grout lines. It makes grouting SO much easier and I would seriously seriously recommend using one with Limestone. I actually made one from a bin bag when doing the hearth, but they're cheap to buy and fully washable, so well worth it in my opinion!
To smooth the grout out, I actually just used my finger. Probably not a recommended technique, but I couldn't find a large enough grout smoothing tool to use - and actually it worked really well and looks just as natural as the rest of the floor, plus it was totally free!
So this is the end result. I'm really really pleased with how it looks. Natural stone is said to only look better with age and it can really literally last a lifetime. Whilst the tiles were really reasonably priced, this was still a pretty expensive floor. At least, it is, in my opinions of expense. But it's age-less, won't date and is something I look at every day and just freaking LOVE. Sneak peak of kitchen counters at the side there (I lost all my original photos sadly!!)..
I should also mention one last quirky little feature we've added - which is a step. Since Limestone is 22mm thick and we're not having it in the dining room - there was a fair height difference between these two rooms. So to combat that we've made a wooden step. It's high enough to actually be an obvious step, rather than a tripping hazard and divides the two rooms quite well too. We were unsure whether it would work - but everyone on Instagram agreed it was the best option and they were totally right (as they always are)! So we've made this from just a regular length of CLS timber and chiselled out the underside so that it can sit flush against the tiles. It's quirky, but a nice little touch I think and it gives the room a bit more character!
So, I hope this helps anyone out there looking for affordable limestone flooring and how to DIY it as well. And hopefully this post clears up some of the many questions I get about the floor :) But if I've missed anything or you want to know more, please give me a shout! This limestone floor is the variation called Umbrian Limestone - but you can check out Cathedral Ash in this post as well.
What do you think? Do you love Limestone floors as much as I do?
(rounded to the nearest pound)
New Tools Purchased:
Blade for tile cutter £7
Grout Bag £7
Limestone Tiles £281 (excluding delivery costs)
Sealer - free from previous job