Dealing with slippery floor tiles
The bathrooms in my house had already been tiled when I bought the house, and it looks as if the tile installer used slick, high-gloss wall tiles for the shower floor. Is there anything I can do short of tearing up the tile to make the floor less slippery?
Larry Becksted, Hayward, CA
Tom Meehan, a tile installer from Harwich, Massachusetts, replies: As you have obviously found out, glazed wall tile should never be used as floor tile in any situation. A shower floor that gets wet all the time is the worst possible place for wall tile.
There are three ways to remedy this situation. The first is to rip up the floor tile and start over. But this procedure can be difficult and risky. Every properly installed shower floor should have 2 in. to 3 in. of concrete base or mortar bed under the tile. The tile is then bonded to the base with thinset cement. Removing the tile cleanly without damaging the base is extremely difficult, and if you try to remove the concrete base along with the tile, you stand a good chance of ruining the shower pan.
The second solution is applying a product called Y-Slip (www.y-slip.com; 888-949-7547), which supposedly alters the molecular structure of the floor to increase traction. Applying Y-Slip is probably the easiest, most direct way to solve your problem, and certainly worth trying before you resort to more drastic measures. Y-Slip is a two-part product applied directly to tile. Application isn’t difficult, but you must follow the instructions to the letter. I’ve found that Y-Slip works about 60% of the time.
The third solution is to apply a layer of floor tile over the existing tile. It’s the trickiest solution, but it’s one that I use most frequently as a professional tile installer. I start this process by roughing up the surface of the existing tile with 50-grit sandpaper on a grinder to provide a good bonding surface for the new tile. Next, I apply the new tile over the old using either epoxy or a super-flex grade latex-modified thinset; both are available at tile-supply stores.
You didn’t mention the size of the wall tile on the floor, but I bet it’s the conventional 4-in. square tile, which offers very little slip resistance. Applying 2-in. floor tile would quadruple the grout lines, which would add a great deal of slip resistance.
The only other trick to this process is raising the drain plate to the level of the new tile layer. I simply remove the drain cover and build up under it with a layer of stiff thinset. This process takes a little patience, but it’s safer than chiseling around the drain to loosen it and then trying to unscrew the drain piece up from the pan.