Woodfire Tiling

Measure out the area to tile

The wood fire supplier provided minimum distances and dimensions for the base. There were bases that could be purchased and placed over the carpet, but we did intend to replace the carpets with wooden floors, so it would be better to tile onto the cement. The covering that fitted over the carpet was almost $500 and not that rigid. We found out afterwards that slate tiles were available, but these are porceline tiles that look like slate. We had done some tiling in a previous life on another continent, so decided to do that bit ourselves.

Measuring out the tiles

Cut the carpet

After measuring out the area to tile, the carpet was cut with a utility knife. The location for the wood fire was chosen by the vendor. After a home inspection visit, the wall between the lounge and kitchen was not allowed due to too much wood in the roof, and the chosen location was arrived at with the vendor tapping the ceiling (from inside the roof), and me tapping the ceiling from below (on a ladder). When the tapping was coincident, a spot on the floor directly below was marked out, and the chosen fire barrier market out for tiling. Once cut, we were committed on this path.

Carpet being cut

Remove the carpet

After measuring out the area to tile, the carpet was cut with a utility knife. Not shown here, there was a lot of sand between the carpet and underlay, as well as below the underlay. All those years of walking in dust. At first I assumed it was to level the carpet as it was not the same colour as the sand around the house, but after some digging to get rid of generations of weeds, the wind blew away some top soil and self a fine silt, not too different to the collection under the carpet. So, carpets will collect dust no matter how well you vacuum the area.

The paint spill was from when the house was built. Probably never expected their handy work to be exposed to the world.

Carpet cut away ready for leveling pour

Drill holes for bonding

The floor was very smooth and possibly sealed, however, there was no obvious coating. To make sure that the floor leveling cement would adhere without lifting, small holes were drilled with a masonary bit, and the cement was chipped with a cold chisel. Afterwards, a sealer coat was painted on and allowed to dry before pouring the leveling cement.

The photo was taken from the opposite side to the one before and after.

Drill holes and ckip to key the surface

Floor Leveling Cement

Once the area to be tiled was partitioned off with duct tape, a mix of Dunlop floor leveling cement was poured in. The intention was to change the carpet for a wooden floor. That would be 18mm thick for the wooden floor boards, plus some epoxy sealer and an adhesive layer. The overall thickness was to be 22mm. The tiles were roughly 10mm thick, so the pour was just under 10mm to allow for tile adhesive.

Floor leveling cement bed

Wrong place

The tiles were laid, the installer brought the wood fire, placed a template on the chimney outlet, shot a laser vertically through a small hole drilled in the ceiling, and discovered the chimney would go directly through the valley in the roof, so it would have to move. Okay, back to tiling...

Wood fire delivery

Back to tiling

The tiles on the edge to be extended were removed. A Fein Master with diamond cutter was used to remove the grouting and cut a slot into the adhesive. A small cold chisel and hammer chipped off the tiles. There was a complete kit for tiling with the Fein Master machine, so the carbide foot quickly removed the adhesive.

Extending the tile area

Keying the surface

The carpet was removed for the additional area to be tiled. Small holes were drilled with a masonary bit (6mm) as before, and some shallow lines cut with a diamond cutter on an angle grinder. The cement surface was painted with a sealer and bonding agent before another pour of leveling compound.

Extending the tile area

Second leveling pour

The dried level surface ready for tiling. The boundary for the leveling compound was duct tape along the carpet edge and over a dowel or broom handle along the floor in the arch between the lounge and dining room.

Second leveling pour

Tiled to the wall

The tiles were extended to the wall. Shown here still with their plastic spacers. Grouting to come after the adhesive has dried out.

Tiling extended to the wall

Fast forward

The original intention was to put down a wooden floor. Prices varied and the decider was the puppy — fast becoming a large dog. Would the toe nails scratch the floor boards? We previously had American Oak floors and an Alsation (German Shephard) before migrating, and the floors did have a few minor scratches, but she was not a pup and did not run in the house. That would mean tiles throughout. The kitchen would really also need tiles rather than a wood floor, so we had to overcome the difference in heights of the tiles (the wood fire was raised for a final tile height of roughly 22mm). The solution was to cut the tiles in the middle to continue the pattern, and ensure the end edges were level.

Tiling continued to main floor

Interface to dining room

The boundary between the lounge and dining room was in an arch. There was also a height gap due to raising the slate coloured tiles. The arch was widened, which is shown in the gyprock section, and tiles cut to create a gentle slope between the two heights. The floor moulding was being attached by glue which explains the clamp.

The above two photos was taken some time apart and in very different lighting conditions, but the light coloured tiles were the same colour. If you take a careful peek, there is a running pattern in the light coloured tiles which was only discovered after we bought them. More on the major sorting later.

Tiling continued to dining room

Final resting place

The final placement of the wood fire shown here. There was a fan in the base of the unit, which was powered from a plug some way to the right. As part of the electrical work for the kitchen, which is behind the wall on the left, a plug was placed there for the wood fire fan. It would need a cover strip for the electrical cable to prevent slips.

Wood fire on tiles in final location

Another view

From behind the wood fire, the tiling extends into the lounge. This was taken when the house was empty before relocating to Queensland.

View of tiling in lounge

A peek into the lounge

Stepping past the wood fire, a view of the lounge tiling. There is a separate page for the lounge, but this is how the two areas joined. Would I have two different coloured areas if done again? Yes, as the darker tiles were more forgiving when dust spilled out during cleaning, or when making a fire.

View of tiling in lounge

How well did it work?

When we started looking into wood fires, there are so many conflicting pieces of advice. In the end, we bought a large unit as we figured it would be easier to put in less wood and have a smaller fire than to try and stuff more wood into a smaller space. We mostly used the fire box about half full and started a fire in the evening. Within an hour, the lounge and dining room were warm enough to open the passage door and the door between the kitchen and dining room.

Shown behind the wood fire are the remains of the arch and the dining room carpet before tackling that room! The arch reconstruction is on its own page. This was not part of the original plan!

Fire in action

Lessons Learned

The previous gas heater was in the rumpus room, and also heated the kitchen area. The main bedroom is next to the lounge, but the door from the hallway is past the entrance to the kitchen, so trying to open the door to let the heat get to the bedroom did not work. There was simply too large an area to heat. To channel heat from one room to another with fans in the ceiling or taking heat off a “heat exchanger” around the chimney was just too painful when all the possible dangers were considered. What if we pumped the bedroom full of carbon-dioxide, etc., etc. A simple solution to heat the kitchen was to have vents just below the ceiling along the lounge wall with small computer-type fans (12V and silent) to take hot air from the lounge and pump it into the kitchen. Space was allowed for in the kitchen design, but as custom electronics and sheet metal work would be involved, this was decided against due to possible maintenance issues if we were not the residents.

Having a fire in the middle of a walkway is not ideal, but it proved to heat up both rooms, and nobody burnt themselves on the woodfire. As a note to anyone considering a similar unit, the outside gets warm to the touch, but not enough to heat up a kettle or keep soup warm. There is a cavity below the top which is where air is blown over the fire box and exits through vents at the top as warm air. That is also why it is so effective and provides an even heat over a larger area than if purely convection heating without fan assist.