A Question about Entryway Tile

Sometime in the next couple weeks, we’re going to have all of the hardwood floors refinished. We considered doing this project ourselves, but after getting a couple of quotes, and considering the amount of time it would take us to 1) figure out how to do it ourselves and 2) actually do it ourselves, it just makes sense right now for us to hire someone to do it for us. Mel is heading out of town for a week in a bit, and she’s taking 10-month-old KP with her, so it seems like a perfect time for us all to clear out of the house for a few days and let the professionals tackle this one.

But now I have a question that I need help from the great & wise internet to answer:

What should we do with our entryway?

Our entryway is about 4’x6′, and this is what it has looked like since we bought the place:

Dated Tile

This really dated tile is typical ceramic tile laid down directly on top of the original hardwood floors. They are in rough shape. Many of the tiles have been loose and falling off. Also, it’s kind of awkward that the coat closet just off the entryway is still the original wood, resulting in an awkward island of hardwood:


Yesterday, we took a couple hours yesterday and removed the old tile. It came right up since it was falling off anyway. Some of the old mortar was still stuck to the floor, but it was in pretty poor shape, too. We took a belt sander to it and it pretty much came right off. We had no trouble sanding right through it to the original hardwood. We didn’t put much effort into the sanding it since we figured we’d just let the professionals do it when they sand the rest of the floors anyway. Here’s what it looks like right now:

Original Hardwood Entryway

So here’s my question for all of you DIY’ers out there: What should we do now?

Here are the options I’ve come up with:

1) Refinish the entryway to match the rest of the hardwoods everywhere else on the main floor. The wood looks like it’s in surprisingly good shape for being directly in front of a door in Minnesota where it was undoubtedly soaked by snowy boots hundreds of times. We won’t know for sure if the pros will be able to get all the mortar off until they try it, but I think this is a realistic option. However, we kind of want tile here, since this is where we will put all of our snowy boots.

2) Place new tile directly over the existing hardwoods. Any pro tiler will advise against this, arguing that the the hardwoods expanding and contracting will cause the tile to break up. The good part about this option is that it doesn’t raise the finished height of the floor too much…

3) Place new tile on new backerboard over the existing hardwoods. This would provide a solid bet for tile, but would raise the finished floor a full inch (or more) above the hardwoods. We might have to cut off the bottoms of the two doors there to provide clearance (and since one of the doors is an exterior door, we’d have to compensate for a shorter door by doing something to the threshold.

4) Remove the hardwoods in the entryway. This would allow us to provide a proper base for the tile. The drawback is just that we’d have to remove some of the original hardwoods. I can hear the sound of tears falling from thousands of old-house-lovers already!

A related question: regardless of which option we choose, what should we do about the connected coat closet? Tile? or leave it hardwood?

What do you recommend, internet?

18 thoughts on “A Question about Entryway Tile”

  1. If this wasn’t your main point of entry, I would have said “leave it”! But…since it IS your main entry, I think you’re doing the right thing. I would personally take out that section of wood, throw in a subfloor, and tile over that.

    The floor at all three points of entry in our house is wood, and it’s in just brutal shape. I’m hoping to add on a mudroom at some point in the back so that we can keep the mud and water out!

  2. Have you considered just making a tile “doormat” just the width of the door and about 2.5′ deep? It’ll leave a landing pad for the snowy/wet boots in the winter, and fix the problem of the tile island, as the wood will wrap around it and flow into the closet.

  3. I vote for hardwood. Get a rubber-based door mat for when you walk in and a plastic tray to set boots in while they dry.

    If you tile I would cut out the hardwood and tile the closet too. I’m not sure your door would fit over option #3.

  4. I have pine throughout, so I just have a big carpet that acts as a boot tray at the front door. My floors are treated with Waterlox, and haven’t become damaged through the numerous winters I’ve been here.

    However, it’s only me and my husband (no children). I figure, though, my wood floors have survived fine for 100+ years..

  5. I vote for “refinish to match.” And I agree- pick up a nice mat with rubber backing. We have fir and oak on our main floor, including our entry way. We get plenty of rain in the Pacific Northwest, and are quite happy with using a rubber backed mat.

    I think tile might give it a modern look. Maybe if you’re going for something modern, a nice slate tile would look good, too.

  6. Talk to the person refinishing your floors. If they are confident they can match them up, then KEEP THEM!!!! I don’t think it should be a problem for them and you’ll be surprised with the results. Growing up our house was wood throughout and we never had a problem with the entryway wood getting worse worn down than other parts of the house. Just have a solid rug to throw over it (at least) when weathers bad.

  7. so far as i see you have three options, with them in order of best to worst in my opinion.
    1. tile over the hardwood with schluter’s newer, thinner ditra membrane. you’ll gain less height, you’ll have a crack isolation membrane (no cracking grout due to movement) and it’ll be waterproof. tile is ideal for this area in your region and you’ll only add about 1/8″ – 3/16″ relative to the old tile height. the ditra is 1/8″ thick and needs to be set in a thin layer of thinset.
    2. take out the hardwood and keep it in the attic. use concrete backerboard and install tile on top.
    3. sand and finish the hardwood. it may look nice a little more weathered, but i’d worry about how it would hold up to getting wet all the time.

    the ditra membrane is spendy, but you might find a place that sells it by the foot. noble company (maker of nobleseal) is another manufacturer that makes uncoupling/waterproof membranes. i have no experience with them, but hear excellent things about them from tile contractors and they are US-based so that’s always nice. the first choice would mean less down time, which is important given where this is in the house, and would perform well for a long time.

  8. looked into the nobleseal specs a bit more. if it were me, and i were really worried about adding height to the space, i’d go with this product: http://www.noblecompany.com/Portals/0/PRODUCT%20INFO/Product%20Descriptions/NobleSeal%20TS%20Product%20Decription%200112.pdf
    it functions as both a crack isolation and waterproofing membrane yet is less than 1mm thick. i’m pretty certain you’re also able to use modified thinset in both the bonding coat under the membrane and in the tile bedding coat on top of the membrane. schluter products are more specific about when you can use modified thinset and that can be a pain if you don’t constantly keep several kinds of thinset in your inventory.

  9. Reuben, I’m with Mike. IMHO, I think you’re best off with just sanding the floor and applying a polyurethane. Even if it doesn’t match the other wood in terms of color, it’s still fine. In fact, a slight mismatch is ‘character.’ We had hardwood in our current home and you just learn to deal with the weather. If you have a side or rear entrance, you can always use that when the weather is rough. But, you should be fine with an absorbant welcome mat at the front anyway. Leaving the wood is cheap too. All you need is a sander and some poly. Your other options are all good choices too and it sounds like you’ve put a lot of thought into it. Good luck!!

  10. I guess maybe we don’t have to make this decision immediately, right? Like I said, the wood is actually in pretty decent shape right now. If I’m worried that snow melt will wreck the floor in front of the door, we could always just refinish the floor now, and leave it that way for the next 20 years, and swap it out for tile after it becomes damaged.

  11. I vote for keeping the hardwood, for exactly the reason you gave in your last comment – if the wood is still in good shape, might as well give it a chance. See how long it lasts, and then if/when you have to replace it, you’ll have better data for making the decision.

  12. Thanks for the input everyone. We’ve got some people here now refinishing the floors. We’ve decided to refinish the floors in the entryway and just give it a shot for a while. Worst case scenario is that we wreck the floor and have to replace it with tile in a few years.

  13. New here, but my 2 cents: look into skimstone, you can do some beautiful designs with it. Go to royal design studios for some info & ideas.

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