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If you think about it the general look of any house is very much determined by the floor. Unfortunately once a house is built it is a major exercise to change a floor and so we tend to put up with them as they are. It is, therefore, worthwhile taking the time to select floors with care and make sure they are installed properly.

Ceramic tiles

In western countries wood has been the material of choice for floors but with the worldwide loss of rainforests those beautiful hardwood floors will soon be a thing of the past.

Most floors here in Indonesia are, of course, made from ceramic tiles which are nice and cool, very wear resistant and easy to clean. Plain white has been the colour of choice for decades making houses look like mortuaries.

Choosing a colour

Have you ever noticed how many colours of white there are? Look at a paint colour chart and you''ll see what I mean. You can have white, “extra” white, “super” white, “broken” white, “off” white, “sooper dooper” white, “extra bright” white, “white with an extra bit of white in it” white and “this is so white you won't believe how white this is” white. In fact you can have any colour of mortuary you wish white.

In recent years, however, a vast range of colours and designs of ceramic tiles has become available and there are many many shops in Bali selling them. Find a shop that specialises in tiles and you'll be amazed at the variety. You'll find a pretty good range at Deta Bangunan on Jalan Gatot Subroto Barat.

Keep some spare tiles for repairs

If you build a house or install a new floor always make sure you buy enough tiles in the first place and that you keep a stock of spare tiles to replace ones that may get damaged in the future. Tile designs are constantly changing and you may find that a design of tile that was available in most ceramic shops one week has suddenly vanished never to return again. That friendly shop assistant will always promise that they will get some more but when you ask they are always coming “next” week. Like the old pub sign says “free beer tomorrow” tomorrow never seems to come.

Use non slip tiles

Tiled floors can be lethal when wet so, unless there is someone you may wish to do away with, avoid putting shiny ceramic tiles in outdoor situations where they are exposed to rain.

These days there are many styles of textured tiles available to provide none slip surfaces for bathrooms, showers and wet areas and, while the tiles used for local bathrooms tend to look a little spartan, you will find some quite luxurious textured tiles including very slip resistant styles with a sand like finish (be careful though they might take the skin off your nether regions if you get a bit amorous after a candle lit dinner)!

Granite tiled floors

In addition to ceramic tiles there are some excellent natural materials available here in Bali. The floors in my house are granite which has a natural look, is extremely durable and has a very smooth finish.

Indonesian marble floors

Indonesia exports a wide range of coloured marble to all corners of the world. Marble gives a luxurious look but be careful, it is not as hard as ceramic or granite and may wear, stain or damage. The shine can also be taken off by abrasive cleaners.

Stone floors

There are many types of stone available for flooring in Bali but care is needed, avoid porous stone for internal floors and uneven stones may look good but may cause you to trip.

Palimanan stone is very popular these days particularly for outdoor areas but my advice is to avoid it for floors. Palimanan is a white or light brown sedimentary rock similar to sandstone but much finer grained and softer. It gives a beautiful Greek temple look when it is new and clean but it has a tendency to show the after effects of that memorable orgy, the red wine stains, spilled coffee, scuff marks from black rubber.

Joints and grout between tiles

When installing a floor think carefully about the joints. Larger tiles mean fewer joints but may result in more wastage when cutting and laying the tiles. A good tiler will always plan carefully where the joints will fall. In a bathroom joints in the wall tiles should not clash with the joints in the floor. A clever trick is to install tiles with the joints running diagonally to relieve the “square” look in a room.

There are many colours of grout available too but some can look quite garish. A look in a few local bathrooms and you will see what I mean. Yellow tiles with green grout has a tendency to give you morning sickness.

Revitalising a tired floor

A trick to revitalise a “tired” looking floor is to scrape out the grout and renew it with fresh white grout, it is surprising what a difference it can make. Unfortunately cracked or chipped tiles are not so easy to repair.

The subbase

It is important to make sure when laying a floor that the base is prepared properly before the surface is installed. It is quite amazing how many floors in Bali have inadequate base preparation. Ideally floor tiles should have reinforced concrete under them to provide a stable crack and water resistant foundation.

Install a waterproof membrane beneath the floor

Finally it is well to note that in Bali few builders install waterproof membranes beneath floors, a friend of mine has had endless problems with moisture coming up through the attractive quarry tiles in his living room. These days he watches TV in his Speedos.

Copyright © Phil Wilson 2009
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