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Flooring Installation Workshop: Tile Floors

Posted: Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Tile floors have many advantages. They are incredibly durable, outlasting any other floor aside from stone. The beauty of tile floors is exceptional. Tile works equally well on a floor or on a wall or even a ceiling. And while mastering tile is a career, the basic techniques can be learned in a few simple projects.

This small contribution is intended as a jumping-off point to help you find direction. Use it like a primer to see if your tile project is something you can attempt on your own.

Tools are simple and inexpensive: you need a tape measure, chalk line, rubber mallet, level, tile cutter and tile nipper, notched trowel and grout float. Quality knee pads are also highly recommended. (Trust me on this one.)

The materials list (aside from the tile itself) is even shorter: tile adhesive, tile spacers, grout and grout sealer, and a sponge for grout cleanup.

The first step is floor prep. Concrete is a good substrate for tile, provided it is thoroughly cleaned and free of old adhesives. For most floors, backer board is essential, with its own set of installation needs.

Begin by laying out your project. Measure the room so that partial tiles are split evenly. You'll start laying the first tiles in the center of the room and work your way to the sides. That way, you're cutting the last tiles on both ends/sides of the room, rather than having one funny-looking tile on one end, and a whole tile on the other. Remember to calculate the tile layout including the space between tiles. Chalk lines establish starter rows.

Using the trowel, drop a ball of adhesive large enough to be used up in less than 30 minutes. Using the notched edge, spread the adhesive, leaving your chalk lines barely visible.

Set full tiles first, starting at the center, leaving all partial tiles around the perimeter until last. Tiles are set by pressing down, then wiggling them to work the tile into the adhesive. Use the level to check your edges and prevent lipped edges between tiles.

The last tiles to set are at the edges. These are cut with the tile cutter and shaped with the nippers.

Grout can be applied after 24 hours. Its worked in with the rubber grout float and cleaned off the tops of the tiles with a damp sponge. A grout sealer is the last step, protecting your work from water and spills.

As you can see, this is not a complex project. It requires time and patience. It can be done by an ambitious DIY-er, and the dramatic effect of tile for the effort involved is quite worth it.