Ceramic Floor Tiling
These pages will show you the step by step procedure for installing a ceramic tile floor.
Although many of the general rules of installing tile apply to most any tile job, there are specific techniques that apply only to floors, and others that apply to countertops and walls - See our complete project planners for these.
- Safety glasses or goggles should be worn whenever power tools are in use and when chiseling, sanding, scraping or hammering overhead. This is very important for anyone wearing contact lenses.
- Wear ear protectors when using noisy power tools. Some tools operate at noise levels that damage hearing.
- Be careful of loose hair and clothing so that it does not get caught in tools; roll your sleeves up and remove jewelry.
- The proper respirator or face mask should be worn when sanding, sawing or using substances with toxic fumes.
- Keep blades sharp. A dull blade requires excessive force and can slip which causes accidents.
- Always use the right tool for the job. Repair or discard tools with cracks in the wooden handles or chips in the metal parts.
- Don't drill, shape or saw anything that isn't firmly secured.
- Oily rags are spontaneously combustible, so take care when you store and discard them.
- Don't abuse your tools.
- Keep a First Aid Kit on hand.
- Do not work with tools when you are tired. That's when most accidents occur.
- Read the owner's manual for all tools and understand their proper usage.
- Keep tools out of the reach of small children.
- Unplug all power tools when changing settings or parts.
Most Common Mistakes:
- Not using the proper backing as a base for the tile or not sealing the joints of the backing or underlayment well.
- Not laying out the tile correctly, thereby ending up with very thin tiles on the ends of the rows.
- Poor alignment of tiles so the job looks sloppy and out of line.
- Not using water-proof mastic when applying tile in moisture conditions.
- Poor adhesion of tiles to the mastic so the tiles can move or pull out of place.
- Not applying silicone caulk around the edges where there is a lot of exposure to water like around the tub or shower where the floor meets the edges.
- Tiling around the toilet not under it.
- Not allowing mastic to dry long enough before applying the grout.
- Not wiping the grout off before it sets up, making it a much tougher job of scraping the grout off the face of the tile.
- Not sealing the grout with a silicone sealer a few days after the grout has had time to cure.
- Not laying tile over a smooth, stout floor.
When you order your tile, make sure you have accurate measurements of the space. A plan drawn out on graph paper can be very helpful. Order 5 - 8 percent more tile than you need to allow for cuts and damage. Often the color of glazing will vary from shipment to shipment so if you have to go back later to get more tile you may find that the tile does not match exactly.
You'll also need to select the grout you'll need. Grout comes in different colors. If you decide to use a colored grout, be sure that it won't stain the particular tile you've selected. A practical consideration for kitchens might be that a dark grout does not show dirt as easily as a white grout.
- Tape Measure
- Tile Cutter
- Tile Nippers
- Glass Cutter
- Combination Square
- Framing Square
- Notched Trowel
- Rubber Mallet
- Floor Scraper
- Caulking Gun and Caulk
- Chalk Line
- Screwdriver or Can Opener
- Putty Knife
- Utility Knife
- Underlayment or Backer Board
- Proper Nails for Underlayment
- Spacers, if necessary
- Grout Sealer
- Grout Fortifier
- Before you start, clear away anything that will get in the way or get wet like rugs, towels, glass bathroom shelves, and other accessories.
- It's important to cover any drains that are in close proximity to the job with some tape so that debris won't fall down the drain and cause it to clog. For a sink, also line it with cardboard so as not to scratch it.
- Remove the baseboards as well as door and window trims by using a pry bar. Be careful not to damage the walls as you do this.
- Remove the faucet handles, escutcheons, shower heads, and spigots. Use a cloth between your wrench so as not to scratch these pieces.
- Remove the toilet. Don't ever tile around a toilet while it's in place. First, turn off the supply valve to the toilet. Then flush the toilet to drain off the water in the basin. Next, pull the little white caps at the base of the toilet off and with a small wrench undo the bolts that hold the toilet to the floor. Get some help to gently lift the toilet off the wax drain ring and put it aside on old newspapers and rags to soak up any excess water drops.
As for any cabinetry in place, it's generally easier to tile the whole floor surface rather than having to cut and fit around it, but you may decide in your particular situation to work around the cabinetry.
- When installing tile to the floor you will most likely be increasing the height of the floor where it will be necessary to cut the bottom of the door. To do this, first mark the bottom of the door by stacking two pieces of tile alongside of the door. This will assure you that the door will swing clear of your newly tiled floor.
- Proper backing for the tiling surface is very important. Backing for the tile floor may consist of exterior grade heel-proof plywood, lauan underlayment panel, mortar based backer board, or exterior plywood underlayment. It should be at least 11/4" thick over a minimum of 16" on center floor joists. Otherwise a "flex" can cause tile to pop out of place.
- If you are installing a new underlayment, it's recommended that you staple polyethylene plastic on top of the subfloor before you install the underlayment to ensure protection from water penetrating down to the subfloor.
- If applying a sheet of plywood underlayment, leave a slight gap between panels and about 1/4" along the edges to allow for slight expansion and contraction.
You can fill low areas with this quick drying patching compound using a wide application blade to create as flat a surface as possible.
- Stagger the joints of the underlayment in a brick-joint fashion and be sure that underlayment seams do not fall directly over existing subfloor seams. With whatever underlayment you use, except the backer board, slightly countersink or "dimple" all the nails.
Whatever you do, don't ever use particle board, flake board, or masonite as underlayment for ceramic tile and be sure that your surface is dry and clean.
- If you use a mortar based backer-board, seal the joints and seams with the proper joint compound and then seal with a moisture resistant bonderizer.
- You can lay tile over concrete, just make sure to give it a minimum of 28 days to cure. Vinyl tile can also be applied directly over existing tile or vinyl unless the vinyl is sponged backed. If the vinyl is glossed, you'll need to de-gloss it to get a proper bond.
- Before you start, when you are checking your materials, check the doorways to determine the tiles you'll need to finish the exposed edges properly. For example, if your finished floor level is going to be higher than the adjoining room or hallway, you should get bull nose tile to create a smooth transition. If the floor meets a carpeted edge where the levels are pretty much the same, then a regular square edged tile will probably be fine.