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   Articles | How-Tos | Ask the Expert   

Installing ceramic tile
Animation Enhanced


Introduction

Ceramic tile floors offer a very attractive and durable alternative to other floor finishes. They come in many different sizes and colors to match the décor of any room and they can provide years of maintenance-free use. Additionally, ceramic tiles are fairly easy to install.

Ceramic tiles have one major prerequisite – you must have a smooth and rigid sub-floor to support the installation. Ceramic tiles are not flexible in the least, so they can crack if installed over a rough surface or thin sub-floor. Consider putting down ½-inch plywood to provide a better surface for the installation.

 

  • Beginner - 8 to 10 hours
• Intermediate - 7 to 9 hours
• Advanced - 6 to 8 hours
Always wear eye protection when working with power tools and striking tools.
 


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1.  We will begin this project by creating guidelines for the tiles on the sub-floor and doing a “dry run” – laying down the tiles without adhesive to see how they fit. Using a chalk line, snap a line perpendicular to the main entrance into the room. Use a square to make sure the line is perpendicular to the door. (Figure 1) You will start laying out the tile from the main door into the room because you want a full row of tiles visible when someone enters.
2.  From the door, lay tiles on the floor along the line you snapped. Use a spacer in between each tile. The spacer can be the side of another tile or another uniform object that will enable you to maintain identical spacing on all your tiles. (Figure 2)
3.  When you reach the other end of the room and can no longer put down a full tile, take a long 1" thick piece of wood and lay it perpendicular to the row of tiles. Use a screw gun to tack it in place. Now lay tiles next to this board going across the room in both directions. (Figure 3)
4.  Based on the amount of remaining space on the sides of the room, determine how much you need to shift the rows to achieve equal borders on both sides of the room. Snap a second line based on this measurement. (Figure 4) The intersection of second line and the board will become your starting point. The first snapped line is no longer needed.
5.  Using the notched trowel, apply a 2-foot square area of tile adhesive in the starting corner. (Figure 5)
6.  As you lay down each tile, work it into the adhesive. Use the spacer to make sure the tiles are spaced evenly. (Figure 6) Use a level to make sure the tile faces are flush. You can use a rubber mallet or a block of wood and a hammer to gently tap down tiles that are too high.
7.  Work your way back and forth across the room, covering 2-foot square areas at a time. Let all the full tiles set overnight. Once the adhesive has set, you can carefully walk on the tiles to cut and install the border tiles.
8.  To cut the border tiles, lay a tile exactly over the last full tile. Place your spacer against the wall. Now take another full tile and place it against the spacer with the edges lined up with the other loose tile. Make a line across the first tile. (Figure 7) This is the line you need to cut.
9.  To cut the tile, you can use a tile cutter or a glasscutter. To use a glasscutter, put a straight edge along the tile and score the line only once with the glasscutter. (Figure 8) Place the tile on the edge of a workbench and snap off the cutoff piece. (Figure 9) For complex cuts, you can use a tile saw or tile nippers.
10.  Once all the tiles are laid and the adhesive has set, you can proceed to the grouting phase. Mix the grout according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Apply the grout with a rubber float at a 45-degree angle, working it into the spaces. (Figure 10)
11.  Wipe excess grout off the tile faces with a sponge. Be careful that you do not dig the grout out of the spaces. (Figure 11) Once the grout has set, you can go back over the tile faces and clean off any remaining grout residue.
12.  To help the grout cure to a solid, resilient surface, mop the floor daily for the first 3 days. Allow the grout to cure for a full week. Then brush the grout with a silicone sealer.
 


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Shopping List

Materials Needed  
• 
Ceramic tiles
• 
Tile adhesive
• 
Grout
• 
Grout sealer
Tools Needed
• 
Tile cutter
• 
Chalk line
• 
Grout float
• 
Tape measure
• 
Rubber mallet
• 
Tile nibbler
• 
Notched trowel
• 
Level

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