Durable and practical, a tile floor is a great way to improve the look of your home. Ideal for kitchens, bathrooms, and more, floor tile can be installed in a variety of decorative patterns. The most common is a basic grid which provides a clean, classic look. Whatever pattern you choose, you don’t need to be a pro to install floor tile on your own. All you need are some basic supplies and a little patience. Here’s what you’ll need for this project:
- Tape Measure
- Chalk Line
- Notched Trowel
- Rubber Mallet
- Needle Nose Pliers
- Grout Float
- Cement Board
- 1-1/4” CMT Board Screws
- Sub Floor Adhesive
- Thinset Mortar
- Tile Spacers
- China Markers
- Grout Sealer
When taking on this DIY task, be sure to equip yourself with the proper safety gear.
Prepare subfloor. In order to have a nicely-tiled floor, you’ll first need to make sure your subfloor, the rough floor underneath your finished floor, is smooth, level, stable, and clean. Once your subfloor is properly prepared, measure the area to calculate how much material you’ll need. Since tile can crack easily, purchase at least ten percent more than you need in case some break during installation. If you have tiles leftover, they can be used for repairs down the road.
Install cement board. Before you begin tiling, you’ll need to install cement board. To do this, apply adhesive to the back of the cement board, then lay it in position on the floor. Lining up joints can produce weak spots on your floor. To avoid this, try to stagger the cement board joints and the subfloor joints as you work, keeping a quarter-inch gap along the walls. Secure in place with cement board screws, placing a screw every six to eight inches.
Create a grid. Measure your walls to find their midpoints, then use a straight edge and chalk line or a pencil to create reference lines according to the center of the room. This will divide your room into four quadrants. Lay your tiles out to get an idea of how they’ll look. Then, start thinking about where you’d like to begin tiling. Some prefer starting at the center of a quadrant, a method that often works well with square tiles. Others prefer to start tiling at the most visible corner of the room, which can minimize the look of cut pieces.
What you choose all depends on your preference and the type of tile you’re using. Whatever method you select, it’s best not to step on a freshly tiled floor, so be sure to end with tiles next to an exit.
Prepare mortar. Prepare your mortar according to manufacturer’s instructions. Be careful not to overmix your mortar, as doing so will cause it to harden. After mixing, let it sit for five to ten minutes. If it starts to harden as you work, discard that batch and start with a fresh one.
Apply mortar. Once you’ve established your starting point, begin spreading the mortar on the floor in small sections. Use the notched edge of your trowel to create lines in the mortar. Work in sections, being careful not to spread too much mortar at once. Check with your tile’s manufacturer to determine what size notches are best for the tile you’re using. In general, larger tiles or uneven stone require a larger trowel with notches half an inch deep. We used a quarter-inch trowel for this wood-look tile.
Lay first tile. Now that your mortar is spread and furrowed, position your first tile. When setting tiles that are an eight-inch square or larger, give each tile a slight twist to set it into the mortar.
Place spacers. To keep spacing consistent between your tiles, use plastic spacers at the corner of each tile. Place two spacers upright on each side of the tile. Placing them this way will make them easier to remove later.
Continue laying tiles. Lay two to three tiles at a time, placing each one tightly against the spacers. Step back to make sure the pattern is properly aligned. Repeat this process, and using a damp sponge, clean any excess mortar from the top of the tiles as you work.
Cutting tiles. If you need to cut your tiles, there are several tools you can use. A wet saw is the easiest and will provide the most precise cuts. A manual tile cutter can also be used, but can be time-consuming. Tile nippers are useful for small cuts around pipes and other uneven shapes. A sanding stone can also be used to smooth any rough edges. Whatever method you choose, be sure to double-check your measurements before cutting.
Placing cut tiles. For smaller cut tiles, it’s often easier to place them with a method called back buttering. To do this, apply mortar directly to the back of a cut tile instead of the floor. Using the notched edge of the trowel, furrow the mortar on the back of the file, then press it into place.
Hammer in place. Starting from the center, gently tap each tile with a soft rubber mallet to evenly press it into the mortar. Tiling is a delicate process. Be careful not to use too much force, as you may accidentally break the tiles.
Check for level. Place a level across several tiles to ensure they’re the same height. The bottom of the level should be flush with all the tiles you are inspecting. Use a mallet to make any adjustments. If necessary, remove the tiles and add additional mortar.
Remove spacers. After finishing your first section, use needle nose pliers to carefully remove spacers before mortar completely hardens.
Repeat. Now that you’ve successfully completed your first section, inspect joints and remove any excess mortar. This task is much easier to do before the mortar hardens. Once you’re satisfied, move onto the next section. Continue until you’ve set the final tile.
Apply grout. Let the area dry for 24 hours, or according to manufacturer’s instructions. Mix your grout and let it sit for ten minutes. Refrain from mixing too much at one time. Apply the grout onto your tiles with a rubber grout float, wiping diagonally, and making sure that all spaces between the tiles are being filled.
Clean tiles. Let the grout dry for 10 to 20 minutes, then wipe away any excess. Do this gently, as wiping too hard may remove grout from between your tiles. Repeat this step several times using clean water each time. As the grout dries, a haze may develop. A final wipe should remove this.
Apply sealer. Allow your grout to fully dry per manufacturer’s instructions. Apply grout sealer to the tile joints using an applicator bottle or a foam brush.
Your floor is now fully tiled, and you did it yourself.
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Remember to use lateral or straight lines in the mortar, don’t swirl it.