How to Lay Ceramic Floor Tile?
Ceramic tile is a popular choice for kitchens, bathrooms, and hallways due to its superior water resistance, durability, and simplicity. However, as with any flooring installation project, successful tiling requires preparation and a methodical approach. Luckily, this DIY job is one that homeowners can achieve without help if they have a solid substrate, a workable layout, and all the necessary tools at hand.
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First, it’s important to check the surface you plan to lay tile on for any imperfections that could make your tiling project difficult or fail completely. This includes checking that your subfloor is flat, structurally sound, free of oil and other stains, and smooth. If any of these problems exist, you’ll need to patch them with a waterproof patching compound before you start tiling.
Next, lay down a thin layer of the backer board. This is an underlayment that is used to prevent movement-related cracking of your tile and grout. It also serves as a support for your new tile.
Cement board is available at home improvement stores and in 3-by-5-foot sheets. The thickness of this board depends on the size of the room, and the manufacturer’s instructions will tell you how much to cut it.
After the backer board is in place, you can start laying the tile itself. Begin in the center of the room, or the transition area between one wall and another. Install full tiles in the first grid, and then fit perimeter tiles in each grid before moving on to the next. Leave a 1/4-inch space between the floor and the wall. Set tiles one at a time using a slight twisting motion, and insert tile spacers as needed to maintain even spacing.
Repeat this process until you have laid all of the full tiles in your chosen layout. Once you’ve done this, move to a second section and repeat the process until the entire area is covered.
If you’re tiling an outside corner, hold the tile against the wall and mark where it touches the wall and the corner. This will allow you to measure the tile and mark it with a pencil to create an X on the part of the tile that needs to be removed.
For straight cuts with waste that’s more than an inch wide, use a snap cutter to score the tile. Then break it away with nibblers or use a wet saw to slice the tile along the X line, up to but not past it.
Curve cuts are easier to make with a wet saw and may need more careful handling, but they can be made in a similar fashion. A scriber can be used for smaller curved cuts; pros in the field often use diamond hole saws for larger holes.
You’ll need a mortar mixer and a mortar trowel to mix up the mortar that you’ll use to anchor your tiles. Ideally, you’ll mix enough mortar to cover one grid area and have it ready to lay on the floor before you begin. If you’re not sure how much mortar to mix, loose-lay some tiles to test the consistency of the mortar. If the mortar is too thick, it will be too hard to push the tile into place. On the other hand, if it’s too thin, it will squish out of the way as you try to push the tile into place and won’t adhere properly.