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Install Floor Tile

A tile floor adds style to any room. It's also durable, easy to clean, and a project you can take on with confidence.

Tools & Materials

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Preparing to Install Floor Tile

First, make sure you have prepared the subfloor properly before you begin laying tile. Before beginning, remove tiles from the different boxes and randomly mix them to ensure that minor color differences don’t form an unwanted pattern in your new floor. Keep in mind that floor tiles should be laid with the first tile centered in the middle of the floor, working onward from that.

 

Instructions

Step 1

Mix the polymer-modified thinset mortar in a bucket to the consistency recommended by the manufacturer.

Step 2

Spreading the Mortar.

Starting at the reference line cross in the middle of the room, spread the mortar with the thin side of the trowel in areas about 3 feet by 3 feet. Make sure that the reference lines are not obscured.

Step 3

Combing the Mortar.

Apply the mortar using the notched side of the trowel held at a 45 degree angle. Comb the mortar in one straight direction to ensure uniform application.

Step 4

Remove excess mortar with the trowel and return it to the bucket.

Good to Know

Some ceramic tiles have spacers built into the tile itself.

Installing Floor Tile

Instructions

Step 1

Laying the First Tile.

Lay the first tile square at the crossing of the reference lines. For best results, lightly press and twist the tiles to set them in the mortar.

Step 2

Place tile spacers at the edges of the first tile.

Step 3

Tiles with Spacers.

Continue laying tiles in the same manner along the reference lines, then add spacers.

Step 4

Leveling the Tile.

Once you have completed a work section, use a rubber mallet and carpenter’s level to level the tile.

Step 5

Remove any excess mortar with a damp sponge.

Step 6

Continue applying thinset mortar and laying the tile in work sections in the same manner. Make adjustments as needed so the tiles are aligned straight, especially along the longest dimension of the room where variations will show.

Step 7

Apply thinset mortar and set the cut tile in position. Add tile spacers as needed.

Step 8

Allow the thinset mortar to dry for at least 24 hours or as recommended by the manufacturer before continuing.

Good to Know

For tiles that are 12 inch by 12 inch or larger it’s a good idea to back-butter or flat-coat the backs of the tiles with thinset prior to setting the tiles.

Cutting and Fitting the Tile

As you near cabinets, doorways, walls, and other flooring stops, trim tiles as needed for installation. Use a tile cutter for small, straight cuts. Use a tile saw (rentable) if necessary for cutting numerous or thick tiles. For making curved cuts, you can use tile nippers. If the tile is too thick for nippers, try the following method:

Instructions

Step 1

Mark the curve on the tile.

Step 2

Make relief cuts with a tile saw.

Step 3

Snap off the pieces with tile nippers.

Step 4

Use a file to smooth down the edges. Use a tile edging strip along carpet, wood flooring and other entry ways. Just spread the thinset, then set the strip in the mortar. The tile will hold it in place.

Good to Know

Remember to cut tiles an extra 1/4 inch smaller at the edge of the flooring to allow for mortar and expansion.

Smoothing Breaks in Tile

Jagged Edges: Use tile nippers or pliers to nibble off the uneven edge of a broken tile.

Rough Edges: Use a round file to smooth rough edges of areas that have been nibbled away.

Cut Edges: If a straight-cut edge shows, rub it against a sheet of 80-grit aluminum oxide sandpaper to round and smooth the edge.

Grouting a Tile Floor

Instructions

Step 1

Remove the tile spacers from between tiles.

Step 2

Mix the grout following the manufacturer’s instructions. Make sure you use the proper water-to-mix ratio for a paste-like consistency.  (If you have well water, purchase distilled water to mix the grout.)

Step 3

Applying the Grout.

Apply the grout into the joints, then diagonally across the joints with a rubber grout float, removing as much excess as possible.

Step 4

Allow the grout to dry for 20 minutes or as recommended by the manufacturer.

Step 5

Wiping the Grout Lines with a Sponge.

Wipe the grout lines in a circular motion with a sponge and water to set the grout just below the tile surface. Follow up with a grout haze remover to clean the tile.

Step 6

Once the grout is installed, avoid heavy traffic on the floor for at least 72 hours to allow the grout to dry.

Step 7

Wait approximately three weeks for the grout to cure completely before sealing the grout.

Step 8

Applying Grout Sealer to the Joints.

Apply a grout sealer to the joints following the manufacturer’s instructions.

Step 9

Installing the Trimwork.

Install any trimwork or transition strips.