Installing tile is really easy, installing tile well is really hard. Most DIY tile installers don’t do any prep-work, same as pest control, lack in keeping track of general flatness. This installing tile guide will go through the prep work stage, the cutting and setting tile stage, and the grout and finishing stage for wall and floor tile. For more information, and help on designing tile layouts visit the Tile design Ideas page.
Prep work on a floor comes down to flatness, more than levelness. If the floor your going to tile has a general slope one way then it is sometimes impossible to get the floor level, so just work getting the floor flat. There are situations where it is possible to make the floor level then go ahead and do so if the situation calls for it. Getting the floor flat means with a level checking for dips and filling them with floor leveler. Also check for hills and sand them out with a belt sander.
Whether tiling floors, or walls always use a backer board meant for tile. On the floor I usually use a 1/4″ tile backer unless I’m trying to match a higher floor level in another room. Common practice is to thin-set the backer down and generously nail it to the floor with roofing nails. I don’t use screws because when you have to demo the same floor in 10 years it will actually come up.
Prep work on walls does come down to shimming the wall flat, but unlike floors the wall being plumb is important because out of plumb wall can be seen in the tile cuts. Get the walls flat and plumb with a level and drywall shims, and in some bad cases sister on new plumb 2×4 to the existing studs. The tile backer is then nailed, or screwed to the studs, and you are ready to do layout.
Tile backer on floor
Doing tile layout involves laying out the tile and tile trim and making sure the paper plan actually matches reality. Some general cuts can be made at this time if wanted before mixing up thinset. On the floor figure out what wall you want to square to, and whether one wall gets full tiles, or your starting in the middle with cuts at both ends. I usually try to put full tile on the most visible spots like a door entrance. Walls need laid out to where niches and windows interact the tile and the decorative aspects. keep in mind that some tile trim that bumps out will play havoc with shower glass. Snap chalk lines to guide in laying the tile, clear wood finish from a spray can will waterproof the chalk lines so they don’t disappear.
Time to set up the Tile saw, and mix up some thinset
The type of thinset used depends on the type of tile being used. Read the recommendations on the bag of thinset for your type of tile whether natural stone, ceramic, porcelain, or glass. There are special epoxy thin-sets for bonding to certain materials like green marble, ask your supplier if a special thinset is need with your specific tile. Follow the directions for your thinset brand as far as mixing consistency and thickness. Usually thinset is mixed well with a strong drill, and paddle mixer to the consistency of cake icing, or peanut butter. Mix the thinset well, let stand for 5 minutes and mix again then it’s ready for tiling.
Cutting tile is really easy with a good wet tile saw
If a new tile saw is not in the budget then consider renting one for the job. Cutting large tiles especially on the diagonal calls for the bigger 10″ blade saws. Take your time and get the cuts perfect and the tile job will show it. Use a tile marking crayon to mark your measurements and the water from the saw won’t wash away your mark when cutting.
Set the tile by spreading thinset on the tile as well as the surface with a notched tile trowel. Putting thinset on the tile as well as the backer allows for plenty of squishing to play with the heights of the tile, and also guarantees good adhesion. Always check for general flatness with level, or strait edge. I’m sure the grout joint gaps were determined in the design stage, using spacers helps keep everything perfectly gaped. I usually gap natural stone tile a 1/16″ , or 1/8″ gap, and ceramic tile a 3/16″ gap.
Let Tile set up 12 to 24 hours before grouting. Push the grout into the grout joints with a grout float and scrape off the excess. Don’t get too much ahead of yourself and let the grout dry too much before starting to clean off the grout with tile sponges. Clean the sponges in a bucket of water after every wipe too make sure everything gets clean enough. If there is a cloudy haze after everything is dry the buff with a cloth to remove any residue. Natural stone tile will need to be sealed as well as the grout joints after 36 hours of dry time, or longer if recommended on the sealer bottle.
The custom shower pan is a whole different guide, which I will save for a blog article. The shower pan we did in this picture is a morter bed that is ready for Kerdi membrane used in the Schluter shower floor system.
A well done tile job can last a very long time, but styles change and most jobs get torn up with in 10 years to stay in style. So much for workmanship, it is because of this it is worth considering ease of demo in the tile installation procedure. If there is a lot of movement in your house some cracks are very possible no matter how the job was done.
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