How to Install Tile Flooring in Your Home

Tile Flooring Planning and Preparation

Learning to install a tile floor is not that hard for the do-it-yourselfer. Getting the layout right is probably the most challenging part.

Of all the hard-surface flooring materials available, tile, whether ceramic or natural stone, is one of the most popular in the modern home.

Tile is most commonly used in kitchens and bathrooms, where ease of cleaning is at a premium, but you could also use tile in the entry and, especially in warmer climates, tile may be used throughout the home.

Due to a range of manufacturing processes floor tiles offer a wide range of practical hard-wearing products suitable for domestic situations.

The ranges of colors and textures available, ease of cleaning as well as the ease of which the do-it-yourselfer can install them with, tiles are a very practical option when considering a hard-flooring material for your home décor design.

While many people would not consider trying to install their own tile flooring, the steps are actually quite easy to learn and aside from a tile cutter or wet saw to cut tiles, even the tools needed are fairly minimal. As with any home project it is essential to spend a little time and care on setting things out before you start to tile your floor if you are to prevent problems.

Measuring the Floor Space to be Tiled

Ordering the right amount of material is vital to ensure that there is sufficient to finish the job neatly as well as to compensate for inevitable wastage from mistakes and breakages. Take your time; double-check measurements and sums; and you will probably save both time and money.

It is always worth taking an accurate plan of your room to your supplier, who will know the best way to save material – particularly in awkwardly shaped rooms. However, rooms with square or rectangular walls without any interruptions along them are easy to measure. To calculate the area, simply measure the width and depth of the room and multiply one figure by the other; this is the number of square feet or meters to be covered.

Most areas have various obstacles: built-in cupboards, chimney breasts and alcoves. In order to include these in your estimate:

  1. First measure the width and depth of the unobstructed rectangle forming the room’s central part, and calculate that area.
  2. Then measure the width and depth of every recess and add these together to calculate the total area occupied by these recesses.
  3. Finally add this first figure to calculate the actual area of floor space to be covered in square feet or meters.

Estimating Tile Flooring Materials

Estimate how many of your tiles are required per square foot or meter and multiply that number by the number of square feet or meters in the room. Remember that you will have to cut tiles to fit at the edges. Estimate the number of extra tiles you will need by allowing enough to tile one additional strip along half the walls and then add a few more in case of breakages.

With larger, more expensive tiles it may be worth calculating if off-cuts can be used to prevent waste. Your final figure will have to be rounded up; tiles are supplied in boxes so you will probably have tiles left over.

Ask your supplier if unused materials can be returned for a refund; typically you will want to over-estimate so that you don’t have to order additional materials or make multiple trips to the home improvement center or supplier. On the other hand, you don’t want to end up with too much material left over other than a few tiles you might want to keep on hand in case repairs are needed down the road.

Planning Your Floor Tile Layout

It is essential to spend time on carefully laying things out before you start to tile the floor if you are to prevent problems. Tiles must not be allowed to go out of square, otherwise they will simply not fit together, and you must avoid ending up with an annoying little thin strip of tiles against the last wall.

The process for setting out your tiles is slightly different depending on the shape and style of the room. We will set it out in three sections: A regular room, an irregular room and how to set tiles with a border.

Laying out Tile for in a Regular-Shaped Room

  1. Measure along the two opposite shortest walls to find the midpoint of each and join these two marks together with a chalk line. Measure and mark 1 yard (36”) or 1 meter (39”) along this center line on each side of the middle point. Measure 1 yard (36”) or 1 meter (39”) from the center point at an estimated 90-degree angle. Measure the two diagonal lines between the marks on either side of the middle point and the 90-degree marks top and bottom, and adjust the latter’s position until these two diagonals both measure 1.415m (55¾ in).
  2. You now have an angle of 90 degrees at the top and bottom. A straight line from these points to the middle of the center line will meet the center line at 90 degrees. The diagonals can serve as guidelines for laying tiles diagonally at 45 degrees to the walls.
  3. Use the chalk line to join the midpoint of the center line with the 90-degree mark and extend this line across the full width of the room to mark the shorter center line.
  4. From these two lines, dry-lay a line of tiles up to each edge of the room to check that you will not be left with a thin strip of tiles at any point. If this happens, adjust the center lines by half a tile’s width to leave a decent border of tiles.
  5. To ensure that all the tiles are laid without going out of square, it is best to divide up the entire floor into a series of boxes of approx 1 sq m (1 sq yd), starting from the two center lines. The exact size of the ‘boxes’ will obviously be determined by the size of your chosen tiles.
  6. When laying ceramic or quarry tiles remember to allow for the grout: about 6mm (¼in) for the smaller tiles and up to 10mm (⅜in) for larger tiles.

Laying out Tile for in an Irregular-Shaped Room

The principle for setting out an irregular room is the same as for a regular room except that you work from the longest and straightest wall. Adjust the position of the center line so that a series of whole tiles can run from it to the longest wall. If the room is very out of square the final line of tiles (opposite the long, straight wall) will be cut at an angle and will vary considerably in their final size, but visually this is acceptable.

If the room is only slightly out of square you may find that you end up with a thin sliver of tiles that gradually diminish as the room narrows. If this is the case, you should adjust the center line by half a tile, so that you are basically working with half-tiles at the edge.

In rooms that are very irregular and have no obvious long wall, where to start to tile is really a matter of personal judgement. It is important to identify a feature in the room (a door, for instance) and align the tiles so that they run parallel to it.

If the room has a dominant feature, such as a range of kitchen units that are set out in a U-shape, run the center line through the ‘U’ to bisect it. Provided the center lines are at 90-degrees to each other, the tiles will always be square.

Laying Out Flooring Tiles with a Border

It is necessary to measure from the walls to establish the grid, but adjust the final position of the grid so that there is space for a border all the way around the room.

Either adjust the grid so that there are whole tiles laying against the border on two of the walls, or center the grid right in the middle of the room and cut all the tiles against the border all the way around the room, provided the cut tiles do not end up being too narrow.

Tile the center area first and finish by tiling the border. Tiles that are laid diagonally should be finished with a border that runs parallel to the walls.

No matter what, always dry-lay your tiles out first to check that your layout is going to work and that your cuts are on the mark where needed to fit odd shapes and spaces as needed.

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