How to Lay Ceramic Floor Tile

DIY Ceramic Floor Tile Installation

Learn to install your own ceramic floor tiles. Grouting is the final step.

Ceramic floor tiles are made from a dust-pressed clay that is fired at high temperatures. Fully vitrified ceramic tiles are the most waterproof of all tiles, making them perfect for the wettest areas such as bathrooms. Ceramic floor tiles are not glazed; glazed tiles are normally too slippery unless the glaze has a roughened surface.

They may have decorative patterns or little studs on the surface for textural variation and slip resistance. Oxides, added during the manufacturing process, give these tiles the widest range of colors of any unglazed tile. including plain white.

Ceramic tiles are thinner than quarry or terracotta tile and their uniform thickness enables trouble-free installation. They can, if you prefer, be polished to give a more glamorous look.

What You’ll Need

  • For any ceramic tiling job, large or small, the materials you require are the same:
  • A notched adhesive spreader
  • Tile spacers
  • Grout plus a flexible spreader
  • Tape measure
  • Tile cutter, saw, and file
  • Pencil or felt tip pen
  • Sponges or cloths for wiping

Laying Ceramic Floor Tiles

  1. Before you begin, it is essential you set out the tiles in the room to check you won’t have any problems. Then you can begin laying:
  2. Mix up the tile adhesive according to the manufacturer’s instructions. You can add any special additives for greater flexibility if you are covering a wood floor. Tile adhesive has a limited pot life, about 20 minutes, so do not mix up more than you will realistically be able to use in your time available.
  3. Lay your first tile in the corner furthest from the door. In order accurately to position this tile, dry-lay a line of tiles from the centre line, and then draw a line at right angles to the centre line along the far edge of the whole tile at right angles to your guideline. Providing this line is parallel to the centre line the last tile you dry-laid is your ‘first tile’.
  4. Only spread the adhesive over an area of approximately 1sq m (1sq yd) at a time. Using the recommended side of a notched spreader or trowel, apply the adhesive to the correct depth, normally approximately 3mm (β…›in). Depending on the adhesive being used, it may be necessary to butter the back of the tile with adhesive as well.
  5. Press the tile into position with a slight twisting motion. It is important to bed the tile into the adhesive without any air gaps. For neat and even joints, usually 6-12mm (¼-½in.), use plastic spaces between the tiles.
  6. Continue laying the tiles in the first marked square, checking the tiles are level with a spirit level and straight edge. You need to work fast, as you have a very limited amount of time to reposition any tiles that are incorrectly laid. If any adhesive gets on the surface of a tile clean it off immediately with a damp cloth; ensure too that the joints are adhesive-free.
  7. When the first grid box has been laid, apply adhesive to the second and continue laying tiles along the far wall. Then complete the second row of squares and continue laying the tiles in rows of boxes, working towards the door. Allow the tile adhesive to dry thoroughly before walking on the tiles. Conventional adhesives usually need at least 24 hours although fast-setting adhesives can take only a few hours.

It will probably be necessary to cut tiles around the edges of the room to fit; if you lay the tiles on the diagonal, you will need to cut at least one in every two tiles. Ceramic tiles can be cut using a tile-cutting jig.

To determine where to cut a border tile:

  1. Place a whole tile over the last laid whole tile.
  2. To allow for a grout, place a tile on its side between this tile and the wall and place another tile up against it.
  3. Mark the middle tile with a soft pencil where the tile above it ends.
  4. Place the tile in the jig and cut along the marked line.
  5. Butter the back of the cut tile and press into position. Continue until all the border tiles have been laid, leaving the four corners until last in order to cut them accurately.

Grouting Ceramic Tile

When all the tiles have been laid and the adhesive is dry, fill the tile joints with a tile grout suitable for floors. Conventional grout is a powder mixed with water according to the manufacturer’s instructions. It is available in colors ranging from off-white to dark grey. For tiles laid over wood floors, remember to mix in a flexible additive.

For food-preparation areas an epoxy grout is a good idea because it is extremely hard and easily cleaned. Epoxy grout consists of two components that are mixed together, and then a powder filler is added to bulk it out.

  1. Pour the grout onto the surface and spread it into the joints with the aid of a rubber squeegee, working on small areas at a time.
  2. After 15 minutes, clean any excess grout off the surface with a damp cloth.
  3. Once the grout has hardened sufficiently, polish the tiles with a clean, dry cloth.

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