Learning how to install ceramic or porcelain tile flooring can save you a lot of money if you decide to remodel your home yourself, and the results can be as good as if a professional installed it. However, it’s a project that requires a certain amount of preparation, some tools and time to get everything perfect. The complexity of the project will depend on how you want to lay the tiles (traditionally or diagonally across the room) and whether you need to cut out holes to accommodate radiator pipes, or other integrated furniture.
Things You’ll Need
Besides a generous assortment of tiles (always buy some spare in case some get broken or damaged while cutting them) you will also need:
- Tile adhesive
- A notched trowel
- A tile scored and a diamond hole saw
- Grout (and optionally, grout sealer)
- A rubber float
- A tape measure
- A level
- Chalk and pencil, or other washable media to mark the floor and tiles
- In order to clean the tiles afterwards you will need a bucket of warm water and a sponge.
Preparing the Floor To Lay Ceramic Tiles
You can lay ceramic tiles on concrete or over timber deck. In order to lay ceramic tiles on concrete, you will need to make sure the floor is perfectly even, clean and dry. If the floor is uneven, you will need to apply a self-levelling compound to fill in gaps and holes, following the manufacturer’s instructions. Make sure you leave it to dry for as long as required, which is usually overnight. Use a coarse sandpaper block to smooth any remaining ridges.
If you are laying porcelain tiles over timber floorboards you will need to first fix a layer of plywood to the floor of at least 12mm thickness. You can just screw it down to the timber before you lay your tiles.
If any doors to the room open inwards you will need to remove them and may need to adjust their height as tiling will change the height of the floor, and the door may not fit anymore.
Do A Practice Tiling Run
If you want your new floor to look as professional as possible, you will need to carefully plan the layout so the rows are straight and evening spaced. Start at the room’s door, as that first row of tiles is the most visible. To get your new ceramic tiles to align perfectly, draw a perpendicular line to the doorstep using chalk, and starting laying your tiles (without adhesive!) following that line to the other side of the room. A spacer can be used to ensure the tiles are evenly spaced.
When you reach the other side of the room, you will find yourself with space for less than a whole tile. Draw a chalk line perpendicular to the tiles and check that the space between the chalk line and the wall is the same at both ends of the room. If that’s not the case, your room is not perfectly square, and you should adjust the line so the ending tiles on both ends of the room are of the same size.
Place all the tiles without gluing them, and check that you are happy with the pattern.
Laying Ceramic Tiles
You can start laying the ceramic tiles on the floor at the point where the two chalk lines intercept. Using a notched spreader apply adhesive to a square area of the floor of about 3×3 tiles wide (though as you get quicker at laying tiles you may want to increase this to 4×4 tiles). Fix the tiles to the adhesive, using spacers to make sure the space between tiles is the same.
With a spirit level check that the tiles are level (check each row across and diagonally). You can lower tiles that are too high placing a bit of wood and hammering softly on it, but tiles than are lower than the others will need to be removed, and reinstalled with extra adhesive.
Leave the adhesive to set and do not step on the tiles. You will need about 24 hours for the tile adhesive to cure enough for grouting.
Preparing Tiles For The Border
You will most likely need to cut some tiles to size so they fit snuggly against the walls. You can measure tiles exactly by laying them upside down over your last full tile row, and marking them. Then you can cut them with a tile cutter or saw.’
Mix the grout following the pack instructions. Depending on the effect you are after, you can choose a grout mixture that dries on a contrasting colour to your tiles, or one that blends with them. This process is very similar to installing vinyl floor grout.
Using a rubber-edged squeegee held at 45-degree angle fill the spaces between tiles with the grout, after removing the spacers. You can use a damp sponge to remove any stray grout that falls on the surface of a tile, but be really careful not to remove the grout you just applied in between the tiles!
Once the grout has cured you can use warm soapy water to clean up the floor, just make sure to use products suitable for the type of grout and ceramic tile you installed. Some people prefer to use a grout sealer at this point to make sure bacteria and dirt can’t enter the porous grout. If you are installing ceramic tiles on kitchen or bathroom surfaces this step is advisable for hygiene reasons.