Ceramic tile is one of the most durable and easy to maintain floors you can install. Aside from the physical labor, which isn't that bad, ceramic tile is quite easy to install. Keep reading to find out how.
brief how to
If you are installing over concrete just make sure the floor is flat, if there are any major dips in the floor you will want to fill them with a self leveling floor patch. If there are any major bumps you will need to rent a concrete grinder and flatten them out. If you are installing over a wood sub floor you will want to attach cement board to the floor before installing tile. A complete description of how to install cement board is found in the article Installing Backer Board On Floors For Floor Tile.
Layout the tile lay lines by coming off the wall at least one tile width and making a line parallel to the wall or other desired direction of the tile (angled). If you are starting with full tiles at a doorway then mark the line across the doorway and then another line into the room one tile space away. Make another line perpendicular, 90 degrees, to the first line. You will also want to determine where the tile will layout from in the other direction and make the second line a full tile width away from that starting line.
Measure the square footage of the room by multiplying the length by the width in feet. Add 10% to this number to determine how much tile to order. The 10% is for waste from pieces you will cut and for breakage.
cutting by saw: Cutting tile is simple when using the right tools. Tile sawa cut tile very well. It is important to always have water on the saw blade when cutting. Without water the blade and tile will heat up and cause damage to the blade.
cutting by scoring: A scoring tile cutter also cuts tile very well. It works by scoring the surface and then putting pressure on the two sides to snap the tile along the score line.
nippers: Nippers are used to dlip off small pieces of tile at at time. this tool will help create odd shaped cuts on tile like a circle around a toilet floor flange. They are used by clipping small pieces with each clip of the tool. When too large of a bite is taken you run the risk of creating a large crack across the tile. It is wise to practice on a scrap piece of tile to determine how your tile will interact with the nippers.
Mix: Mix the thinset according to the instructions on the bag. Remember to let it sit for 10 minutes after mixing it and then mix it up again for a few seconds before using it. This breaks the inital "set" of the thinset and gives you more working time.
Spread: Spread the thinset using the notched trowel. Spread an area that is small enough for you to reach over to set the tile without kneeling in the thinset. When starting you should start by applying thinset 1/2" from the layout lines on the floor. This helps you see the line when setting the first row of tile.
back butter: Apply thinset to the back side of the tile using the notched trowel. Back buttering creates a much stronger bond between the tile and cement board. Only back butter to within 1/2 inch of the tile edges, you don't want thinset squishing up into the tile joint.
tip: Use a sponge to moisten the back side of the tile before backbuttering. This keeps the tile from absorbing the moisture from the thinset too quickly thus reducing the bond.
Lay the tile on the line(s). Try to lay the whole line first and work your way back and forth across the line toward your exit. Mix only as much thinset as you can lay tile in 45 about minutes to an hour. You will get the feel for your capabilities as you work. Try to set all the tiles from wall to wall as you go, stopping to make cuts as necessary to place every tile. If you do have to leave a spot without a tile and are coming back the next day to set it you will want to make sure all the thin set is cleaned away. Thinset is very easy to clean when it is wet and very hard once it dries.
press down and level the tile: Lightly press down on the tile surface to embed it into the thinset. A rubber mallet works well for this or you can just evenly push down with two hands. Be careful to not squish out the thinset into the joints. Pay attention to the tiles around the tile you are working with to make sure it is the same height, so your finished floor will be flat. If there is a corner sticking up, push it down. Use a 2x4 board that is about 3 tiles long to lay on top of 3 or 4 tiles after you have laid them and got them close to what looks flat. Look under the board and notice any gaps. You can press down on the board to try to flatten all the tiles to the same height or you can press on the edges of individual tiles.
tip: if you do have to press down enough that it squeezes thinset up between a joint you can use a tile spacer to scrape it out with, then use a damp sponge to clean it up before it dries.
spacers: Use the spacers to create even joints. Just plug them in wherever you feel the joint might move, usually at the corners.
tip: Choosing a tile spacer can be tricky. Finding out after you have set the tile that the grout joint is not what you expected can be very frustrating. There are other factors besides the thickness of the spacer that determine a grout joints finished thickness, some tiles have beveled edges that allow the grout to appear wider. It may be wise to set two pieces of tile and test the joint with different spacer sizes. Tip: try to not press them down into the thinset, they are harder to get out if they are stuck into the thinset. If you can afford it you might consider buying twice as many as corners you have and stand them on end about 1/2 inch back from the corners. This makes them extra easy to get out of the joints.
Grout: Grouting is very simple. The technique described here is a professional quick way to grout tile. Start by cleaning any thinset spots or smears on the tile, especially on the edges where the grout will be. If any thinset is showing thru the grout you will not be able to remove it later without scratching or chipping the grout. A utility knife works well to scrape thinset off the tile. Wipe the tile down to remove any dust or other foreign particles from the tile before grouting.
mix and spread: Mix the grout according to the instructions on the bag. Spread the grout over the joints using the rubber trowel. Trowel across the joints at a 45 degree angle to the joint, this help insure that the joint will be filled completely and reduce the chance of leaving voids. Don't be too worried about the look of the joint at this point, the next step with the sponge will fine tune the joint appearance. Just get the joints filled with the trowel during this step.
sponge: This is the part where you make it look good. Dip the sponge in the bucket of water, ring it out and wipe it across the grout joint one time. Flip it over and wipe the joint again if necessary or wipe another joint. Put the sponge back into the water and rinse it out. Repeat. Clean the water often.
tip: It is important that you do not "scrub" the grout joints to get them to look the way you want. Scrubbing does three things; first it removes the sand from the grout. Second it removes color from the grout, third it gets the tile dirty and causes more work in cleanup.
Let the grout sit overnight and then wipe the floor down with a damp sponge. Let it dry and apply a grout sealer to seal the grout and tile. If you applied ceramic tile you will not neet to seal the tile, just the grout. If you are using a stone tile you will want to seal the whole tile. Sealing keeps the tile from soaking up staining liquids.
Stand back and admire your work.