How to lay tile can be overwhelming, especially if you don’t have much experience doing it. But if you learn what you can before you start, you will stress less, and find yourself with a masterpiece waiting for you.
Tile is one of the highest-end flooring options, with few other floorings looking as nice. While hardwood floors are great, they don’t look the best in the bathroom as they aren’t waterproof. Try tile for a high-end, waterproof floor.
Preparing The Area To Lay Tile
There are a couple of things you need before you can begin laying tile. You need a good subfloor, and probably a tile backer board. All of this may seem unimportant now but it will make a difference in the end.
Testing The Floor Before You Lay The Tile
The first thing that you want to do is make sure that your floor is stable and level before you lay tile. There are two good tests you can do to accomplish this. The first one ensures that it is stable by having an adult jump on it.
There shouldn’t be much movement from the floor and it shouldn’t give. The second test is just checking for levelness by putting a ball on the floor. It will move, but it shouldn’t keep rolling the same way.
Leveling The Floor So The Tile Doesn’t Lay Unevenly
If you find out that the floor isn’t level, there are a few things you can do. For concrete floors, you can level it by adding some of that thin-set to the floor and leveling it out, letting it dry before adding the thin-set for the tile.
For other floors, you will probably need a good subfloor, to begin with. If your foundation is structurally sound, get it looked at as this can cause problems later on. It can even mean termites, so be careful.
Creating A Subfloor For Stability When You Lay The Tile
To create a subfloor to level out your floor, you can add a 2×4 subfloor on top of another floor. Most people don’t mind stepping into a room or shower. However, you can make a shorter floor if you have experience.
Creating the floor isn’t difficult, but making sure it is level can be. There are a few methods you can use to make sure the floor is level but your best bet is to use slanting boards that are cut to make the floor level.
Adding Backerboard To Lay The Tile On
A backer board is often necessary for floors where tile won’t stick. But they are more common on walls as most walls won’t accept tile and if you’re starting from scratch, you can use the backer board as the wall.
There are a few different types of backer boards so learn what you can about each of them to find the right one for you. This guide on tile backerboard is informative and can help you choose the right one for you.
Preparing To Lay The Tile
After your floor is prepared and cleaned, you can begin preparing the tiles. Tiles are not easy to work with if you don’t know what you are doing. To make things easier, you should do all the prepping that you can.
The Dry Run
This is a method used by tilers to make a “faux laying of the tiles” on the tile floor. It doesn’t work with walls but it’s the best approach to take with floors because it is so easy and can help you ensure an even pattern.
Pretend you are going to lay the tile with thin-set, but simply lay them out. You can add spacers if you want to, but if you can eye it close enough and imagine it with grout, you don’t need the spacers yet.
Create A Grid
After you lay the tile out, make marks on the floor or backer board with whatever you can. Since it will be covered with tile, it can be a permanent marker if that’s what works. This grid will guide you.
It doesn’t have to be a full grid either. You can simply add small marks on each corner or on each side. This will let you know where you need to cut the tiles and where full tiles need to be laid.
Measure And Mark
If you are starting from scratch, try making the area a perfect fit. Try to ensure that you won’t need to cut any tiles. But if you can’t do this, then using your grid, mark the tiles that need cut. This isn’t as easy as it sounds.
You need to flip the tile over to mark it correctly. Then using that line, make a mark on top because tiles are cut on top not on the bottom. Measure a few times and lay the tiles out a couple of times to make sure your marks are correct.
Cut The Tiles
After you know your marks are all correct, you can begin cutting the tiles. Cut them one by one and check to see if they fit. You don’t want to cut them all and then make sure they are all right. This could end in disaster.
Because if the first one is wrong, chances are they are all wrong. But just in case, test each one out as you cut it. After they are all cut and set in place, you are ready to start laying them, which is exciting!
Lay The Tiles
Laying the tiles is actually the easiest part, especially if you precut all of the times. All you need to do is make sure your thin-set is right and then you can lay them without many qualms.
Mix The Thin-Set
You can either buy a pre-mixed thinset in a bucket or get a powder that you just add water to. Be careful when mixing your own as the ratio matters a lot. You should also get extra thinset so that you ensure you don’t run out.
The thinset should be thick enough to stick to the floor but thin enough that it doesn’t pile like mashed potatoes. Read the instructions good as all thinsets are slightly different, with each brand having different directions and texture comparisons.
Apply The Thin-Set
Now it’s time to apply the mortar. Keep your tiles close by and apply the mortar with a tiling trowel. At least one side of the trowel will be notched. This is important because after you apply it evenly, you use that side.
Using the notched side, gently run the trowel over the mortar. This will create grooves that the tile can easily adhere to. Without this step, the tiles will peel up easily and not stick as well, which is dangerous.
Lay The Tiles
After you use the notched trowel, lay the tile down. Then, lay another tile next to it. Add at least two tile spacers between them. Then, add another tile. You want to do this slowly, laying no further than you can reach.
After the spacers are down, you can do another section. Take it slow and keep things level. It’s very important that all the edges are flush and that the thinset is level at all times. You won’t regret doing it all right.
Grouting After You Lay Tile
Grouting is the touchiest part of tiling, though it doesn’t affect the structural integrity much. For a full guide on grouting tile, read this grouting guide. Otherwise, follow these simple steps below to finish the job.
Step 1: Tape The Tub And Other Gear
The first thing you should do is protect your tub. If there’s anything other than tile in the area that is touching the tile, tape it. If the area is large, like a tub, then put a sheet, painting plastic, or a tarp over it and tape it down.
Step 2: Mixing The Grout
You can use a bucket to mix the grout and follow the instructions on the package. You’ll be mixing water into the dry mix. Add the water slowly and take care not to let the mixture get watery. It’s okay if the mix is a little thick at first. Let it settle before adding more water. Let it set for 10 minutes to see the true texture.
Step 3: Applying The Grout
Give your grout a little mix before applying it. Use your float to get a little grout on the end. Scrape it against the side of the bucket if there is too much on there. Then run it along an area in the tile. After you do, scrape the excess grout along the bucket’s lip. Then, run the clean float over the tile again.
Step 4: Sponging
You should have a bucket of water and a sponge on hand. Get the sponge and gently wash the tile in the area that you’ve added grout. The sponge should be damp, not soaked. Keep the water in the bucket clean. This is where having two people comes in handy.
Step 5: Repeat
You will continue adding grout, swiping it level, and then washing the tile until you’ve tiled the entire area. However, it’s best to not go too fast. After about 20-30 minutes you will want to wash the tile before the grout hardens too much.
Step 6: The Final Clean
After the grout is dry, or just almost dry, you can actually wash the tile while safely crawling on it. If you accidentally smush some of the grout or notice a gap, you can add more grout to the area and let it dry. The grout usually takes a couple of hours to dry but you can check the package for your grout. After it is totally dry, clean the tile with soap and then dry it off with an abrasive cloth. But even then, try not to mess with the grout lines for a couple of days.
Step 7: Sealing The Grout
It’s a good idea to seal your grout to keep it looking good. This will prevent it from darkening, fading, or being slowly shaved off. Get a good grout sealer and apply it. Follow the instructions on the package of the sealer.
Finishing Laying The Tile
Now that you are all done laying tile, you are ready to admire your work. Don’t forget to caulk your bathroom after you finish, and finish up with some new shower curtains. You’d be surprised what a big difference the small things make.
Tile isn’t a small thing, it is a big deal and don’t let anyone tell you differently. So be proud that you’ve actually done a tiling project because this is no easy task. But the more you do it, the better you’ll get at it!