Installing Ceramic Tile By The Numbers

Tile Flooring Samples

Installing a ceramic floor in your space can be a rewarding - as well as challenging - project for any DIY'er. While the tiling is often thought to be a job best left to professionals, you will see that a project of this nature is certainly attainable by the average person. When completed, the end result can beautify any space and add thousands to the value of your home.

Before starting your tile project, ensure that the guidelines you determined while gauging for the tiles on the subfloor are still in place. Do a final "dry run" by laying down the tiles without adhesive to see how they fit. See Preparing the Worksite for details.

Installing the Tiles

1. Mix your adhesive. Typically, a thinset or a cement-based adhesive is used to secure the tile to your substrate. Refer to your specific product’s packaging and inquire at your local home improvement store as to whether a Kerabond or chemical epoxy would be beneficial to your specific application.

2. Once the adhesive is mixed, and you are confident in the consistency, evenly distribute the material. Use a notched trowel to apply the tile adhesive to an area about 2-foot square in your starting corner.

3. Work the tiles into the adhesive with a gentle, yet firm back and forth motion. Make sure each tile is level with the ones alongside it. Should the levels begin to sink, and large ledges can be felt between courses, begin to back the tiles higher and settle them in place with the same back and forth method.

4. Use the spacer to make sure the tiles are evenly spaced, and continually use a level to make sure the top of the tiles are flush with one another. If any tiles are too high, use a rubber mallet or a block of wood and a hammer to tap them down.

5. Continue spreading adhesive and laying tiles to 2-foot square areas, moving back and forth across the room.

6. When you've finished laying all the full tiles, let them sit overnight. After the adhesive has set up, you will be able to carefully walk on the tiles to cut and install the border tiles.

Cutting Tiles

Cutting tiles can be a terrifying idea for some novice installers. It is a simple procedure that follows the old adage: measure twice, cut once.

1. Place a dry tile exactly over the last full tile. Put a 1/2" wide spacer against the wall.

2. Place another dry tile up against the spacer so that the side edges are lined up with the first loose tile. Make a line across the first tile. This is the line you need to cut.

3. You can use either a tile cutter or a glasscutter to cut your ceramic tile. If using a glasscutter, place a straight edge along with the tile and score the line once with the glasscutter. Then place the tile on the edge of a workbench and snap the tile along the scored line.

4. For more complicated cuts, you can use a tile saw or tile nippers. A tile saw typically consists of a diamond-edged carbide blade, and a water source. This water source is imperative, as it constantly coats the tile surface with a cooling effect that ensures that you will not burn or mar the edges. While most DIY'ers will not own a wet saw, virtually all home improvement retailers will rent out wet saws perfect for your application. These wet saws will typically resemble one of two types of common wood saws: either a table saw or a radial arm saw.

The radial arm saw varieties are usually easier to use, as they provide a large line of sight which allows the user a constant view of blade location. The table saw is sometimes more awkward to use, as its water source comes from beneath and is fed to the blade and tile via a shroud, which can mask the user’s sight of blade depth and location. These saws are usually lower in cost but can create a tremendous mess if not set up properly, and are generally more cumbersome than they are useful.

As with any project, patience is a virtue, and tiling is no exception to that rule. You should have now completed your floor, and be ready to move on to the grouting procedure. Take the time to correct any imperfections while your adhesive is still workable, as it is far easier to make repairs now than when the floor sets.