What to Consider Before Starting a Floor Tile Project

Laying tile on a floor.

Almost any new DIY task comes with a sense of being overwhelmed and not knowing where or how to begin. Rather than becoming disheartened and throwing in the towel before you even begin, read these tips before starting a floor tile project.

Type and Size

There are three types of floor tile you can choose from soft, hard, and wooden. (Carpet is an example of soft, and is often self-adhering.) Ceramic is a great example of the hard variety and these will require specialty adhesives and/or sealants. The type will also determine how much prep work you will need to do before starting a floor tile project. Most will require you to tear up any old materials and thoroughly clean the area.

The size of the pieces you will be using will affect the difficulty level. You will need to pay more attention to detail and time with smaller pieces than with larger ones. The same is true of patterns.

How Much Is Needed?

People often underestimate how much material they will need to cover a given space. Sometimes it seems like regardless of the effort put forth to get exact measurements, you wind up just a tad bit off on your calculations. It's better to err on the side of caution to ensure you will not need to make repeat trips for more product.

You will also need substantially more adhesive than is recommended. It's not a bad idea to get extra sealant and grout as well before you start your floor tile project.

Tools Required

A tile cutter.

Not everyone realizes how many tools are required for a project. A tape measure and level are somewhat obvious tools you will need but don’t forget a chalk line for marking the layout and spacers that will leave room for grout. A notched trowel is used for the adhesive, grout float for the grout, and a sponge for cleanup.

You also need to cut your pieces for things like doorjambs. A material like ceramic is going to require a wet saw. If these are things you do not currently have, you need to look into the cost-effectiveness of doing this yourself before starting your floor tile project.

Kneepads are allegedly optional. However, if you are going to be kneeling on a hard surface for an extended period of time, you will not think of them this way. You might not need them if you are doing soft materials, or have a small room like a half bath.

The Layout

Even if you are not doing a pattern, you will still need to consider how you want the layout to look. Even with an average square piece, you can create straight rows and columns or stagger the rows. With rectangular pieces, you can create a herringbone effect.

Where to Start

A man laying tile on a floor.

There are two ways to approach the actual tiling process: starting in the middle or in a generally hidden area of the room. While it is easy to start in a corner, you will get a more symmetrical look by starting in the middle. This will prevent you from having disproportionate sizes on each end of the room. It can also be a good idea to start in an area that will be hidden, or that is not drawing in the eye. Think about it: you always get better further into your work, so by starting somewhere less visible, the areas that are in the spotlight will look the best.

The spacers will also make it easy to do a practice row before you use the adhesive. You can also use this to practice and better visualize the layout before actually starting your floor tile project.

What to Move

For starters, anything not built-in should be moved. This includes furniture, refrigerators, and your washer and dryer. Unless you are planning on changing out your toilet or cabinets, there usually is no need to take them out. Those are things that you typically cut the pieces to fit around.

How Labor Intensive Is It Overall?

Some say tiling a floor is one of the easiest projects they have ever done, but it does involve time, effort, and dedication. Starting and finishing a floor tile project can be a tedious and tiring effort. You will be spending most of the time bent over and kneeling on a hard surface. Especially with a pattern or small pieces, attention to detail can be tedious and time-consuming.

Cutting through hard materials like ceramic is no easy task either, and can require specialty tools.

There are many times when people get too hung up on being overwhelmed, or worse, get discouraged when they find themselves elbow-deep in something they were unprepared for and give up. Finishing this type of work means you will have something to be proud of and can show off for years to come. It also means getting a sense of gratification when you look down at your handiwork every day.

Be sure to prepare carefully before starting a project and it may turn out easier than you think. If you need a little extra hands-on help, The Home Depot offers free workshops and seminars that can show you some techniques and get your questions answered.