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How Do I Install Ceramic Tile?

It's important to take careful measurements when installing ceramic tile.
Measure the floor carefully to determine how much tile will be needed in the space.
When installing tiles, grout should sit for 72 hours after being applied for it to completely dry.
Article Details
  • Written By: Josie Myers
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 18 November 2014
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Installing a ceramic tile floor is not a simple job. Those with a basic knowledge of home improvement can save a few dollars on professional installation, but those with no experience in basic construction may find it more complicated than they anticipated. To install ceramic tile, the following supplies are needed: tile spacers, a level, rags and sponges, putty knife, tape measure, bucket, a square, notched trowel, grout float, tile cutter, tole nippers, grout, and setting material.

Before beginning any tiling project, a few steps must be taken. Most importantly, the floor should be measured carefully to determine how many square feet of ceramic tile will be needed. The sub floor needs to be cleaned well to ensure that there will be no imperfections under the new tile that could cause cracking later. There are grouts and setting materials like mortar available for various types of tile and jobs, so be sure to check the package to ensure that the product purchased is intended for the job at hand.

The first step is to do a dry run of the new floor. Use the square to be sure that the lines are perpendicular to the doorway and begin laying whole tiles from the center out. They should be laid starting from the doorway out to make sure that the floor looks even when entering the room. Use a spacer in between the tiles so that the exact measurements can be taken.

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Many like to begin laying ceramic tile in the exact center of the doorway to ensure an even look. This usually requires cutting on both walls. If they only want to cut along one wall, they should begin on one wall. It depends on the home owner's experience level and how they view the extra work versus the overall appearance of the room. Many feel that they will not notice an imperfection like an off-center line and choose to go with the least cutting possible.

Next, the mortar or adhesive needs to be mixed according to directions and laid down using a notched trowel. Start with a 2 foot (.61 meter) square in a far corner so that you can work out of the room. As each ceramic tile is laid down, push it slightly down into the adhesive. Use spacers between each tile to make sure the grout lines will be flush.

As tiles are put into place, a level can ensure that no tile is placed higher than another. If necessary, a small block of wood with a hammer can gently press tile down when necessary. Any corners sticking up will set that way and make a dangerous sharp edge as well as making it easy to break.

Allow the full tiles to dry overnight before walking on them if at all possible. If this is the only bathroom in the home, set a piece of wood down to be used as a walking plank from the door to the necessary areas. This puts pressure more evenly over a group of tiles to help avoid shifting. Avoid dripping water from the sink or shower on the wet tiles. After walking over them, always check the tiles to be sure that they have not shifted out of place before they set up.

The next day, border tiles can be cut. Place a full loose tile over the last full tile in the row. Put a spacer by the wall and place another full tile against the spacer and offset on top of the other loose tile. Draw a line across the lower tile using the upper one as a guide. This line shows where to cut the lower tile to make it fit in the space needed against the wall.

A tile cutter can be purchased or rented from a home improvement store. Nippers should be used for unusually shaped cuts like those around round objects. Set these pieces with adhesive just as with the full pieces and allow to set overnight once again.

Remove the tile spacers. Grout should now be mixed according to unique package instructions. A grout float is used to lay the grout over the tiles at a 45 degree angle. Gently push the grout down into the spaces to be sure there are no pits. Excess grout should be wiped with a sponge and bucket.

Some manufacturers require the grout to be sprayed with water periodically while drying to prevent cracking, so be sure to check package instructions. Once the grout it set up, excess can be cleaned from the tiles and they can be polished. Allow the grout to cure for a week before using a silicone sealer to protect the grout from water damage or stains.

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gregg1956
Post 3

@pleats -- As always, you get what you pay for. While cheap ceramic tiles may do OK for low traffic areas, but you really shouldn't try to cut corners with tile.

Tell your sister to do some shopping around, sometimes you can get good quality discontinued tiles for cheap.

Hope that helps.

pleats
Post 2

Is there really a discernible difference between using cheap ceramic tiles or expensive ceramic tiles when it comes down to it?

My sister is trying to remodel her house on a budget, and wanted to know if this was a place she could feasibly cut costs.

gregg1956
Post 1

It is also really important to remember to make sure that your floor surface is as even as possible when installing tiles.

Even a small imperfection can cause a tile to stick up, which can cause problems, like the article said.

A quick fix for an uneven floor is to install a thin sheet of plywood to even out the floor before you start installing the tile.

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