So this isn’t as easy as you might think. There is definitely a right way and a wrong way to laying tile on a floor. I’ve done it both ways. Also, I was replacing vinyl flooring so this covers removing it. If you’re removing old tile I recommend you-tubing how to remove it. I’ve learned a lot from there. So here’s what I’ve learned through trial and error about how to tile a floor.
First the obvious. Get all your stuff off the floor. Put it out of your way. Don’t block walkways or create a maze for yourself. You need to be able to move around and bring things here and there without a bunch of furniture or objects getting in your way. Don’t create a dangerous work environment.
I’ve carried some heavy boxes of tile and tripped over a stack of books I placed on the floor so I could move a book shelf. Ended up cracking a piece of tile. That is an expensive move I’ll not make again. So again, do yourself a favor and get all your stuff off the floor and out of harms way.
Second clean. Now don’t go overboard here. I’m not wanting you to put on the rubber gloves and scrub until you sweat in your socks. Just get the vacuum and vacuum the floor. You don’t want any debris getting in the way of your new tile. This could jack up the presentation and make the tiles not lay evenly. So get the vacuum and run it over the floor sucking up dirt and debris. Then get the vacuum hose and get down low so you can see anything you might of missed. Suck those nasties right up. Finally, go around the edges of the room, behind any doors, and even window seals. Don’t worry about mopping. We’re going to tear up the old floor so clean is not the goal. The goal is getting up lose debris.
Now the fun part. Demolition!
I start with the baseboards. Remove the quarter round by cutting the caulk that’s holding it in place all along the baseboards. Then get out our old friend Mr. Pry-bar and get to prying.
Helpful tip. Or should I say safety tip. Make sure you hammer down all the nails sticking out of the quarter round trim you just pried up. Not fun getting stuck. I learned this the hard way. You’re welcome.
Next, we hit the strip. Transition and tack strips that is. We want to remove any transition strips where carpet meets tile. Remember Mr. Pry-bar. Yep. Get on it. Pry up the transition strip to reveal the edge of the vinyl flooring. Once you’ve got all the transition strips holding the carpet in place up its time to remove the tack strips. The trick to getting up the tack strips is to pry right where the nails are. Otherwise, you wind up cracking them. No buenos.
Almost there. Vinyl time. To my surprise I found an extra layer of vinyl below the vinyl I easily rolled up. You’ll never know what you’ll find in used homes. After removing the top layer the bottom layer of vinyl proved to be a pain in the you know what. It was glued to plywood that was stapled to the foundation. Seriously. So out comes my friend Mr. Pry-bar to save the day once more.
I’m telling you this so you understand that no two tile jobs are the same. The point is. Use your brain. Think your way through demolition. You’ll find you create less mess and don’t damage things that you may need later.
Now that we’ve exposed the foundation it’s time to protect our investment. Tile that is. You see a house moves. And when it does things crack. We don’t want our tile to crack after all our hard work. To prevent this and give the tile some breathing room I laid down a layer of uncoupling membrane. This uncoupling membrane works by separating the tile from the foundation which allows the foundation to shift while allowing the tile to stay put. Thus preventing cracks in my tile.
It’s pretty straight forward installing this layer. I just used a measuring tape and utility knife. First I measured out a piece to fit in one dimension of the room. Then I used the utility knife to trim the edges to match the shape of the room. If you put some careful thought into this you can prevent wasting a lot of material.
So now that we’ve got the grunt work done it’s time to plan how we’re going to layout our tile. This is the dry fitting phase. This is where I figure out how much I need to cut off the first row of tile and also figure out how much I’m going to offset the tile. I started off by laying out a column of tile using 3/16th inch spacers to represent the space I was going to leave for grout. The tiles almost fit perfectly and only required a little over an inch trim off the first row. Once I knew how much I needed to trim I removed all the tile and marked out the center point of the room and also the offset I wanted for the tile. I just used a measuring tape and permanent marker to make little tick marks and lines that I could cover up later.
One thing to note. I’m installing tile in a small room. In a larger room you’d use chalk to make these marks and start tiling from the center of the room. Here I just started tiling from the back of the room.
Since I was laying longer tile I decided on a 6 in offset. You don’t want your offset to be more than about a third of the length of the tile if you’re using longer tile. Any more just doesn’t look right in my opinion and you don’t end up wasting a lot of your tile.
Now that we have our center point and offset marked and ready we can start marking tiles to be cut. The key here is tile spacers. You want to layout your tile from the offset you made off the center of the room to the edges of the wall. When you get to where a tile won’t fit, flip it 180 degrees and put spacers between the wall and the flipped tile. Then mark the other end such that the excess plus spacer would be cut off. You’ve got to include a spacer so that you can account for grout at the cut end.
Don’t make this harder than it needs to be. It’s really common sense once you start laying out the tile. Basically you end up with some extra at the edges of the room and we need to chop it off and leave some room for grout.
I made my cuts one row at a time. That way I could see how things progressed row by row and could make any adjustments as I went. To make my cuts I used a tile saw. Nothing special here except be careful. Don’t get distracted while cutting tile. You could seriously hurt yourself. I also recommend using ear plugs and eye protection while operating the saw. The high pitch of the saw cutting tile over and over again up close can be pretty loud. Also tile fragments could fly up and poke your eye.
After getting each row cut I would go lay them out with spacers. I’d make sure the cuts fit and that enough room was left for grout. You don’t want a super tight fit. A little wiggle room is ok. Several times I had to go back and shave off a bit to make things fit right. Just do one row at a time and use your common sense. It’s always good to buy some extra tiles in case you don’t cut one right or one breaks. Or if you need to repair a broken tile in the future you have some on hand from the same batch of tiles.
The last row required a little extra love. I had to make room for the tiles to fit around the door jam. To do this I used a piece of tile on top of a piece of uncoupling membrane to get the height I needed to trip the bottom of the door jam so the tiles would fit. To make the trim I used my oscillating tool.
Once the door jam was trimmed I marked out were I needed to cut the corners of tile to fit at the door jam. The trick here is to make sure the tile would end up under the door jam. My tile saw came in handy with these cuts. Once my final cuts were made I finished dry laying out all my tile. This is where things started looking really good.
Now for the finishing touch on dry laying everything out. Time to cut the Schluter strip a.k.a. transistion strip. This aluminum strip gives the tile a nice finished edge. Easy to cut too.
The next step is putting it all together. But before removing all of my tile I got some painters tape and marked all the tile so I’d know how to put it back together. After marking the tile I got it all up and out of the room. Then I ran a vacuum over the sub floor once again to make sure there weren’t any hidden nasties that would cause my tile to be uneven or crack.
So this is where I got a little nervous. Laying down the tile. The first step is making thinset. Consistency is key so I used a thin set mortar system so I’d have a good liquid to powder ratio. For my liquid I used a polymer additive because it helps the thinset bond better to the sub floor than water. Next came the uncoupling membrane mortar. I used one full bag which made it pretty straight forward and simple.
Once I got the mix in my bucket it was time to mix. I started by mixing for a few minutes just until everything looked mixed and then let the thinset sit for a few minutes. This five minute break lets it absorb moisture. This is termed slaking. Weird name but I read that its important for the thinset to work right. So after slaking I gave it another quick mix and it was good to go.
Back at the floor I pulled out the sponge and gave it a bath. We don’t want the sub floor sucking up too much moisture out of the thin set too quick. Also we don’t want any dust and debris in our way as we pave out our thinset.
The next step is to lay down a layer of thinset for our decoupling membrane we measured out and cut earlier. The trick here was to make sure I worked the thinset into the subfloor and made a thick enough layer so the membrane would have a good bond. To finish off the layer I used the notch side of the trowel to make lines in the thinset.
The space between the lines is important. For uncoupling membrane you want close lines. For the larger tile I would be laying I want larger space between the lines so I use a different trowel.
Now for layer number two. The uncoupling membrane. The finishing touch was working the membrane into the thinset using a rubber grout float. The trick here is to press down and out so the membrane settles into the thinset and sticks. One of the corners wasn’t sticking so I added more thinset and that did the trick.
On to the next layer of thinset. This layer is what we’re going to stick the tiles to. The approach here is a little different this time. First, we’re going to work in smaller sections. Second, we’re going to use larger lines with larger spacing in our thinset. The reason being it takes longer to set larger tiles so we don’t want to have our thinset drying out on us before we can get a tile over it. Also, we’re using larger tiles so the lines allow more room for air to escape from under the tile when we place it.
So once I had a nice thick layer of thinset in a row I’d make lines with my larger trowel. I made sure the lines were perpendicular to the length and parallel to the width of my tile so the air had the shortest path of escape. As I laid out the tile I put the spacers in place and pressed in on the center then corners to help the air get out. Also before laying down a tile I “buttered” the back side of the tile with thinset to add a little more stick and insure the tile bonded everywhere.
So with only one tile cracked, I managed to replace it and get the rest of the tiles in place. Before adding the final row I laid down the transition strip I cut and then put in the final tiles. All the tiles went in fairly easy except the one I broke which was the tile that needed to go under the door jam. To fix it I trimmed a little extra off the bottom of the door jam, re-cut a new tile and then it fit just right.
To finish up I cleaned up any extra thinset between the tiles and on the baseboards. Then I let things set for about a day. The next day I removed some more thinset I missed and got up all the spacers and marking tape. Then I gave everything a good vacuum. Finally, I got down on my knees and went over everything with a scouring pad sponge and also used a puddy knife to scrape away excess thinset between the tiles.
Its grout time. This is where I feel things really start to shine and look good. I used a premixed grout because who doesn’t like easy? I liked that it didn’t need to be sealed afterwards because it has one mixed in. Too easy.
So the first step to grout is clean. So I got out a damp spunge and got to wiping everything down. This is so there’s no little nasties that can get mixed in with your grout. You don’t want some nasty hair sticking up out of your tile!
Next I’d get nice size scoops of grout and start working them into the space I created between the tiles. The trick is to make sure the space is completely filled with grout by working it in. You don’t want it to dry with pockets of missing grout. Once I got the grout worked in I scraped at 45 degree angles from the grout lines to remove the excess grout. After getting a small section of the grout down I went back over it with a sponge to clean grout off the tiles. The trick is not to let the grout dry before getting it cleaned off.
So once I had all the grout done the tile had a haze to it. This is caused by a thin layer of grout that’s dried on the surface of the tile. So to remove that layer of grout off the tile I used some tile cleaner. I spread it around with a sponge and let it sit for a few minutes. Then I used the scouring pad on the sponge to scrub the tile. Then I mopped everything up with a damp sponge to remove the cleaner. Then I dried the floor with a towel.
And that’s a wrap folks! Thanks for taking the time out to read my blog. I’ll be back with more DIY projects for the home!