Home Tiles

Where do you start when tiling?

One of the basic questions many homeowners have when beginning to lay a tile floor is where to start the layout. Theoretically, the tiles can be put down beginning at any area of the room, but beginning in corners, for instance, will often not lead to a balanced installation. The centre of the room offers a logical area to begin some tile installations, such as diagonal tile patterns. In other cases, however, you would choose another starting point.

Laying a new tile floor is well within the scope of most DIYers. Still, a successful job requires careful preparation, an understanding of how the various tasks are properly done and attention to detail.

The thought of tiling your walls may be a daunting prospect, but with the right preparation and by using the right tools, it’sit’sot more straightforward than you may think. If you’you’reit daunted by wall tiling then don’don’tas we’vwe’veated this handy guide that covers everything there is know about wall tiling!

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Multiple-Piece Tile Patterns

Frequently the floor tiles being laid have more than one size of tile arranged in a pattern. The patterns may contain two, three, four or five differently shaped and sized tiles that follow a repeating sequence across the floor. Nearly all multiple-pieced tile patterns begin in the left-hand corner of the room farthest from where you enter the door. Most of the tiles will need to be cut to fit the perimeter of the room; starting in a corner allows you to begin the pattern with full tiles on a straight line and move evenly into the room. In this case, beginning in the centre may make it more difficult to get the pattern moving evenly.

Diagonal Tile Layouts

Diagonal tile patterns almost always begin in the centre or near the centre of the room. To layout, a diagonal pattern, snap a line from one corner to the opposite. Measure the line and find its centre point. Snap a second chalk line 90 degrees to the first at the centre point. This will divide the room into four sections. Lay the tiles along with one of these lines first, starting in the centre of the room, then along the intersecting line. Fill in the quadrants next and finally the edges of the room.

Tile Within a Tile Pattern

Sometimes a different coloured tile is set in the middle of the room as a focal point, medallion or “rug”” A “surrounding border often divides these tiles from the field tiles that fill in the rest of the room. Layout and install these decorative centre tiles and their border first, and then install field tiles. To ensure the field tiles have full tiles next to the decorative area, with cut tiles around the perimeter of the room, the field tiles are laid from the decorative area out to the walls — that is, from the centre of the room outward.

Personal Preference

If you are laying a straight tile pattern with no decorative tiles or focal areas, you have two options. The first way locates the centre point of the wall farthest from the door. That gives you a full row of tiles visible when you enter the room. The cut tiles are laid around the rest of the roomroom’simeter. The second method of laying tile divides the room into four quadrants on 90-degree angles based on lines drawn using wall centre points. This puts the cut tiles evenly around the perimeter of the entire room. In this layout, you begin the installation from the centre of the room and then move outward.

Laying a New Tile Floor

There are many types of floor tile, ranging from ceramics to clay to natural stone, and most can be successfully installed over various types of substrates, including existing tile, a mortar base, plywood subflooring or cement board.

If you lay new tile over old tile, the original tile and grout must be securely attached. Use a patching compound to fill in broken or missing tiles and any spaces in the old grout. Scuff the old tile surface with sandpaper to provide a better grip for the new adhesive or mortar. Before you begin tiling, wash the floor with a commercial detergent such as TSP (trisodium phosphate) to remove dirt, soap film and other contaminants that could prevent adhesion.

Professionals prefer tiling over a mortar (also called “mud” or “thin-set) base because it prepares the original floor with a solid, level base that results in an extremely durable finished floor. Working with mortar is more difficult, however, and requires experience to mix and level it on the floor properly.

Tile mastic, or thin-set, is a premixed adhesive that is easy to use right out of the can, and it bonds well to almost any surface. It is commonly used directly on plywood or cement board. Cement board is a highly stable, cement-based, sheet material typically reinforced with fibreglass. It is installed with special screws recommended by the manufacturer. Suppose your tile on plywood, a double layer of plywood with overlapped seams is recommended. The bottom layer should be a minimum of 3/4-inch thick. Use screws to attach this layer to the floor structure. The top layer can be 1/4-inch plywood or a commercial substrate made specifically for flooring underlayment. This layer also must be adequately attached with screws, or according to the product directions.

Lay Out the Pattern

Start by measuring the floor, then snap a chalk line down the middle of the floofloor’sgest dimension. Mark a second line across the middle of the floofloor’srtest dimension. By dividing the room into quadrants, you can begin tiling from the centre point using your lines as a guide.

Before you apply mastic and install the tiles, do a dry run to check your layout and make any necessary adjustments. Layout enough tiles along your lines to reach the walls in each direction. Use plastic spacers between the tiles. Your tile supplier can recommend the correct side spacers for your tiles.

If the rows end with full tiles close to the walls, you may be able to avoid making any cuts by adjusting the spacing slightly. If the end tiles have to be cut to fit, do not use pieces that are too short — they may have a poor appearance or will not adequately bond to the subfloor, especially in doorways where there is more foot traffic. This often can be resolved by cutting the tiles at each end of the row by an equal amount. Adjust the tiles on your centerline so that you end with at least a half-tile at entryways and other high-traffic areas. Or, start with a full tile at the main entry and let the short tiles fall at an end wall where they will be less noticeable and not subject to foot traffic.

Make the Cuts

Tiles can be cut with a manual snap cutter or with a power wet saw. A snap cutter is adequate for smaller jobs and thin tiles. It has a scoring wheel that is used to first etch a cut line and a lever press to snap-cut the tile along this line. Because snap cutters leave a jagged edge along with the break, a carborundum file or stone is used when the edges need to be smooth or dressed. A wet saw (which may be rented) uses a water-cooled diamond blade to make perfectly smooth cuts in all types and sizes of tiles, including thick paving tiles, hard ceramic tiles, delicate glass or porcelain tiles, and natural stone tiles.

If you have calculated your layout correctly, you can often cut all of the required tiles for row ends and corners before you begin setting the tiles in the mastic. Compound cuts and tiles that must be cut to fit while you’you’reking, can be measured and shaped as they are required.

Apply the Mastic

Use a notched trowel to spread the adhesive over the floor. For mosaics and smaller tiles (less than 8 inches), use a trowel with 1/4-inch notches. Larger tiles require a 3/8- to the 1/2-inch notch, depending on the size and thickness of the tile. Start at your layout lines and press the mastic against the floor for a good bond, then set the trowel on edge and rake the mastic to create ridges equal to the notch depth. Be sure your layout lines remain visible.

Work in an area about 3 to 4 feet square to prevent the mastic from drying as you cut and fit the tiles as needed. Some mastics have strong, noxious fumes and may be volatile, so be sure to extinguish any pilot lights and provide adequate ventilation to the work area.

Lay the Tiles

Begin at the intersection of your layout lines and carefully set the tiles into the adhesive. Work from the centerlines out toward the walls, and plan your installation so you will not have to step on or disturb any of the tiles as you proceed. It helps to have two people when tiling — one to concentrate on laying and bedding the tiles, while the other provides a constant supply of loose tiles and makes cuts or retrieves tools as needed.

Use a rubber mallet, or hammer and woodblock, to gently but firmly tap and bed each tile into the mastic. Do not press or shift the tiles around to avoid having the mastic squeeze up into the grout lines between the tiles. If a tile cracks when tapped, remove the pieces and “but “er” the” back of the replacement tile with a small amount of mastic before setting it in place.

Place plastic spacers between each tile as you proceed. The mastic will not stick to the spacers, which are easily removed before you begin grouting the joints. Use a 4-foot level, or a smaller level to ensure that the tile edges are aligned, and the tiles are level across their surface.

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Grout the Joints

Allow the tile mastic to set for at least a day before removing the spacers and grouting the joints. Premixed grout is easier to use than bulk grout, and it is available in a wide range of colours to match or contrast with your tiles. Because grout can stain or stick tightly to porous or unsealed tile, your tile distributor may recommend applying a sealer to the tile faces before you begin grouting.

Mix the grout in batches that can be applied within a half-hour or so to prevent it from drying as you work. Use a rubber float to squeeze the grout into the joints. Ensure that the grout fills the spaces between the tiles (Image 3). As you work, clean excess grout off the tile faces with a coarse cloth or damp sponge, but be careful not to wet the grout, which will weaken it. Wipe diagonally across the joints to avoid pulling the still-fresh grout out of the grooves.

After the grout has dried thoroughly, use a release agent to clean any grout haze from the face of the tiles, then apply a grout sealer according to the product directions.

Steps on How to Lay Tile

Tiling a Floor Overview

  • Strive for a layout that maximizes the number of whole tiles and the size of any cut tiles.
  • When awkwardly sized tiles can’can’tavoided, place them where vanities will cover them later or out of the main sightlines from the doorway.
  • You shoushouldn’tp on any tiles until the thin-set has cured for at least 24 hours.
  • Save all of the cuts requiring a wet saw for last. Then rent the wet saw for one day.

Dry layout

  • Find the midpoint of each wall and snap chalk lines on the floor. The line crossing at the roomroom’ster is the starting point of the tile.
  • Lay a row of tiles along a straightedge more than halfway across the room. For consistent joints, use tile spacers. This row determines the size of the cut tiles along the walls.
  • At the roomroom’ster, place a tile where the chalk lines cross with its edges touching the lines. Measure from one wall (call it A) to the nearest tile edge. Now, go to the tile row and, starting at a joint, measure along the row and mark the distance you just measured. The mark shows the width of the tile at the wall. If that measurement is less than 2 inches, go back to the centre tile and move it away from wall A to create a wider cut tile.

Dry layout, Part II

  • From the centre tile, measure to the opposite wall (call it B; mark this distance along the tile row. Adjust the centre tile along the A-to-B line until measurements at walls A and B are the same.
  • After adjusting the A-to-B line, mark the centre tile where it touches the chalk line between the other walls (call them C and D). Align these marks with the C-to-D chalk line. Repeat the measuring and adjusting process for walls C and D.
  • Lay a straightedge parallel to the C-to-D line and against one side of the centre tile. Mark the straightedge where it meets a corner of the tile. This mark is your starting point for laying tile.
  • Trim door casings with a flush-cut saw so the tile can slip underneath. Cut with saw held flat against a tile on top of a piece of cardboard (to represent the thickness of the thinset).

Spread thin-set mortar

  • Chuck a mixer into a drill and blend the powdered thin-set with latex additive—not water—until it’sit’s consistency of mayonnaise. Let it slake (rest) for about 10 minutes. Mix only as much thinset as you can use in 2 hours.
  • With the flat edge of a trowel, spread a thin layer of thin-set (scratch coat) over a 2-by-3-foot area next to the straightedge.
  • Before the scratch coat dries, apply more thin-set using the notched edge of the trowel. Hold the trowel at a 45-degree angle to the floor and spread the thinset evenly in broad curved strokes, then finish with a straight pass, which ensures the best adhesion. Combining the thin-set into furrows allows air to escape as the tile is set.

Tip: When spreading thin-set, press down hard so that the trowel makes a scraping sound; the trowtrowel’sch size should equal the tile thickness.

Set the tile

  • Gently lay a tile on thinset next to the straightedge. With fingertips widespread, push down with a slight twist of the wrist.
  • Use this same technique to set each tile, making one row along the straightedge. Using tile spacers ensures even joints.
  • Move the straightedge out of the way and lay the next row alongside the first, using the edge of the tile as your guide. Continue spreading thin-set and setting tiles in 2-by-3-foot sections, working from the centre of the room out toward the walls. Every few rows, hold a framing square or A-square alongside the edge of the tiles to check that they are square to each other.

Tip: Consistent finger pressure (and constant practice) helps avoid lippage—where a tiletile’se is higher or lower than its neighbours.

Final cuts

  • Make straight cuts as needed with a snap cutter. When waste is more than an inch wide, score tile with one firm stroke, then break by pushing down handle—smooth cut edge with rubbing stone.
  • For straight cuts with waste less than an inch wide, score tile on snap cutter, then snap pieces off with nibblers or use a wet saw.
  • To fit a tile around an outside corner, hold one edge against the wall and mark the tile where it touches the corner. Pencil a line across the tile. Then, without turning the tile, move it to the other side of the corner and again mark where tile and corner meet. Mark an X on the part to be cut away.

Notch the tile

  • On a wet saw, cut the tile from the mark to the line, taking care not to go beyond the line. Then turn the tile and cut along the line next to the X, up to but not beyond the first cut. At the end of the cut, lift the edge farthest from you to help free the waste.
  • For curved or scribed cuts, make parallel slices with the wet saw into the waste section, up to but not past the line marking the cut. Then break away the remaining “fin” ers” wi “h nibblers.

Fill the tile joints with grout.

  • After tile sets overnight, use a margin trowel to scrape off any thinset from the tile surface or in the joints.
  • Mix up a batch of grout to a looser-than-mayonnaise consistency. Add water a little at a time by squeezing it from a sponge.
  • Scoop a trowelful of grout onto the floor and spread it with a rubber float held at a 45-degree angle to the floor. Push grout into the joints by first moving the float in line with the joints, then diagonal to them—work from the edges of the room toward the centre.

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Cleaning up the grout

  • Allow the grout to set up for 20 or 30 minutes. It should be firm to the touch before you begin washing the tiletile’sface. Wipe away grout haze with a damp, well-squeezed sponge often rinsed in a bucket of clean water.
  • Again, wait for the grout to haze over, then wipe with a clean sponge. Repeat until the tile is clean.

Tip: Don’ too aggressive when wiping up grout haze, or you could pull grout out of the joints.

Last year alone, homeowners had 3.05 billion square feet of tile installed in homes in the United States. Laying floor tiles is the go-to method for modernizing the look of a home. No matter what style of tile you choose, tile done wrong will have a negative effect on the look of your home. Don’t this stop you from attempting this DIY project.

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