Design with Flexibility — Ceramic Tile Installation
For ages strength and style have made ceramic tile a great choice for flooring material. Available in a vast array of colors, patterns, sizes and finishes, ceramic tile has the design flexibility to indulge any decorator while offering the durability to stand up to the high demands of heavy foot traffic.
Tile sizes range from 1/4-inch squares to 12-inch squares and larger. The latest available tile shapes include rectangular, triangular, hexagonal, octagonal, round and others. And floor tiles are manufactured in practically any color in the spectrum, with neutral colors being the most popular choice for residential use. The many choices in tile appearance coupled with dramatic installation patterns make a new ceramic floor a canvas for the creativity of the designer.
While an attractive material for any room in your home, the strength of ceramic makes it ideally suited for entryways, kitchens, bathrooms and other areas prone to heavy traffic or exposure to dirt and moisture. Ceramic tile is easy to clean, requiring little more than a damp cloth for dirty or greasy surfaces. The tiles are naturally resistant to chemical and biological agents, and the ability of ceramic surfaces to prevent humidity also reduces the presence of dust mites and fungi.
With just a little patience and the proper installation procedure, placing a ceramic tile floor may be an attractive and rewarding addition to your list of upcoming remodeling projects.
Tile cutter; Chalk line; Pull saw; Grout float; Tape measure; Rubber mallet; Tile nippers; Notched trowel; Level
To determine the amount of tile needed for a floor using square, uniform tile, draw the room’s layout plan on graph paper with each 1/4-inch square representing a tile on the floor plan. Check and double-check the measurements of your floor to ensure accuracy when ordering your tile. And then order approximately 5 to 8 percent more tile than is actually required for the layout. This will allow for some damaged tile. Plus, the color of the glazing will often vary based on production cycle, so if you need to add more tile later, this will help ensure a match.
Choosing the proper thinset mortar for the installation will add years of life to your new flooring. Use a gray thinset mortar if using a dark grout; use a white thinset mortar if using a light grout. Almost any sanded thinset mortar will be adequate for installing floors with fired clay ceramic tiles on a cement substrate. A 50-pound bag of sanded thinset will install 75 to 100 square feet of flooring. For installing ceramic tile over vinyl flooring or wooden substrates, use a high-quality latex-modified thinset mortar.
Grout, which is available in a variety of colors, is another design consideration. If using colored grout, choose one that won’t stain your tile selection. For entryways, kitchens or other heavily trafficked areas, a dark grout may be a practical selection to help hide dirt.
After gathering the materials, the major prerequisite is a smooth, rigid subfloor to support the tiles. Ceramic tiles offer no flexibility, and voids from a rough subsurface can cause the tile to crack when bearing a load. The most difficult phase of the installation is cleaning and preparing the existing floor to accept the tile. Temporarily remove baseboards and trim molding. Use a pull saw to trim door casings and jambs to accept the thickness of the tile. Remove all appliances and furniture that contact the floor, including the toilet if tiling a bathroom.
If vinyl flooring is already in place, most professionals recommend removing the vinyl, which may create undesired flexibility in the supporting surface of the tile. Note: If there are concerns that the vinyl or linoleum flooring in question may contain asbestos fibers, it should be tested before attempting removal. For more information on asbestos, visit www.epa.gov/asbestos.
The exterior-grade plywood subfloor should be at least 1 1/8-inch thick and installed over floor joists spaced at a maximum of 16 inches on center to provide for a structurally solid foundation.
Because plywood’s smooth surface can swell and warp, many professionals also recommend installing 1/4- or 1/2-inch-thick ceramic tile backerboards as an underlayment over wood subfloors. Use 1 1/4-inch corrosion-resistant roofing nails or 1 1/4-inch ribbed wafer-head screws in combination with a thinset mortar bed to install the backerboards. The fasteners should be installed every 6 to 8 inches on center. Keep in mind that the addition of ceramic tile backerboards will increase the height of your new floor and may require adjustment of the transitions where the floor meets the wall.
If installing over a concrete slab, remove all paints, adhesives, gypsum-based levelers or other chemically treated substrates. Thoroughly clean the concrete to remove dust and dirt. Use only water to mop the floor, and allow it to dry completely. Fill any dips or waves with a Portland cement-based floor leveler. Very smooth concrete can be roughened with an acid-based solution prior to installation to strengthen the mechanical bond of the mortar.