Uncle Bobs Tips

How to Tile a Floor The Right Way

How to Tile a Floor The Right Way

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Ceramic floor tiles are known for their durability, beauty and no-hassle, easy to clean surface. For this reason, floor tiling is one of the most popular tile projects out there. Whether or not you know how to tile a floor, read on. By the end of this series, you'll not only know how to tile floor, wall and accent surfaces, but you'll know how to do it like a pro.

What you'll need for this floor tiling project:

Floor tiles

Thinset (mortar)

Trowel (notched and flat edged)



Tile cutter or other means of cutting tiles

Measuring chalk line/tape measure

Spirit level

Rubber mallet

Tile cutter/saw/nippers


Patch and leveler


Tile spacers

Safety equipment

Molding or metal edging

How to tile floor surface step one: Preparation

In this first part of our tile projects series we're going to learn how to tile floor areas, regardless of room distinction. For more information or tips, visit our other tile projects. You'll need to check the ground for uniform levelness and general good condition prior to any tiling. Measure the floor using your spirit level to ensure a straight working surface. In areas that are not uniform, use patch and leveler to fill in the dips. Another thing you may need to do during your preparations for this tiling project is to resize the door or jamb. If you are nervous about your tiles fitting properly beneath the doorframe etc., the general rule is to cut 1/16" off doorjambs and 1/8" off doors.

Before you can actually begin installing ceramic floor tile, there is one last step. The floor has to be prepared to receive the materials. Cement backboards are laid down prior to tiling. Once these are nailed or screwed into place, many people like to place some thinset into the seams and cover over that with fiberglass mesh tape. For even more protection, another strip of cement can be applied onto of the tape, as well. Measure and mark your pattern or tile position on the backboard now. These will be your reference lines for tiling. The idea behind the reference liens is to get an even appearance without having very small cut pieces at the edges. To avoid this, measure the room and mark the centers of the walls to create a cross. Lay a line of tiles along the marked lines (without adhesive). Measure the distance from the last tile to the wall. If this gap is less than 2", realign the tiles so that the gap, and therefore the cut tiles, will be larger. Do the same thing for the height and the width of the room. Make lines down the new starting centers to act as a guide for laying the tiles.

How to tile floor surfaces step two: Tiling

Once you've prepared your base floor, you can begin installing floor tile. Start by combining your mortar until it is a thick but liquidy consistency, almost like mayonnaise. Begin spreading thinset in the middle of your floor in one of the central grid sections. Use the flat side of a notched trowel to spread a nice layer on about 3'-4' of floor space. Next, make ridges by dragging the notched edge of the trowel through the mortar. Now you are going to firmly press one tile at a time into the mortar and twist slightly to secure the tiles in place. Use spacers between tiles to ensure uniform grout lines, and periodically lift a tile to see that mortar is sticking to the back. Note: If you are not getting enough thinset on the back of each tile, use a trowel with bigger notches to create the ridges. Occasionally use a level to check that the tiles are uniformly flat. Where tiles are uneven, use a rubber mallet to level it out. When the entire floor is complete, let it dry for a minimum of 24 hours.

How to tile floor surfaces step three: Grouting

The next step is to spread a layer of grout over the surface of the tiles. Mix the grout to a thick spread-able consistency, something like peanut butter. Use a trowel held at a 45? angle to spread the grout and to drive grout into the spaces between each tile. Give the grout 15-20 minutes, and then wipe off excess grout with a damp sponge, and allow it to cure according to the manufacturer's' instructions. When grout has cured sufficiently, take a cloth and remove the layer of haze from the surface of the tiles. Generally, the floor is ready for heavy traffic within 72 hours. Finish off with sealant and add trims and embellishments. (Note: Many decorative edges are made with an extended lip. These are laid down before the last row of tiles are placed, with the final row being laid on top of the extended lip so it is no longer in view.)

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