Tiling Floors

This story covers tiling floors with ceramic tile.


Ceramic tile is the most stable finished floor covering, but it's best to acclimate it to the room before setting it. Bring tile and other materials into the room at least a day in advance.

Sort tiles for consistent coloring and according to design or texture patterns. Stack tiles around the room near the sections in which you'll lay them, counting out enough to fill each section. Organizing your materials reduces trips to another room to get more tiles.

If you haven't done so already, verify the accuracy of your dimensional layout plan by setting a row of tiles in each direction in a dry run on the floor.

Leave outswinging doors in place. Remove inswinging doors as needed.


About 30 to 45 minutes per square yard to prepare and set tile

4-foot level, small sledge and cold chisel, right-angle grinder (slab) or belt sander (wood floor), chalk line, margin trowel, notched trowel, straightedge, utility knife, carbide scriber, snap cutter or wet saw, nippers, masonry stone, grout knife, caulk gun, grout float, hammer, cordless drill, putty knife, tape measure, china marker or felt-tip pen

Power sanding, snapping chalk lines, driving fasteners, troweling, laying tile, grouting

Repair structural defects

Bucket, thinset mortar, isolation membrane, roller, tile, spacers, caulk, grout, rags, sponge, water, backerboard, screws, tape, foam backer rod, tile base or bullnose tile, nylon wedges, threshold and fasteners

Dimensional Kitchen Drawing

A dimensional drawing for a kitchen floor includes spaces that currently house appliances. When you note dimensions on the plan, add the thickness of any baseboard that you will remove. Measure up to the edge of toe-kicks under the cabinets.

Dimensional Bathroom Drawing

To create a dimensional drawing of a bathroom tile installation, you will need to measure the location of the toilet flange as accurately as possible. Because the toilet will likely be in place when you draw the plan, you will not be able to see the flange. Estimate its location: Measure from the side wall to half the width of the toilet base and from the back wall to about one-fourth of its length.

Installing Backerboard: Step 1

Examine the floor carefully and mark defects -- high spots, indentations and depressions, popped nails, and cracks. Fix all defects that could interfere with the adhesive, backerboard, or tile installation. Install a waterproofing membrane over the floor if necessary.

Installing Backerboard: Step 2

Mark floor joist locations on the walls. Cut the pieces of backerboard so the edges will be centered on the joists. Starting on a wall away from the door, trowel a section of thinset, lay the board, and fasten with screws. Continue the process, working toward the doorway.

Installing Backerboard: Step 3

Starting again at a wall away from the door, tape each backerboard joint with 2-inch gummed fiberglass mesh tape. Use 4-inch tape at the corners if the backerboard goes up the wall. Trowel a thin coat of thinset over the tape, feathering for smooth edges.

Marking layout lines: Step 1

Use the dimensional drawing to guide the placement of layout lines. From the midpoint of the walls or at a distance equal to several tiles and grout joints, mark the location of the lines where a grout joint will fall. Dry-lay tiles and spacers in both directions to locate the line precisely. Anchor one end of the chalkline or have a helper hold it and snap the lines. Adjust the first pair so they are perpendicular and snap lines in layout grids of a manageable size.

Marking Layout Lines: Step 2

If you have designed a border or accent pattern on your dimensional drawing, snap layout lines where the field tile ends and the border begins. Mark lines within the pattern where the tile changes shape or size. If the design is especially complicated, dry-lay the tiles on a piece of heavy cardboard, trace and cut out the pattern, and use the cardboard as a stencil to lightly spray-paint the pattern on the floor. (Tape the stencil down to avoid smudges when painting.)

Laying the Tiles: Step 1

Mix enough thinset for the number of layout grids you will set at one time. Dump mortar in the first grid, spread it to the lines, and comb it. Lay the first tile in a corner of the grid, twisting it slightly as you embed it. Continue laying tile, inserting spacers as you go. Check each grid with a straightedge to make sure the joints are properly aligned. Clean excess thinset from the joints and surface. Cut tile for the edges and around obstructions and set it.

Laying the Tiles: Step 2

When the mortar has cured (usually overnight), mix enough grout to cover a section and apply it with a grout float. Let the grout set up until a damp sponge won't pull it from the joint, then scrape the excess off the tile surface with the float. Damp-sponge the residue from the surface, smoothing out the joints. Damp-sponge again. Let the surface dry. Wash the haze from the surface with a rag. Grout the next section. Caulk the perimeter joint.

Comments (3)
peter.lythgoe wrote:

Is it necessary to leave expansion joints at joints in tiles between rooms, for instance under the door. Room widths are not less than 15 feet.

11/21/2013 11:44:21 AM Report Abuse
melchizedeckfij wrote:

can i tile over an existing tile floor

10/27/2010 07:29:39 PM Report Abuse
vinniebd1547 wrote:

does one use thin set to install moaaic sheets of floor tile

10/15/2010 09:24:45 AM Report Abuse
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