This project covers the steps and techniques for installing ceramic tile.
Prepare the surface. Slab floors and drywall or plaster in dry areas may not require the installation of backerboard. Install backerboard on wood surfaces and walls in areas that will get wet, such as bathrooms or entryways.
Before you trowel on the mortar, sweep the floor clean. Figure out how many tiles you need in each layout grid and stack them around the room close to each section. That way you won't have to go back and forth to supply yourself with fresh tiles when you start laying each grid.
Sort through all the tile boxes to make sure the dye lots match and separate out any chipped tiles. Use these for cut pieces.
If you are installing saltillo or handmade tile, its color may be consistent within each carton but may vary from box to box. Sort through the tiles; at each layout grid, mix some from each box. Doing so spreads the colors evenly in the room and keeps them from occurring in patches.
About an hour to trowel and set 4 to 6 square feet (varies with tile size)
Mortar mixing paddle, 1/2-inch electric drill, notched trowel, 4-foot level, utility knife, grout float, sponge, beater block, hammer or rubber mallet
Mixing with power drill, troweling
Install backerboard, clean surface, snap layout lines
Five-gallon bucket, thinset mortar, spacers, 3/4-inch plywood squares
Pour water in a bucket according to manufacturer's directions, then add about half the thinset. Mix the thinset with a 1/2-inch drill and a paddle designed for mortar. Keep the speed below 300 rpm and the paddle in the mix to avoid adding air. Add thinset a little at a time. Let the mix set for 10 minutes before applying.
Pour enough mortar to cover a layout grid. Holding the straight edge of the trowel at about a 30-degree angle, spread the mortar evenly, about as thick as the depth of a trowel notch. Spread the mortar to the layout line; comb it with the notched edge at about a 45- to 75-degree angle.
Set the first full tile at the intersection of your layout lines, positioning it with a slight twist as you embed it in the mortar. Do not slide the tile in place -- sliding can reduce the thickness of the thinset and build up mortar between the joints. Keep the edges of the tile on the layout lines.
Periodically check to make sure the tile conforms to the layout lines in both directions. Lay a long metal straightedge or 4-foot level on the edge of the tile. This edge should align itself with the layout lines. Each joint within the pattern should also be straight. Scrape off any excess thinset that may have spread over a layout line. Adjust the tiles to straighten the joints, if necessary.
Continue laying the tiles according to your chosen pattern, spacing and checking them as you go. Don't kneel or walk on set tiles. If you need to straighten a tile that is out of reach, lay down a 2-foot square of 3/4-inch plywood to distribute your weight evenly and to avoid disturbing the tile. Cut at least two pieces of plywood to use, so you can position one while kneeling on the other.
When you have finished laying one section or grid of tile, place a long metal straightedge or a 4-foot carpenter's level on the surface and check for any tiles that are higher or lower than the overall surface. Make a beater block out of a 12- to 15-inch 2x4 covered with scrap carpet. Tap high tiles in place using the beater block and hammer.
If you discover tiles that are lower than the rest, pry them up with the point of a utility knife and spread additional adhesive on the back of the tile. Set the tile back in place and level it with the beater block. Clean excess mortar from the joints while the mortar is still wet. Run the blade of a utility knife in the joint, flicking out the excess as it accumulates on the blade. Pick up loose bits of mortar with a damp sponge. Let the thinset cure at least overnight.