Making a Dimensional Floor Plan

This story deals with potential problems encountered when planning a floor installation.

One of the most common problems in planning a floor installation is out-of-square walls. Walls seldom define a room squarely, but you can make paper-and-pencil adjustments much more easily than you can rebuild a wall.

To determine if the area is square, use the 3-4-5 triangle method. Snap a chalkline on the floor, or tack a mason's line at the midpoints of each pair of opposite walls. From the intersection, measure out on one line a distance of 3 feet. Tape the line at that point and measure and tape a distance of 4 feet on the other line. Now measure the distance between the tapes. If it's 5 feet exactly, the floor is square. Adjust the lines, if necessary, until they are perpendicular. Now measure from the lines to the out-of-square walls at each end and post this measurement on your drawing.

Wavy walls may also affect your drawing. Check them with a 4-foot level and represent the condition on your drawing as accurately as possible.

Laying Out Different Configurations: Rectangular Room

In a rectangular or square room, pencil in reference lines at the midpoints of the walls and draw in tiles on both axes. If you have the tiles, lay them out on the floor to make your drawing more accurate. Adjust the placement of the lines so the pattern ends in even borders if possible.

Laying Out Different Configurations: L-Shape Room

When laying out an L-shape room, position the lines so they carry from one room to the other. Adjust them so the layout results in even borders if necessary.

Laying Out Different Configurations: Diagonal Layout

To establish lines for a diagonal layout, first pencil in lines at the midpoints of the room. Then on each axis, mark an equal distance from the intersection. Extend these points until the extensions intersect. Draw diagonal lines from the intersections through the midpoint.

Check Floor

Check the floor to determine if it is level and flat. If the floor is not level, it won't affect the final look unless you are also tiling a wall. But floors must be reasonably flat (within 1/8 inch in 10 feet) to keep the tile from cracking.

Check Walls

Wavy walls will affect the contour of the edge tiles on floors. Use a 4-foot level to check the lower surface of the wall near the floor. There are many ways to remedy minor variations in the surface.

What If... The Floor is not Square?

An out-of-square floor surface will result in tapered tiles on at least one edge. Draw the tiles on your layout plan to minimize the visibility of the tapered tiles. Modify the grout width, hide cut edges under baseboards, or arrange your layout so the tapered edges fall behind furniture. Try a diagonal layout or a larger, irregular tile to hide the tapered edges. In extreme cases, you can shim out the wall and rebuild it.

What If... The Floor is not Level?

An out-of-level floor creates tapered wall tiles at the floor. A diagonal wall layout may hide a minor condition. For severe problems, install a floor covering other than tile or level the floor.

Plan Full Tiles in Doorways

When you are preparing a dimensional layout plan, draw the tiles in so a full tile will fall with its edge in the center of a doorway. If you can't set a full tile in the doorway because your plan already incorporates wide border tiles, you may be able to minimize the effect of a cut tile with a threshold in the doorway.

If the tile continues into an adjoining room, center a tile at the doorway, if possible, so an even portion lies in each room.

Wavy Walls: Hide or Fix the Problem

Wavy walls can result in edge tiles with uneven cuts. If the problem is not severe, the cuts may not be noticeable. When drawing a layout plan, try the following solutions: Hide minor variations in a wall surface under a baseboard. Level more severe wall depressions with a skim coat of thinset prior to tiling the floor. Feather the edges of the skim coat to blend with the level surface. Skim-coating, however, requires proper preparation of the wall so the mortar will stick. You will also have to tile the wall, paint it, or cover it with another material.


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