How to Install Ceramic Tile

Ceramic tiles not only can add class, color and style to kitchens and bathrooms, but to any room in your home. Not only that, but they are durable, water resistant and very easy to clean. One of the best things about ceramic tile is that you can install them yourself without the need to hire a professional which makes them an economical choice for flooring, walls or countertops.

Installing ceramic tile has just a few basic steps: preparing the base, doing a “dry run”, laying the tile, letting the adhesive cure, and finally grouting. Let’s look more closely at each of these steps.

Preparing the Base. Preparing the base that you will be laying the ceramic tiles on is probably the most important step of installing tile. Without a solid, level base you can have problems with your tile including cracking, unevenness, and poor water drainage.

If you are installing tile in a dry area you can use a foundation of plywood. In areas that will get wet such as showers, choose a concrete board for your foundation. If you are installing on a pre-existing surface you need to make sure that the surface is smooth, clean, level and solid. It is possible to tile directly over linoleum, however it is usually a good idea to remove the linoleum first or to create a new base upon which to tile.

Doing a Dry Run. Once tile it laid it is difficult to move around. It is always best to lay out your tile without adhesive first in a “dry run” so you can make sure that your tile is gong to fit and where you need to make cuts. Ideally, if you have to cut down the tile you should try to do it so that the cut tiles are in the least visible part of the room. You don’t have to lay out all of you tiles in your dry run, but do figure out how you are going to deal with weird angles, doorways, corners and any other obstacles that may stand in your way.

Laying the Tile. The first step in laying the tile is making sure your surface is completely free from dirt again. You can use ceramic adhesive (called mastic) or thinset mortar to lay your tiles depending upon where you are installing them. Read the manufacturer’s directions and use guidelines on your adhesive to make sure that it is appropriate for how you want to use it.

If you don’t have a lot of experience with laying tile you should not try to tackle too large of an area at once. Starting with a small area in the center of your project, spread the mastic or thinset using a notched trowel. First spread the adhesive with the flat end of the trowel to a thickness of about 1/8″, then go back over it with the notched or serrated edge of the trowel to put ridges in the adhesive. The ridges will not only help the tile to adhere better, but they will ensure that your adhesive is spread at the exact right depth so it doesn’t ooze between your tiles.

It is important to work quickly since both mastic and thinset begin to dry pretty fast. Be sure to use spacers between your tiles to keep your grout lines straight and uniform for a professional look. Use a wet saw to cut the tile when needed.

Letting the Adhesive Cure. Whichever adhesive you chose, it will require time to cure. You should leave the newly installed tile to dry for at least 24 hours before grouting to ensure that the adhesive is dry and cured.

Grouting. Grouting tile is like putting the icing on the cake. Grouting your tiles brings the whole project together and immediately makes it look complete, making this one of the most rewarding steps of laying tile.

Choose a grout color that compliments your tile and your decor. Mix the grout with a latex admix to give it extra strength and durability. Your grout should be mixed about to the consistency of peanut butter. One you have mixed your grout, apply it to your tiles using a grout float to push it down in between the tiles. Wipe the excess of frequently using a damp (not wet) sponge. Keep rinsing the sponge and re-wiping the tiles until you have removed all of the excess grout.

Once your tiles are grouted all you need to do is let the grout cure for at least 24 hours, and then seal it with a good grout sealer to help protect it from staining. That’s it! You now have a beautiful tiled surface that you did yourself.

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