Ceramic Tiles – The Ultimate Floor for the DIYer
Ceramic tiles are suitable for both interior and exterior use, come in a multitude of patterned and textured surfaces and can be either glazed or unglazed. For exterior use, ensure that the tiles are frost-proof.
Ceramic tiles are extremely functional and allow for minimal maintenance, requiring only a periodic washing. Ceramic tiles are suitable for entryways, kitchens, bathrooms, patios, fireplace hearths and facings. In fact, they are suitable anywhere a lifelong wear-resistant surface material is desired. There are numerous sizes, types, and colours available. The design possibilities are virtually limitless.
Step #1 – Surface Preparation
Homes built in the last 20 years will likely have plywood flooring over the joists. If so, ensure the plywood is rigid, flat, smooth, dry and clean. To keep movement in the plywood subfloor to a minimum, make sure it is nailed every 6 inches. If not, nail where necessary using ring shank (screw) nails.
In the case of concrete floors or concrete construction panels (Wonderboard etc.), the surface must be flat, smooth, dry, clean and free of cracks. If the surface is painted or sealed, sand with rough sandpaper and finish by scouring with a wire brush. Now vacuum all loose material.
Step #2 – Where to Begin
Measure and work the centre points of two opposite walls, disregarding any offsets, alcoves or other breaks of the wall. Draw a line on the floor between these two points to get the first centre line. Follow the same procedure for the other two walls, but check the intersection of the two lines with a carpenter's square to make sure it is 90 degrees.
Next, place a row of loose tiles along one centre line from wall to wall, allowing for approximately 1/4" grout joints. Tiles will have to be cut to fit spaces left near the walls. If the spaces left are less than one-half tile, move the centre line one-half tile closer to the opposite wall and draw a new centre line. Repeat this process with the other line. Doing this will ensure wide border tiles around the perimeter of the room and eliminate small cuts.
Step #3 – Laying the Tiles
Starting in the centre of the floor and working towards the walls, spread either the adhesive or thinset mortar. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the bags or containers. Work in small areas of about 10 square feet at a time, so that the tiles are laid into position before the surface of adhesive or thinset dries.
Next, press the tiles firmly into position using a slight twisting motion, so that no voids are left uncovered with adhesive. As you work towards the other end of the room, slide a block of wood, large enough to cover several tiles, over the tiles, while you tap it with a hammer. This process beds the tiles into the adhesive or thinset and makes them level with each other. From time to time, check with your square and straightedge, to make sure the grout joints are straight. If some of the tiles are out of line, don't panic, just wiggle them into position.
As you go along, clean off any adhesive or thinset that gets on the surface of the tiles, since this is very difficult to do once the adhesive or thinset has cured. Tiles can be cut using a tile cutter or wet saw.
To avoid breaking the bond of the adhesive, you must avoid walking on the newly tiled area for at least 48 hours. Should you find this absolutely impossible, the use of walking boards (flat boards spread over the tile surface) is strongly recommended. Doing this prevents the application of heavy point loads on individual tiles and considerably reduces the risk of disturbing the tile before the adhesive or thinset has finally set.
Step #4 – Grouting
Once the adhesive or thinset has been fully cured, you are ready to grout. To prepare for grouting, first remove any excess adhesive or debris from the joints. If you don’t do this, the grout can crack or fail to bond in these areas. Mix the grout in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions on the bag or container.
It is advisable to mix only a small amount of grout at a time. It is also advisable to wear rubber gloves when working with coloured grouts, as they tend to stain hands quite easily.