A DIY Tile Flooring installation can take some time, but it can be done, and you will likely be pleased with the results. It just takes a little understanding of each step. Here is an overview of the process.
- Begin by preparing the substrate. This is the surface to which you will directly apply the adhesive to hold your tile. This could be existing tile, a mortar base, plywood subflooring, or cement board. You will need to be sure that if you are going to work on existing tile, that the grout is secure, any loose tiles are repaired, and the tile is very clean in order to facilitate good adhesion. You should also scuff the old tile surface with sandpaper to provide better grip for the adhesive. Tiling over mortar (also called “mud” or thin set) is preferred by professionals because it prepares the original floor with a solid, level base that yields a very durable finished surface. It does take some skill to mix and level it on the floor. Tile mastic or thin set is a premixed adhesive that is easy to use right out of the can and bonds well to almost any surface. It is usually used over plywood or cement board. Cement board is a highly stable, cement based, sheet material that is typically reinforced with fiberglass. It is installed with special screws. Plywood should have a double layer with overlapping seams. The bottom layer should be at least ¾ inch thick. The top layer can be ¼ inch thick, and both layers should be screwed down well.
- Next, measure the floor. Then divide the room in quadrants and begin tiling from the center out. You should do a dry run without any adhesive to be sure all is correct and you can adjust as needed. Use plastic spacers between tiles. When you get to the edge of the walls and doorways, be sure to end with at least one half of a tile in high traffic places. You may want to just start with a full tile in the doorway for instance, and have the tiles that need to be cut to fit end in a less noticeable and lower traffic spot.
- Tiles can be cut with a manual snap cutter or with a power wet saw. The snap cutter is adequate for smaller jobs and thin tiles. It has a scoring wheel and a level press to snap cut along the scored line. A wet saw can be rented to cut thicker tiles and all types of materials.
- First of all, some mastics have strong fumes, so be sure to extinguish pilot lights and have adequate ventilation. Then, apply the mastic with a notched trowel to spread over the floor. You should create ridges equal to the notch depth. Work in a small area to prevent the mastic from drying out. Now, carefully set the tiles into the adhesive, working from the center out to the walls. It is good to work with a partner to keep the process moving. Use a rubber mallet or a hammer and wood block to gently but firmly tap and bed each tile in the mastic. Do not press or shift tiles or allow the mastic to ooze up between the tiles. The spaces are where your grout will go. Replace any broken tiles, “butter” the back of the replacement tile with the mastic and set it into place. Place plastic spacers between the tiles. Mastic will not stick to these, and you can remove them before you set the grout. Use a four foot level or smaller to be sure that the tile edges are aligned and level over the surface.
- Grout application will be the next step. Allow the mastic to set for at least a day before removing the spacers and grouting the joints. Premixed grout is easier to use than bulk grout and is available in many colors to complement your tile. Be sure your tile surfaces are sealed before you add the grout, which can stain and stick to a porous tile. Mix and apply the grout in batches, as it will begin to dry in only 30 minutes. Ensure that the grout completely fills the spaces between tiles. Clean grout off the surface with a damp sponge or cloth but do not wet the grout. This will weaken it. Wipe diagnonally across the joints to avoid pulling the still fresh grout out of the grooves. After it has dried completely, use a release agent to clean any grout haze from the tile surfaces, then apply a grout sealer.
So, as you see, for those who love projects, DIY tile installation will not disappoint! If this sounds like something you are ready to tackle, contact the folks at Carolina Flooring! They can help you to be sure you have all the materials you need to get the job done right the first time. They can also give advice. If this sounds like more than you want to try, Carolina Flooring also provides installation! Contact them today for all your flooring needs!
Photo courtesy of: James Bowes