More in Floors
Sweep up and clean the floor of any debris left over from construction up to this point. Dust, grit and dirt will hamper the adhesion of the thinset to the subfloor so it is important to have a clean surface. Use a shop vacuum to clean the floor after removing the larger debris.
Start laying out the tiles with a full-sized tile in the most visible corner. Often this is the corner most readily noticed upon entering the room. Building off that tile, lay out the remaining tiles with spacers to see if the pattern ends at the other corners and against the walls in a way that is pleasing to the eye. If not, shift the location of the first tile and lay out tiles until satisfied.
The mortar used in this project is commonly called thinset, and it comes two ways -- in a box ready for mixing or pre-mixed tubs. The pre-mix is more expensive, but it's easy to work with and good for small projects. If mixing thinset, it's a good idea to do it outside because the powdered form can create a lot of dust.
It's important not to try to do too many tiles at once. Spread enough mortar to cover 2 to 3 square feet. Use a notched trowel to spread the mortar, holding it at a 45-degree angle to keep the mortar an even thickness on the backer board.
Carefully set the tiles on the mortar and apply as much pressure as possible, giving the tile a slight twist back and forth to fully set it in the mortar (Image 1). Use a small 2x4 board covered with cloth to protect the tile and tap the board with a hammer or mallet (Image 2). Do not tap the tile directly. Tapping the tile directly may crack the tile.
Proceed across the floor, spreading small areas with mortar and setting the tiles. Use spacers to keep the tiles aligned but step back every few tiles to ensure the pattern is lined up properly. Use a board that spans several tiles to check if any tiles are level with the other tiles around them. Tap down any high sections of tiles using the padded board. If a tile is much lower than the surrounding tiles, pull it up and re-spread mortar below it to bring it up to the right height.
Use a scoring tool or snap cutter to cut any tiles to fit as you reach the other side of the room and for any obstructions. If there are many tiles to be cut or if tiles need to be notched it is worth renting a wet saw.
After the mortar has cured completely spread grout with a rubber float into the grout lines (Image 1). Use the float to remove grout from the surface of the tiles as well as possible then use a damp sponge to clean the face of the tiles (Image 2). Rinse the sponge often. After the grout has dried just a bit there will be a haze on the surface of the tile. Buff the haze off with a cloth. Follow the manufacturer's instructions to the letter for curing the grout.