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How To Install a Tile Floor

Installing a tile floor requires medium-level DIY skills, but with a bit of patience DIYers can add this durable yet beautiful flooring.

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Step 1: Install a Cement Board Underlayment if Necessary

Before installing, keep in mind that the floor will be 1/2" higher after the installation. In bathrooms you may need to adjust the toilet, vanity, and other fixtures to compensate. In a kitchen pay attention to any appliances under countertops and make sure they fit between the new height of the tile floor and the bottom of the counter. Before you install a ceramic tile floor, make sure the floor is smooth and secure. If there's any movement in the floor while walking across it, install a cement board underlayment.

floor needs to be smooth and secure before tiling

Courtesy of Blake Brinkman

Step 2: Find the Center of the Room

Find the center point of the room. First, measure across the room and mark the center. Then measure the room in the other direction, and mark the center. Snap a chalk line across both center points; the intersection of the two lines is the center of the room.

Step 3: Lay Out the Tiles

Lay out the tiles in a dry run, starting at the center and following both chalk lines. Place spacers between the tiles to ensure proper distances between them. Reposition the starting point if necessary. After you're satisfied with the placement, trace around the center tile.

Step 4: Install the Center Tile

Place the center tile, using the type of adhesive recommended by the manufacturer. Sometimes this is thin-set mortar but sometimes tile manufacturers recommend a synthetic adhesive. Hold the notched edge of the trowel at about a 45 degree angle to the floor and apply the adhesive to the floor.

Press the tile in place while twisting it back and forth to secure it into position. Pull the tile back up and look to make sure the adhesive is in contact with all of the bottom of the tile. If you still see bare spots on the bottom of the tile you need to make the adhesive thicker when applying it with the notched trowel. Reinstall the center tile.

notched trowel used to apply adhesive to tile

Courtesy of Blake Brinkman

Step 5: Install the Remaining Tiles

Use the center tile as a reference point, and install the remaining tiles along straight lines. Install only a few tiles at a time, spreading adhesive for two or three tiles. If adhesive oozes up between tiles when you press the tile into place you are using too much adhesive. Place spacers between the tiles to establish the grout lines. If necessary cut any tiles to size for the end rows next to the walls of the room.

center tile becomes reference point

Courtesy of Blake Brinkman

Step 6: Allow the Adhesive to Cure

After installing the tile, allow it to cure overnight or for the amount of time recommended by the adhesive manufacturer.

Step 7: Mix the Grout

Mix the grout to a consistency similar to peanut butter. Grout comes in a wide variety of colors, and it can be tinted to match your decor. Scoop some grout onto the tiles, and use a rubber grout float to work it into the joints. Spread the grout with the float at an angle to the grout lines to force it as far as possible into the joints.

tile joint grout has cosistency of peanut butter

Step 8: Clean the Tile

After you finish working the grout into the joints, wipe off the residue with a damp sponge being careful to not pull any grout out of the grout lines between tiles. For best results, rinse the sponge frequently. Allow the grout to cure to a light haze, and buff the tiles with a soft damp cloth. Follow the manufacturer's instructions on how to cure the grout. This may take several days with you using a spray bottle to keep the grout damp. After the grout has cured, apply a sealant to the grout lines. If you're installing the tile in a bathroom, caulk along the tub line to prevent moisture from seeping underneath the tiles.

residue from grout wiped with sponge

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