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How to Install Natural Stone Tile Flooring

Make the most of your home by replacing ceramic tile with natural stone tile flooring. The experts show how to remove the old flooring and install the limestone tile to give any room a facelift.

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Step 1: Remove the Old Tile

Remove the tile and begin with a clean and level substrate. Use a hammer gun with a chisel bit to make it easier. Apply pressure along the outside edges as you break up the tiles to help them break.

Tip: As you demo, place the tip of the hammer gun along the grooves of the tile joints. This helps the tiles crack more easily. Use industrial strength trash bags to clean up the broken tiles.

remove the old tile

Step 2: Remove the Old Thinset

If you're working off a concrete base, you need to remove the old thinset to get a smooth and level subfloor before setting the tile. To remove the thinset run the hammer drill along the old thinset line.

remove the old thinset

Step 3: Clean the Area

Use a heavy duty vacuum cleaner to clean up.

use heavy duty vacuum cleaner to clean up

Step 4: Measure the Area

When selecting tile, you have a lot of options so choose what works best for you. The material choosen for this room is a natural limestone 12x12 inch tile.

Measure the area where you will be setting the tile. This will help determine how many full squares are needed and how many will have to be cut.

measure area where setting tile

Step 5: Place the Full Tiles

When setting the tile, make sure the full squares are in the most noticeable area while the cut squares are along the wall or steps.

Step 6: Mix the Thinset

To mix the thinset, put the paddle mixer in an empty bucket. Pour the thinset in the bucket and slowly add water. Mix the thinset until it is the consistency of pancake batter. Let it false set for five minutes, and mix again.

mix the thinset

Step 7: Set all the Cut Tiles

Set the full 12x12 tiles first. Once these have dried, set the cut tiles along the edges. Apply the thinset first with the smooth end of the trowel, and follow with the notched side. Work small sections at a time.

Tip: Before setting limestone tiles, dampen the back of the tile with a grout sponge and clean water. Doing this keeps the tile from absorbing the moisture out of the thinset too quickly and slows the setting time, thus strengthening the bond between the tile and thinset.

apply thinset with smooth end of trowel

Step 8: Spread the Thinset

Spread a good amount of thinset on the floor to make up for any irregularities. Adding or taking away thinset will ensure that all the tiles are evenly set.

Step 9: Set and Space the Tiles

Set the first tile in a corner, and move on to the next one (Image 1).

Keep the joints small when working with natural stone tile. Use a toothpick to space the joints or just eye it (Image 2). Smaller joints will emphasize the stonework rather than the joint size.

Step 10: Create a Pattern

As you work, pay attention to the color and patterns of the tiles. Mixing them will greatly enhance the appearance of the floor.

Set all of the full tiles (leaving space for the tiles that will be cut along the edge) and allow them to dry. If the area you're working in is the only entryway into the house, you may need to work in sections.

mixing tiles will enhance appearance of floor

Step 11: Cut Odd Tiles

There will be areas along the edges or near trim where tiles will have to be cut to size. Measure and mark the cuts on each tile individually, leaving room for joint spacing on either side. Use a straight edge to mark the cuts and double check the measurements before cutting them.

Use a wet saw with a masonry blade to cut the limestone. Cut all of the tiles first, then dry set them to make sure they fit. For more detailed cuts, use a grinder with a diamond blade.

use wet saw with masonry blade to cut limestone

Step 12: Apply the Thinset and Set the Tiles

Once the cuts are finished, apply the thinset to the floor, or to the back of the tile if you need to be more precise. Then set the tiles. Wipe the face of the tiles with a wet sponge as you work to remove excess thinset before it dries. Allow the tiles to dry fully.

apply thinset to floor

Step 13: Apply the Sealer

Once the tiles have dried, thoroughly clean them with water and seal them with a penetrating stone sealer. Spray the sealer onto the tiles and wipe off the excess. Limestone is a porous stone and the sealer will protect it from staining, especially when you begin to grout.

spray sealer onto tiles and wipe off excess

Step 14: Apply the Grout

Pick a grout color that complements the tile you have chosen. You can either use colored grout or add liquid color to white grout. Mix the grout according to the manufacturer's directions and spread it along the joints with a rubber float. Push the grout in, making sure that it gets all the way into the joint.

Note: Don't forget to grout the cut pieces against the wall.

apply the grout

Step 15: Clean the Grout

Wipe the grouted area with a sponge and clean water as soon as you get an area completed. This keeps the area clean as you work and the floor will already be clean when you're done. Once all the joints have been grouted and the grout has dried fully, the tile entryway is completed.

cleaning the grout

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