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How to Install Tile Flooring

The experts show how to remove old carpet and replace it with a tile floor.

More in Floors

installing tile flooring

Step 1: Prepare the Subfloor

Cut through the existing carpet with a utility knife to reveal the plywood subfloor below. To prepare the subfloor for underlayment, pull up the carpet pad and pry up all the tack strips. It's important to start with a smooth surface, so pull out any remaining staples and vacuum all the debris.

pull up carpet pad and pry up all tack strips

Step 2: Cut the Backer Board

With the sub-floor in good shape, begin setting the underlayment. Underlayment, or backer board, provides a good foundation for the tile. Without it, tiles can crack as the house settles and shifts over time. In order to fit the backer board into each nook and cranny, cut the 4' x 4' boards down to size using a utility knife.

cut the backer board

Step 3: Add Mortar to the Subfloor

After carefully measuring the areas, transfer the measurements to each piece. Once the pieces are cut and dry fit, trowel a layer of mortar, or thin-set, on the subfloor. Screw down each piece. Allow for the thin-set to dry.

trowel a layer of mortar on subfloor

Step 4: Prevent a Lop-Sided Floor

To prevent a lop-sided looking floor, create a layout that maintains a visual balance. Lay a row of tiles as a reference (Image 1), and create a grid with a chalk line and a framing square (Image 2).

Step 5: Back Butter the Tile

To install the tiles, trowel an even layer of thin-set on the underlayment, and back butter the tile for better coverage.

back butter the tile

Step 6: Place Spacers Between the Tiles

Once the tile is set, use a level to make sure the tile is flat and even. Place spacers between each corner.

place spacers between each corner of tile

Step 7: Cut Each Tile

For tiles that run adjacent to the wall or around corners, carefully measure the space, and use a diamond blade wet saw to cut each tile to size.

cut each tile to size

Step 8: Transfer Measurements

For tough cuts around the sink or sewer opening, transfer a group of measurements to low tack tape on the tile. Using tape gives an exact line to follow, so there's less room for error.

Step 9: Cut Out a Curve

With the measurements plotted out, you can map out a precise curve (Image 1). Use the saw to make the initial cut, and refine the edge with a grinder and a rubbing stone (Image 2).

Step 10: Grout the Tile

If the grout joints are 1/8" or larger, use a sanded grout for strength. As the house settles and shifts, the grout acts as another buffer so the tiles don't crack over time. Clean the tile surface, and use a rubber grout float to pack the grout in all the joints (Image 1). Once you fill all the joints, use a wet sponge to clean off the excess grout (Image 2). Wipe the joint while using a 45-degree angle to not remove the grout from between the tiles.

Step 11: Caulk the Tile

Once the grout dries, caulk around the edges of any sinks or other items, as well as along the walls. Clean and buff the tiles to complete the project.

caulk around the edges

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