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How to Lay a Porcelain Tile Kitchen Floor

DIY remodeling expert Paul Ryan lays a porcelain tile floor as the base for a new contemporary kitchen.

More in Kitchen

mark grid for tiles and begin tile laying process
  • Time

    Two Days

  • Price Range

    $2,500 - $5,000

  • Difficulty

    Moderate to Hard

Highlights:

Step 1: Pull Up the Old Tile Floor

A new floor is an important aesthetic element in updating any kitchen. In this project an Italian porcelain tile that looks like slate is used to contemporize this kitchen before the new cabinets go in.

To lay a new porcelain tile floor over an old floor, first remove all baseboard moldings from the walls, setting all pieces aside where they will not get broken.

Make sure a dumpster or large trash bin is within easy reach. A wheelbarrow or trash cans with handles are very handy in removing old floor tiles.

You never know what may be underneath an old tile floor, (in this case, old green vinyl tiles), so take care when pulling up the individual pieces. For this project, the green vinyl tiles did not present a problem so they were taken up as well. If you suspect that old tiles might contain asbestos, check with local environmental authorities on safe and proper removal practices in your area.

To make the task of ripping up the tile easier, you can rent a roofing shovel for about $10 a day. These shovels have serrated teeth and built-in fulcrum to make the job much more manageable.

Scrape any cement, glue or adhesive from the subfloor. Make sure the surface is completely free of debris. Fill any holes.

Step 2: Prep the Floor

Mark the floor with chalk where the new cabinets and the island will be placed. You won't have to lay tile in these areas.

You can also make cardboard templates to demarcate where the cabinets and island will go. At least 40", and ideally 52” of clearance is recommended around all sides of the island.

Step 3: Chalk the Tile Grid on the Floor

A new floor goes down before any new cabinets or appliances go in. This project uses Italian-made porcelain tile that look like slate.

Before laying out the new tile floor, create a floor grid with a chalk line (it’s best to do this with someone else). Lay tiles side by side and measure them with grout joints to determine the square size for the grid.

Start along the longest wall to establish your straight wall. Make a mark the size of your tile square. Then snap put the first chalk line the length of the first wall. Mark the square from the back wall and snap a chalk line. Now mark your grid points, making sure that the grid lines line up correctly across the entire floor. Taking special care now will save you headaches when laying down the tile.

Now that the grid is marked out, it's time to start laying the tiles.

Step 4: Lay The Porcelain Tile

Mix consistency of the mortar to the consistency of thick mayonnaise. Apply a thin layer of thin-set mortar using the notches in the 1/4 x 3/8" trowel to set the thickness. Try to get nice even coverage, without covering your grid lines.

Apply a thin layer of mortar on the back of each tile, spreading it with the flat edge of the trowel.

Following the grid lines, lay the tile. Apply even pressure with both hands to set the tile in place. Make sure all the tiles are set at the same level, are square to each other, and that grout lines are even.

Clean up any excess thin-set with a damp sponge. Be sure to squeeze all the water out before wiping the surface.

use notches in trowel to set thickness

Step 5: Cut the Floor Tiles

Cut tile for the corners and other areas with a tile or wet saw. The water does a couple of things: a) cools the blade and b) reduces the dust when the tile is cut. You can usually rent a tile or wet saw from a local rental retailer for $50 to $75 a day.

The secret to cutting with a wet saw is to go slowly and not to force tile through with too much pressure.

To fit small pieces of tile along a wall or in a corner, it can be difficult to apply thin-set to the floor. Just apply the thin-set to the back of the small tile pieces.

cut tile with tile or wet saw

Step 6: Grout the Floor Tiles

With the whole floor laid out, wait 24 hours before grouting to let the tile set up.

Grout is a major design component in any tiling job. A wide variety of colors is available. Choose one that blends well with the color of your tile.

Start the grouting by using sanded grout to add body to the mix. Stir the grout mixture to about the same consistency as the thin-set, like the consistency of mayonnaise.

Grout dries quickly, so don't mix too much at one time.

Use a float for this job. Hold it at a 45-degree angle and then spread the grout across the tile. The float gently forces the grout into the seams.

Remove most of the grout on the first pass. Let the grout set for a few minutes until it starts to set up, then go back over it with a sponge. If you sponge over wet grout too quickly, you can pull the grout out of the seam -- so go at a slow, even pace. Let the grout dry over night before you walk on it.

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Resources

  • Kitchen cabinetry (Merillat Classic in Portrait/color: Cherry Cider) from Merillat Industries

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