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How to Tile a Porch

Step-by-step directions for how to tile a screened-in porch from the planning stage to the polishing stage.

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tiling a screened in porch

Step 1: Select the Tile and Materials

To determine how many tiles are needed to tile a room, calculate the square footage of that room by multiplying the width of the room by its length. The porch in this project is 19' long and 14' wide, or 266 square feet. Calculate the square footage of the 8-1/2" border and subtract it from the total to get the amount of field tile. Then you can calculate the amount of thin set and grout needed for both.

For this project, four different tile colors were selected.

One consideration for a floor subject to outdoor conditions is the use of water-resistant tiles. In a cold climate, frost-resistant, water-resistant and non-skid tiles have to be considered.

get total square footage of room

Step 2: Prepare the Space for Tiling

Tile adds weight, not strength, so the existing flooring must be strong enough to support the new tile. Many existing surfaces are uneven or flexible, which can cause tile to crack. To get a good bed for tile, sand down the high spots, fill in the low spots and holes, and patch cracks. Vacuum the floor to remove all debris. Apply a self leveler to fill the voids and holes on the floor (Image 1). Cut the door jambs and casings so the tile can slide under those trim pieces.

apply self leveler to fill voids and holes

Step 3: Chalk the Layout

With the field tiles and border tiles in mind, snap two main chalk lines to establish the pattern in the center. The lines are measured from the wall where tiling will begin to the center of the room. Make sure the lines are square by using the 3-4-5 method (Image 1). Measure 3' on one of the lines to check for square and make a pencil mark. Repeat this process on the opposing line but make the mark at 4' instead. The lines are square to one another if the distance between the marks is 5'. To determine the box size for the layout, lay two tiles out dry and use the steel tape to measure the tiles with the two added grout joints. Using a grid box will eliminate the need for spacers. Chalk out the box grid pattern on the floor (Image 2). Be sure to spray the chalk lines with clear lacquer to prevent fading. Before spreading the thin set, do a dry run with the tiles, by laying them out to check the pattern.

Step 4: Apply Thin Set

Mix the thin set according to manufacturer's instructions, and apply it within the grid lines. Tip: Only spread as much thin set as can be tiled in 10 to 15 minutes. Be sure not to cover up the working lines, which delete the need for spacers. Spread the thin set on the surface with the flat edge of the trowel to key in the mortar and ensure a good bond. With the notched side of the trowel, comb through the thin-set with the trowel held at a consistent angle to ensure uniform thickness.

mix thin set according to manufacturer

Step 5: Lay the Tile

Begin laying the tile in the pattern. The particular pattern used in the example has a full 12x12 field tile as the outside edge, then 4x4 tiles inside that, then rectangular pieces to border the main field tiles in the middle. With the chalked-in grid pattern, work can begin at any point. The example starts with the border tile and then moves to the field tile.

cut pieces of tile for border and corners

Step 6: Use the Rubber Mallet

After laying a few tiles, secure them by using a rubber mallet and beating block, but don’t tap too hard so you won't crack the tiles. For spacing, lay the tiles along the chalk layout lines, and the tiles can be moved as long as the thin set bed is wet. As each tile is set, check the corners to make sure there's no excess lippage. If one tile is high, tap it down. If it's low, lift it and add more thin set and re-apply. Tip: Don't forget to clean out the joints of excess thin set as you lay the tiles. Note: On almost every tile job some tile will have to be cut to make the pieces fit the tight spots. It's best to use a wet saw (Image 1) simply because the cut will be cleaner and smoother. It will also give cuts that can't be done with a snap board. Wet saws can be rented from your local hardware store. After cutting the pieces of tile for the border and corners, continue tiling the entire floor (Image 2), and don't forget to let the thin set cure for 24 hours before walking on the tile and grouting.

Step 7: Grout the Tile

Note: Including the borders, this floor has four different color tiles. Because of its color, a tan grout (Image 1) that complemented each color tile was chosen. Mix the grout according to manufacturers instruction's, and note that the grout should be the consistency of a milkshake. Don't forget to let the grout slake, or stand, for at least 15 minutes prior to using. Apply the grout start in one corner and work outward, using a laminated grout float. Scoop a small amount of grout, and holding the float at an angle (Image 2), push the grout into the joints with the flat edge and a sweeping motion. Note: Pushing the grout over the face of the tiles diagonally with the flat edge of float will cut off excess grout. Be sure to work in small manageable areas. Continue the process over the entire floor until all joints have been grouted, and be sure to make two or three passes from different directions, scraping the tile with the edge of the float to clean off any excess grout. Allow grout to set and haze (dry until partially opaque). With a nearly dry sponge, tool the grout (Image 3) to eliminate pinholes, voids, highs and low spots. Do a final wipe with a nearly dry sponge pulled diagonally over the face of the tile to remove any grout residue. Whenever sponging tile, don't use too much water because it will dilute the grout. Once the grout has hazed, polish the face of the tiles with cheesecloth. The mesh in the cheesecloth will give a nice buffed quality to the floor. Note: Don't grout the perimeter joint in the floor (Image 4). This open joint is covered by a wood base (baseboard) and allows the floor to expand and contract.

Step 8: Caulk and Seal

Apply caulking where the tile meets the aluminum doorframe. Be sure to get a caulk that matches the grout color. Apply a grout sealer after a minimum of 48 hours or the time period the manufacturer recommends. Note: It's vital to seal the grout so excessive moisture doesn't get underneath it. And the sealant applicator will place the sealant right on the joint, and not the tile. Be sure to saturate the joint fully and let it sit per the manufacturer's instructions. Be sure to wipe off any excess sealant that may get on the face of the tiles.

seal the grout

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