Installing ceramic tile in your home is one of the most versatile and cost-effective materials you can use in your home to enhance the appearance of any room and boost your home's value.
As you plan your ceramic tile installation, there are a few thinks to consider. Are you redoing a kitchen or bath? Laying interior flooring? An outdoor patio? How about garage tile flooring? Either way, here are a few basic things you need to take into account.
The best results come from using the proper tools. You'll need the following:
Types of Surfaces
This will determine whether you use a thinset process or thickset process. Thinset is for laying tile onto a continuous, stable backing such as gypsum board, gypsum plaster, glass-fiber reinforced concrete backer board, plywood or concrete. Typical installations are walls, countertops, backsplashes and tub enclosures. Use a thin coat of dry-set mortar.
A thickset process is generally for installing over brick or masonry, monolithic concrete, or over a bed of portland cement mortar. This is most common with flooring, outdoor patios and heavy-duty applications like garage floors.
Types of Ceramic Tile
There are three basic types of ceramic tile and they each come in an almost infinite number of shapes and sizes.
Preparation is Key
Remove any old flooring such as carpet, vinyl tiles or linoleum. If you're installing over wood sub-flooring, cover with concrete board and tape the joints with a fiberglass tape. If you're installing tile over rough concrete, smooth it first with a concrete filler. And if you're installing tile over old tile that you don't want to remove, scratch the glazed surface for better adhesion. Whatever the surface, clean it thoroughly using a degreaser.
Walls must be smooth and clean. Scrape off any loose plaster or peeling paint. Clean with a degreaser. You may need to prime the walls depending on the type of adhesive you're using, so read the instructions on the can.
You're Ready to Tile
If you're tiling walls and a floor, start with the floor first. If you want an even border of cut tiles around the edge, you'll need to start from the center and work outwards. Use a chalk line to mark the center of the room plus two or three guide lines across the room.
Lay the thinset with a trowel and gently press the tile into place. You can use a rubber mallet to gently pound the tile down to achieve a better bond with no air bubbles. If you're working with tiles of 12" x 12" or larger, spread your thinset for one tile at a time. If you're working with smaller tiles, you can spread enough for a few tiles. Repeat, spreading outward and toward the room's exit so you don't find yourself trapped in the deep end of the room.
On walls, use a level to draw a number of vertical and horizontal lines as your guide. Figure out how you want the tiles to meet the edges of your walls and floor. You can either start in the middle and work outwards for even edges or you can start in one corner and fan outward in stair-step fashion.
On walls, spread your adhesive over a larger area, but no more than you'll be able to cover in 20 minutes. Use a good quality tile cutter to make your cuts around the edges of the wall or floor.
Use tile spacers to maintain uniform grout lines. As you move along, wipe the tiles clean of any thinset that squeezes out between the tiles.
Grouting and Sealing
Allow the tiles to sit for at least 24 hours before grouting. Wearing rubber gloves, spread your grout over the tiles with a rubber squeegee, working it in to the grout seams as you go. Then wipe the tiles clean with a wet sponge. Work a few square feet at a time, moving quickly before the grout becomes too stiff. Run your finger over the grout lines to get a smooth line. A butter knife or a popsicle stick also make ideal tools for smoothing grout lines.
Let the grout stand for 24 to 36 hours before sealing with a grout or stone sealer.
Remember, whatever adhesive, grout or sealer you use, be sure to read the manufacturer's instructions on the label as it will vary from one product to another.
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