Help & advice: How to lay ceramic floor tiles
How to lay ceramic floor tiles
Discover the mess-free, stress-free way to lay ceramic tiles and create a shiny new floor. This is a fairly straightforward little project but completion time obviously depends on the size of area you're tiling.
- Measure the room's length and divide it by the length of one floor tile.
- Measure the width of the room and divide that by the width of the tile.
- Multiply the two results together (round up any numbers to the next whole number). This will give the number of tiles you need.
- It's a good idea to buy 10% more floor tiles than you need to allow for incorrect cuts and broken tiles.
- Ceramic tiles can be laid on concrete or timber flooring.
- If you're laying ceramic tiles on a concrete floor, make sure the floor is dry and clean.
- If you're working with an uneven concrete surface, make sure the floor is clean and dry. Then apply a self-levelling compound. Follow the instructions that come with the compound (fig. 1). Leave the compound to dry overnight.
- When it's dried you might find there are ridges on the floor. Use a medium-grade sandpaper block to smooth them off.
- If you're laying ceramic tiles on floorboards you'll need to fix a layer of exterior grade plywood (minimum 12mm thick) to the floor. Simply screw down to the floor before laying your tiles (fig. 2).
- Before you fix your ceramic tiles to the floor it's important to plan the layout! Doing a little preparation will help you avoid uneven spacing or poorly aligned rows of tiles (fig. 3).
- The most visible row of tiles will be the one lining up with your room entrance - so use this as a starting point.
- With a pencil or chalk, draw a line perpendicular to the main entrance.
- Lay a dry set of your ceramic tiles along this line to the other side of the room (fig. 4).
- Use a spacer to make sure the tiles are evenly arranged (fig. 5). You can use any object for a spacer - it's just a case of using something consistently to measure equal spaces.
- Once you get to the other side of the room you'll be left with a space smaller than a whole tile. Screw a 1in-thick piece of wood to the floor perpendicular to the tiles. You'll be using this as a guide to lay all the other tiles against.
- Lay a line of tiles along the timber guide (fig. 6). This will ensure you finish with an equal border at both ends of the room.
- If you end up with a different size space on one side of the room to the other, shift your perpendicular line slightly to rectify this. The point where this line touches the board will form your starting position.
Remove inward opening doors before starting to tile as the tiling will raise the level of the floor. You might have to adjust the door length before rehanging.
- Now you're ready to fix your ceramic tiles to the floor from the starting point.
- Before you lay any tiles, check there aren't any colour variations.
- Use a trowel with a serrated edge or a notched spreader to apply adhesive to a square area of the floor - approximately 3x3 tiles or 4x4 tiles wide.
- Fix your ceramic tiles to the adhesive-covered area (fig. 7). With your spacer check they're equally arranged (fig. 5).
- Use a spirit level to see that the tiles are level. Place it across each row and diagonally (fig. 8).
- If a tile is higher than the others, put a piece of wood over it and tap with a rubber hammer. If a tile is too low, lift and reapply adhesive.
- Once you're finished, leave the tile adhesive to set. Drying times may vary, depending on drying conditions and thickness of the adhesive.
- Remove the wood border with a claw hammer.
- Place a full tile upside down on top of the last full tile so that it overhangs and touches the wall. Mark this tile at the point where it overlaps the one beneath. This will show the size that the tile needs to be cut to (fig. 9).
- You can use an electric tile cutter to cut your ceramic tiles.
- If the cut is more complicated then use a tile saw.
- Place tile adhesive to the back of the border tiles rather than on the floor.
- Allow 24 hours for the tile adhesive to dry before you grout the tiles.
- Mix up the grout - follow the pack instructions.
- Use a rubber-edged squeegee to fill the spaces with the grout. Hold at a 45-degree angle (fig. 10).
- Have a damp sponge to hand as you go. Wipe any wet grout off the surface of the tiles. But take care not to remove grout from the spaces where you've applied it (fig. 11).
- Clean the floor every day for the first three days. This will help make it more hard-wearing.
- If your grout cracks you can't just grout over it, unfortunately! With a grout remover, take away at least two-thirds of the depth of the old grout first. Once you've done that, you can reapply your new grout.
- To clean the grout, use an all-purpose cleaner and a nylon scrub pad. If your tiles are decorative, it's a good idea to test your cleaner on a spare tile first. That way you can check whether the cleaner will damage the design.