When you are tackling a home improvement project that involves tiles, we recommend you start with floor tiling. Working with tile on a vertical space, such as a kitchen backsplash, can have additional challenges with it. If this is your first attempt at tiling yourself, a floor project might be the best place to start!
The information that we are going to discuss apply to all kinds of flooring. That includes bathroom, kitchen, bedroom, living room, etc. And include the different kind of tiles that you would lay. That being mosaic, stone, ceramic, porcelain, etc.
While this information is good to build a foundation of knowledge off of, they are not by any means to represent all steps in prepping a subfloor. Each project may present different obstacles or challenges. But this will give you some guidance and cover off the basics to get you started.
Prepare the Subfloor
What do we mean by subfloor? This is basically, the surface that is underneath the finished flooring. It usually is either wood or concrete. Regardless, the one big challenge to installing tiles is the movement of the subfloor or surface being tiled. Wood will react to humidity and changes in temperature with movement. Concrete can react to humidity, moisture, temperature, as well as soil movement. It is really important to prep the subfloor correctly to avoid issues in the future.
For wooden subfloors, make sure that you remove all staples and you can hammer down any nail heads or screws. Try to get the subfloor as smooth as possible. Then you can put a cement backer board down to give the tiles a solid foundation. It will keep cracking from occurring due to movement. You will want to mortar down the backer board with tile adhesive. And, using specific screws, you are going to anchor the backer board to the subfloor. Make sure that you tape and mortar any joints and then apply a crack prevention membrane, which also acts as a protection again water penetration.
For concrete subfloors, you have to make sure that you remove any old adhesive. Use a floor scraper to get rid of any loose debris. For any cracks, you will have to tackle those depending on the severity of them. Different crack filling products are available at most home hardware stores or home improvement centers. If you have any rough patches, you may need to grind that smooth. A water-resistant membrane can be applied as well, to keep any water from seeping through to the concrete below. Once you have a smooth surface, you can install tiles right on top.
Regardless of the type of subfloor, make sure you have all debris cleaned up. The subfloor needs to be as smooth as possible. Sweeping and vacuuming can be effective in collecting all dirt and debris.
Onto Planning out Your Tiles
Installing tile for a floor space takes a bit of planning. You have the floor prepped and you are ready to start laying out the tiles. Make sure that you do your planning for fixtures, cabinets, and such. You really don’t want to waste material if you don’t have to.
What kind of pattern do you envision for the space? Creativity has given birth to many different designs over the years. You might be looking at herringbone, brick bond or parquet patterns. You should have that pretty much figured out before you purchase tiles. You can easily install a linear pattern with square tiles, end to end. Very basic pattern but still a timeless one.
To start the laying of tiles, you want to find the center of the space. That’s where the tile will be most visible. Leave the tile cutting to fit in around cabinets or walls. If you start in the center of the room, you can move outward in all directions, keeping space balanced. And leaving the cut tiles for the outer edges or around obstacles. To do that, just measure the room to find the center and use a chalk line to snap the markings in both directions. This will help you keep the grid layout visible. Then plan your full tiles, moving outward in all directions.
Now, we are going to go back and contradict all said about starting at the center of the room! Not to confuse you or trick you! It is just there are times when starting at the center and working outward will not suit your space very well. Starting in the center works well when you have one defined space, such as a square or rectangular room closed off to itself. But this isn’t going to include all rooms in your house. You may have rooms that transition or flow from one room to another. Think of a kitchen that transitions to the dining room. Or a bathroom, that flows off of a hallway. If you leave all your cut edges to the perimeter of the room, you will have cuts at the transition as well! It doesn’t leave a pleasing visual.
Instead, we recommend you start at the entrance or transition point. Maybe that’s the opening from dining room to kitchen. Or bathroom to hallway. Where ever one space flows into another. Start your first tile there. You can still use chalk lines to keep your tiles from going off center or help keep them in a straight line. Then just move outward to opposite sides, leaving the cut tiles along those edges of the room.
We hope you can now understand the planning that is required before you lay for first tile. Not only is it meant to save you from wasted material, it is also to produce visual appeal and flow throughout your space and home. Taking a dry run at it first, to get a feel for what you have planned, will definitely help get you to the results you are attempting! Or if you want to simply contact a tile installer near you, they would be happy to give you an estimate on the project.
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