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Installing Tile

Tile Installations (Made Easy)

Everyone loves a great-looking bathroom, and that sometimes gives rise to the desire to re-tile an existing one in order to give it a brand-new, spa-like atmosphere. However, there are some expenses associated with tiling a bathroom that can take it from a feasible project to something out of reach for some homeowners to accomplish.

While tile and mortar itself is not too expensive, the labor costs of hiring someone to do the work for you can be staggering. For this reason, many homeowners like to take the DIY approach and take care of the project themselves. It doesn’t take a lot of practical skill to do this project, but it does take some technical know-how. So if you’re a fairly capable home remodeler or frequent DIY-er, we’ve supplied this step-by-step guide to get you on your way to the bathroom design of your dreams. And hopefully, this will save you a ton of money too!

But before we start, here’s a few things to keep in mind about bathroom re-tiling:

  • Bathroom retiling is not easy. It’s not hard either.
  • The hardest part is getting yourself in the mindset of “I can do this, and I will do this now.” In other words, starting is the hardest part.
  • It gets easier as you go.
  • It doesn’t take as long as you may think it will, but keep an entire day open for the project.
  • It’s a good idea to do a “test run” using a 8”x8” piece of cardboard as a base, and then mortaring, setting, and grouting a full 8” x 8” tile panel to the cardboard.
  • Rent a tile saw. You will be glad you did.
  • You will absolutely love the way your bathroom looks in the end.

Also, this guide is predicated on the assumption that you have already torn out the old tiling on the bathroom floor and have lifted out the toilet (which needs to be done so you can install new tile under it). And with that: enjoy the guide!


Step 1: Wall to Wall Measurements


In order to purchase the needed products for a tile project you will need to measure the entire surface of the bathroom floor. Measure from wall to wall both the length and width of the floor. Most carpenters know that using graph paper will help them to determine the number of tiles as well as other materials that will be needed. It will also help when deciding on the pattern of the tiles.


Step 2: Sub-Floor Preparation
The sub-floor must be strong, flat, clean, and structurally sound if it is to stand up to the weight of tile. It will also need to be capable of maintaining the integrity of the tile. A cement backer is a great sub-floor to place tile on top of. Most sub-floors are wood though, with a plywood separation layer. It shouldn’t matter too much which type of subfloor you have, but it is good to know so you can buy tile accordingly.


Step 3: Decide on Your Layout and Design Plan – Start from the Center!
Most tiling projects begin with the very center of the floor in question. This will keep the flow of the tiles easy on the eye, allow you to use more full tiles, and will minimize the amount of custom cutting that will be needed to complete the job. Using a chalk line will help you to find the very center of the floor and maintain that square position during the project.


Step 4: Select and Prepare the Setting Material
Speak with an expert when you are making your selection of the setting, or determine your own skill level before proceeding. While some experienced tile setters or quick-working DIY-ers may be able to use a faster-setting mortar, people with little-to-no experience at all may need a more forgiving material to adhere their tiles to the subfloor. Check the consistency and projected drying time of several mortars, determine the pace you want to work at, and go from there.


Be sure to check for any safety precautions on the label of the mortar you will be using, because tile re-setting is not worth health concerns (some settings, especially polymer ones, can contain harmful agents). Begin laying the thin set mortar at the center of the floor.


Step 5: Start Laying the Tiles
Begin laying the thin set mortar at the center of the floor using a trowel. Use the notched edge of the trowel; comb it across the mortar to leave ridges. Using the chalk line that you laid down, place the first tile in one corner of this pattern, and continue placing tiles around this square. Press the tiles into place making sure that you have even spacing between them. 1/8 inch is standard, and can be accomplished by using a spacer (try a piece of wood or cardboard if you have it).


 Since some mortar dries within 20 to 30 minutes, be sure to have a sponge and water readily available to wipe off any that gets on the top of the tiles. You will also need a rubber mallet and level handy as well to help set the tiles properly. Use the level to ensure that the tiles are flat and even; with the mallet, lightly (very lightly – use a bunched rag or thin piece of cardboard as a buffer if possible) tap the tile so it is well-embedded in the thin set mortar.



Step 6: Finish by Cutting Tiles for the Edges
Tile nippers or a tile saw must be used in order to cut the edge tiles for the outside rim of the room, or for add shaped cuts to get around fixtures in the room. During this process it is recommended that you wear safety eyewear to protect against any flying chips or dust created. Be sure to make the cutting lines with a pencil before making the cut so that you will be able to get an accurate fit for the space it will be going into. Be sure to smooth the edges of the cut with sandpaper or a tile sander.


Really, a tile saw works best, but not everyone can get a hold of one of these very easily. But check your local hardware store; many such stores have a rental program that may loan you a tile saw for a small fee. Be very careful with the tile saw and do not rush it. You may end up with more broken tiles than you’ll know what to do with!


Step 7: Grout
Once you have all the tiles in place it is time to mix the grout to the point it resembles a thick paste. Using a grout float, you will want to spread the grout evenly over the floor, pressing it into the spaces between the tiles. The grout should be worked into the spaces until it will not take any more. Once this is accomplished, remove the excess from the tiles using the edge of the grout float. Then, holding the float at a 45 degree angle at a diagonal to the grout joints, work the joints to remove excess gunk from them (there will be gunk, trust me).  


Step 8: Finish by Wiping off the Excess Grouting

Using the bucket of water and wet sponge go over the surface of the tiles to remove excess grout, again working diagonally with the joints. Allow the floor to dry for about 20 minutes and then go over the floor again to remove the residue that is left. Let it set for about 24 hours and remove any remaining grout dust by buffing with a towel.


Et voila! Your bathroom floor retiling project is complete! I hope you enjoy your new bathroom floor, and I hope you found this remodeling guideuseful.


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