Ceramic Tile brings a texture, richness and color to a room that Linoleum has yet to truly mimic. Tile floors can be installed in any room, however they are most frequently seen in Bathrooms and Kitchens. I particularly like them in entryways, where they serve as a transition point from the outside to large carpeted or hardwood floored rooms. They make for easy clean up and are impervious to water damage.
Ceramic tiles come in two basic types. Glazed and Porcelain. Glazed holds up the best for heavy traffic areas and porcelain works well in bathrooms. Porcelain is typically more expensive, so consider your budget and the size of the area you want to tile. Tiles also come in many shapes and sizes. For flooring, however, I would suggest using larger tiles up to 12” x 12”.
For proper installation the base foundation or the underlayment is critical. Typically it consists of ¾” to 1 ¼” of plywood. Tiling over Linoleum or existing tile is also feasible, as long as it is solid. I also recommend when Tiling over Linoleum that you first apply ring nails or screws 6” on center over the entire area. Tiles can also be installed directly over Concrete. Make sure in all cases that the floor is level and free of dust and debris prior to installation. There are leveling compounds that you can apply before applying tile if necessary.
Preparing the Site
Before actually installing the tile, it is best to lay it out in the room to see how it will look. Pay close attention to how it runs out toward the walls, in the corners and next to cabinets, tubs and toilets. The trick is to lay the tile out such that stubby tiles do not show up in highly visible spots. Once you have completed this, make two marks with a pencil outlining the most centered tile. These lines should be perpendicular to each other. Also take note of the wall that is most visible from all the others. Now remove the tiles. Next draw or snap a line perpendicular to this wall that is in line with one of the marks you made on the floor.
Then, draw a perpendicular line to this first line. This second line should be centered with the first line and fairly in line with the second mark you made on the floor. Once you have completed this task, re-layout some of the tiles along the perpendicular lines and observe if they run out in a way that will limit cutting and stubbed tiles. Once this is completed, remove the tiles and prepare for the actual installation.
Installing the Tile
Again, make sure the area is free of dirt and dust. Next apply the ceramic adhesive or mastic to the flooring, starting in the center, where the two perpendicular reference lines intersect. Apply enough material to cover 6-10 square feet, if no cuts are required. If cuts are required limit the amount of mastic application to about 2-4 square feet. When applying the mastic, first spread it with the flat end of the trowel. Lay it on relatively thick, approximately 1/8” to 3/16”thick. Then turn the trowel around and run the notched edge over it. This creates ridges in the mastic that helps to hold the tile down more securely. The larger the tile, the larger the notches should be. For example, I use a ¼” notched trowel for 12” x 12” tiles.
Note: Only make up enough ceramic adhesive for 30 minutes, as this material has the tendency to harden up rather quickly.
Once the adhesive has been applied, begin installing the tiles working from the center outward. On larger tiles you should back butter them. Basically, apply a thin coating of mastic to the back of the tile prior to laying it on the floor. This will help ensure a good bond.
As you near the walls or edges of cabinets, tubs and toilets, you will need to cut some of the tiles. I highly recommend the use of a Wet-Saw. A Wet-Saw will allow you to make very accurate cuts, both large and small. You will also save money, as you will waste many fewer tiles with bad cuts or broken tiles. Wet-Saws are not that expensive and once you see your finished product you will certainly be installing more tile. Wet-Saws can also be rented as a cheaper alternative.
When applying Tiles, you may want to use Lugs. Lugs are effectively spacers that come in various thicknesses. I typically like to have no more than a ¼” space between the tiles. Employing Spacers will ensure uniformity with your tile spacing.
After the Tile has been completely installed, allow it to sit for 24-48 hours before applying grout and walking on it. Grout comes in many different colors and is very easy to install. Simply mix the grout with water or a special bonding agent and apply with a rubber trowel. Run the trowel on a bias when going over tile corners.
Once the grout has been applied, immediately wipe the tile of excess grout, using a wet sponge and a bucket of water. Wait 30 minutes and again wipe the tiles down of any residual grout. Wait another 60 minutes and repeat. If grout is left on the tiles to dry, you will have a great deal of elbow work scraping it off.
Let the grout sit up for 24 hours and it is ready for use and admiration.