Ceramic, porcelain, marble, granite, terrazzo, etc. these are stones that are widely regarded for their beauty, strength and durability. Mostly available in slab or tile form, they are very popular with homeowners and are becoming a mainstay in many homes. Tile and stone installations can be difficult, but with the right tools and skills, even a beginner can have great results. Installing tile and stone is one of my all-time favorite trades, and I would like to share with you some of the installation techniques that I have used over the years. Let's begin!
To install tiles properly you must have the proper tools. So generally you will need:
a) measuring tape
b) a marker
c) tile nippers
e) a tile cutter
f) notched trowels and a point trowel
g) 4 or 5 inch angle grinder
h) wet tile saw
i) mud mixer blade (for thin-set mortar )
j) Diamond hole saws (for plumbing fixtures )
k) a drill.
MATERIALS - Thin-set mortar ( for floors ) hardi-backer or cement board, backer board screws, ceramic tile mastic ( for walls ) and the tiles you will be installing.
PREP WORK - Tile and stone is very susceptible to movement. If you are installing tile flooring, rip up the existing flooring down to the sub-floor, or plywood underlayment. Next, reinforce the sub-flooring with 2-inch screws to reduce squeaking and bouncing. Thoroughly clean the floor with a dry-vac and make sure it's flat. If the sub-flooring is rotted, it must be replaced with new plywood of equal thickness, usually "3/4 inch. For Basement and concrete Floors, check the entire floor for level and flatness. If necessary, level up any low spots and grind down high spots. If you are installing wall Tiles, the walls must be thoroughly clean and free of debris. New drywall is recommended, and If you are tiling a tub or shower surround use "1/2 hardi-backer or cement board.
FLOOR TILE INSTALLATION - After your sub-floor is prepared, measure and lay out "1/2 backer board to install on top of the plywood. Backer board comes 3ft X 5ft, so plan a layout where the boards are staggered and not lining up in a cross pattern. When your layout is complete, mix some thin-set Mortar and using a U or square notched trowel, spread a coat of thin-set under each board and then set it in place, using mild pressure to get good adhesion. Using backer-board screws, screw it down roughly 6 inches apart and repeat until all the boards are in place and secured with screws. Use the flat end of your trowel to spread thin-set along the seams and embed backer-board tape. Finish by smoothing away any excess. Next, locate the longest wall in the room to use as your starting point. Using the 3-4-5 squaring rule, dry lay and adjust your tiles until you are able to get your cuts to measure no less than half of the tile. Apply flooring spacers to achieve uniform grout joints, and double check your work. When all is ready begin laying your tiles.
ALTERNATE METHODS - In lieu of backer board there is a newer underlayment for tile called Schluter-Ditra that is a polyethylene membrane which is set in thin-set and laid on top of the plywood sub-floor, and you can tile directly to it. Due to it's features it is great for concrete sub-floors and basements, but for large Jobs it can get pretty expensive. One of the cheapest methods you can use is to staple 16 gauge wire lath to the sub-floor and then tile directly. However, unless you are strapped for cash, I would recommend either backer-board or the Schluter-Ditra system.
DO NOT TILE DIRECTLY TO THE PLYWOOD SUB-FLOOR. The plywood will absorb the water and moisture from the thin-set, and your tiles will come loose. THE 3-4-5 SQUARING RULE -
Step one: measure 3 feet from the corner in one direction and make your mark,
Step two: measure 4 feet from the corner in the other direction and make your mark,
Step three: measure the distance between the marks. If it equals 5 feet, it is square. Start snapping your chalk lines. If your measurement is less than 5 feet, or greater than 5 feet, adjust your marks until it is square.
WALL TILE INSTALLATION -
The key to a good wall tile installation is to keep all your tiles level and plumb. In shower and tub surrounds, make sure your backer-board is installed ( do not use drywall ) and you can begin. beginning in one corner, mark your tile height, then use a level to level that height all around the surround. Then measure the center wall of the surround and mark the dead center, and plumb this line up to your desired height using a level. Starting at this center line, dry lay your tiles with the grout joints, and make sure all cuts end in the corners ( adjust your lines if necessary. ) When the center wall is uniform, with the end cuts even, begin tiling your rows checking periodically for plumb and level as you work your way up. Make sure that you use the small-teeth V-notch trowel for wall tiles. When the center wall is finished, begin tiling the other walls starting with full tiles and make sure all cuts end in the corners. Use ceramic tile mastic, and when it is fully set you can begin grouting. For walls outside of the shower and tub surrounds it is okay to install on drywall use ceramic tile mastic, in bathrooms it is most likely moisture resistant drywall ( green color. )
TIPS ON GROUTING - Generally for floors you use sanded grout, and for walls you use unsanded grout, depending upon the joint size of the tiles and the manufacturer"s recommendations. Mix your grout with a mud mixer blade in your drill until it is the consistency of peanut butter, and begin floating your grout joints at 90 degree angles, making sure to fill in each grout line and joint. Certain tiles, like granite and marble, need to be sealed before grouting to prevent staining. check your tiles and take the necessary steps. After grouting, let it set 10 to 20 minutes and begin wiping the grout, use warm water and a grout sponge and Wipe slowly at 90 degree angles, constantly rinsing your sponge to keep it clean. Continue until all the grout has been wiped clean. When the grout has fully cured and dried ( usually 24-48 hrs. ) use a terry cloth or cheese cloth to wipe the " haze " off of the tiles. You can then apply grout sealer.
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT! - As you perform more and more tile jobs, either as a professional contractor or a do-it-yourselfer, you will learn and discover more tiling techniques such as diagonal tiling, herringbone designs, etc. and your skills will develop. Tile and stone installation is both rewarding and enjoyable work, and you will find there is no greater satisfaction than a job well done!