Tiling a floor can be tricky, and will suit you if you’re experienced in DIY or simply love a challenge. This guide is designed to help you tile your floor quickly, safely and to a high standard.
Tiling a floor can be hazardous, and so it makes sense to follow some safety tips. Wear heavy duty gloves to protect your hands when removing broken tiles and always wear safety goggles as well as dust mask to protect your face from flying fragments when cutting tiles.
You can lay hard tiles onto a concrete floor that’s both dry and level. But, if your floor is constructed of timber, you will need to make it stronger with plywood (exterior grade and 13mm-thick) that’s been fixed with countersunk screws (25mm). If the floor is concrete, it’s best to clean it using a mix of water and detergent. If it’s uneven, you will need to level it out before laying the tiles. It’s possible to lay new tiles over old vinyl or quarry tiles, but only if they’re securely fixed down. Vinyl tiles should be coated with a good primer. It’s a good idea to select a tile adhesive that’s intended for the surface you’re working on.
Position the Key Tile
The first tile (‘key’ tile) determines how all the other tiles will be positioned. Therefore, it’s essential that it is in the right place. Often, rooms aren’t completely square, and the walls may not be totally straight either. So, you can’t simply lay tiles up against a wall and work your way from there. This will result in an untidy mess, which isn’t what you want when tiling a new bathroom floor! To ensure that you get an even design, start from the centre of the room and work your way out to the walls in each direction.
First, find the centre of the room. Start at one of the centre lines and then dry-lay a line of tiles from this line up to the wall. Make sure there’s not a narrow gap between the last tile and the wall. A thin strip of tile next to the skirting board will look a bit strange. If necessary, move the line the width of half a tile away from the wall to make a bigger gap.
Dry-lay the tiles from the centre line in the opposite direction and then in both directions at right angles to it.
Adjust the position of the key tile until there’s an equal gap of about the size of half a tile around the edge of the room.
Lay the Floor Tiles
It’s now time to lay the floor tiles. It’s best to begin with the key tile and then work your way outwards towards one of the walls. You can fix the tiles with a standard adhesive that’s specially made for floor tiles, but bear in mind that it will need at least 24 hours to set before the tiles can be walked on. It’s a often a good idea to tile half the room at a time so that’s it’s not completely out of action. Make sure you’ve left yourself an exit path so that you don’t need to walk on the tiles. A top tip when tiling a floor is to use tile spacers so that you can create even grout lines between your tiles, which will leave you with a professional-looking finish for your bathroom floor.
Start in the middle of the room and pour enough adhesive to cover a square metre of the floor. Spread it using a trowel or spreader. Make sure you can still see enough of the chalk line to accurately position your key tile.
Once the key tile is in the right position, twist it slightly. This will bed it into the adhesive and ensure that there’s no air trapped. Continue to work out towards one of the walls in order to complete a row of whole tiles. You may want to check the tiles are level by using a spirit level. Working at right angles to the first row of tiles, lay the next row of tiles out from the key tile. Continue by working in rows in this quarter of the room.
Once you have completed the first section, you’ll need to repeat the tile laying process until all but the cut tiles at the edges of the room next to the walls are laid. Be sure to wipe the tiles with a damp sponge in order to remove the entire adhesive.
You’ll now need to clean out any adhesive that’s left in the gaps and around the walls. It’s important to do this before it sets, or you risk being left with an unsightly mess. Use a trowel to do this. Bear in mind that you’ll need to leave the tiles for a minimum of 24 hours before cutting and laying the edge tiles.
Cut and Fit Edge Tiles
Floor tiles are generally thicker than wall tiles and so to cut them you will probably require a heavy-duty tile cutter. You may be surprised to find that large tiles are easier to cut than smaller ones.
Place an edging tile over the last full tile. Then line up a third tile on top, with one of its edges touching the wall. Use the inside edge as a guide and draw a line on the tile below. Try and use a china graph pencil (a waxy pencil used to write on china, glass, or other hard surfaces), as a normal pencil may stain. Next, cut the tile just short of the line so that there’s space for the grout and sealant.
Add a layer of adhesive to the back of each cut border tile and place it in its correct position. Remember to leave it to set for at least 24 hours.
How to Grout Floor Tiles
Grouting your tiled floor in a careful manner will ensure that it looks good. Make sure that there are no lumps in the floor tile grout by mixing it well with water. It’s a good idea to leave the grout to stand for a few minutes before using it.
Once the adhesive has set, mix your grout with water so that it forms a paste. If your tiles are glazed, pour the grout over them and spread it across their surface with a rubber-edged grout spreader. Alternatively, if the surface of your tiles is absorbent, mix a dry grout and press it into the joints between the tiles one by one.
Once you can tell that the grout has started to set, smooth it into the joints with a striking tool or dowel. This will compact it and give it its water resistant quality. Use a damp sponge to clean off any excess grout.
Your grout hardens after about an hour. Once it’s done so, wipe it again with a damp cloth before polishing the tiles with a dry one. Next, seal around the edge of the floor with a matching flexible sealant.