Laying Ceramic Floor Tile. How to Lay Floor Tile.

Laying Ceramic Floor Tile. How to Lay Floor Tile.

Ceramic Floor Laying Procedures

With ceramic floor tile, you get a surface that will last almost forever and designs that will go with any room furnishing and decoration. The surface is firm, wears like iron, and is easy to maintain. As a bonus, ceramic floor tile is easy for a do-it-yourselfer to install. No special skills are required, but patience is needed in layout, cutting and fitting.


First, read this entire article. It can save you money and countless hours in figuring and fitting.

  1. Figure the area of the floor which you will tile. Measure the length and width of the room and multiply these figures.

Example: the length of the room is 12 feet and the width is 10 feet. 12×10=120 square feet, which is the area. Now divide the number of square feet of tile in a tile carton into the area number.

Example: The tile carton holds 8 square feet. 8 divided into 120 square feet, equals 15 cartons of tile needed. If possible, buy about 1/2 carton more tile than you need. You will break some tiles in laying them, and you may need replacement tiles in the future.

  • Assemble all tools and materials you will need for the job so you don’t have to stop work and run back-and-forth to the store for more supplies.
  • Prepare the subfloor. It should be free of wax, grease, and any other debris. It also should be in good repair and fairly level.

    Ceramic floor tile, although durable, is somewhat brittle and breakable if it’s not supported by a sound and rigid subfloor. If the subfloor is uneven or «spongy,» weight on the tiles can crack the tiles or jar them loose from the setting cement.

    Laying Ceramic Floor Tile. How to Lay Floor Tile.

    If your floor feels «flexible» when you wall-, over it, try adding rigidity by renailing the subfloor to the floor joists. Add bridging between the joists, and/or shim the subfloor with wooden shingle shims driven between the top edge of the joists and the bottom face of the subfloor.

    If the floor is damaged and uneven, it is recommended that you put down an underlayment for the tile base. Underlayment should be a minimum of 1 1/8 inch in total thickness overall and the top sheet should be 1/2 inch-thick exterior grade plywood. Stagger the plywood so there are no common joints and nail it around the edges about 1/2 inch from the edge on 4 to 6-inch centers. Also nail it about 16 inches on center. Use ringed or cement-coated nails.

    If the floor is concrete, it should be in good condition and free of all debris including grease, paint and wax. Repair any holes and cracks. You can sometimes lower «high» spots in concrete with coarse-grit abrasive on a belt or disc sander. Any minor humps and bumps from concrete splatter or debris can be removed with a cold chisel driven by a baby sledge hammer. Be sure to wear gloves and safety glasses while doing this job.

    If the floor is covered with resilient tile or sheet vinyl flooring and this material is FIRMLY bonded to the floor, you can lay ceramic tile over it. But clean the floor first: no wax, grease, dirt, dried paint, and so forth.

    However, it is STRONGLY recommended that the original material be removed before installing new ceramic, since the ceramic tile installation will only be as good as the installation of the underlying floor. We also do not recommend that ceramic tile be set on parquet flooring. Remove the wooden tiles and clean the floor before laying the tiles.

  • A clean floor is a MUST. Also remove the trim-quarter round and/or baseboard. Pry off the trim and pull out any nails from the back side of the trim and pull out any nails from the back side of the trim with pliers. This will prevent the trim from splitting so you can use it again. The trim will be installed over the tiles after the tiles are set and properly grouted.

    Check the doors and door openings into the room. The thickness of the tile can block swinging doors, so doors should be trimmed slightly with a plane or saw so they will open and close properly over the new ceramic tile surface. See the illustration on page 4 on how to make this measurement.

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