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A Step by Step Guide to Installing Your Tile

Step by Step How to Install Tile

Difficulty of Installation

When using the thinset method in residential areas, installing ceramic tile is rather simple. To put it in better perspective, it is easier to install than wood or vinyl sheet goods and slightly more difficult than vinyl tile.

Actually, the subfloor preparation, layout, and installation is very similar to that of vinyl tile.

The only major difference is grouting. With proper planning and a little common sense, practically anyone can install ceramic tile using the thinset method.

Steps of Installation

If you are installing a new underlayment, its recommended that you staple polyethylene plastic on top of the subfloor before you install the underlayment to ensure protection from water penetrating down to the subfloor.

Subfloor Preparation

This is the most important step in accomplishing

a satisfactory installation.

The subfloor must be structurally sound, rigid, smooth, flat, and free of curing compounds and waxy or oily films.

Floor Layout

In this step, the room is squared off and measured, and the chalk lines are snapped. Once the chalk lines are in place, the installer will verify the floor in both directions to balance the room.

Preparing the Tiles

Slight tone variations are to be expected from tile to tile. A good installer will prevent this from becoming a problem by mixing the tiles from several cartons before installation.

This blends the tiles together, and any shade variations add to the character of the floor.

Spreading the Thinset

Using the chalk lines as a guide, the installer will begin applying the thinset in one section at a time.

He will spread one coat using the flat side of the trowel and then immediately come back with a second coat, using the notched side of the trowel.

Laying the Tiles

The tiles are then placed one at a time in the thinset by twisting and pressing while allowing appropriate spacing for the grout.

A straight edge or spacers may be used to align the tile.


The installer will generally begin grouting the following day. It is important to allow the thinset enough time to set up before applying the grout.

The grout is applied over one small section at a time and is spread by means of a rubber float or a squeegee.

Pulling the grout firmly over the surface will both push the grout into the joints and clean off most of the excess grout.

Then the tile is rinsed using a damp sponge. Very little water is applied.

After approximately ten minutes the surface of the tile is cleaned again with a damp sponge (even drier this time), or on some shiny tiles, just buff with a dry towel.

Step 1. Use the grouting float diagonally across the tiles at an angle to prevent dragging grout from joints.

Step 2. Clean float in clear water. Change water in pails often to keep clean.

Step 3. Go back over grout holding float at a 90 degree angle.

Step 4. Use damp (not wet) sponge to clean grout off tile surface. Clean sponge and keep repeating until section is clean. NOTE: Always use clean cool water.

Step 5.- Buff film off tile with a soft towel after grout dries to the touch.

Step 6. Keep people off newly grouted floor for about 12-24 hours.


It is important for you and your customers to understand that the installation of ceramic tile is not a one-day job, like most carpet and vinyl installations.

Scheduling a time for the installation becomes much easier when everyone involved knows how long the job will take.

A. Estimated Timetable

The following guide is an approximate time table for completion of a job.

Ceramic Tile Flooring Care and Maintenance

Ceramic Tile Flooring Care and Maintenance

1. Grout is the mortar type material used to fill the spaces between the individual tiles, or stone. It’s purpose is simply to fill the joint between the tiles and become a permanent, integral part of the floor.

2. Neither sealing the grout nor using a 100% Epoxy Grout will guarantee against surface build up or discoloration of the grout.

3. Grout needs to be cleaned on a periodic basis to remove any surface residue buildup.

4. This routine cleaning can be done with a neutral PH balanced daily-use household or commercial cleaner depending on the application.

5. When heavy-duty grout cleaning is required, you can use a professional strength tile and grout cleaner that is capable of removing grease, soap scum, body oil, mildew stains algae, and synthetic or acrylic waxes from the grout joints.

Post Grouting Installation Clean-Up

1. Grout haze is a film left behind on the surface of the tile as part of the final grouting process; it is usually buffed off the surface after the grout has achieved its initial 12 to 24 hour cure, with the use of a cheese cloth material. If after 48 hrs a grout haze still exists, then use a “grout haze remover” which usually contains Sulfamic Acid. Sulfamic acid cleaners should ONLY be used on Ceramic and/or Porcelain tiles. IMPORTANT NOTE: Never use Acids on natural stone tiles; this could lead to permanent etching. Instead use a Natural Stone Cleaner and a cheese cloth for grout haze removal.

2. In cases where you have used Epoxy Grouts. you may need to use an “Epoxy Haze Remover”. These cleaners are formulated to quickly and safely remove Epoxy grout haze, without damaging the grout or the tile face of your newly installed ceramic floor.

Routine Maintenance

1. You should allow your new ceramic tile and grout to dry for at least 72 hours after installation, before any type of maintenance occurs.

2. Cleaning your new floor with a damp mop once a week is the best thing you can do to maintain your ceramic floor.

3. A simple sweeping or vacuuming of your tile floor prior to mopping will remove any dust or debris.

4. Make sure that any cleanser you have chosen is compatible with grout cleaning, (neutral pH), and will not stain the grout. We recommend Shaw’s R2X Hard Surface Cleaner.

5. Heavy traffic areas should be mopped more often than once a week.

6. Never use a detergent or soap because it may dull the surface.

7. When cleaning, the entire area should be cleaned or scrubbed with the cleansing solution, through the use of a cotton mop, cloth, sponge, or non-metallic brush.

8. The entire flooring area should then be rinsed with clean water to remove any cleaning solution residue.

9. Cleaning unglazed tiles should be done on a regular basis using cleansers that have a neutral pH for safe regular use; these cleaners are better suited at removing grease, oils, and normal spills from unglazed products.

10. Remember: Routine cleaners should never contain acids, vinegar, chlorines or ammonia as these chemicals can damage and discolor the grout or the surface of the stone or tile.

11. Always thoroughly rinse the flooring surface after cleaning, using clean clear water, to avoid any periodic residue build up or mold and mildew growth.

Protecting Your Ceramic Floor

1. Protect you ceramic tile by affixing felt or similar pads to the legs of any metal, iron, wood or plastic furniture that could scratch and dull the surface.

2. Exterior metal furniture which rests on tile floors or patios may rust and cause staining.

3. Good quality entry mats will help protect your ceramic tile from wear by collecting dirt, sand, grit and other substances such as oil, asphalt, or driveway sealer that might otherwise be tracked onto your floor.

4. You can also place these mats at heavy pivot locations such as in front of the kitchen sink or stove.

Never seal or wax your ceramic tile. These coatings are unnecessary. They will attract and hold dirt on your floor surface.

Never use vinegar or bleach for regular cleaning. They can adversely affect the tile and grout with continual use.

Never use steel wool or abrasive cleaners for ongoing maintenance. They can mar your tile surface if used repeatedly.

Ceramic tile can be maintained with minimal effort. Follow these basic care and maintenance guidelines and your floor will retain its beauty for years to come.

Tile Glossary Information

A. Square Footage Formulations

Multiply the length by width to calculate the square footage (S/F) of area.

2. Add 10% for waste laying tile on a straight line pattern. Add 13% waste when laying a pattern on diagonal installation.

3. Divide net S/F by S/F in box to determine the full and partial number of cartons.

4. Round off to the next full box for exact number of full cartons required.

5. Multiply the number of full cartons by S/F per box to determine the total S/F.

Example: Facts: Area is 20’ long and 15’ wide. Tile is packed 16.0 S/F to a carton.

Answers :

1. 20’ x 15’ = 300 S/F of area.

2. 300 S/F x 1.10 = 330 S/F.

3. 330 divided by 16.0 S/F = 20.63 cartons.

4. Round off 20.63 cartons to 21 total cartons.

5. 21 cartons x 16.0 S/F = 336.0 total S/F.

Cut-tile Base Formulation

Length of wall divided by 2 = number of S/F

Example: 1 piece per standard 3 foot door.

Measuring for Door Clearance Formulation

Door should clear height of two tiles. Lay one tile on top of another.

Example: Ceramic over concrete 1/2”, ceramic over wood 1”.

Example: 3 feet in width, 3 steps = 9 linear feet

Cement Backer Board & Seam Tape Formulation

Area S/F divided by 15 S/F or 16 S/F = number of sheets

Note: Sheet size is 3’ x 5’ x 1/2” = 15 S/F or 4’ x 4’ x 1/4” = 16 S/F

Use 1 bag of Multi-Set Thinset to adhere approximately 4 sheets of cement backer to plywood subfloor.

Use 1 roll of cement backer seam tape for 50 linear feet of cement backer board.

1 bag of thinset will cover approximately 50 to 65 square feet of ceramic tile or cement backer board.

Example: 100 S/F ceramic tile installation, 2 bags needed.

Example 2: 100 S/F ceramic tile and cement backer board installation, 4 bags needed.

Coverage’s of grout will vary by size of tile. The coverage for a 25 lb. bag of either sanded or unsanded grout is:

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