Installing Cement Tiles

Installing Cement Tiles


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How to Install Cement Tile

Install your tile after all other construction if at all possible. Cement tile is very porous and it will be next to impossible to clean if it is soiled before sealing by construction workers.

Installation Tips:

Thickness of VillaLagoon Tile is 5/8 to 3/4. Allow for adequate room under doors, etc. Remember to add in the thickness of the thinset mortar you use to lay the tile.

As these cement tiles are the work of artisans using natural pigments, variations in color from tile to tile are to be expected and are part of the natural appeal of this type of tile, as are its imperfect edges.

If you are laying tile on a concrete slab, be sure the slab is completely cured to prevent white efflorescence spots from showing up later on the surface of the tile as water evaporates through it.

Assuming that your floor joists are sufficient and not flexing, you can install tile on a wood floor if you first put down a cement backer board like you would do in a shower behind the tile. Your installer can use Wonderboard, HardiBoard, or other dimensionally stable fiber/cement wall boards. Magnesium Oxide boards are highly recommended.

Installing our cement tiles is a fairly simple process, but it must be done with care. You are creating a work of art and it is very important that the planning and measuring has been done carefully.

It is a good idea to use a grout release. See our complete instructions for info on grout releases compatable with different sealing methods.

The typical encaustic cement tile floor has a central bordered carpet surounded by solid colored tiles. The center of the room or the center of the central design elements must be located. Then the calculations are made to determine the number of tiles needed to create the desired pattern in

each direction. For an central rug-like design, measure the area to be tiled, and find the center of two opposite walls or sides. Use these points to snap a chalk line across the length of the area, in the center of the floor, dividing the room or area in half. Then snap another chalk line perpendicular to the first so the two lines cross in the center of the room. Check where the lines intersect with a carpenter’s square to make absolutely sure the center point has a 90-degree angled quadrant. Start by laying a tile at the intersection of the lines, and then use the lines as a guide, as you work your way outward toward the walls in each quadrant.

Each cement tile is an individually hand-made work of art and variations, such as in thickness, color shade, and imperfections like irregular edges are inherent to this type of product. These characteristics add to the products natural appeal and do not compromise the performance of the tile. For this reason, it is important for an entire order to be placed at once as colors can vary slightly from batch to batch. You want all your tiles to have been made at the same time. Mix tiles from different boxes as you lay them.

The surface on which you are installing the tile must be smooth and free from debris, grease, or wax.

On a complicated floor layout, be sure to do a dry run with some of your tile to be sure that your borders will fall where you want them and that any tile that you want centered in front of a doorway, is properly aligned. Do not step on your tile during this layout exercise. Or make color copies on paper and use these for your experimental layouts.

For areas subject to moisture like showers, around pools, etc, the underlayment should be sealed with a waterproof membrane or other moisture-resistant product. Cement-fiber board makes an ideal underlayment for tile in wet locations. These boards are often referred to as cement board, wonderboard, duraroc, hardiboard, magnesium oxide board, MgO board, etc. The cement board is composed of cement and fiber that gives it its strength and resistance to moisture.

Cement tiles are absorbant and should be soaked in water for a few seconds before they are laid in the thinset mortar bed.

One method of installation of cement tiles requires a double spread of thinset adhesive. The thinset must be spread on the floor and also over the entire underside of the tile. This is often called ‘buttering’ the tile. Using spot dollops of thinset buttered on the back will cause the tiles to sit unevenly and later crack.

We have had fine results by using a 3/4 toothed trowel or a 1/2 notched trowel if 3/4 inch is not available.

To level your tiles, do not use a mallet of any kind. If you do, you will end up with cracks. Use your hand only. If you let the installer use a mallet, cracks may show up later, even if you do not see them immediately.

Press tile into position with a forward and back motion perpendicular to adhesive ridges to collapse the ridge and ensure 100% layer of thinset under all parts of your tile.

You may want to have a couple of extra old coolers around or an empty tub for the tile layer to place the wet tiles in to allow them to drain a bit before he lays them. You do not want them so wet that they dilute the thinset mortar bed.

For interiors the tiles can be installed edge to edge about 1/16 of an inch apart and laid on a perfectly leveled and clean surface. Most of our patterned designs are intended to be turned 90 degrees each tile one is laid to form the pattern.

Use untinted grout only. Or closely matched grout on a solid color tile.

The tiles must handled carefully to avoid damaging the edges.

It is very important that they are set perfectly level during installation. You can stretch a string across your floor to aid in keeping the tile level. To do this, wrap a spare tile with string off to one side and stretch it across to another tile on the other side of the room. Shim the two tiles supporting the string to tile+thinset height. Or you can keep a strong, straight board handy to check for levelness. Slide a quarter across your tiles to determine if you have lippage (uneven height) .

The tiles can be cut using a wet saw with a diamond blade.

Once you set your tile in the thinset on the floor and have it level, use the sharp edge of a tile tool to scrape away the thinset immediatly next to the tile (about 1/2 inch wide), so when you place your next tile, excess mortar has someplace to spread into and does not get pushed up into your grout line.

Any residue of mortar left on the surface of the tile must be cleaned immediately to avoid staining. After allowing the area to dry completely, clean any excess adhesive or spots, if any, with a #180 or #220medium or fairly coarse sand paper. (If you use a fine sandpaper you can actually hone or polish the tile in that spot and it will show) See also more information on cleaning up after grouting on our Installation Instructions pdf.

Do not step on the tiles until the mortar has cured and dried.

If possible, try to find an installer who has had some experience with mosaico hidraulico/cement tile/Cuban tile. Check with the older craftsmen in your area, or those from Latin America but be sure they can read English and read our Printable Cement Tile Installation Instructions.

Grouting Cement Tiles

Cement tiles are absorbant and should be wet well before grouting.

Use non-sanded grout for joints under 1/8 inch. Interior grout lines in cement tile floors are usually very tiny. On exterior installations use wider grout lines with sanded grout.

Do not use dark colored grout on tile with light colors. Test any grout on a scrap of tile to be sure there will be no staining. A non-tinted neutral gray is best for tiles with light and dark areas.

Traditionally a very narrow joint is used between the tiles indoors. Recommendation is not more than 1.0 to 1.5 mm. You will usually want to use a very neutral color joint mix or one similar to your tile colors. Traditionally, the color grout used for hydraulic cement floor tiles is light grey cement. On tightly spaced tiles use a thin consistency grout, not a thick paste.

Dampen your tile floor well before you grout the tile.

The grout should be thin enough to completely fill the narrow joints.

Apply the grout with a rubber float or with a rubber squeegee, always moving diagonally across the joints. Any excess grout should be removed with a damp cloth or sponge before it dries.

Another method to clean grout off the tile is the sawdust method :

You need several bags of sawdust depending on the size of the floor.

Grout your tile in the usual manner. When it’s ready to clean, dump a pile of sawdust on the floor and sprinkle it with water to dampen it. Not wet — just slightly damp. Push the sawdust across the floor with a push broom with soft bristles, and you’ll be amazed. Change to clean sawdust periodically. You may need to touch up slightly with a sponge, but only slightly.

The sawdust grout cleaning method is used more often in Europe than in the USA. Sometimes a mix of sawdustand dry grout mix is used initially and the dry grout acts as an abrasive to scrub up the grout residue.

Once the grout is cured and dry it should be sealed. There are various methods for sealaing cement tile.

Installing Cement Tiles

Install your tile after all other construction if at all possible. Your new tile, before it is sealed, is easily stained by construction grime. If you think you will not be able to avoid construction on top of your new floor, protect it well with plywood or some other breathable layer.

Let the new tile floor dry out thouroughly. Sealing of the floor tiles too soon after laying them will trap humidity and spots may appear later. Humid tile will not absorp the sealant product properly. Use penetrating silicone based sealant. See our tests of sealers good for cement tile.

For routine cleaning of encaustic mosaic cement floor tile use a mild cleanser (ph neutral). water, and mop as needed. Never use abrasive cleaners, acid cleaners, or bleaches because they will eventually eat away the natural color pigments of the surface.

Sealing the Cement Tile Floor for online ordering of Fila Italian products. FilaFob will maintain the tiles natural colors. See our test results.

Some sealers will ‘enhance’ or darken the color of the tiles. We have not had good results with this type.

Only use a sealant that you have first hand experience with if you chose not to follow our recommendations. We can furnish your sealant with your tile if you like.

Cement Tile Floor Care

After installation has been completed and the grout has dried thoroughly wash the tiles with mild soap. Avoid all acid or alkaline products. As with natural stone, cement tiles are porous in nature and should be sealed to avoid staining.

One tile company reccommends to use a water buffer. They say that you can rent these at a U-Haul store with a medium grade (Scotch Brite type disk. In addition to cleaning efficiently, the water buffing also brings out a fine luster in the tiles, remove any remaining water on the tiles and finish drying with a dry cloth.

Cement tiles should be regularly mopped with clean water. Miracle Mirasoap Soap (shown at left) for tile is recommended. A capful of liquid wax may be added to the water to improve the tile’s natural sheen. Never use acids to clean the encaustic cement tiles as it will cause damage. Or order these PH neutral cleaning products.

Polished Tile Floors

There is a professional polishing process that can give you a very high gloss. This process uses special equipment. Check your local yellow pages for marble or concrete polishing professionals if you desire a very high gloss finish. This highly reflective finish is created by a grinding process that uses progressively finer particle size just like polishing a fine stone. You may have difficulty finding someone to do this on a residential scale, many of the polishing services in the States are commercial only (think large expanses like Sam’s Club floor). Read more about this. You will still need to SEAL YOUR TILES.

Sand Bed Alternate Method of Installation

Occasionally people ask about the very old-time method of laying cement tile on a packed sand under layer. It is because of this method that many antique tiles have been salvaged in very good shape. Once you get the first tile out, you can pop up the others by digging into the packed sand beneath. These sand installations had very permanent borders or solid walls. The sand cannot shift in the contained area once it is mechanically packed tight.

We have no first hand experience with this method, but give info here just as a help to people doing research or restoring an old home. Some people with cement tile that they call Cuban Tile in Florida have tiles installed this way.

This traditional method calls for laying tile in a bed of thick mortar on stabilized sand or substrate. This method is seldom used today and has several drawbacks and requires that a few additional precautions are taken.

One thing is the immersion of the tiles in water for at least 4 hours before laying. Then it is imperative not to use a mallet which would crack the tiles.

The possibility of efflorescence (white-grey crystals of salts) appearing after the tiles are laid. Eventually these may disappear, but only after frequent washing.

There is a long period of drying-out required before being able to seal your tile floor with sealant and wax or a top coat sealant like those we recommend..

For this method there is a need for tiles to be laid by an experienced professional tile layer familiar with this technique.

All tile designs of Villa Lagoon Tile and tile color combinations in these and in historical tile designs are exclusive to Villa Lagoon Tile and it is strictly prohibited for others to copy them.

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Traditional Mosaicos Hidráulicos

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