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DIY Guide: How to Lay Flooring Tile for Beginners

By Annia Claire Soronio December 01, 2022

Since you're reading this article, you probably like to (or want to) do home improvements yourself. And maybe, you might just be hoping to refinish your bathroom or kitchen floor with some beautiful new tile or laminate flooring... But there's one small problem: you don't want to pay contractors thousands of dollars to do it! If that sounds like you, keep reading: 


While laying floor tile sounds like a bit of a job, it is actually fun once you get a good grasp of it. Laying floor tiles is even more satisfying once you see how it improves the overall aesthetics of your home.

 

In this article, we will help you with everything related to laying flooring tiles that is designed for beginners like you, from gathering the materials, tools, and things to consider, and the step-by-step guide.

 

Read on to discover more tips and tricks and how to ace laying floor tiles the first time.

What to consider before laying floor tile in your home

Before you can begin to lay floor tiles in your home, there are a couple of things that you need to consider. The following questions will help you avoid costly mistakes in your DIY tile installation.


Which room are you renovating?

First things first, you need to identify which room you are going to lay floor tiles in. Is it to be the bathroom? The kitchen? Or your bedroom? Different rooms call for different tile needs, and certainly different tile shapes and sizes, even in the process.


If you are going to lay floor tiles that are often walked on by the people living around the house, it’s important to consider durable tiles like granite to avoid breaking easily. If it’s the bathroom, you may really need to invest in your underlayment. On the other hand, if the room you are renovating is your very own bedroom, you may opt-out of choosing granite tiles as they can be really expensive.


Are you choosing the right tile?

There are about 12 types of tiles available for you to choose from, and choosing the right one is critical to avoid costly repairs and maintenance. Some common tiles include ceramic, porcelain, glass, marble, granite, and plenty more.


Here are the things you should consider when choosing the right tile:

- Tile size - Small household spaces like kitchens, bathrooms, and lavatories are typically best suited for small-sized tiles. At the same time, large tiles are frequently utilized in offices and even homes to give them an infinite, airy appearance.

- Room size - Light-colored tiles will amplify the feeling of space in a small room. However, if your room is large, you will have more options, from light to dark tiles.

- Color - Of course, the color of your tiles matters. It will dictate the atmosphere you want to achieve in your room. Installing tiles is a bit of work and sometimes costly, so choose the color you want to settle in.

- Grout - While a grout that is the same color as the tile can produce a subtle effect, contrasting grout will draw attention to lines and other design elements—choose well.

- Texture and pattern - The tile texture and pattern are entirely up to you. However, be sure it will look good after installation.


Do you have pets or children around the house?

This is another critical question before starting to till your floor. The general rule is that if you have children or pets constantly on the move, choose solid tiles like granite to avoid cracks and prevent costly tire repairs.


Do you have foundation problems?

You need to think twice about installing tiles if you have foundation problems. Some common foundation problems are an uneven floor, cracks in the sheetrock inside the house, rotting wood, or floors that bounce up and down.


If you have some of them, fix your foundation first by seeking help from the pros so that you won’t have any problems.


Flooring tile tools and materials you need to prepare

If you are eager to start laying floor tiles in your home to give it an aesthetic lift, have the following tools and materials ready first.


Materials

For underlayment

- Cement board or backer board

- Membrane

- Waterproof underlayment (for wet areas)


Adhesives

- Thinset

- Mastic


Grout

- Premixed and single-component grouts


Tiles specific to your needs


Tools

- Goggles and knee pads (for safety and comfort)

- Trowel

- Buckets and sponge

- Float (for grouting)

- Wet saw or scoring snap cutter (for cutting)

- Wedges

- ¼ cement board

- Tape measure

- Others (depending on your supplier)


DIY Steps on laying floor tile for beginners

1. Plan for your layout

Before doing anything that might cost you extra money, you should plan your layout. You can begin this step by finding the center of the room. Measure the floor’s length first and divide it in half. Next, draw a line connecting the two center spots on the ground.

Planning for your tile layout.

 

The tile doesn't need to begin exactly in the middle of the room just because you arrange the layout from the center. To ensure there are no sliver cuts in that direction either, repeat the process 90 degrees from the last row. During this phase, be sure to take into consideration any design elements you are including, such as diagonal tiling, a distinctive pattern, or a tiled border.


Planning out the order you will tile around the room, quadrant by quadrant, will help your tile installation go smoothly.

2. Test the layout for the tile installation

Utilize tile spacers to ensure that the expansion gaps are accurate, and dry fit the tile to verify your planned layout. Leave a 1/4-inch space around the borders so that they can expand.

Testing your tile layout.

Combine tiles from several boxes to assist with color consistency throughout the area. You can drag the design to one side to give your edge tile greater width if you discover you have small bits of tile on one end. Whenever you change the layout, don't forget to designate new reference lines.

3. Mixing the thinset

Thinsets are the adhesive that will keep the tile on the floor. Mixing them is even more important for the first step of successfully laying floor tiles. This process usually involves two time elements: the open and cure times.

Mixing the thinset mortar before laying flooring tiles.

 

Open times are determined by applying an adhesive that still bonds and secures the tile, typically within 30 to 40 minutes. Cure time, on the other hand, is the period of time needed for the thinset to be fully set up after installation. For this part, consult the manufacturer's guidelines for a detailed application.

4. Laying the thinset

After mixing the thinset to a peanut butter consistency, laying it on the floor is the next step. Although it looks obvious and easy, there are a few things you need to watch out for.

Laying the thinset mortar to prepare for the tile installation.

As soon as the substrate or underlayment is ready, start spreading thinset on it with your notched trowel. You should also apply a thinset on the back of each large tile for it to stick efficiently when laid out on the floor.


For a uniform mortar bed under the tile, ensure they all go in the same direction. Hold the trowel at a 45° to 50° angle to spread the thinset to the thickness you want.

5. Laying the floor tiles

Here comes the most exciting part of this overall process. Use even, forceful pressure to put a tile into thinset. Wiggle the tile back and forth to help the thinset ridges break down and fill in the valleys. Doing this creates a thick layer of thinset beneath the tile.

Laying flooring tiles.

After completing this with your first tile, lift it back up and make sure the thinset is covered on the tile's back by 80–90%. If not, double-check the thinset's consistency and ensure the right-sized trowel is used at the right angle.


Use spacers between the tiles to make sure that the grout lines and gaps are the same all over. After the thinset cures, the spacers ought to be able to be taken out.

6. Clean and level the tile as you go

To remove any thinset from the tile surface, use a wet sponge. Use a long level to sometimes check for high spots, then use a rubber mallet to gently level them out. Keep in mind to leave a 1/4-inch space at the room's edge. Additionally, you must leave a 1/4-inch space around any pipes.

Clean the tiles as you go.

 

7. Cut the tile as needed

When cutting tile, a tile cutter works well for straightforward cuts. A tile hole saw works best for holes, while you can use a handheld tile nipper to cut curves. Use a wet tile saw if you're making numerous cuts; it will make quick work of the job.

 

Cut the tiles needed.

 

Here is a tip when cutting tiles: There are two options available to you regarding how to proceed. The first step is to cover the floor with as many whole tiles as you can, save all of the cuts for the end, and allow the floor to cure.


As you put the edge tiles down, you will be able to walk on the floor. The second one is to install and cut edge tiles as you go.

8. Let the mortar set

Now that you’ve finished laying tiles, let them dry for 24 hours, and then you can begin tile grouting.

 

Finishing tile installation.

 

Easy steps for tile grouting

Grouting is essential to making your floor tiles look good and last a long time by filling in the gaps between the tiles. Most grouts are made of a powdered mixture of cement, lime, color pigment, and sometimes sand. When mixed with water and left to cure, this mixture hardens.


At this point, it’s also worth noting that there are four types of grout that you can use, which are the following:

- Sanded grout - This is the most common grout, and it is commonly used in floors, walls, and ceilings with anything at least 1/8" of an inch or greater. Sand is incorporated into the grout to keep it in place between joints.

- Unsanded grout - It is commonly used on floors, countertops, and walls for joints of 1/8” of an inch or smaller.

- Epoxy grout - This type of grout is quite expensive and is the best option for grouting tile for pool water lines, outdoor patios, and countertops. The best thing about using epoxy is that it prevents bacterial development and is less prone to cracking over time.

- TEC power grout - With TEC power grout, you may apply revolutionary grout technology on grout joints from 1/16" to 12".


In this post, we will prioritize using sanded grout, as it is the most common and perfect for flooring tiles.

1. Prepare and apply the grout

Take out the spacers between the tiles, use a rubber float to press the grout into the joints, and then drag the excess grout diagonally across the lines. After waiting around 20 minutes, cleanly wet a sponge with water and wipe the grout lines.

Apply grout to the installed tile as a finishing.

2. Let the grout set

You should normally wait 72 hours after the grout has been installed before walking on the floor, but check the manufacturer's instructions for details. To remove any haze that has remained on the tile surface, apply a grout haze remover.

Let the grout set.

3. Finish the floor tile installation

Fill up the expanding gaps with silicone sealant. To help maintain the grout, you can apply grout sealer after three weeks. You should install baseboards and quarter-round molding for finishing. When moving from one room to another, especially when switching from tile to another type of flooring, install transition strips to hide flooring seams.


SuperGauge XL

SuperGauge XL is the ultimate DIY tool, perfect for woodworking, crafts, and even floor tiles. It allows you to instantly copy any shape, removing the need for guesswork.

SuperGauge XL for flooring

When you need to fix your flooring or have a perfectly cut tile to fit a certain area, this SuperGauge XL will instantly help you with that with ease and full control. It's convenient and adaptable enough to help with any DIY project or home improvement.


Final takeaway

Laying flooring tiles doesn’t have to be complicated. All it takes is a bold step to try something new. If you are a big DIYer and like to give your home a bit of a makeover, installing floor tiles is a good place to start.


Simply gather up the tools and materials and follow the step-by-step guide, and you will be alright. Don’t be shy about asking for help if needed from your supplier for further specifics.


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