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Top 13 Mistakes to Avoid When Laying Floor Tiles

By Andy Nguyen May 30, 2021 0 comments

Although laying floor tiles may seem like an easy job, there's actually a lot to plan and consider. Trying to rush through things will only make the finished job look sloppy and unprofessional. If you're planning on having new floor tiles installed, here are some of the top mistakes to avoid that can yield better results and save money and time:

Mistake #1: Installing the floor before you prepare it

Before you do any installation work, you need to prepare the floor properly. The preparation work includes:

  • Removing debris and old layers of surface covering
  • Preparing the subfloor by securing it with nails or screws if necessary
  • Leveling out uneven sections on all four corners
  • Smoothing down bumps in the seams between tiles
  • Cutting off excess tile lengths that are sticking up over edges

Regardless of the flooring tiles you're using, you need to do the prep work. It'll make the installation process easier and the end results better.

Failing to level out uneven surfaces before installation will prolong the entire project because you may need to remove the tiles later. Rows of installation may turn out bumpy and inconsistent, which won't look pleasant.

Mistake #2: Not taking measurements twice

As a homeowner, you need to measure the installation room ahead of time. In fact, you should take measurements twice. This will ensure that you have enough material to complete your desired layout without ordering more materials. Otherwise, your costs will be higher than you calculated. It'll also prolong the project, which may be inconvenient to many people.

Depending on where you're ordering your materials from, the delivery may take several business days or even weeks. Of course, if you're able to pick up the materials instead, you should do so to save time. In addition, you should never try to make things "fit" if you're running short. Doing so will only lead to a messy and inaccurate job.

Whenever you're taking measurements, you should use a tool such as the SuperGauge. When laying floor tiles, you need to take exact measurements and create outlines that work around walls, furniture, and other objects. Sometimes, these come with strange shapes and curves that are difficult to replicate. That's what the SuperGauge is designed for--to replicate any shape perfectly, creating accurate and reliable templates in seconds.

Mistake #3: Failing to estimate the tools and materials required 

You need quite a bit of tools and materials to lay floor tiles successfully. Always make sure you do research beforehand so you know how to prepare accordingly. Every project will differ depending on the tiles, tools, and materials you're using. On the day of installation, double-check that you've brought all your tools and materials with you, so you don't have to drive somewhere far to pick something up.

If you don't bring enough material, such as not having enough sealant on hand when laying your tiles, it could delay the project. This also includes failing to calculate how much flooring material you'll have after removing the old tiles and laying the new ones. 

Mistake #4: Choosing the wrong tile

Without much experience, it's easy to choose a specific tile because you like the color. This is a mistake because you're not considering other factors, such as suitability for indoor or outdoor use, cleanliness, and slip resistance. Although you want the finished results to look nice, you still need proper functionality and practicality. Always refer back to the manufacturer's guidelines.

Some floors aren't suitable for certain tiles because they have different undertones, so always read up on what works best with your flooring before purchasing anything. People often find themselves with costly tiles that aren't used because they need to be constantly mopped, which can be inconvenient and time-consuming. This is a good reminder that you should always purchase tiles based on your specific needs. 

Mistake #5: Not using a level

Levels are used to measure straight lines and help you calculate the distance between each tile to give yourself an idea of how much grout or spacers will be needed. Using a level will also help ensure you installed your tiles at the same height. You should be using your level every time you install a tile so you can adjust accordingly. If a tile isn't corrected early, it can lead to uneven floors that won't look good when finished. It's a mandatory tool to use if you want your tiles to be perfect. 

Mistake #6: Forgetting to seal the flooring

Don' skip out on using sealant. Remember, most flooring requires some regular sealing and maintenance. Ceramic and porcelain tiles may not require sealing, but you should still check with your manufacturer. Most tiles should be sealed, such as marble, granite, and slate. After you're done laying your floor tiles, start sealing before any spills happen.

You should seal because you won't have to worry about water or dirt damage or grout erosion that can ruin your hard work later on. Sealing helps your tiles to resist unwanted scratches and other types of damage. It simply acts as a strengthening measure for your grout to keep your flooring protected over time. This leads us to the next mistake.

Mistake #7: Applying the wrong type of sealant 

Since there are many different types of flooring to choose from, there is often confusion about which type of sealant works best. You need to choose a sealant that suits your flooring. Even sealed tiles need recoating every few years for maximum protection against moisture, dirt, grime, and spills. A high-quality product with an appropriate finish (based on what's needed) and ancillary features like UV resistance can make all the difference when it's time for resealing. We recommend choosing a water-based product, as it is easier to clean up and offers a more natural look.

Another mistake here is not applying enough sealant. It might seem counterintuitive, but you don't want to apply too much sealant if the goal is for long-term protection from moisture or spills. The idea behind sealing your flooring isn't just about one application. It's about long-term maintenance and prevention of potential damage in the future.

Sealers are not intended as an all-inclusive solution when used alone. They only work with proper installation practices. When everything's done correctly, there won't gaps between tiles where dirt can collect, and mold can grow over time--without regular cleaning and maintenance.

Mistake #8: Not using spacers when installing on stairs

Whenever you're installing tiles on stairs, you should continue using tile spacers, even if you think you don't need them. Before starting any installation work, you need to make sure the stairs are leveled perfectly. When dealing with wooden stairs, make sure you install backer boards. It's very difficult to install tiles on stairs that aren't level.

However, let's say you can't find a leveling solution. If so, you should use self-adhesive plastic spacers at every other step while working your way up--where one side has no space. You can then cut off any excess after creating another flat area for yourself with more flooring materials. Keep starting again until you complete the entire staircase.

Mistake #9: Not using a chalk line to mark out straight lines

Accuracy and organization are key for any DIY project. That's why before starting your installation, you should use either masking tape or painter's blue/white. Using chalk lines will help you precisely plan your flooring tiling as you will need to mark straight lines across the length of the room you're working on. Taking these actions are critical as you'll be taking exact measurements and marking far distances.

You'll find that using a ruler and tape measure isn't convenient enough for this type of project. Note that using a chalk line almost becomes a vital step. You want to make sure all the tiles go in perfectly aligned, horizontally and vertically. So, for example, if you're installing tile around furniture, it will be as close to flush with the edge of whatever you're trying to install against.

Mistake #10: Using the wrong trowel size

You can't just use any trowel for your tiles. It needs to match the size of your tiles to provide the proper coverage. For example, the thin set needs to be deeper on your trowel if you're working with larger tiles. To check if you're using the right trowel, install a single tile and then lift it to check the back. If you see lines, it means your trowel isn't giving you the amount of coverage you need beneath the tile. Check out a guide on choosing the correct tile trowel for your project.

Mistake #11: Working with damaged tiles

As you're handling tiles, you need to be careful not to crack them. If you find that one of your tiles is cracked or broken, dispose of it. As wasteful and costly as it may be, you shouldn't be working with damaged tiles as it can make the project look messy and unprofessional. When using a machine to cut tiles, we recommend going with a wet saw because their blades are abrasive instead of toothed. Wet saws use a water-cooled diamond blade that makes it easy to cut tiles carefully and quickly.

Pay very close attention as you're making cuts, so you only have tiles that fit perfectly together and allow for a tight grout line. It's a good idea to invest in quality tools as they can save you money in the long run, not to mention yield better results.

Mistake #12: Using the wrong grout

Preparing the right grout is an essential task when it comes to laying floor tiles. Firstly, make sure you're choosing a color that compliments the color of your tiles. Don't just pick any color as you may regret it later on (or someone else will). You should also buy the correct type of grout depending on the tiles you're using. For example, if you use cement-based grout, but your tile manufacturer recommends you use latex, it can lead to serious problems down the road. It can also make the installation process more difficult than necessary.

Avoid adding too much water to your grout so you can get the consistency you're looking for. We recommend going for a peanut butter like consistency that will give you even and smooth grout lines. Using poorly prepared or the wrong grout can also make the finished product look unpleasant. When you go to mix your grout, you should avoid using tools such as a drill or paddle as they can weaken the strength of your grout by adding air. Instead, use a trowel.

You should also avoid using a "one-size fits all" type of grout sealer that isn't designed for the tile you're using. Always use a sealant specifically made for laminate, porcelain, or ceramic tiles because they'll be able to stand up to wear and tear better than others.

Mistake #13: Not giving yourself enough breaks

Dealing with heavy tiles such as marble or granite is no easy feat! Carrying around your grout can also be tiresome. Depending on how difficult it is to bring your tools and materials to the installation room, it may be a good idea to ask for help. The lifting process alone can be very taxing on your body. If you decide to work on the project yourself, expect to finish later than you originally thought.

Always make sure you're giving yourself enough breaks to avoid exhaustion or burnout. Pack a big lunch and bring plenty of water. Your well-being comes first before any DIY project, so proceed with caution and care at all times.


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