What Is The Key To Laying Tile?

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What is one of the most intimidating household DIY projects? A kitchen remodel ranks up there. When properly installed, a tile floor can last decades. However, if mistakes creep into the job, you'll be digging out the toolbox in less than a year. The good news is, with the right preparation and a little patience, this job is well within the skills of a DIY homeowner.

Smooth and Level Floor Tiles Begin With the Right Base

An even, level tile surface is pleasant to walk on and, for counters, easy to work on. Your first step is to correctly prepare the backer board or subfloor. The surface that the tiles lay on must be level or they will stick up in places, magnifying any problems. Flooring placed on an uneven surface may have reduced life, especially in the case of a bathroom remodel, because it is difficult to seal moisture out of the subfloor. You'll want to carefully examine the base surface and patch or replace any damaged sections. A level and framing square will help you assure yourself that everything is smooth and flat.

Mark Down Where to Start

If you're installing a few tiles in a small surface like a countertop, the job is fairly easy. However, installing tile flooring from wall to wall requires more care and some precise measuring. You will need to measure the room and mark the center with an "X" of chalk lines. Each chalk line should span the room from wall to wall. If the space has an irregular floor plan, sketching it to scale on graph paper can help you decide where to mark the center point.

Create Perfect Tile Spacing

The wrong spacing between tiles isn't just unsightly; it can also reduce the life of your grout. Areas that are too narrow may create weak points where the grout is likely to crack. Wide spaces may have lumps of material or not have a good seal between the grout and the layers underneath.

So how do you keep spacing perfect when laying down numerous tiles, potentially several hundred? There are a couple of methods. The easiest way, particularly for ceramic tile with crisp, squared-off edges, is to buy a pack of cheap plastic tile spacers. These X-shaped pieces slip between the corners of the tiles, ensuring a perfectly even gap. Spacers can also be grouted over. Other methods that don't require another trip to the hardware store include using coins or matchsticks to ensure spacing between tiles. These need to be removed before grouting.

Now You're Ready to Start Installing Tile

Tile placement should begin at the center and go outward. Work on a quarter of the room at a time and don't box yourself in. There are several reasons for this. You may need to cut tiles to fit and those will be best hidden at the edges of the room. Also, starting at the center gives less space for small errors to creep up, throwing your tiles out of alignment.


Shakti S. has been a freelance writer since 2012 and has a strong background in English with experience in copywriting, editing, and translations. She has taken on DIY projects and worked with professional designers and home repair agencies, and continues to learn more about home and yard decoration, maintenance, and repair.

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