Installing Ceramic Tile Floors

In this segment,  sets up the project and applies the thin set.


Carpenter's pencils
Razor blade
Steel tape measure
Grout float
Notched trowel
Margin trowel
Hydra sponges
Two 5-gal. buckets
Tile cutter
Safety glasses
Ear protection
Dust mask
Knee pads
1/2" drill motor
Rod type mixing paddle
Finished trowel
Rubber gloves
Rubber mallet and beating block
Chalk line and chalk
Clear lacquer
Knee pads

Specialty Materials (see Resources, below)

Before you get started on this project, you should know that tiling over existing surfaces can sometimes be a
problem. Tile adds weight, not strength, so the flooring has to be strong enough to support it. And, if the
structure underneath is flexible, tile will crack. Plus, lots of existing surfaces are uneven. To get a good bed for
tile, you have to take down the high spots and fill in the low spots and holes. Cracks only get wider over time, so
you have to patch those. Wilson got lucky with this location because he had an even surface to work with, and
there were no cracks.

To learn how to treat a cracked floor, click here for our den tiling project from the third episode  of this workshop.

One last thing to think about before starting this project. Since the tile will be exposed to outdoor elements, it's a
good idea to use water-resistant tiles. For this particular project, the homeowners chose a frost-resistant
water-friendly tile.

Preparing the Space for Tiling

Note: For this project, the homeowners chose four different tile colors.

Vacuum the floor to remove all debris.

Apply a self leveler to fill the voids and holes on the floor.

Cut the doorjamb so the tiles can slide under it.
Tip: To get the total square footage of the room so you'll know how many tiles you'll need, simply multiply the
width of the room by the length. For example, this porch in this project is 19' in length and 14' wide, which comes
to 266 square feet. For this job, Wilson had to subtract the 8-1/2" border for the total, which gave him the total
for the floor field tile, border tile, thin set and grout.

Snap two main working lines to establish the pattern in the center because the layout consists of center field tiles
and an outside border. The lines are measured from the wall you want to start from to the center of the room.
Make sure the lines are square by using the 3-4-5 method . Measure 3' on one of the lines you wish to check for
square and make a pencil mark. Repeat this process on the opposing line but make your mark at 4' instead. The
lines are square to one another if the distance between the marks is 5'.

To determine the box size for your layout, lay two tiles out dry and use the steel tape to measure the tiles with the
two added grout joints. Using a grid box will eliminate the need for spacers.

Chalk out your box grid pattern on the floor , and be sure to spray the chalk lines with clear lacquer to prevent

Applying Thin Set

Before you start spreading the thin set, you may want to do a dry run with the tiles, which means you simply lay
them out to see what the pattern looks like.

Mix the thin set according to manufacturer's instructions, and apply it within the grid lines.
Tip: Only spread as much thin set as you can tile in 10 to 15 minutes. Be sure not to cover up your working lines,
which delete the need for spacers.

Spread the thin set on the surface with the flat edge of the trowel to key in the mortar and ensure a good bond.

With the notched side of the trowel, comb through the thin-set with the trowel held at a consistent angle  to
ensure uniform thickness.
Now that you've made great progress with the prep work and thin-set application, in the next segment, You will
show you how to lay the tile.

Laying the Floor Tile

Begin laying your tile in the pattern you have chosen. The particular pattern the homeowners chose for this
project had a full 12x12 field tile as the outside edge, then 4x4 tiles inside that, then rectangular pieces to border
the main field tiles in the middle. With the chalked in grid pattern, we could start anywhere we wanted.

You started with the border tile and then on to the field tile , and remember to put down only enough thin set that
you can tile in 15 minutes -- and don't cover up the working chalk lines.

After you lay a few tiles, secure them by using a rubber mallet and beating block, but don't tap too hard because
you can crack the tiles. For spacing lay the tiles along the chalk (layout) lines, and you can move the tiles as long
as the thin set bed is wet. As you set each tile, check the corners to make sure there's no excess lippage. If one
tile is high, tap it down. If it's low, lift it and add more thin set and re-apply.
Tip: Don't forget to clean out the joints of excess thin set as you lay the tiles.

Note: On almost every tile job you'll have to cut some tile to make the pieces fit the tight spots. It's best to use a
wet saw simply because you'll get a cleaner, smoother cut and it will afford you cuts that can't be done with a
snap board. Wet saws can be rented from your local hardware store for approximately $45 a day. When using a
wet saw, be sure to wear safety goggles and hearing protection because it throws chips and is extremely loud.

After you've cut the pieces of tile for the border and corners, continue tiling the entire floor , and don't forget to
let your thin set cure for 24 hours before walking on the tile.

Grouting the Floor

Note: Including the borders, this whole floor has four different color tiles. Because of its color, the homeowners
chose a tan grout  because it complemented each color tile.

Mix the grout according to manufacturers instruction's, and note that you want the grout to be the consistency of
a milkshake . Don't forget to let the grout slake or stand for at least 15 minutes prior to using.

Apply the grout start in one corner and work outward, using a laminated grout float. Scoop a small amount of
grout, and holding the float at an angle , push the grout into the joints with the flat edge and a sweeping motion.
Note: Pushing the grout over the face of the tiles diagonally with the flat edge of float will cut off excess grout. Be
sure to work in small manageable areas.

Continue the process over the entire floor until all joints have been grouted, and be sure to make two or three
passes from different directions, scraping the tile with the edge of the float to clean off any excess grout.

Allow grout to set and haze over.

With a nearly dry sponge, tool the grout  to eliminate pinholes, voids, highs, and low spots.

Do a final wipe with a nearly dry sponge pulled diagonally over the face of the tile to remove any grout residue.
Whenever you're sponging tile, don't use too much water or you'll dilute the grout.

Once the grout has hazed over, polish the face of the tiles with cheesecloth. The mesh in the cheesecloth will
give a nice buffed quality to the floor.
Note: Don't grout the perimeter joint in the floor . This open joint is covered by a wood base (baseboard) and
allows the floor to expand and contract.

Apply caulking where the tile meets the aluminum doorframe. Be sure to get a caulk that matches the grout color.

Apply a grout sealer after a minimum of 48 hours or whatever the manufacturer recommends.
Note: It's vital to seal the grout so excessive moisture doesn't get underneath it. And the sealant applicator
(figure E) will place the sealant right on the joint, and not the tile. Be sure to saturate the joint fully and let it sit
per the manufacturer's instructions.

Be sure to wipe off any excess sealant that may get on the face of the tiles.