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Installing Concrete Backer Board for Ceramic Tile

Before buying and installing ceramic backer board, see our article on sub floor criteria for ceramic tile.

Tools & Materials: Backer board, thinset adhesive, notched trowel, alkali resistant mesh tape, measuring tape, drywall saw or circular saw with a cement cutting blade, 2 ½” galvanized screws, drill with screw head attachment, putty knife for smoothing out thinset

1. Remove all floor molding. If you are installing tile in a bathroom, the toilet must be removed. ( Remember when you are shopping to get a new wax ring and a toilet extension ring to reinstall your toilet. See our article about installing toilets for additional help.)

2. Remove your toilet. Close off the water supply to the toilet. Flush the toilet and remove standing water with a rag or a sponge. Stuff a rag in the hole and place a plastic bag over the rag to block out sewer gas. Simply unscrew the two bolts on the flange on the base of the toilet and pull the toilet off the studs.

3. You can choose to leave your vanity in place, or remove it if you think you may be replacing your vanity.
4. If you have vinyl flooring, scrub it with a vinyl floor stripper and scouring pad. This will help the adhesive to bond with the floor. Remove any loose pieces of vinyl and make sure the floor is level and secured to the floor joists.

5. Find your floor joists and mark where they are on the wall, as you will want to screw the backer board to the joists. Wrap any copper pipes with tape to avoid corrosion from the adhesive.

6. Backer board is laid with thin set adhesive and screwed into the floor. Measure, cut, and lay all your pieces of backer board before you mix your thinset. This will assure you have avoided any mistakes before you glue the backer board down. The backer board can be laid in any direction as long as you stagger your joints so four corners never meet at one point. Leave 1/8” space between the sheets. You will be taping and filling the joints with thinset. It is helpful to leave a ½” space along the walls to make it easier to lay down the sheets. Leave 1/8” space along the vanity. Remove all pieces of backer board and label each one.

7. Remove all dust and loose particles from the floor.

8. Mix thinset according to package directions. You don’t want it too thick or too thin. Spread the thinset with a Ό” notched trowel over an area big enough to cover one piece, starting at the furthermost corner of the room. Hold your trowel at a 45 degree angle when spreading the thinset. Drop the backer board onto the thinset and screw down every 6 inches along the perimeter and every 8” across the panel. Be sure to drive the screw into the backer board deep enough to make an impression.

9. Using a putty knife and thinset, cover your screw holes level with the backer board. Lay adhesive backed mesh tape over the seams, and skim over with a flat trowel and a thin layer of thinset. This does not have to be perfect, but avoid any bumps or ridges. The thinset should be 2 to 3” wide on each side of the joint. Fill the ½” spaces along the wall with thinset. Allow to dry overnight. You are now ready to tile.


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