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Laying & Grouting Ceramic Tile

Laying Ceramic Tile
Tools: Measure tape, trowel, thinset, rented tile cutter, tile snips, tile spacers, chalk line, grout float

Before you begin, see our article on criteria and laying of backer board subfloor for tile.

1. Layout: Take your tile out of the box and lay it on the floor using tile spacers to position your tile evenly. Start on a prominent wall, and work your way to the opposite wall. You may want to use a bathtub or center island as your prominent wall. Use full tiles at doorways and along a bathtub or shower. It is easiest to lay all the full tile pieces and let them dry overnight, then cut remaining pieces to size and install them. Do not cut tile to less than 3” wide or it may break. If you have a wall edge and less than 3” of tile space, reposition your tile so you have a 3 or 4” tile on each outer wall. Hint: Smaller tiles require fewer cuts and can be positioned easily, but you will have a bigger job when you go to grout. When laying out your tile, use tiles from several different boxes to vary pattern and color.

2. Your tile store will cut your tile for you if you only have a few cuts to make, but be sure your measurements are correct. If you have many cuts to make, rent a tile cutter and follow directions given to you.

3. When you are comfortable with your tile layout, use a chalk line to make a guide line to set the tiles, and then lay a straight board along the chalk line to make it easier to see. Make sure the board is secure and does not move.

4. Follow the directions on the back of the thinset for mixing and also what size trowel to use relative to the size of your tile. Do not add water to extend the life of your thinset. Mix a new batch if it is getting too thick.

5. Lay the thinset on a small section at a time, about 2x3 feet. Place the tile down using the board as a guide and your tile spacers to place the tile evenly apart. Press down on the tile, and wiggle it to get rid of any air pockets and assure a secure seal. Be sure the tile is level and there are no corners tipping up. Use a level front to back and side to side to assure you are not going uphill or downhill. Allow the tile to set overnight, and remove tile spacers. Do not step on the tile while it is drying.

6. Tip: After the tile has dried, it is time to add the toilet extension ring if needed. You will need a toilet extension ring to make up for the height of the tile and backer board.

Grouting Ceramic Tile

1. Mix your grout according to package directions. You want it thin enough to spread, but too thin a grout weakens the joints. An ideal consistency would be that of mashed potatoes or brownie mix.

2. Using a grout float, spread and pack your grout into the seams. Pack tightly with no air spaces. Scrape excess grout off the tile, but don’t worry about a small amount of grout on the tile.

3. Allow the grout to dry just enough so it is firm, but soft enough to wipe off the tile. This may be any where from 10 to 60 minutes or more. A good trick is to take a damp sponge to the grout and wipe over it. If the grout comes up out of the seam, it is not dry enough. When you feel the grout is dry, take a bucket of warm water and a rag and wipe over all of the tile and seams. Continue using a clean bucket of water until there is no residue on the tile.

4. Let the grout dry overnight before you caulk any joints near your tub or shower, or install your toilet.

Allow your grout to dry for 2 weeks and brush a sealer over the grout. Most grouts have an acrylic base, but this is an added preventive measure.


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