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Learning How to Lay Ceramic Floor Tile the Right Way

Apr 15, 2008
Raring to start working on your own ceramic floor tile project? Get ready to learn the basics of how to lay ceramic floor tile right here and make that beautiful ceramic tile floor that you and your family have always wanted! So, get your tiling tools ready, put on your safety goggles and let's do some tiling!

Most tiling jobs start with a well-prepared subfloor. As you learn more about how to lay ceramic floor tile, you will find out about the three general types of floors that tile installers may often work with. Such information will help you alot along the way.

There are three types of subfloors: Vinyl, plywood, and the concrete floors. Installing ceramic tile directly to vinyl or linoleum floors (or subfloor surfaces) should be avoided at all cost. Your vinyl or linoleum flooring may contain asbestos fibers and should be tested first before you try removing it. If your vinyl floor covering does not contain asbestos fibers, a general recommendation on how to lay ceramic floor tile is to rough-sand, or scarify, the vinyl floor surface to provide your tiling mortar a better grip. Use a latex modified thinset mortar to install your ceramic tiles over your vinyl subfloor.

Plywood subfloors can be just as tricky and difficult. Like vinyl floor surfaces, it is not advisable to install your ceramic tiles directly on to your plywood floor surface. Plywood flooring usually has a smooth surface, and easily warps when exposed to heat or moisture. Be sure that the wood is at least 1 and 1/8 inches thick and is reinforced and supported by an equally strong underlayment. Otherwise, your ceramic tiles will dislodge easily, or worse, break and need replacing. Plywood panel edges must be installed about one-fourth of an inch away from perimeter walls and door jambs, and fixtures and cabinetry. These are expansion gaps and should not be bridged with tiling mortar. To prevent moisture from damaging the plywood subfloor, use a waterproofing sealant or caulk over your plywood subsurface.

The easiest subfloors to work on are concrete subfloors. But before you start tiling over the subfloor surface, it must be cleaned thoroughly. Paint, adhesives, fillers or levelers, sealers, and chemically treated cement substrates are unsuitable surfaces fpr ceramic tile installations. Remove these by using non-chemical methods. For dust and other debris, sweep and then mop your concrete subfloor surface using only clean water. Allow the surface completely before you start working on it. Generally, smooth concrete surfaces are difficult to work with as the tiling mortar may not grip and hold. Consequently, your ceramic floor tiles may be in danger in dislodging. Smooth concrete surfaces must be rough sanded, scarified, or etched to allow the tiling mortar some grip.

Another important aspect about how to lay ceramic floor tile is to always check for cracks and debris. Repair as many of the cracks as you can. If you see cracks that are too large to repair, replace the floor section where they are found with new concrete. Concrete may need to set (or dry) for at least twenty-four hours before you can start tiling over it. Lastly, get out your carpenter's level and check for any dips or humps on the concrete subfloor surface. If you find any, you may use a cement-based floor level to fill in the dips and smoothen over the humps. This will help to keep your finished ceramic tile floor level and minimize dislodging, or tile breakage.

Setting (drying) periods are key steps you need to keep in mind about how to lay ceramic floor tile flooring. There are three setting periods: The first is right after you have placed your ceramic tiles with thin set mortar and bonded them to your subfloor. The second is after after putting in your tiling grout (before putting on the sealant). These setting periods last overnight, at the very least, to twenty-four hours, at the most. Your sealant has dried, you are done!

When you working on your own ceramic tile project, always remember how to lay ceramic floor tile properly by knowing how to work with your subfloor surfaces. Learning how to lay ceramic floor tile is also both a great way both to learn a new hobby, and a home improvement skill. Just remember to keep a safe working environment, not to rush things (especially during setting periods), and try to work with at buddy. Better yet, get your friends over and help.
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Know how to lay ceramic floor tile in your home. Find your ceramic tile installation instructions online.
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