Guide to Installing Ceramic Tiles
Ceramic tiling is a good choice for walls and floors. They are hard wearing, easy to clean and come in a range of styles, finishes and sizes meaning you can always find something to match your design scheme. Compared to other tiles they are cheap and light. If you want to find out more about different tile types then read our article “Choosing Tiles“.
Laying ceramic tiles is actually fairly simple. If you are a novice you should start with a wall or room that has a simple square or rectangular shape with the minimum number of pipes, sockets or other obstructions. This will reduce the amount of tile cutting you need to do as this is actually the hardest part of the job.
If you have a lot of tiling to do or the area you have to tile is an odd shape containing lots of obstacles it’s worth considering attending a tiling course to learn some skills and how to use the relevant tools properly. You will save money by reducing your wastage and the finished result will be much better.
Let’s get cracking with a bit of DIY tiling, shall we?
What You Need
You really don’t have to get much in the way of materials for this job! You will, of course, need some ceramic tiles – we’ll get to that in a minute – as well as some measuring tape, some foam brushes, grout, adhesive, spacers and a trowel.
The adhesive goes on the floor or wall below the tiles to stick them to the surface. You can buy combs which will help you lay an even layer of adhesive onto your surface. You use the spacers to create even gaps between each tile. Don’t try and complete the job without spacers, they are very cheap and using them will drastically improve the quality of the finish and make the job much faster. You can buy spacers of different sizes – some will create wide gaps between tiles and others will hardly leave any room at all. The size of the gap has a large effect on how the finished tiles look – normally narrow gaps look more modern. Have a look through a few tile catalogues and pay attention to the gaps – what look are you aiming for?
Grout is then used to fill in between the tiles. Again the grout used can change the look of the finished job. Some manufacturers sell grout or grout dye so you can colour match the grout exactly to your tiles. This produces a modern sleek look. Alternatively you can use a different colour to the tile – bright blue, black, white or grey. Again have a look through a catalogue or online and see what different grout colours look like before you decide what to buy. If you are tiling in a bathroom or round a sink you will need to buy waterproof grout.
You need to work out the area of floor or wall that you are going to tile. You will need to buy enough tiles to cover this area plus some extra for cutting and wastage. Read our article on “Tile Maths” which walks you through how to do this.
Clear the area you are going to tile of all furniture and remove any carpet or rugs. Clean the surface – vacuum and mop or wipe down with a detergent. This will insure there is a clean grease free surface for the adhesive to stick to.
Lay Them Down
It can help (especially of you are a novice) to lay the tiles out first so you can see how they will fit into the space. Think about how you can minimise tile cutting. You should also think about the pattern; does horizontal, vertical or diagonal look best?
Once you have a clear picture of exactly how you are going to position the tiles you can start. Pick a corner to start in carefully. You can’t walk on the tiles until the adhesive is dry so you need to think about how you can work across the space towards the door. Spread out the adhesive generously over a smallish area (maybe enough for four tiles) using an adhesive comb. This creates ridges in the adhesive. Lay a tile on top and then you can slid or rotate it a little to get its position exactly right (the ridges in the adhesive help with these small adjustments).
After every three tiles, put spacers down around each tile. Once you have laid all your tiles you need to leave them for 24 hours for the adhesive to dry and fix them in position. Do not walk on drying tiles or put any boxes or other objects on them.
If you need to cut tiles make sure you have the right tools.
Once the adhesive is dry you can start to grout. This means you fill in the gaps between the tiles. You can leave the spacers in as long as they have been set deep and will be covered by the grout. Or you can just pull them out with your fingers or prise them out with the tip of a knife.
Spread grout over the top of the tiles, and then use a moist sponge to force it into the spaces between tiles. Run a damp finger over the finished grout to create a smooth finish. Let it dry, then remove the excess with a damp cloth. Try not to walk on it for a few days, until it sets, then use a foam brush to apply the tile sealer. You’re all done! For more information on how to grout read “Grouting Bathroom Tiles” or watch the video below.