How difficult is it to install ceramic tile?
When using the thin-set method in residential areas, it is rather simple. It is easier to install than wood or vinyl sheet goods, but slightly more difficult than vinyl tile. In fact, the subfloor preparation, layout and installation are very similar to vinyl tile. The only major different is grouting.
With proper planning and a little common sense, practically anyone can install ceramic tile using the thin-set method.
STEPS OF INSTALLATION
The following information is a brief description of the various steps involved in using the thin-set method to install tile. It is not meant to be an instruction manual but rather a briefing to familiarize you with the basics.
quick jump to:
Floor Tile Installation || Wall Tile Installation
Suitable and Unsuitable Substrates
Selecting the Right Installation Method
FLOOR TILE INSTALLATION
Subfloor preparation This is the most important step in accomplishing a satisfactory installation. The subfloor must meet the following requirements:
Floor layout In this step, the room is squared off and measured. The chalk lines are then snapped. Once the chalk lines are in place, the installer will lay loose tile across the floor in both directions to balance the room so that the cut-lines are the same size on each wall.
Preparing the tiles Slight tone variations are to be expected from tile to tile. A good installer will prevent this from becoming a problem by mixing the tiles from several cartons before installing. By doing this, the tiles blend together and any possible shade variations will disappear.
Spreading the thin-set Using the chalk lines as a guide, the installer will begin applying the thin-set on one section at a time. He will spread one coat using the flat side of the trowel and then immediately come back with a second coat, using the notched side of the trowel.
Laying the tiles The tiles are then placed one at a time in the thin-set using a twisting and pressing motion while allowing appropriate spacing for the grout. A straight edge is used to align the tile.
Tamping The tiles are then tamped in using a rubber mallet to assure good contact with the thin-set.
The installer will generally begin grouting the following day. It is
important to allow the thin-set enough time to set up before applying the grout. The grout applied over a small section at a time and is spread by means
of a rubber float or squeegee. Rubbing the grout firmly over the surface will
both push the grout into joints and clean off most of the excess.
After approximately ten minutes the
surface of the tile is cleaned with a damp cheese cloth.
WALL TILE INSTALLATION
Wall preparation As with the subfloor, it is very important that the walls meet the following requirements:
· Plumb and even
Wall Layout Using a level, the installer will draw horizontal and vertical lines in the center of each wall as a starting point. The entire room is planned so the horizontal line runs continuous on each wall. The installer lays out a loose row (without adhesive) of tile and adjusts the starting lines so that he has equal size cuts on both sides of the wall.
Preparing the tiles As with floor tiles, the installer will mix the tiles from several cartons to limit any possibility of shade variations.
Spreading the thin-set The tin set is applied using a notched trowel. The installer will do a small area at a time so that he can adjust the tiles while the adhesive is still wet.
Laying the tile Each tile is set using a slight twisting motion while pressing firmly into place. The tiles are then aligned so that all grout joints are straight. Since few corners are perfectly plumb, the installer will mark and cut the tie at the end of each row to fit the corner. The installer will clean any excess adhesive off the face of the tile before spreading the next section of the wall.
After waiting about 24 hours the installer will apply the grout using a rubber
trowel or squeegee. After 10 minutes the surface is cleaned.
SUITABLE AND UNSUITABLE SUBSTRATES
Suitable Subfloors: All subfloors that are structurally sound and free of excessive movement are suitable for tiling over. They include:
· Terrazzo or natural stone
· Ceramic tile
· Non cushioned vinyl and linoleum
· Cement back boards
· Double layered plywood (exterior grade)
Unsuitable Subfloors: These are not suitable because they tend to flex, expand and contract or warp. Any excessive movement will loosen the tile and pop the grout. These subfloors must be replaced or covered with a suitable underlayment.
· Cushioned vinyl
· Perimeter installed vinyl
· Single layered plywood
· Flake board
· Particle board
· Chip board
· Stripped wood
· Luan plywood
· Concrete or masonry
· Drywall (dry areas only)
· Cement backer boards
· Plywood (dry areas only)
· Ceramic tile
SELECTING THE RIGHT INSTALLATION METHOD
Important: This is without a doubt, the most important statement! Poorly prepared substrates and the use of improper setting materials are the cause of practically all major installation failures. Certain types of substrates and job conditions require special treatment. These treatments are neither expensive, time consuming or complicated. To ignore or deviate from them would be the equivalent of play Russian roulette.
Here is a description of installation materials:
· Thin-set mortar is a mixture of Portland cement and sand used to adhere the tile to the substrate.
· Latex Portland cement mortar* is the same as the thin-set mortar except that a special latex or acrylic is added. The latex gives the mortar flexibility and additional bonding strength. The flexibility is required when going over substrates that may experience minor movement. The additional adhesion strength is needed when setting tile over hard-to-bond surfaces
· Mastic is a pre-mixed adhesive paste similar to a vinyl adhesive.
· Membranes are used to separate the tile and mortar from the substrate. They are made to resist tile damage caused by minor substrate cracks, minor movement and water damage to the substrates.
Cement Backer Boards are lightweight concrete sheets that
are used to cover wood subfloors. They are also used as underlayment for wet
areas such as shower walls and tub enclosures.
*Caution: Not all latex and acrylic additives are designed to do the same job. For example, some are not recommended over wood. Some are for interior use only. Some are not suited for going over cut-back adhesive, etc. The best way to handle this is to have your supplier develop a cross reference list that matches the proper setting materials with the job conditions.
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