Laying floor tiles comes with a learning curve that professionals develop with practice. Looking for a DIY solution? This guide should help you get started.

The laying of floor tiles is an art as it is a science. Each tile, material, shape, and colour has peculiarities you need to familiarize yourself with and vary based on the use case. The answer for ‘How To Install Floor Tiles?’ isn’t the same as ‘How To Install Floor Tiles In A Bathroom?’

A seasoned tile setter will often learn this the hard way, over 100s of projects across years of work, but the steps mentioned below would be a great place to get started if you want to do it yourself.

Selecting the Right Tile

The first and foremost step in laying tiles is to choose the tile that suits your requirement. The aesthetic and functional aspects should be considered when choosing a tile.

You should choose the material that fits the chosen surface. For example, ceramic tiles are appropriate for laying floor tiles in a bathroom and wash areas, whereas vitrified tiles can be used for the living room and bedrooms.

Preparing the Subfloor

The primary step in tiling the floor is preparing the subfloor. The floor should be chiseled properly to remove any uneven surfaces. You should ensure that the subfloor is strong enough to hold the tile, mortar, and grout.

In the case of a wooden subfloor, a water-resistant cement backer board should be laid before installing the tiles. Paving tiles on cement subfloors does not need any preparation.

Measuring the Layout

You should also plan to make judicious use of the available tiles. First, find the room’s midpoint by drawing lines joining the mid-points of the walls. When laying floor in the bathrooms, leaving proper space for other essential fixtures is critical.

These lines are called chalk lines, and tiles are laid along these lines. The mid-point would be the point where all these lines intersect. All further measurements should be made from the midpoint. Otherwise, the layout would look unbalanced. Before installing the tiles, the layout should once again be cross-checked for any mistakes.

Preparing the Thin-set Mortar

A thin-set mortar is a mixture of cement, sand, latex, or polymer additives and any water retaining agent used as an adhesive to hold together the tile and the subfloor. It should be mixed in small quantities as the mixture would get solidified if exposed to air for more time.

The proper consistency of the mortar is that of the creamy peanut butter. You should use normal cool water to mix the mortar as hot water would speed up the chemical reactions.

Spreading the Thin-set Mortar

After mixing the thin-set mortar in the right consistency, it should be applied evenly on the subfloor using a tile trowel. The mortar should be pressed onto the subfloor using the flat surface of the tile trowel at a 45-degree angle for best results. You should take adequate care to spread the mortar evenly as the uneven surfaces may result in the tiles breaking off after some time.

Start Laying the Tiles

As soon as the mortar has been spread on the subfloor, you can start laying the tiles. The tiles should be laid as per the prepared layout to avoid misplacement. You should start laying the tiles from the centre of the room and proceed to the peripherals along the chalk lines joining the walls’ midpoints.

If you are looking to lay tiles in a straight line, you can use the long straight edge of the first row or even a line of string across the room to ensure it is straight and even. This would help in the neat arrangement of the tiles.

Laying Corner Tiles Effectively

To lay the tiles at the corners of the rooms, the tiles need to be cut into small pieces to fit into the remaining space. You should measure the remaining space starting from the walls and gradually moving to where the laid tiles end.

The tiles can be cut using a snap cutter. The cut tiles can now be perfectly laid down to fill the remaining space. The tiles should be kept overnight for them to set properly. You should not walk on the tiles before they are set, as this would cause them to come off easily.

Filling the Joints with Grout

Grout is a mixture of sand, lime, colour pigment, cement, and water to fill the gaps between adjacent tiles. Applying grout to fill the gaps between the tiles is essential to give the room a neat and finished look. It prevents dirt and debris from getting in between and beneath the tile.

The grout holds the tiles together rigidly and prevents them from coming out. The grout colour should be such that it highlights the tiles.

The grout mixture should be mixed with water into a creamy consistency and compressed between the joints. To dry completely, the floor should be undisturbed for at least 48 hours. After that, you should apply a grout seal to waterproof it.

Apply the Sealant

After filling the joints with grout and waiting for a few hours to let it settle, you can then apply the sealant, ideally with an applicator bottle or a foam brush, to ensure accuracy.

Cleaning the Tiles

You have now completed the installation of the tiles. Cleaning after installation is necessary to give the floor a perfect finished look. Once the floor has dried completely, you might notice a whitish hazed appearance in some parts of the tiles.

This is due to the leftover grout particles. This can be cleaned by wiping with damp cheesecloth or a diluted vinegar mixture in water. You can also use a commercial grout haze remover which is acidic, to remove the haze.