Laying Floor Tiles: A How-To Guide

laying floor tiles

If you’re a keen DIYer, or want to save yourself some money, you’ll be pleased to know that with the right preparation – laying floor tiles is a relatively simple job. The key is to do your research, and take the job step-by-step – which is where we can help!

Here we outline the tools you’ll need and the steps to take when laying your ceramic flooring. We sell some of these tile accessories in our store in Bedford, as well as a range of tiles for all styles and purposes such as floor tiles for throughout your house as well as kitchen and bathroom floor tiles

Tools:

  • Pencil
  • Tile spacers
  • Paint brush
  • Notched trowel
  • Level
  • Tape measure
  • Felt tip or China marker
  • Eye protection/Goggles
  • Tile cutter or scribe
  • Bucket
  • Mixing paddle
  • Grout float
  • Grout finisher
  • Silicon sealant
  • Tile nipper
  • Tile file or fine sandpaper
  • Nails
  • Hammer
  • Plaster’s trowel

Materials

  • Floor primer
  • Tiles
  • Tile Adhesive
  • Grout
  • Grout sealant
  • Plywood boards
  • Self-levelling floor screed

Step 1 – Surface Preparation

Always work on a floor that has been cleaned of dust and dirt and is dry. Your sub-floor, the floor you’re laying directly onto, should be no less than 1 1/8 inches thick. Whether you’re laying on concrete or plywood floors – you should always apply an appropriate primer using a paint brush and the underside and edges of plywood coated if possible too.

Step 2 – Plan your tile layout

It’s a good idea to layout your tiles first and see how they fit the room – this will minimise the amount of tile cutting you need to do and help you find the most pleasing arrangement if you’re using patterned tiles.

The best way to achieve this is to find the middle point of your room by measuring diagonally from corner to corner and marking where the diagonals cross.

Dry lay the tiles from the centre point until you reach the walls, leaving space for grout between the tiles by using tile spacers.

It’ll be very unlikely that you can reach the wall without having to cut tiles – so the last whole tile before you reach the wall will give you a provisional starting point for when you actually start tiling the room.

Note: If the gap between the last whole tile and the wall is less than half a tile, you’ll want to move all the tiles along by half a tile’s width – having less than half a tile against the wall will look untidy around the edge of the room.

When you have found the best arrangement of tiles for your room – mark layout lines along the edges of the tiles using a pencil.

Once you’ve got your layout lines down, collect the tiles together and put them somewhere clean and dry.

Step 3 – Laying the tiles

Using your starting points marked out around the edge of the room – use a notched trowel spread an even, small layer of tile adhesive on the floor.

Note: When mixing your tile adhesive – start with enough to last you 15-20 minutes to prevent it drying out.

Position a tile on top of the adhesive using the guidelines you have marked out and press into place.

Do the same to lay the tile next to it – placing tile spacers between the tile joints to ensure they stay evenly spaced.

It’s worth having a bucket and sponge close by to clean off any excess tile adhesive that may get on the tiles.

Work your way around the room in the same way, using the guidelines, checking the tiles are both level and straight with a level as you go along. Some people find it helpful to work quarter by quarter – leaving the quarter of the room nearest the door until last.

Note: When laying your tiles – avoid putting weight or leaning on them as this will cause them to sink unevenly into the adhesive.

It’s a good idea to wait 24 hours before laying the edge tiles so you don’t put weight on your new tiles when the adhesive is setting

Step 4: Cutting tiles

To measure how much tile you need to cut – measure the distance between the wall and the edge of the closest full laid tile, minus the width of the grout line. This will give you the width of tile you need.

Mark the cutting line on a tile with a felt tip pen or china marker. Using your tile cutter in accordance with its instructions, cut the tile along the marked line. The easiest way to cut a tile is using a tile scribe.

Note: When cutting tiles always wear googles to prevent any debris getting in your eyes.

As with the tiles in the rest of the room – lay small areas of tile adhesive, and place each section of tile in position, level and using a tile spacer.

Continue around the edge of the room until all the tile sections are laid.

Leave the adhesive to set for a further 24 hours before moving onto grouting.

Step 5: Grouting

Start with cleaning the gaps between the tiles, freeing of any dirt and debris.

Mix enough grout to complete the room in a bucket using a mixing paddle.

Using a grout float, scoop up some of the grout mixture and apply firmly to the tile joints, moving the float across the tiles at a 45-degree angle.

Once you have filled several joints with grout, use a grout finisher to compact the grout into the gaps then wipe the tiles clean of any excess with a damp sponge.

Continue around the room until all the tile joints have been filled with grout. Avoid walking on the tiles for a few hours whilst the grout sets.

Step 6 – Seal to finish

Once the grout has been allowed to dry for the appropriate amount of time, you will need to fill the join between the wall and the edge tile with a waterproof sealant.

Extra things to think about:

Laying a tile floor in bathrooms

Cutting curves in tiles

In bathrooms you’re likely to have to cut a curve in your tiles to fit around toilet and wash basin pedestals. The easiest way to do this is to cut a piece of paper the same size as your tile – this will be your template.

In the area that will come into contact with the obstacle cut a series of slits along the paper – these needn’t be more than a centimetre wide but should be slightly longer than the area to be tiled.

Place the paper template into position with the slits against the obstacle and carefully fold them back, with the crease as close to where the obstacle meets the floor as possible.

Using a pencil, draw a lone along the shape of the obstruction. Once you have done this you can cut the paper along the line. Place the template into position to check it fits well.

Place this template on your tile and using your felt tip or china marker, mark out the curve to be cut. The easiest way to cut tiles in a curved shape is to use a tile scribe to score a line along the tile then use a tile nipper, which allows you to carefully take small chunks of tile away bit by bit.

Smooth the curved edge using a tile file or fine sand paper and lay into position as with the other tiles.

Sealing tile grout

Your bathroom is one of the dampest rooms in the house and to prolong the life of your tile grout you will want to seal the tiles with grout sealant to protect it from water and dirt.

Apply appropriate bathroom grout sealant along the grouted joints and allow to dry before standing on your newly laid floor.

Laying a tile floor in kitchens

Sub-flooring preparation

Your kitchen may already have flooring laid down – and you won’t always have to remove the original flooring to lay tiles.

Whichever subflooring you have – make sure it is at least 1 1/8 inch thick. You will likely have heavy kitchen furniture and frequent footfall in your kitchen all of which can cause the tiles the move and become uneven if the subfloor isn’t thick enough.

If you have existing linoleum or timber floors, you will need to lay plywood backing boards on top first. Always prime the underside and edges with an appropriate primer. Using a thin set adhesive, line an area of the floor and place the plywood board on top, pressing firmly into place.

Use a level to ensure the boards are laid evenly and secure using nails or screws

Note: Never nail straight into floors without using a cable detector first.

Laying tiles on concrete

Tiles can be laid directly on top of concrete providing the concrete surface is flat. If you have an uneven surface you will need to apply self-levelling floor screed first.

Self-levelling floor screed is mixed according to manufacturer’s instructions inn a bucket using liquid latex to form an easily poured creamy mixture.

Once mixed, it can be poured onto a clean, dust free floor and push around using a plaster’s trowel until it self-levels. When it does this all slight depressions and dents will be filled, leaving a perfectly flat and smooth surface.

This surface need not be primed, and can be laid directly onto as soon as it is properly set.

We hope we’ve inspired you to confidently lay your own tile flooring – which really isn’t the unmanageable task most people think! If you’d like any further tips or advice, contact one of our experts or use our Facebook or Twitter.