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Laying Floor Tiles

Making a professional job of your floor tiling is helped by the correct preparation

If you are going out on the tiles ...

Laying floor tiles is a skilled job and one which should not be undertaken by the average handyman unless they have had previous experience. This article briefly explains the process for laying floor tiles on a concrete surface.

When laying floor tiles, preparation is very important as tiles are rigid, flat and relatively small. Unlike some surfaces, they do not allow the same room for flexibility in line and level - uneven tiles are unappealing and dangerous. With that in mind, it is important that the concrete bed is as even as possible and to a much tighter tolerance than a concrete floor is normally laid. Tiling is best laid on a screed of fairly strong cement/sand mix. This should be laid between forms to the finished falls and levels of the porcelain tiles. The normal crossfall required to shed rain is 1:40 so, if your path is next to your house and 1 metre wide set the form 1" lower than the proposed finished level of the screed at the house. If the paving is inside the house then it should be dead level or if it is part of a big external paved area then you need to consider peaks and troughs to shed and collect the rainwater.

Several days after the screed has been laid the surface should be swept of loose gravel or other detritus and sprayed with clean water before a proprietary tile adhesive is finally applied with a shark-tooth applicator a few square metres at a time. Lay each tile on the adhesive spacing it out with purpose-made plastic crosses (which also dictate the width of grout you will be using).

Unless you are very lucky when you are laying floor tiles, you will have to cut tiles and porcelain tiles are very hard. Basket weave or stretcher type bond generally give rise to fewer and more simple cuts but herringbone or Victorian diagonal style (generally thought to be stronger and more visually appealing) will almost certainly result in many mitre cuts. A disk cutter will saw through porcelain but it will struggle and, if you are using a high-quality tile then you will either need to hire in a bench-cutter or find a local monumental mason who is prepared to help you.

As each tile is laid tap it down firmly with a heavy wooden mallet. After each row of tiles, check for level with a board and for line with a string.

No-one should walk on the tiles for at least 24 hours after they have been laid and if you are laying floor tiles, you should try to protect them from heavy rain during this time. If it is very hot a light spraying with water will prevent the adhesive from shrinking before it has set properly.

Clean out the interstices between the tiles with an old screwdriver, a stiff broom and a powerful vacuum cleaner. Any material trapped will weaken the grout and provide a toe-hold for weeds so do be thorough. Mix up and apply a proprietary grout a few square metres at a time washing it off with a sponge and plenty of clean water before it can set on the face of the tiles.

Even if you do not take on tiling yourself, we hope this will have given you the confidence to supervise your contractor when they are laying floor tiles.

Laying Floor Tiles

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All material copyright of Clive West and Damaris West 2007 - 2018 and not to be used or reproduced without written permission.

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