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
Laying Floor Tiles
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