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How To Tile A Floor

Tiling is one of my favourite DIY projects to carry out. It’s something you can really get your hands dirty with, but it’s fundamentally not a difficult project to complete. Still, if you’ve never done it before, it can be a little intimidating and there are a couple things that you need to make sure you do to ensure a great outcome.

Equipment required

  • Tiles
  • Tile spacers
  • Sponge
  • Bucket
  • Cloth
  • Tile adhesive
  • Levelling compound
  • Grout
  • Rubber mallet
  • Notched trowel
  • Grout float
  • Spirit level
  • Tile cutter (electric or manual)
  • Grout finisher
  • Dust mask
  • Safety goggles
  • Knee pads
  • Cup of tea

What are you tiling onto?

The floor underneath your tiling is enormously important to how you prep it for tiling. If you’re tiling onto concrete, then all you need to make sure is that the floor is level. Use the spirit level to find out how level it is – if it isn’t then use levelling compound as per instructions to make the surface suitable for tiling.

If you’re planning on tiling onto wooden floorboards, then fix 18mm of quality plywood over the floor. Use wood screws as 10cm intervals to fix it in place (make sure that the screws are long enough to go through the ply, but not too long as to go all the way through the floorboards).

If you’re tiling onto existing tiles then simply clean up the floor, replace any broken tiles and put down some tile on tile primer.

Planning your layout

When tiling, you have to start from the centre of your room and tile outwards to the edges. It seems obvious, but don’t tile yourself into the room – start with the furthest corners of the room and aim to finish at the door. Also, if this is a room that you’ll need to use regularly then consider tiling only half of the room and waiting for it to dry before doing the other half.

Step 1. The adhesive

Pour the tile adhesive into a roughly 1m² area in the centre of the room. You pour this amount because pouring too much will end up with some adhesive drying before you’ve put the tiles down. Check the instructions on the bucket though for exactly how much is needed.

Use the trowel’s smooth edge to spread the adhesive, then flip your trowel over to the other side and use the serrated edge to draw grooves into the adhesive. This is essential because it makes sure that the thickness of the adhesive remains consistent.

Step 2. Lay the first quarter

Put your first tile down into the adhesive. Then, start tiling in a line towards a wall, putting tile spacers down on the edges of tiles as you go, to make sure you place them at even intervals. Make sure to wipe off any adhesive from the surface of your tiles with the wet sponge before it dries. Your tile spacers won’t be taken out, so make sure you put them down well below the top level of the tiles to ensure the grout will obscure them once applied.

Use your trusty spirit level to make sure the tiles are all level. If not, then you can use the rubber mallet to gently tap tiles into place – it must be a rubber mallet, otherwise you run the risk of cracking your brand new tiles. Once you reach the edge, start from the middle tile and make another row at a right angle to your first row – this is your first quarter. When you reach the edge you’ll likely have a gap, don’t worry about this, we’ll deal with that later.

Step 3. The rest of the room

Fill in the tiles between the two rows of tiles you've made and then create another row. You might have surplus adhesive in your tiling area that you can scrape away with the trowell. Fill in the gap between your new row and the first quarter and create another row. Fill this in, create another row and fill that in – you’re all done with the main body. Leave it to dry.

Step 4. The edge tiles

You should have an even border of space around your main tile body. This is where you’ll need the tile cutter. Measure the size of the edge tiles by placing a tile on top of an outer tile and then placing another tile on top of this tile, but with the outer edge against the wall. You can then mark on the first loose tile by drawing a line using the inner edge of the second loose tile. Cutting just before this will give you the extra space needed for the grout.

Cut the tiles as per your tile cutter’s instructions and make sure to wear your goggles and mask, because it will kick up a lot of dust. Then, instead of applying adhesive to the floor, apply it directly to the cut tiles and place them right up against the wall. Leave to set.

Step 5. Grouting

Your floor should now be getting there, but the still visible tile spacers will make it look distinctly unfinished. Use the grout float to apply the grouting into the gaps between tiles, using rubber part of the float to press the grout in firmly and making sure the spacers are covered up.

Once a few have been done, use the grout finisher and press firmly on the grout to give it a neat, presentable finish. Do the rest of the grouting. Again, like with the adhesive, wipe away any excess grout with a wet sponge. Leave it to set and don’t walk on it until it has done.

Step 6. Seal it and clean it

Your final step is simply to seal the edges of the floor with clear silicone sealant. This is recommended because it will massively increase your tiling’s chances against damp and mould. Give the whole floor another wipe with a wet sponge and then with a dry cloth just to make sure it’s free of dust and debris. You’re all done, so take a step back and admire your handy work. Make a cup of tea.