DIY: Floor tiling, 1-2-3

It took us a while to get started, but once we did we were on a roll…a three-day roll—but still! This weekend we finished tiling our guest bathroom. It was our first attempt at tiling ever. After reading The Home Depot’s 1-2-3 How to Tile, asking other questions from Pops and quick online tutorials, we decided it was time to dive in.

We are really happy with the way it turned out. If you aren’t afraid of a little mess, then tiling is really like The Home Depot said, as easy as 1-2-3 and some mess! The trick is planning and prep work. If you spend time doing the planning, measuring and cutting, laying the tile is a quick job.

Here’s a quick tutorial on how we tackled the job.

Step 1: Mix thin-set and using a flat trowel lay it down on the subfloor. Do this in small sections! Once one section is done use the toothed trowel, push on the subfloor at a shallow angle and comb through the thin-set. This should make thick, even lines that will secure your backer board.

Step 2: Lay your pre-cut backer board (we measured and cut 1/4 inch backer board) and using backer board screws secure the backer board to the subfloor. Do this quickly—the thin-set hardens fast and can make it difficult to drive screws through to the subfloor.

Step 3: Plan. Lay out the tile on the backer board and figure out which pieces need to be cut. We secured all of our whole pieces of tile first, which allowed us to make more accurate cuts on the rest of the tile. Using the tile saw (VERY CAREFULLY) cut the tile to size and double-check that it fits the space.

***Note, we did steps 1, 2 and 3 previous to this weekend***

Step 4: After planning, measuring, and cutting all your tile, you’re ready for lay the tile. Prepare your thin-set again, and in smaller sections only big enough to still be able to reach across, use a flat trowel to spread the cement. Once it’s evenly spread, comb out with a 1/4 x 1/4 trowel (for 12″ tiles).

Step 5: Lay one tile at a time (as you planned it) by setting one edge of tile down and hinging it into the cement. Press down slightly to secure and fit in your spacers- 2 to a side to ensure even space for your grout.

Repeat steps 4 and 5 until the floor is completely tiled. Let the thin-set dry for 24 hours. After that, check the tiles to make sure they are secure. If any lift up, you either did not apply enough thin-set or your batch of thin-set lost its adhesiveness . You’ll need to scrape your back board clean and mix a fresh batch of thin-set to re-lay.

Step 6: Remove spacers.

Step 7: It’s time for grout! Mix the grout and starting at the back of the room, use a trowel to push the grout into the gaps at 45 degree angles to ensure they are evenly filled. Use your float at a steeper angle to scrap excess grout from tiles—this will be messy, but can be completely cleaned off in the next steps.

Step 8: Fill a bucket with water and using a damp sponge, start scrubbing the tiles. NOTE: Wring your sponge out until drip-dry as too much water will dilute your grout. Lightly wash several times with a sponge and fresh buckets of water to remove residue. Switch to a dry rag to scrub off any haze left over.

Step 9: Let the grout dry for 24 hours.

Our next step is to seal the grout. We’ll update you on how that goes once we’ve done it.


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