Do you have a tile project but aren’t sure where to start? We have tips for installing floor tile that will help you diy like a pro.
Tile is the obvious choice for your bathroom floor because it’s waterproof and durable and there are so many great options out there. My husband spent a lot of years as a tile setter so I knew our bathroom was in good hands. I thought I’d share some of his expertise to help you be successful installing your bathroom floor tile. Tiling a floor is a totally doable diy project. You can do this!
Tools for installing floor tile
Tools/materials you’ll need:
It may seem like you can get away with applying mortar and grout with anything, but there are reasons there are special tools for tile projects. We always recommend using the right tool for the job. It makes a difference!
There are different kinds of tile trowels depending on the size of tile you’re using so keep that in mind when shopping.
- Notched trowel
- Grout float
- Tile saw
- Grouting sponge
- Rubber mallet
Prep the floor
Before you put down any tile you need to prepare the floor and make sure it’s ready for a water prone area. Use cement backer board as an underlayment. It resists moisture and provides a good foundation for tile. There is a whole process to installing this so be sure to youtube a tutorial.
You could go ahead with your tile installation at this point, but my personal tilesetter highly recommends going the extra step of applying RedGard. This is a waterproof and crack prevention membrane. It’s about $50 for a bucket and it’s well worth the money and time. It’s easy to use and a crucial step in preventing any water issues in your bathroom. You can roll it on or apply it with a paint brush. It rolls on pink but turns red when it dries. There are other great waterproofing options out there but this is the one we’ve used on our tile projects. Make sure you wear clothes you don’t care about because it won’t come off. My husband has a drawer full of ’tile’ jeans!
Before you mix any thin-set mortar, figure out how the tile will be centered in the room. In this bathroom above, he placed a full tile that went against the wall in the corner by the door (in bottom right corner of picture), and he was able to start the layout there. He worked his way down to the tub, came across the front of the cabinet and worked his way out from there so he didn’t trap himself in the room. Laying out the floor first helps if you’re working by yourself so you can get your tiles cut before you apply the mortar. Mark any tiles that need to be cut and cut with a tile saw.
Thin-set mortar is what you use to adhere your tile to the floor. There are different types of thin-set, so make sure you get the correct one for your project. When choosing thin-set it’s a good idea to keep in mind what color of grout you’ll be using. We recommend using a white thin-set for a lighter grout, and use a dark thin-set for a darker grout.
Follow the instructions on the package for mixing instructions but the consistency should be similar to creamy peanut butter. Use a 5 gallon bucket and attach a paddle mixer to your drill to mix it up. Make sure to clean the paddle right after mixing. Don’t mix too much at a time, especially when you’re a beginner, because it might dry before you’re ready to use it all.
Applying Thin-Set to Floor
Apply thin-set to a small area and spread it out in a back and forth motion with the flat side of the trowel. Then spread it out further with the notched side. Once you have it spread, comb it with the notched side of the trowel.
Applying Thin-Set to Tile
It’s a good idea to apply thin-set to the back of the tile. It’s called ‘back buttering’. Scrape a thin layer of thin-set mortar to the back of the tile before laying each tile to the floor. You want to make sure it’s a nice smooth even layer. When you place the tile down wiggle it a bit side to side and check with level. Once you have several tiles down, setting tiles will go pretty quick as you can set against the previous tiles to establish level.
Watch this video below for how to back butter tile:
You’ll want to clean out any thin-set in the grout lines with a toothbrush. You don’t want to leave any thin-set in the grout line. If you have little clumps of thin-set in your grout line it will show up like a sore thumb.
Have a bucket of water on hand and wipe each tile as you go. It’s way easier to clean as you go then to try and clean it after you’re done tiling. Then put your spacers in.
Mix only what you need and follow the directions on the grout box. With a grout float apply 45 degrees to grout line, pressing the grout into the grout lines filling it full.
Wipe with a damp sponge. Make sure to wipe in one direction. Wipe at a 45 degree angle to the grout line, pull the sponge towards you, flip it and wipe again.
Allow to dry overnight and then come back the next day and polish the tiles to get rid of the haze or film. Use 2 buckets of water — one to rinse your sponges in and one to get your sponge ready to wipe with clean water.
We hope these tips are helpful to you in your tile floor project.