How to Lay Kitchen Floor Tile

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Tiling your kitchen floor not only makes your kitchen look better, it also makes it more functional. Even better, it can be one of the easiest rooms to tile because it almost always has straight edges. While it might seem like a big project, it is well worth the time and energy put into it since tile floors can last for years. This article covers everything from how to prepare the floor, how to install backer board, how to place the tile and how to grout the floor.

Things You'll Need

  • Utility knife Pry bar or putty knife Jamb saw or handsaw. Drill 2-1/2-inch galvanized screws 1/4" or 1/2" backer board 1-1/4-inch backer board screws Alkali-resistant mesh tape with adhesive base Scoring knife Drywall saw Thinset mortar Trowel (with both flat and 1/4-inch notched sides) Chalk line Level Sponge Guide boards Tile Tile spacers Mallet 2 x 4 piece of wood Tile cutter or wet tile saw Tile nippers Grout Grout float Grout sealer

Prepare the Kitchen Floor

  • Remove the furniture and appliances from the kitchen. Since it may take several days before you are finished, you may want to plug in your refrigerator elsewhere or run an extension cord. Otherwise, consider this project your permission to eat out for a few days.

  • Pry off the shoe molding using a pry bar or putty knife. You won't need to remove the baseboards.

  • Remove the old flooring if necessary. You should remove flooring that is loose, cushioned or uneven. Try to avoid removing vinyl flooring since it may contain asbestos. For more information on how to remove various types of floor, a quick search of eHow should provide you with instructions.

  • Secure the subfloor and underlayment by driving 2-1/2-inch long galvanized screws through the floor into the joists at 8-inch intervals. To find the joists, you may need to drill small holes into the floor at 1-inch intervals starting at the wall. If the drill breaks through into hollow space, try again. Once you have located one joist, the others should be evenly-spaced either 16 or 24 inches apart.

  • If you will be tiling near a door, undercut the trim by placing a piece of backer board, a tile and two pieces of cardboard next to it and cutting away the trim using a jamb saw or handsaw. This will allow the tile to go under the trim rather than trying to tile around it.

  • Remove any loose sections of flooring and fill the spots with thinset mortar using the flat edge of a trowel.

  • Clean the floor thoroughly. If you are tiling over vinyl or linoleum, strip it to remove any wax residue. Use a commercial vinyl or linoleum stripper according to instructions.

Install the Backer Board

  • Cut and lay all the pieces of backer board leaving an 1/8-inch gap between the boards. You also need to leave a 1/8- to 1/2-inch gap between the backer board and the wall. Stagger the boards so that you never have four corners meeting at one spot. Make straight cuts using a scoring knife and a drywall saw to cut corners, circles or curves.

  • Label the boards so you know where to place them and set them aside so you can vacuum the floor thoroughly.

  • Mix the thinset mortar according to the directions. Do not try to mix too much, only what you will use up in an hour or it will dry out.

  • Using your trowel, spread enough mortar on the floor to place one piece of backer board. Spread the mortar using the flat side of your trowel and then comb it in one direction using the notched side held at a 45-degree angle.

  • Screw the backer board down by placing 1-1/4-inch backer board screws every 6-inches around the edges of the board and every 8-inches across the face of the board.

  • Repeat Steps 4 and 5 until all the backer board has been set.

  • Press adhesive-based, alkali-resistant mesh tape over the joints.

  • Press the mesh tape over the joints and place a light coat of thinset mortar over it using the flat edge of your trowel.

  • Wait a few minutes for the mortar to become firm, then scrape away any ridges and bulges over the screw heads with a putty knife.

Laying the Kitchen Tile

  • Do a dry run to determine the best layout for your kitchen tile. Starting in the center, place tiles on the floor using tile spacers to separate them. Your goal should be to center the tile so that there is equal spaces at the walls, providing that the spaces is at least wider than 2 inches. You should also try to place the tile so whole tile are at doorways where there is no baseboard to cover the edges. Adjust the placement of the tiles until they reach most of these requirements.

  • Once you have determined where the center tiles will lay, use a pencil to trace two edges of one of the center tiles onto the backer board.

  • Use a chalk line to draw a straight line, using the line you made in Step 2 as a guide where it should go. Make sure the line is straight and level. Repeat in the other direction. Check to make sure that the two lines are at a 90 degree angle from each other.

  • Mix the thinset mortar according to the label. Do not try to mix too much, only what you will use up in an hour or it will dry out. To keep the thinset from drying out, dampen the backer board with a wet sponge.

  • Starting at the center of the floor and working outward, lay a row of tile along your guide line. Spread the the thinset mortar using the flat edge of the trowel and then comb it by scraping the notched edge at a 45-degree angle. Make sure tiles are evenly spaced using your tile spacers.

  • Once you have laid out a few tiles, place a 2 x 4 piece of wood on the tiles and lightly tap it with a mallet to bed the tiles into the mortar.

  • Repeat Steps 5 and 6 until all the whole tiles are in place. Remove any mortar that squeezes out between tiles.

  • Wait for the thinset to harden. Check the guidelines on the package for an exact time.

  • Cut the perimeter tiles using a tile cutter or wet tile saw. For straight cuts, most tile shops and hardware stores will cut the tile for you if you bring it into them (and had purchased it there). Otherwise, the tile can be cut using a wet tile saw or tile cutter. Curved and odd shaped cuts can be made with a tile nipper.

  • Set the perimeter and cut tiles as you did in Steps 5 and 6. Apply the mortar onto tile if an area is too narrow for your trowel.

Grout the Tile

  • Wait at least 24 hours for the tile and mortar to set before grouting your tile.

  • Mix the grout according to directions. It should have a consistency similar to mashed potatoes.

  • Dip your grout float in water and apply the grout to the floor. Push the grout into the joints with the grout floor to ensure that the grout reaches the floor. Scrape off the excess grout by holding the float at a 45-degree angle from the floor.

  • Gently wipe the grout off the tile surface with a damp sponge. If the sponge is pulling out the grout, wait a few minutes and try again. Keep the sponge clean by rinsing it often.

  • Rinse the floor a second time using a sponge and water. Wipe the tile with a dry terry cloth.

  • Let the grout cure overnight before replacing the shoe molding. You can replace the appliances and furniture at this time or after sealing the grout in next step.

  • After the grout has cured for a week, seal the grout. This will help protect it from stains.

Tips & Warnings

  • To ensure that your tile is straight and spaced evenly, place a wooden dowel the same width as your tile spacers between your tiles as you are setting new tile in place.
  • Wear protective eyewear when cutting tile.

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  • Photo Credit Creative Commons: Kevin Marsh
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