How To Lay Floor tiles

Hard floor tiles of all types (e.g. vinyl, cork, ceramic) must be stuck down with the manufacturer’s recommended adhesive, using a notched spreader. The exceptions are types of vinyl tile with peel-off self-adhesive backings which are quick and simple to lay.

Planning. Draw a grid of the floor corresponding to the size of tile you have chosen. From this, estimate the number of tiles needed. A grid is essential for two-colour or other special effects. Many manufacturers’ leaflets incorporate planning grids.

Sub-floors for vinyl and cork tiles must be smooth, clean and dry. Remove old sheet vinyl, linoleum or old vinyl tiles if they are loose. Quarry tiled or old brick floors should be removed, if possible, or covered with latex underlay (a professional job). On timber floors, fit hardboard underlay if possible.

The new tiles should be laid from the centre of the room outwards, so it is necessary to determine the centre point of the room.

1. Mark the centre points of the two shorter walls, ignoring fireplaces, recesses etc.

2. Drive in a nail at one centre point, tie string to it and rub chalk along the string until you reach the opposite centre point.

3. Stretch the string across the floor and secure it at the other centre point with a nail.

4. Pluck the string sharply and let it snap back on to the floor to mark a centre line.

5. Measure the mid-point of this line, and place one tile accurately on either side of line at the centre point. Draw a line at right angles to the centre point.

6. Using chalked string, snap a line exactly over this pencil line to divide the room into quarters.

Positioning.

1. Place one tile so that one corner of it is exactly on the centre point.

2. Lay a row of tiles in all four directions without adhesive.

3. If the space between the end tiles and the wall is less than 3 in. (7.6 cm), move the chalk line (running at right angles to the line of tiles) half a tile’s width to left or right. If both borders are too small, both chalk lines will need to be restruck.

Applying adhesive.

Always use the manufacturer’s recommended adhesive and follow the directions. In general, use a serrated spreader.

1. Apply adhesive to one half of the floor area, leaving one chalk line just clear of the adhesive. Scrape the spreader firmly along the floor (do not “butter” on). Allow it to dry until tacky.

2. Lay the first tile with one corner at the starting point.

3. Lay a double row along the guide lines.

4. Starting at the centre of the row, build outwards towards the other side of the room. Lay the tiles snugly up against each other. Wipe off excess adhesive immediately with a damp cloth before it sets. Remove dried-on adhesive as recommended by the adhesive manufacturer. Cork tiles may require fixing with headless steel pins while the adhesive is setting.

Cutting borders.

1. Place a loose tile (A) flush on top of the last row of fixed tiles.

2. Place another loose tile (B) on top of (A) but against the wall.

3. On loose tile (A) scribe a line along the edge of the measuring tile (B).

4. Cut along the scribed line. The resulting section will fit the border.

5. Repeat this procedure tile by tile along the wall.

Finishing. Use the products and procedure recommended by the manufacturer. Cork may be pre-finished or need sealing with an oleo-resinbus or polyurethane seal.

Ceramic tiles. Attempt only to lay special do-it-yourself ranges with spacer lugs for easy fixing. Use the adhesive recommended by the manufacturer. Concrete floors must be clean, dry and level. Timber floors will need an overlay of in. (9 mm) plywood fastened with countersunk screws at 12 in. (30 cm) centres. Old vinyl or lino tiles must be removed and the underfloor made clean and smooth. Mark out as described above for vinyl and cork tiles. Spread adhesive and tile the floor in sections. Spacer lugs give automatic spacing, but minor adjustments can be made.

Cutting. Use the overlapping procedure described above for vinyl and cork tiles. Then lay the tile on a flat firm surface. Score the back of the tile with a tile cutter, which can then be used to break the tile cleanly.

Grouting. Fill the joints between the tiles as soon as the tiles are rigid. Use a mixture of cement/sand not weaker than 1 part cement to 3 parts fine clean sand. Or use a proprietary tile grout. Add slightly more water than for mortar. Work the mixture into the joints with a sponge. Sponge off any surplus grout from the face of the tiles.

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