Paving with tile

For paving and garden flooring, tile ranks high in durability, color, and stain-resistance, but like flagstone, it is expensive. However, tile has some unique advantages. It is suitable for large or small areas; it cleans and waxes easily; it is especially good around a barbecue, in a potting shed, on a walkway around a swimming pool, on paths, on a deck.

Two types of tile are most suitable underfoot. Patio tile is a brick-red color and comes only in 12-inch squares or 6 by 12-inch half-sizes. Quarry tile is more expensive, but comes in smaller square and rectangular sizes, and in several tones from brick red to gray.

Some homeowners would rather have a professional do the setting of tile rather than trust themselves with such a heavy investment in materials. However, the average weekend mason can lay tile if he will work with precision and care.

You can lay tile in sand, over concrete, or over wood . As an outdoor paving material, it is laid most often on a 1-inch mortar bed put directly on the ground. Here is the procedure:

To eliminate unnecessary tile cutting, plan your area to accommodate the dimensions of the tile-plus-joints. Allow for % inch of mortar between larger tiles, ½ inch for the smaller sizes. If you find that you need to cut only a few tiles, you can chip them to size with a cold chisel. Draw your cutting line with a pencil. Then carefully chip away a little at a time. If you have to cut tiles in quantity, it is better to mark the tiles where they should be cut and take them to a stoneyard, where they can be sawed with a diamond saw.

If your patio or walk calls for a curved edge, cut the tiles in a series of angles that correspond roughly with the curve and fill in the edges or separations with mortar. You can also lay brick in mortar on top of the cut edges to give the appearance of a curved border.

To estimate mortar quantity, allow 1 sack of Portland cement and 4 cubic feet of sand for every 35 square feet of surface. Use this ratio for 12 by 12-inch tile with 1/2-inch joints. Smaller tile sizes, with more joints, require slightly more mortar.

Begin by soaking your tiles in clean, clear water for at least 15-20 minutes. Level the soil 1 to 1 ½ inches below the desired grade, and tamp or roll the ground until the depressions are filled in and the soil has settled. Then mix five parts of clean sand with one part of cement until no streaks of gray or brown are showing. Add water and continue mixing until the mortar is smooth but slightly stiff. Spread only enough mix on the ground that can be covered with tile within an hour, as the tile should be laid while the mortar is still plastic, not set. A good procedure is to mix only enough for 20 square feet at first to find out how fast you can work.

Remove several tiles from the water, stand them on edge to drain off surface water, and place them on the mortar bed while they are still damp. Tap each tile with the handle of a hammer until it is firmly bedded, also using a straightedge to make sure you get a smooth, flush surface.

Within 24 hours, you can fill the spaces between the tiles with joining mortar: one part cement and three parts sand, with enough water so that mix will pour easily. Use an old watering pot or a coffee can with the lip bent to pour the mix into the joints. Fill the joints flush and trowel them smooth with a mason’s trowel.

Clean up any spills immediately with a wet cloth. It is not necessary to keep tile wet after laying, but don’t walk on it for at least three days.

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