How to Install a Ceramic Tile on a Concrete Subfloor

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    • 1). Remove any furniture or objects from the concrete subfloor. Mop the floor with clean warm water to remove surface dirt and dust.

    • 2). Mop the floor with mineral spirits if the surface features any grease, wax, old paint or oil. You must remove all of these contaminants or the tile adhesive will not bond correctly with the concrete, leading to uneven installation or cracking of the tile. Rinse the surface with clean water after you apply the mineral spirits to remove all residual cleaner.

    • 3). Dry the surface with a lint-free towel or allow it to air dry completely.

    • 4). Inspect the concrete for dips, bumps or other uneven areas. Fill in low areas with Portland cement floor leveler, following product instructions regarding mixing and application. For high areas, rent a floor grinder for any areas that rise greater than 1/8 inch higher than the surrounding floor. The floor must be completely flat before installation can begin.

    • 5). Fill in any cracks or damage in the concrete larger than 1/8 inch wide with epoxy concrete filler or Portland cement patches. Trowel the filler into the cracks and allow them to dry completely, which generally takes about 24 hours. Sand with coarse-grit sandpaper to bring the repair work flush with the rest of the floor. This will complete your leveling of the floor.

    • 6). Mop the floor once more to remove sanding or grinding dust. Allow the floor to dry or dry it thoroughly with a lint-free cloth before continuing.

    • 7). Measure to the center point of each wall surrounding the floor. Connect opposing center points with a chalk line, creating a "cross" shape grid on the floor. The intersection of the two lines marks the direct center point of the floor.

    • 8). Mix thinset tile mortar and water in a bucket, following product instructions regarding the amount of water to use. In general, the thinset should have the consistency of thin peanut butter when it's ready.

    • 9). Trowel thinset over an area of one quadrant of the floor, starting at the center point and covering an area that you can easily tile within 10 minutes. If you spread too much thinset, it may dry before you get a chance to lay the tiles.

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      Scrape the notched edge of the trowel back through the thinset to create small grooves. Lay your first ceramic tile so that two of the edges sit against the two lines that lead to the center point. Work outwards along the two guidelines from the center point, maintaining an even grout joint between 1/8 and ¼ inch between tiles. If necessary, set spacers between the tiles.

    • 11

      Check the level of the tiles after every three or four you set to make sure your floor will be flat. If necessary, tap tiles down with a rubber mallet to bring them fully level with surrounding tiles.

    • 12

      Fill in one quadrant completely with tiles. If necessary, cut tiles to fit using a tile cutter or a sharp utility knife. With most ceramic tiles, you can score the back of the tile with the knife and then snap the tile along the line.

    • 13

      Cover the entire floor one quadrant at a time, using spacers and cutting tiles when necessary. When you have covered the floor, allow the thinset to dry for 24 hours before continuing.

    • 14

      Remove the spacers. Mix grout and water together per product instructions. Spread the grout over the floor with a grout float held at a 45 degree angle to force grout into the joints. Wipe away excess grout with a damp sponge. Allow the grout to dry for 24 hours before allowing foot traffic on the tile.

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