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Preparation Tips and Tool List for Laying Ceramic Tile Floors

Ceramic tiles are practical and easy to clean; they are also simple to install with the proper preparation and tools

Ceramic tiles are beautiful, practical, and long-lasting. They are also reasonably easy to install over the course of a few days, which allows for drying time between steps. Whether you're working in a small space such as a bathroom or tiling an entire kitchen or great room, you will need to prepare the floor or subfloor first.

You may be removing carpet or vinyl or even replacing old tile. It is important to have a solid, clean, dry, and level surface before you begin laying tiles. Removing older tiles is labor-intensive. They will have to be broken up and the old, rock-hard mortar must be removed.

While it is possible to lay tile over vinyl, wood, or old tile, it is not recommended. To begin with, you'll be raising the level of the floor, which could interfere with jambs and the actual height of the doors themselves.

Low spots in floors can be covered with a leveling compound. High spots can be sanded or fastened to the joists. For a concrete floor, use leveling compound. If your floor is wood-based, you may want to consider concrete backerboard, especially in bathrooms or kitchens where moisture will collect. It is difficult to maneuver, but is by far the best underlayment you could choose. For other areas, you can also use thinner cement board to lower costs.

Backerboard is applied in a similar manner to laying the tiles. A thin layer of mortar will be applied to the floor and the boards are then laid on top. They can be attached to the subfloor with galvanized screws such as those used on decks. Cover the screws with mortar, apply fiberglass tape to the seams, and then cover with mortar. These areas will, of course, have to be level.

The mortar should take about 48 hours to set before you can begin marking the floor to lay tiles.

Equipment list for laying ceramic floor tiles:

-Dust mask (Never inhale dry mortar or grout mix; this fine powder is easily spread during the mixing process.
-Rubber gloves (do not use latex - the mixes will eat through the gloves)
-Hacksaw (tungsten carbide blade - this will work with straight cuts)
-Tile nippers - used on rough edges
-Notched metal trowel - essential for spreading mortar in a cross-hatch pattern
-Rubber-backed trowel - to ease grout in between tiles
-Rubber mallet - to tap tiles after placing in mortar bed to even out the compound
-Level - 3-foot length to ensure the floor base is level as well as the tiles when they are pressed into the mortar
-Chalk line - needed to set the baseline in center of room
-Framer's square, large - to set, mark, and confirm that tiles are straight
-Bucket, sponges - for cleaning grout off tiles



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