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How to Install Tile Flooring

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BLACK+DECKER B+D Contributor 193 Projects

Setting tile or flagstone on a concrete floor is a simple project. Its success depends on proper preparation of the concrete, a good layout, and attention to detail during the setting process. It’s important to fill dips, cracks, and holes in the concrete with concrete patch or floor leveler before setting tile. If the surface is too uneven, the tile will crack when  exposed to the pressure of foot traffic. Choose tile or stone with enough texture to be a safe surface despite the moist conditions of a cellar. After you’ve chosen the tile or stone, ask your retailer about the appropriate mortar and grout for your application. Before establishing reference lines for your project, think about where to start tiling. The goal is to continue working without having to step on previously laid tile.

How to Install Tile on a Basement Floor

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    Scrub the floor with a solution of trisodium phosphate (TSP) and water, let dry, and then repair any damage to the floor. Apply sealer to the clean, patched, and dry concrete, using a paintbrush along the edges and a roller for the field of the floor. Ensure adequate ventilation.

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    Position a reference line by measuring between opposite sides of the room and marking the center of each side. Snap a chalk line between these marks. Measure and mark the center point of the chalk line. From this point, use a framing square to establish a second line  perpendicular to the first. Snap a second reference line across the room.

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    Test the layout by dry laying one vertical and one horizontal row of tile all the way to the walls in both directions. If the layout results in uneven or awkward cuts at the edges, adjust the reference lines to produce a better layout.

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    Spread mortar evenly against both reference lines of one quadrant. Use a 1⁄4"-notched square trowel to create furrows in the mortar bed.

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    Set the first tile in the corner of the quadrant where the reference lines intersect. When setting tiles that are 8" or larger, twist each tile slightly as you set it into position.

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    Using a soft rubber mallet, gently rap the central area of each tile a few times to set it evenly into the mortar. If the tile is not self-spacing, insert spacers at the corners of the tile.

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    Cover a straight 2 × 4 with old carpeting and lay it across several tiles. Rap it with a mallet. Lay tile in the remaining area that has been covered with mortar. Work in small sections until you reach the walls. Cut tiles as needed using a wet saw.

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    Apply mortar directly to the backs of smaller cut tiles, instead of the floor, using the notched edge of the trowel to furrow the mortar. Set the tiles.

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    Mix a small batch of grout following the manufacturer’s directions. For unglazed or stone tile, add a release agent to keep the grout from bonding to the tile.


    TIP: Dark grout doesn’t show dirt but contrasts with lighter tile. Light grout is tough to keep looking clean. A midtone gray is often an excellent grout color.


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    Spread the grout outward from the corner, pressing firmly on the grout float to completely fill the joints. Tilt the grout float at a 60° angle to the floor and use a figure-eight motion.

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    Use the grout float to remove excess grout from the surface of the tile. Wipe diagonally across the joints, holding the float in a nearly vertical position. Continue applying grout and wiping off excess until about 25 sq ft. of the floor has been grouted.

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    Remove excess grout by wiping the float diagonally across the joints, holding the float vertical. Continue until about 25 sq. ft. has been grouted, and then wipe a damp sponge over about 2 sq. ft. of tile at a time to remove excess grout. Rinse the sponge between wipes, and wipe each area only once. Continue until you’ve grouted the entire floor and allow the grout to dry for 4 hours. Then use a soft cloth to buff the surface and removing any remaining film.

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    After the grout has cured completely (check manufacturer’s instructions), apply grout sealer to the grout lines using a small sponge brush. Don’t brush sealer onto the tile surfaces, and wipe up any excess sealer immediately.

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