Before you get started
Tile directly onto concrete floors, if flat, or use a self-levelling compound. Floorboards can be covered with 18mm structural ply to provide a sound, rigid surface for tiling. The underside and edges of the ply should be sealed with a suitable primer before fixing down. Ply may be fixed down on wooden floors using screws at 10cm intervals. Great care must be taken to use screws long enough to fix the ply but not so long as to penetrate under the wooden flooring and risk hitting pipes or cables.
How many tiles you need can be worked out by simply dividing the floor area in square metres by the pack size.
LENGTH OF ROOM x WIDTH OF ROOM = NUMBER OF SQUARE METRES SQUARE METRES ÷ PACK COVERAGE = HOW MUCH YOU NEED
(Add 10% for cutting waste)
Due to the nature of the manufacturing process of all tiles, there may be slight colour and size variations between production batches. It is essential you check the codes on the packaging when you buy your tiles to ensure you have selected all from the same batch.
Natural stone tiles are all slightly different and it is perfectly normal to find a variance of colours, markings, thickness and textures. This is a natural feature of these types of material and means that every room is unique.
The layout of your tiles will affect the finished look enormously so it is worth some thought ahead of buying your tiles. You can stagger joins, or set tiles diagonally for a diamond-effect pattern, or use inlay designs for a strong pattern. Whichever you choose, tiles are laid in the same way; just adjust the start position accordingly.
Due to the nature of the manufacturing process, in some cases there can be a very slight ‘bow’ along the length of larger tiles (60cm or larger). If you are considering laying your tiles in an off-set “brick” pattern it is best to stagger the tile by only a third or less rather than by staggering by half a tile. This will minimise the effect of the bowing on the finished look.
The starting point is important to establish a balanced design that allows for manageable cuts. If possible, make sure that you don’t have to cut small slivers on any wall edge of the design.
Whether the floor is concrete or ply, prime if necessary, as directed by the adhesive manufacturer. Allow it to dry before continuing.
Position a wooden batten according to the starting point calculation (see overpage). Screw the batten to the floor with short
Apply enough adhesive to the floor for one tile, using a notched floor trowel. Use the serrated edge of the trowel to produce even coverage.
Position the first tile, twisting and pressing slightly to bed it into position on the adhesive, ensuring that it is butted right against the fixed batten.
Position further tiles using spacers for an even gap between adjacent tiles. Clean excess adhesive off tiles immediately with a damp sponge.
Keep checking that the surface is level. If not, lift the out-of-position tile and take off or add adhesive accordingly. Continue right across the floor.
Allow the main part of the design to dry overnight. Remove the batten in the morning. One by one, measure for edge tiles. Allow for grout.
Use a felt tip to mark off the cutting line. Make sure you have read the operating instructions before using the tile cutter.
The tile is cut by gradually pushing it towards the cutting wheel on the electric tile cutter. Follow all safety guidelines specified.
Use a tile file to smooth any rough edges. Position the cut tile dry, against the wall, to check its fit before applying any adhesive.
Apply adhesive directly to the back of the tile – this is easier than applying in the gap on the floor surface – and press in position,
Continue filling gaps. Use a profile gauge to mark out the contours around the base of an awkward shape, such as by the architrave.
Mark off the profile of the cut required on a tile. Awkward cuts should be made with a tile saw or electric tile cutter.
Natural tiles such as slate (shown here), require sealing before grouting, to prevent staining. Apply as directed by the manufacturer
Mix up and apply grout to gaps, pressing it firmly in place with a grout spreader or float. Work in one square metre areas.
As the area of grout starts to dry, wipe off any excess with a clean sponge. Grout lines may also be smoothed with a grout finishing
At doorways, measure and cut thresholds to fit and cover the join. A junior hacksaw is ideal for cutting down either wooden or metal thresholds.
The threshold can be screwed down. Note, it is easier to screw into a wooden floor than into the slate. You can also use grab adhesive to hold it in place.
If using adhesive, position the threshold and press down firmly. It may require weighting down to hold it in place while the adhesive dries.
Polish the finished floor with a dry cloth to remove any dusty grout residue. Try to avoid heavy traffic over the new flooring until it is fully dried.
What you’ll need
Cable, pipe and stud detector
18mm structural ply (to cover floorboards)
Jigsaw (if laying ply subfloor)
Drill/driver and bits
Primer (if required)
50 × 25mm batten
Floor tile adhesive (according to tile type)
Felt tip pen (or preferably a chinagraph pencil)
Tile saw (if you don’t have electric tile cutter)
Tile sealant (if required)
Grab adhesive (if required)
Grout (according to tile type)
Grout finishing tool
Floor adhesive trowel
Electric wet tile cutter (for thick tiles and right-angled cuts)
Tile cutter (will not cut all floor tiles – not needed if you have electric tile cutter)
Making the job go smoothly
A starting point square to one wall is important. If you dry lay a row of tiles close to one wall, you can then measure across to the opposite wall to check what size of cut tiles this position will leave. Allow for grout gaps of at least 3mm. You can then adjust the dry laid row until a good balance is achieved. Check at each end of the row, as this will help to square up your starting position relative to the walls.
Choose adhesive and grout according to what material you are laying your tiles on (the subfloor) and whether you are using ceramic, porcelain or natural tiles.
When using lighter coloured natural stone tiles it is highly recommended to use a white tile adhesive, as coloured adhesives can stain and show through the tile.
Removing skirting and architrave, toilets and pedestals before tiling makes the job easier and allows you to cover cut tile edges when they are replaced. If you don’t, cuts will need to be more precise.
Some thicker tiles and natural tiles such as slate are difficult to cut with a hand-operated tile cutter. Thinner ceramic tiles are normally easier to cut, but an electric wet saw cutter will deal with all options.
Sealers are needed for many natural tiles. Apply before grouting, or grout will get into the surface and stain it.