If you’re a homeowner considering a kitchen renovation and want to save money by installing your tile and grout. In that case, it’s essential to understand that this can be a challenging DIY project. However, with careful planning and attention to detail, you can achieve professional-level results and save significant money. To help you confidently and easily lay your tile, we’ve compiled a comprehensive guide with 16 easy-to-follow steps. By following these steps carefully and preparing properly, you can lay your own tile with confidence and achieve the desired results.

Materials Required

  • 1/4-inch cement board
  • Circular saw
  • Utility knife
  • Square Handsaw
  • Latex-modified thinset mortar
  • Notched trowel
  • One 1/4-inch cement board screws
  • Drill
  • Fiberglass mesh seam tape
  • Chalk line
  • Tile
  • Tile spacers
  • Wet saw
  • Sponges
  • 5-gallon mixing bucket
  • Mixer attachment
  • Rubber gloves
  • Joint scraper
  • Sanded grout
  • Rubber float
  • Floor transition str
  • Grout sealer
  • Sponge paint brush

Gathering all the Materials Before You Start

To begin your project, remove the existing flooring to reveal the plywood subfloor using a crowbar and scraper if needed. If you suspect your existing flooring may contain asbestos, it is important to have it tested before proceeding. If the asbestos is present, it can either be left in place or professionally removed, depending on the circumstances.

Step 1: Cutting and Arranging Cement Board for Straight Tiles

To ensure that your tiles are laid straight and level, you’ll need to ensure the floor is level first. If necessary, use shims to level out any uneven areas. Next, measure and cut pieces of cement board to fit around your cabinetry, using a square to mark straight lines. To cut the cement board, wear eye protection and use a circular saw, or score along the lines with a utility knife and snap along the scored line. Use a small handsaw to cut out notches to accommodate pipes or other obstructions. Arrange the cement board pieces on the floor for a dry fit, staggering the seams.

Step 2: Securing the Cement Board

To ensure that the cement board pieces are securely in place, mix up some thinset according to the package directions. Using a notched trowel, apply a thin coat of thinset to the floor, then place the cement board on top. You should skip this step if you leave an asbestos floor in place. To further secure the cement board, drill one 1/4-inch cement board screw into the boards at intervals of every 4 inches. Double-check to make sure that the floor is still level.

Step 3: Spreading the Mortar

Cover the seams between the cement board pieces with fiberglass mesh seam tape to ensure a seamless finish. Use the flat side of a trowel to spread a layer of thinset mortar over the tape, smoothing out any ridges or high spots. Allow the thinset to dry completely before proceeding with the next step.

Step 4: Drawing Reference Lines

To ensure that your tiles are laid in a straight and even pattern, you’ll need to establish some reference lines for the layout. Begin by finding the center of the floor and marking it with intersecting chalk lines. Measure from these lines to the nearest cabinet to establish your layout lines—Snap new chalk lines along these measurements. If your tiles need to be offset by a specific percentage, like the 12×24-inch tiles we used that needed to be offset by 33 percent, you’ll also need to snap additional chalk lines for reference.

Step 5: Dry Place Your Tile

To ensure that your tiles are laid in a straight and even pattern, begin by dry fitting them using spacers. Use a wet saw and eye protection to cut partial tiles along the edges of the walls. Once you have fitted the pieces together, remove them and number them to aid in placement after you apply the thinset. Pull tiles from alternating boxes to achieve a balanced mix of pattern and color.

Step 6: Mixing More Thinset

To ensure a strong bond between the tiles and the cement board, use a sponge to clean the cement board. This will also help to moisten the surface. Next, mix a new batch of thinset according to the package directions in a 5-gallon bucket. Use a drill and mixer attachment to stir the thinset until it reaches a consistency similar to peanut butter. It is important to mix the thinset a little thicker at first, as you can always add more water if needed, but you should only add a little mix. Allow the thinset to rest for 15 minutes before proceeding.

Step 7: Laying Out the Tile

To make laying the tiles easier and more efficient, it is helpful to plan your approach so that you are backing out of the room as you lay the tiles. From your designated starting point, apply a thin coat of thinset to a small area of the cement board using the notched side of the trowel. Be sure to wear gloves to protect your hands. Work quickly to ensure that the thinset doesn’t dry before you can lay the tiles.

Step 8: Placing Tiles

To properly lay the tiles, use the smooth side of the trowel to apply a smooth coat of thinset to the back of each tile. Place the tile firmly atop the cement board, pressing down to ensure good adhesion. Repeat this process with additional tiles, using tile spacers to ensure that the tiles are uniformly spaced. As you work, use a sponge to clean up any excess thinset.

Step 9: Doing the Next Section

Cut tiles as necessary to fit around obstructions like doorways. Once you have filled a section with tiles, move on to an adjacent section and repeat the process of applying thinset to the cement board and individual tiles. Allow the thinset to set for the recommended amount of time in order to ensure a strong bond before walking on it. This will help ensure that your tiles are securely in place and will last many years.

Step 10: Cleaning Tiles

Once the thinset has dried, use a wet sponge to clean the tiles. If any thinset has oozed up between the tiles, use a joint scraper to remove the dried thinset. This will help ensure that your tiles are clean and even and will give your finished project a professional appearance.

Step 11: Mixing the Grout

To mix the grout, use a 5-gallon bucket, drill, and mixer attachment. Follow the package directions and add water a little at a time until the grout reaches a consistency similar to very thick peanut butter. Allow the grout to rest for the recommended amount of time as directed. This will help ensure that the grout is mixed correctly and ready for use.

Step 12: Filling Joints

Scoop out a chunk of grout. Using a rubber float and gloves, push the grout in a back-and-forth pattern across a section until the joints are evenly filled between the tiles.

Step 13: Remove Grout Haze

After you have grouted a section of tiles, use a slightly damp sponge to remove the first layer of grout haze, being careful not to disturb the joint line. Continue this process as you move from a tiny section of tiles to the next, removing the first layer of haze as you go. This will help ensure that your tiles are evenly grouted and have a smooth, professional finish.

Step 14: Dry, Then Remove More Grout Haze

To ensure that the grout is fully set, allow it to dry for the recommended time, typically 24 hours. This will help give your tiles a clean, polished appearance. Once the grout has dried, use a damp sponge and clean water to remove the grout haze. You may need to make multiple passes with the sponge to remove the haze fully.

Step 15: Adding Transition Strips

To complete your tile installation, you must apply transition strips where the tile floor meets another flooring surface. These strips help create a smooth transition between the different flooring materials and can be glued or nailed into place. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for installing the transition strips to ensure that they are securely in place.

Step 16: Applying Grout Sealer

After the recommended curing time (typically around 28 days), applying a grout sealer to the joints in your tiles is important. This will help protect the grout and keep it looking fresh and clean. To apply the sealer, use a sponge paintbrush and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Allow the sealer to dry completely before using the tiled area. This final step will help ensure that your tiles are well-protected and remain in good condition for many years.

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