How to lay tile floor

Laying tile isn’t as difficult as contractors would have you believe, says Kevan King of Home Depot at Merchants Walk in Marietta.

He explains the process as a series of easy-to-understand steps. “You can break it down into little segments and work at your own pace, doing as little or as much as you please at one time.”

Of course, there are pitfalls, he warns. Here are tips for do-it-yourselfers:

What goes underneath tile is important. You can’t apply tile to a floor that has any movement, such as plywood. Linoleum also makes a poor surface. The best is concrete. Do-it-yourselfers can apply a special tile backing that goes down over other flooring. The tile is then laid on top, more information.

Precise measurements are a must. You need to know how much tile you will need. (Lay the pieces out on the floor so you can adjust for pieces that will have to be cut.) You also need to find the exact center of the room.

Timing is everything. The tiles are set in adhesive that gives you a three-to four-hour window before it hardens. Grout, the stuff that goes between the tiles, dries more quickly, in 10 to 15 minutes. You cannot grout the tiles until they have been set for 24 hours.

Clean as you go. When applying fast-drying grout, work in a small area – 3 to 4 square feet. Clean excess grout off the tiles after you’ve worked it between them. Once grout hardens, it’s very difficult to remove.

The entire project must be grouted at one time. Changes in humidity (if you wait until the next day to finish the room, for example) will cause the grout to dry in different colors.

The final step – and the one most people forget, says Mr. King – is sealing the grouted tile after it has cured for seven to 10 days. Otherwise, “the grout will soak up water, which will seep into the adhesive underneath the tile,” he says. This loosens the tile. It’s good to reseal grout annually.

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