Bathroom Face Lift

Learn how to install a new ceramic tile floor.

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Tools and Materials:
tile flooring
tile wet saw
cement backer board and backer-board screws
thin set mortar
1/4-inch notched trowel
3/16-inch tile spacers
grout float
sponge, rags and a bucket
drill and (if you don't have premixed grout) grout mixer attachment
floor scraper
gloves and dust masks
speed square and a tape measure
wax ring with extender

1. Begin by removing the toilet, and be sure to have a large trash bag handy. Turn off the water and flush twice. This will let most of the water out of the toilet.

2. Remove the nuts from the sides of the toilet. Unscrew the compression fitting from the water line. Pull the toilet off and set it on the trash bag. Pull the bag up over the rim, and carry the toilet out of the way.

3. Toilets (unlike sinks, tubs and showers) do not have traps. A trap keeps sewer gasses from seeping into the house. Plug the hole with a temporary stopper, a rag, paper towels or plastic.

4. Turn off the water to the sinks. Unscrew the vanity from the wall. Remove the sink and vanity and carry out of the way.

5. Tear out the old flooring. Our bathroom had both carpeting and tile. To remove the tile, we cracked it into small pieces using a hammer then used a floor scraper to complete the job. Make sure not to hit too hard if you're on the second story or you may crack the ceiling below. Strip the floor down to the bare plywood then clean up all the debris. If you want to repaint the room, do so now when you won't have to worry so much about the mess.

6. Install the cement backer board on top of the plywood subfloor. Screw the boards down using special concrete backer board screws to be sure it doesn’t crack.

7. Trim the backer board pieces to fit. Straight cuts can be made with a utility knife, just score and break the board. Curved cuts and notches should be made with a jig saw.

8. Decide whether to center the tile or start along a wall. In older, out-of-square houses, start in the middle. This will keep the tile square with the house, not with the out-of-square wall. Snap two intersecting chalk lines to mark the tile pattern.

9. Mix the mortar following the instructions on the bag.

10. Spread the mortar using a 1/4-inch notched trowel.

11. Start laying tile. Set the first tile on the chalk line. Be sure to press and rotate the tile into place to set it. Use the tile spacers to set the correct gap. The tile spacers are meant to be removed, so make sure you set the spacers vertical, not flat on the floor. Use the wet saw to cut any tiles to fit along edges.

12. Allow the mortar to dry overnight. Don’t walk on the tile or it may pop up.

13. After the tile has set overnight, apply the grout. Remove all the spacers and discard. Mix the grout according to the manufacturer's instructions. Spread the grout by working it diagonally across the joints. Scrape as much as possible off the face of the tile. Don’t overwork the grout or you’ll begin to pull it out of the cracks. Let the grout dry overnight before walking on the floor.

15. Reset the toilet, use new closet bolts and a new wax ring. If the tile is thick, you may need a wax ring with a rubber gasket extender. Set the ring on the mounting plate. Clip the closet bolts into the mounting plate. Set the toilet and wiggle it down until it sets hard to the floor. Tighten the closet bolts, then hook up the water and check for leaks.

16. Set the vanity back in place. Screw it to the wall and hook up the water. Hook up the drain line, adding an extender if necessary.

17. Using a pneumatic nailer, nail the baseboard around the perimeter of the room. Cut the corners using a power miter saw. Pre-paint the baseboard so you’ll just have to touch-up after you install it.

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