Installing a Tile Floor

A stone or ceramic tile floor in the kitchen is durable and adds visual drama.
Distressed Ceramic Floor Tiles Create Rustic Aura

Distressed Ceramic Floor Tiles Create Rustic Aura

Stone evokes the look of durability and quality. In a kitchen, stone surfaces resist water, steam, odors and, above all, are easy to clean. If you selected natural stone over ceramic tile, be aware that stone must be sealed to prevent staining. Natural stone can be less durable, so research the durability of your choice.

Materials and Tools:

stone or ceramic tiles
cement backer board
pry bar
safety goggles and gloves
jam saw
tape measure
chalk line
carpenter's square
small-tooth and 1/4-inch groove trowels
seam tape
putty knife
plastic tile spacers
wet saw or manual tile cutter
tile nippers
rubber grout float
sponge, towels and water bucket
stone tile sealant (must be used with authentic stone)


1. It is common to put down tile on sheet vinyl. Cement backer board must be cut to fit this area. First, take room measurements to determine the total square footage of the tile. Include an additional 15 percent overage to cover any broken tiles.

2. Remove the door thresholds carefully with a pry bar. Use a hammer and pry bar to remove shoe molding and baseboards. Wear safety glasses and gloves.

3. Stack a piece of cement backer board and tile to determine the new height of the floor. Use a jam saw to cut the door jams so that they can accommodate the new tile.

4. Remove the stove and refrigerator to install backer board. Measure 5 feet down one wall and tack down a nail at that point. From here, measure 5 meet further from the wall and make a mark. Keeping the chalk line crossed over the mark, pop the chalk line. The crosshairs allow you to form a 90-degree angle from which to work.

5. Using a small-toothed trowel, apply mastic to the back of the backer board and lay down the board, aligning it with the chalk line. Attach the backer board to the floor with a drill and screws at the pre-marked locations on the board. Repeat the process for the next full board, leaving about an eighth of an inch gap between the boards, which have been butted next to each other.

6. Use a circular saw to cut backer board just as you would cut wood or use a utility knife to score and pop it as you would drywall. Once all backer board is installed, cover the seams with joint tape, pushing it down with a putty knife. Next, load the putty knife with mastic and spread it over the tape, smoothing it out over the seams. Remove any excess mastic with a putty knife, then allow the mastic to dry according to the manufacturer's directions.

7. Sweep away any debris. Pop chalk lines in the same manner as the backer board, working from opposite walls and snapping the chalk lines so that a 90-degree angle is formed in the room center. Use a carpenter's square to double-check your lines.

8. Dust off the tiles you are about to lay. Have plenty of plastic spacers available. Use a 1/4-inch-groove trowel for this work.

Start on the crosshairs and spread mastic in a small section onto the backer board. Comb mastic evenly. Lay the first tile at the intersection of the chalk lines and set it into place with a twisting motion (palms flat on the surface, fingers splayed, twisting the tile slightly side-to-side).

9. Repeat this step, using plastic spacers to maintain consistency in the design. Lay all full tiles in the first quadrant. Don't worry about cutting tiles to fit yet. Move on to the next section. Complete all quadrants. Use a damp towel to wipe away any mastic that emerges through the spaces.

10. You are now ready to cut tiles to fit the wall edges. Utilize a wet saw or manual tile cutter — both work great, but thicker tile should be cut with a wet saw. Tile nippers are handy for cutting around corners and rounded edges.

11. When the mastic begins to set, carefully remove the spacers. To make cuts for the tiles to fit against the wall, measure the distance from the last full tile to the wall, and then transfer those measurements onto a tile. Cut the tile to size. Embed the cut tiles next to the wall and continue working across the floor.

12. Once all tiles are set, remove any surfaced mastic with a damp towel and allow the tiles to set overnight. Do not walk on them.

13. It is now time to grout the area. Sanded grout is intended for wider grout lines (the space between the tiles) and is appropriate here. Nonsanded grout is for smaller grout lines. The grout color is your choice. You can choose a grout that blends the floor and is similar in color to the tile, or you can choose a dramatic grout color that will make the tile design "pop."

14. To apply the grout, place it onto the tile and spread it over the surface with a rubber grout float. Holding the float at a low angle, pack the grout firmly into the joints until completely filled. It will take about five minutes for the grout to firm up. Scrape off excess grout with the float, working diagonally across the tiles.

15. After the grout has dried slightly, give the tiles a good cleaning by wiping a damp sponge across the tiles, being careful to not pull the grout out of the joints. Rinse the sponge frequently and change water often. Next, buff the floor with a clean cloth. When dry, dust the area off and again wipe down with a damp cloth. Let the tile cure for several days (up to seven) before using a sealant.

16. Replace the molding or use a miter saw to cut new molding. If the floor level has been raised to obstruct a door, simply remove the door and use a circular saw to cut the door bottom so that it will clear. In doorways, install transition strips on the floor and use a nail set to push the nail head below the wood surface.

This project took around three days to complete and cost a little less than $1,200.

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