How to Install Kitchen Tile Flooring for the First Time

Written by marion sipe
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How to Install Kitchen Tile Flooring for the First Time
Installing a tile floor is a two-day project. (Beautiful and new kitchen furniture on modern kitchen image by terex from Fotolia.com)

Tile floors are durable, moisture-resistant and easy to maintain, making them a practical fit for kitchen flooring. Tile floors are offered by many retailers and in a wide price range, allowing for flexibility in budgeting. Tile floors also come in a wide variety of colours and patterns, making them versatile enough to go with any design plan. To save even more money on your project, you can install your kitchen tile floor yourself.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Things you need

  • Chalkline
  • Grout
  • Hand-held wet saw (for circular cuts)
  • Level
  • Notched trowel
  • Plastic spacers
  • Rags
  • Rubber float
  • Rubber mallet
  • Safety glasses
  • Scoring cutter or wet saw
  • Silicone grout sealer
  • Thin-set mortar
  • Tiles

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Measure the room to find your square footage and how much tile you'll need. Decide how you're going to lay your tiles and where you're going to start. This is also the time to remove all the baseboard moulding with a pry bar. Do this carefully if you plan to reuse the moulding.

  2. 2

    Decide which wall of your kitchen is most visible, find the centre of that wall and use a chalkline to snap a straight line on the floor from the centre of that wall to the opposite one. Find the centre of that chalkline and snap down another straight line perpendicular to the first, so that the two lines intersect in the centre of your kitchen floor, or where the centre would be if your kitchen was square.

  3. 3

    Dry-lay your tile along the reference lines, using plastic spacers to account for the grout lines. You may have to shift the rows one way or the other. What you want is an equal border on either side of the tile row. If there are 2 inches of untiled space on one side of one row, you want 2 inches of untiled space on the other side as well. These untiled borders should not exceed the length of a tile. Snap down chalklines to mark these borders and to outline the two rows of tile.

  4. 4

    Mix about 2 gallons of thin-set mortar. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for the correct proportions. Never mix more than you can use in 30 minutes or it will begin to set. Keep some clean water and a rag on hand for wiping up any excess. Use a notched trowel to apply a 2-foot square area of thin-set at the intersection of your guidelines. Position the tile in the thin-set and press into place.

  5. 5

    Place plastic spacers to preserve the grout joints, then follow the guidelines and position the next tile, pressing it into place. Fill out your rows this way, placing spacers as you go. Periodically check to make certain your tile is level and straight. Fill in the remaining areas, about 2 feet at a time, using only whole tiles. You can use a rubber mallet to tap down tiles that sit too high. When you don't have room for another whole tile, leave the tiles to set overnight.

  6. 6

    Measure the border tiles you will need. To do this, put a spacer against the wall and push the tile up against it. Line this loose tile up with the laid tile and draw a line across the loose tile where it meets the plastic spacers in the tile you've already laid. Do this for each tile.

  7. 7

    Cut the tile using a scoring cutter or a wet saw that uses a diamond-tipped blade. You can rent either one at a tool rental outlet. For curved cuts, use a hand-held wet saw. Once the tiles are cut, use thin-set to install them, just as you did with the other tiles.

  8. 8

    Mix up grout according to the manufacturer's instructions. Use a rubber float to apply the grout, dragging it over the joints at a 45-degree angle. Give the grout a few minutes to set up and then wipe off any excess on the tiles. Allow the grout to harden according to the manufacturer's guidelines and then brush the grout with a silicone sealer.

Tips and warnings

  • If the joints are less than 1/8 inch, you can use unsanded grout. If the joints are larger, you'll need sanded grout.
  • Always wear safety glasses when working with power tools.

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