How to lay ceramic tile on an uneven cement floor

Written by b. ellen von oostenburg
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The most important thing when laying any tile floor is that the floor must be flat. If it's not, when someone steps on the tiles, they'll crack. Therefore, an uneven cement floor must be made flat from end to end and side to side before beginning the installation. An uneven cement floor must be pre-prepped to make it flat.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Metal straight edge
  • Self-levelling floor resurfacer
  • Isolation membrane
  • Utility knife
  • Thinset
  • Trowel
  • Tape measure
  • Chalk line

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  1. 1

    Lay a metal staight edge horizontally on the cement floor and check for level. Run it across the entire surface marking low spots along the way.

  2. 2

    Pour out the self-levelling floor resurfacer in the low spots. This material can level floors that are up to four inches out of level.

  3. 3

    Install an isolation membrane over any cracks in the floor. This is a man-made membrane that will buffer the floor tiles from any movements in the cracks. Trowel thinset mortar on the floor 18 inches on either side of the crack. Cut a strip of the membrane, lay it over the thinset and press the isolation membrane down into the mortar until it squeezes out along the edges. Use the trowel to feather the thinset out onto the floor or use it to scrape off the excess. Allow the thinset to cure for 24 hours.

  4. 4

    Measure the room vertically and horizontally with a tape measure and mark off the centre of the room in both directions. Use a chalk line to snap guidelines on the cement floor. Trowel on thinset along the lines but not over them, where the two lines intersect. Rake grooves through the thinset, using the notched edge of the trowel, and set the tiles, moving out from the centre of the room.

Tips and warnings

  • Consider applying a layer of concrete sealer to the entire floor before starting to set tiles. It's an added moisture barrier should moisture migrate up through the concrete from the ground.

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