How to Prepare Wood Floors for Tile

Written by jim wildman
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How to Prepare Wood Floors for Tile
Many home improvement projects start with the floors. (wood background image by MAXFX from Fotolia.com)

Many home improvement projects start with the floors. Installing tile floors is a task that most do-it-yourself handymen can handle without difficulty. The key to a professional installation of tile starts with preparation. Any problems with the subfloor will affect the finished project. Uneven floors or cracked concrete will cause the tile to crack or even break within a few months of use, depending on traffic.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Things you need

  • Hammer
  • Carpenter's pry bar
  • Marker
  • Nail set
  • Screw gun
  • 2 by 4 lumber
  • 1 3/4-inch wood screws
  • Belt sander
  • 80-grit sandpaper
  • Backer board
  • Screw gun
  • Backer board screws
  • Circular saw
  • Concrete board saw blade
  • Thinset mortar
  • Fibreglass tape
  • Wide blade putty knife

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Remove everything from the area that you are going to tile.

  2. 2

    Remove the base boards and trim from around the room. Use a carpenter's pry bar to pry them away from the wall. Pull the nails and number them so you can install them again after the tile is in place.

  3. 3

    Check the condition of the wood floor. Countersink any exposed nails using a hammer and nail set.

  4. 4

    Screw down any wood flooring that squeaks as you walk on it. Use 1 3/4-inch screws to fasten the wood floor down to the floor joist below. Make sure the top of the screw is flush or sets a little below the surface of the wood.

  5. 5

    Run a 2 by 4 piece of lumber over the wood floor. Make sure the lumber is straight without any bowing. Look for any areas where the flooring is not level. Mark the floor with an "L" for low spot or a "H" for any high spots.

  6. 6

    Sand down any high spots with a belt sander and 80-grit sandpaper. Recheck the floor often as you work. Sweep up any sawdust before you go to the next step.

  7. 7

    Screw down 3/8-inch concrete backer board to the wood floor. Use the screws sold with the backer board to secure it to the wood floor. Make sure you keep the backer board joints tight as you install the boards. Stagger each row of backer board so no two adjacent rows have end joints that line up with each other. It is best to start the next row with a half sheet for this reason. Cut backer boards to fit outside, using a circular saw with an abrasive blade made for concrete boards.

  8. 8

    Spread thinset mortar into the joints between the sheets of backer boards. Lay a strip of fibreglass mesh over each joint cut to the length needed. Spread a thin layer of thinset mortar over the fibreglass mesh. Spread the thinset over the joint as you feather the joint's edges.

  9. 9

    Repeat Step 8 for all the joints. Let the mortar dry per the label's directions. You are now ready to tile the room over the wood floor.

Tips and warnings

  • Wear thick knee pads when working on your knees.
  • Wear safety glasses when cutting backer boards.

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