How to install quarry tile floors

Written by jim wildman
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How to install quarry tile floors
A quarry tile floor. (Tiled floor image by Simon Amberly from

Tile floors are perfect for wet areas in your house like kitchens, bathrooms, and laundry rooms. There are many styles and types of floor tiles available. The most critical step to installing floor tiles is the subfloor preparation. If the subfloor is not well prepared the new tiles can crack, come loose or even break apart. The do-it-yourself handyman can install quarry tile floors with excellent results if he knows a few tricks of the trade.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Trim pry bar
  • Trim pliers
  • Marker
  • 1.2 m (4 foot) carpenter's level
  • Self-levelling compound
  • 1 cm (3/8 inch) backer board
  • Backer board screws
  • Circular saw with diamond blade
  • Power screwdriver
  • Thinset adhesive
  • Fibreglass tape
  • Trowel
  • 6 mm (1/4 inch) tile spacers
  • Chalk line
  • 1 cm (3/8 inch) notched trowel
  • Quarry tiles
  • Wet saw
  • Stone sealer
  • Sanded grout
  • Sponge trowel
  • Damp sponge
  • Bucket of water

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  1. 1

    Remove the baseboards from around the room where you are installing the new tile. Use a trim pry bar to carefully remove the trim. Pull the nails through the back with a pair of trim pliers and keep the trim to reinstall after the tile floors are installed. Numbering the pieces of trim will make it easier to reinstall them later. Use a marker for this.

  2. 2

    Check the condition of the subfloor. Check for any high or low areas with a 1.2 m (4 foot) carpenter's level. Slide the level back and forth across the ground and mark the low spots with a marker.

  3. 3

    Pour a self-levelling compound on the low areas of the subfloor. Follow the detailed instructions on the product label for application directions. Steps 2 and 3 are for wood or concrete subfloors.

  4. 4

    Skip to the next step if you are working on a concrete subfloor. Screw down 1 cm (3/8 inch) backer board to the wood sub floor with the screws sold with the backer board. Keep the joints tight and stagger the joints between rows. Use a circular saw with a masonry blade to cut the backer board and a power screwdriver to set the screws.

  5. 5

    Apply thinset adhesive into the joints between the sheets of backer board. Apply a strip of fibreglass mesh tape over all the joints between backer boards. Use thinset adhesive with a trowel to feather the edges of the joint lines as you work the fibreglass tape into the joints. Let this dry.

  6. 6

    Lay out the tile pattern on the floor. Use 6 mm (1/4 inch) spacers between the tiles unless your design calls for a smaller grout line. Determine where is the best place for the cut tiles to fall around the room perimeter. You need to create a reference line running both directions in the room to start to lay the tiles. Snap a chalk line in both directions to indicate the reference lines.

  7. 7

    Spread out the thinset tile adhesive in a 60 by 60 cm square (2 foot square) starting in one of the four corners where your reference lines cross. Use a 1.2 cm (1/2 inch) notched trowel to spread an even layer of thinset adhesive. The thinset base is thicker than for normal tiles because the quarry tiles vary slightly in thickness, and the thicker adhesive bed allows you to make the top of the tiles level.

  8. 8

    Set the first tile so that it is just touching two reference lines where they intersect. Gently push the tile into the thinset, make sure that it is set correctly with the intersection of the reference lines.

  9. 9

    Place 6 mm (1/4 inch) plastic spacers between the tiles as they are set. The spacers maintains an even grout line and keeps the pattern straight as you move out from the centre. Place a straight edge across two to three tiles and use a rubber mallet to level the tiles as you work.

  10. 10

    Cut any tiles using a wet saw. Use a diamond blade to cut the quarry tile as needed. Cut slower with the quarry tile than with ceramic tiles since the stone tile is thicker and harder to cut.

  11. 11

    Remove the 6 mm (1/4 inch) spacers the following day. You need to follow the label directions on the thinset adhesive for drying times for this application.

  12. 12

    Apply the first coat of stone sealer to the quarry tile. This makes it easier to grout the tiles later. Follow the instructions on the label for specific application directions. Let the sealer dry before proceeding to the next step.

  13. 13

    Apply a sanded grout to the quarry tiles. Mix the grout to a consistency of peanut butter. Use a sponge trowel to work the grout into the tile grout lines at about a 45-degree angle.

  14. 14

    Wipe off the excess grout with a clean damp sponge. Work at an angle to the grout line so as not to remove the grout from between the stones. You will have to repeat this step with clean water until the haze no longer appears on the quarry tile surface when dry.

  15. 15

    Apply the sealer per the label directions for quarry tile.

Tips and warnings

  • Start in the middle of the room and work out from there.
  • Make all the cuts before spreading the floor adhesive.
  • Wear thick knee pads when working on your knees.
  • Wear protective eye gear and clothing when you cut stone tile.
  • Stone has a natural dye that will stain clothing, so wear old clothes.

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