How to Tile Over Old, Weak Wooden Floors

Written by jen anderson
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How to Tile Over Old, Weak Wooden Floors
Reinforce an old wooden floor before laying tiles. (Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)

You can tile over your old, weak wooden floors as long as you build up the floor before laying the tiles. To support the weight of the tiles, the subfloor needs to be at least 1 1/2 inches thick. Plywood can provide the necessary thickness, while reinforcing the old wooden floor. In the bathroom or laundry room, use cement backerboard instead of plywood. Once you have built up the subfloor, you can lay tile on the floor as you would with any other tiling project.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Hammer
  • Nails
  • Power drill
  • Paper clip
  • Felt-tip pen
  • Measuring tape
  • Plywood or Cement backerboard
  • Pencil
  • Circular saw
  • Construction adhesive
  • Screws
  • Tiles
  • Tile spacers
  • Chalk line
  • Permanent marker
  • Yardstick
  • Thin-set mortar
  • Notched trowel
  • Grout
  • Grout float
  • Sponge

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  1. 1

    Walk on the old wooden floor, identifying any spots with loose or squeaky floorboards. Nail these spots to the joists below to stabilise the floor.

  2. 2

    Find a plumbing or heating pipe that passes through a hole in the floor. If there are no existing holes in the floor, drill a small hole through the wooden floor. Straighten a paper clip and fashion a small hook on the end. Slip the paper clip through the hole in the floor. Hook the paper clip's small hook on the underside of the wooden floor and mark the paper clip at the top of the floor with a felt-tip pen. Measure the distance between the top of the hook and the mark to determine the thickness of the existing floor.

  3. 3

    Buy enough plywood or cement backerboard to add to the floor until it is 1 1/2 inches thick. You may need to add more than one layer. Measure and cut the plywood or cement backerboard with a circular saw.

  4. 4

    Spread construction adhesive on the wooden floor and the plywood, and place the plywood on the wooden floor. If you are using cement backerboard, place it on the wooden floor dry. Drive screws through the plywood or cement backerboard every 6 inches. Repeat until the floor is at the required thickness.

  5. 5

    Place three tiles on a work surface with tile spacers in between them. Measure the tiles end-to-end. Mark the floor along each wall in intervals equal to this length. Snap a chalk line between opposite markings, forming a chalk grid on the floor. Trace over the chalk lines with a permanent marker, using a yardstick as a straight edge.

  6. 6

    Spread thin-set mortar on the floor inside one square of the grid, using a notched trowel. Comb grooves in the mortar with the notches on the edge of the trowel. Place the tiles on the floor, using the grid lines as a guide, placing tile spacers in between them. Continue spreading thin-set mortar and laying tiles in this manner until the entire floor is covered. Let the mortar dry overnight.

  7. 7

    Remove the tile spacers. Press grout into the spaces between the tiles with a grout float. Scrape excess grout form the tile surface with the side of the grout float.

  8. 8

    Run the damp corner of a sponge along the grout lines, creating an even look and depth. Wipe any remaining grout from the tiles with a wet sponge without disturbing the grout lines. Let the grout cure overnight.

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