A do-it-yourself ceramic tile floor job requires a lot of tools and skills, forethought and elbow grease. There are a multitude of materials offered to the homeowner, and chances are a 12-inch tile is right for your project. After choosing a tile, the next choice comes into play: you have to decide which size trowel to use. The substrate (installation surface) determines the size of trowel necessary to install 12-inch ceramic floor tile.
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Flat, Even Surface
If your substrate is flat and level, a 3/8-inch square-notch trowel works well. Expert tile setters often perform a bond test on the first piece of 12-inch tile. To do this simply use a 3/8-inch notch trowel to smear the thin-set mortar on the substrate. Install the first piece and apply some pressure to lock it into place. Remove the piece with a mason's trowel and check for thin-set coverage on the back. If the piece has thin-set on the majority of the surface, the bond test is a success.
A thicker square-notch trowel is required if surfaces have medium variations in height or depth. A 1/2-inch square-notch trowel will allow the do-it-yourselfer the ability to smooth out imperfections in the floor by using a thick, 1/2-inch thin-set mortar bed. To check for a good bond, perform a bond test as described in Section 1.
Extremely uneven surface areas (where demolition took place, etc.) require a 9/16-inch u-notch trowel. A 9/16-inch u-notch trowel gives the do-it-yourselfer more "play" -- extra room to adjust the height of the 12-inch tile and bed of thin-set beneath the tile -- working over holes, divots and undulations.
A rubber mallet comes in handy to flatten out high pieces. Also, it is often better to subtract some of the thin-set from the back of a piece that is stubbornly higher than the pieces adjoining it. Polymer-modified thin-set provides extra bond to 12-inch ceramic tile.
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