Ceramic Tile Floor installation on Concrete for DIYers

Ordinary tile flooring may give a better appearance in your average backspace. But, when it comes to your outdoor patio space, ceramic tile installation is the best option. There is an array of tile colors, shapes, and sizes that you can choose from to make your space elegant and more attractive. Tiles are water-resistant, stain-resistant, easy to clean, and flexible in use.

Moreover, you can lay tiles directly on pre-existing concrete. Despite the low cost of ceramic tile flooring, the total cost tends to be relatively high due to the installation charges. However, you can save the tile installation cost by learning how to install ceramic floor tile over concrete. Is it possible? Even though the process may seem tedious, it may save you some bucks. 

Tools & Materials for Ceramic Tile Installation

  • Shop vacuum or a broom
  • Detergent (TSP)
  • Self-leveling underlayment
  • Trowel
  • Latex premier
  • Chalk line
  • A pencil and paper
  • Tile cutter
  • Thinset
  • Tile nippers
  • Notched trowel
  • Tape measure
  • A bucket
  • Tile grout
  • Grout float
  • Sponges
  • Paintbrush
  • Try square or carpenter’s square
  • Carpenters level
  • Knee pads

Step-by-step Guide on Tile Installation

Step #1: Preparation 0f Concrete Sub-Floor

Laying the tiles on the concrete floor requires little technical skills but knowing the right steps to do the task. Before everything, you should ensure that your sub-floor is suitable to go. In this initial step, all you have to do is clean the concrete surface off dust and debris using either a shop vacuum or a broom. After that, follow with a robust detergent solution (TSP) to ensure that the floor is clean to standards.

Step #2: Leveling the Sub-Floor

Using a level, you should determine whether the floor is on a level or not. If not, you should purchase a self-leveling underlay to guarantee an even surface. If there are pockmarks and cracks, you can use some leveling compound or filler.

Using a roller or a paintbrush, roll or brush latex premier on the concrete sub-floor and wait for it to dry according to the manufacture’s instructions. Mix the self-leveling underlay in a bucket and pour it at the lowest area of the concrete, and it will level out. Alternatively, you can purchase a pre-mixed self-leveling compound and use it in the same manner.

Check on the level, smoothen the compound against the adjoining concrete with a trowel and give it a break to dry.

Step #3: Placing the Anti-Fracture Underlay Membrane

The anti-cracking membrane will solve the problem of cracking when the concrete is dry. The underlay is available in two forms: sheets or liquid. 

When you opt for cut sheets, you should apply thin-set mortar to the concrete, then smoothening the membrane sheets using a trowel. Alternatively, you can also paint a viscous coat of the anti-fracture underlay on the concrete floor using a paintbrush.

The unit-fracture underlay provides a cushion to the tiles and a layer of adjustment during seasons without cracking the tiles.

Step #4: Establishing the Layout of Your Tile Floor

  1. First, establish the center line and snap a dot by using the length and width of the room.
  2. Using a carpenter’s square or a triangle ruler, ensure that the lines are perpendicular.
  3. Unpack your floor tiles to confirm the damages and possible color mismatch.
  4. Cover the entire floor surface of the floor with the tiles in a dry run using your chosen layout.
  5. Check the edge of the tile and adjust your center line if the tiles on either side fall below half the total number.
  6. Cut tiles near the edge. You can as well use tile nippers if you have to make small intricate cuts.
  7. Use a wet saw to cut the tiles to fit snugly in narrow spaces. Troubleshoot to ensure your cut tiles are a perfect fit before laying your tiles.
  8. Ensure a space of ¼ Inch exists all around the edges to allow room for expansion.

All the above procedures are necessary during ceramic tile floor installation over concrete. Any mistake made in following the procedure might translate to a severe mess. When through with the methods, it is now time for laying your anticipated tile flooring in the already pre-determined layout.

Step #5: Ceramic Tile Installation over Concrete

You will start by removing a section of the tiles to give you a starting point. To ease your time, you can remove the tiles bit by bit as you continue laying them.

  1. Mix your mortar and keep it at your convenience. Remember to put on knee pads to spare you excessive fatigue and perhaps knee injury while carrying on with the task.
  2. Place the bucket and a ¼ inch notched trowel near you and spread the mortar over a 3-by-3 foot area using a thin-set.
  3. Smooth it using a smooth trowel.
  4. Using your notched trowel, comb the thin-set and ensure your lines runs horizontally throughout the surface.
  5. Install the first tile against the corner of your center line and push it slightly down to ensure it adheres.
  6. Ensure you keep a bucket of water and a damp sponge mop near you to clean the tiles that get thin-set on top. Wipe the surface of your tiles to ensure your flooring is neat.
  7. Place the spacers between tiles as you continue laying the tiles to get a thick and even grout line at the end of your task. If a thin grout line is all you need at the end of the installation process, you can skip the use of spacers.
  8. Lay your ceramic tiles in a three by three area while checking the level. You can adjust the tiles below the level by adding more thin-set and back butter those above the scale to fit the standard.
  9. Continue working on a three-foot square covering each quarter of the room at a time.
  10. Using a carpenter’s level, ensure your floor is on the scale as you proceed with the work.

After laying all your flooring, you should leave the floor for at least 24 hours before grouting.

Step #6: Grouting Ceramic Tiles

  1. Mix your grout with water and ensure it doesn’t have lumps before using it on the new flooring.
  2. Using the grout float, lift the grout out of the bucket and spread it on the gaps repeatedly until you fill them.
  3. After settling for 20 minutes, clean the grout off the tile surfaces with a damp mop and allow the grout to set for 2 hours before you buff the floor with a cheesecloth. After buffing, leave the floor to continue drying for the next 72 hours.
  4. Apply a sealant using a large sponge to boost the tiles’ water resistance. When through with sealant application, leave it to dry according to the manufacturer’s instructions and re-arrange your room.