Q. What do I need to know
before starting a new tile job?
A. Any tile installation, no matter how small an area, should
be thoroughly discussed with the contractor or installer hired for the job so
that the scope of the work and the responsibilities of each party are fully
Possible questions may be: Who
will remove the old flooring material if necessary? If the installation is to
use a thick-bed method, what provisions will be made for the added thickness
at door sills or at the entrance to the next room? If the installation is to
be thin-set, what steps will be taken to compensate for the possible
flexibility of the existing surface? If traffic must be avoided following
tiling, what temporary measures will be provided for necessary passage?
Professional installers will perform their task neatly and
efficiently. Whether an installer is recommended by the tile supplier or by
friends, it is important to ask for references and speak to those who know the
installer's work. Local chapters of tile contractors' associations are a
A tile installation is only complete when the customer is left
with a tiled surface requiring nothing more than ordinary, routine cleaning.
Whether thin-set or thick-bed methods are used, the tile
installation follows the same basic steps.
Old floor covering or paint is removed and the surface is
cleared of dust and loose particles.
Grout is applied after the tile has set. Depending on the
adhesive used, this may be anywhere from 3 hours to 2 days following
installation. Grout is mixed to the proper consistency and then applied with a
rubber float or squeegee. Rubbing firmly over the tiled surface pushes the
grout into the joints and cleans off most of the excess. Remaining excess
grout is wiped clean. Heavy traffic should be avoided on newly tiled floors
for three to four days following installation to prevent any loosening or
dislocation of the tiles. If walking across tiles is necessary, plywood boards
should be used to create a path.
Q. What type of tile do we install on our kitchen floor?
A. Floors in frequent use, such as kitchens, family rooms, and
areas where chairs or equipment are often pulled across the floor will need
good abrasion resistance. Floors with direct access to the outdoors, as in
entrances and some kitchens, will be subject to tracked in sand, dirt or
water. These areas will require good abrasion resistance as well as a moderate
degree of slip resistance.
For areas in less frequent use-living rooms, dens,
sunrooms-most tiles are suitable. In bedrooms and baths, traffic is generally
light and footwear is seldom worn; any tile may be selected.
Outdoors, tiles should have low water absorption. Unglazed
tiles or frost-proof monocottura are usually selected. Areas around the home
such as patios, walkways, or swimming pool decks, must also have high slip
Areas that are used while wet include shower floors, saunas,
and hot tubs, which require low water absorption and good slip resistance.
Tile for swimming pool basins must be specified as such.
Q. A salesperson claimed his tile was a group IV. What does
A. The following classifications are based on an agreement
between European ceramic tile manufacturers and installers and have been
adopted world wide.
• Light Residential Traffic
• Tiles suited to areas of the home, such as baths or bedrooms
where soft footwear is worn.
• Moderate Residential Traffic
• Tiles for general resident areas, except kitchens and
entrance halls or other areas subject to direct outdoor traffic.
• Residential Traffic
• Tiles suited to maximum residential traffic in all areas of
• Commercial Traffic
• Tiles suited to public areas where moderate to heavy traffic
occurs (such as hotel lobbies, restaurants, Supermarkets and banks).
Preparing the surface
After the selection, the most important element of a successful
installation is the condition of the surface to be tiled. A properly prepared
surface is smooth, stable and free of any defects. It also satisfies the
requirements of any special conditions that may exist, such as waterproofing.
Old floor coverings such as carpet, resilient tiles and sheer
floor coverings and their existing glue residues should be removed. Exceptions
are non-cushioned sheet vinyl and old flooring known to contain asbestos where
encapsulation may be preferred to removal. Concrete floors in good condition
are a sound base for a thin-set installation. Minor cracking may sometimes be
repaired by applying an anti-fracture membrane which would also allow a
thin-set installation. Severely cracked concrete will require a thick-bed.
Placing new ceramic tile over old, sound, properly prepared ceramic tile is
quite acceptable as tile provides an excellent rigid base.
Wall surfaces should be inspected for defects. Extensive
running cracks will eventually work through to the tile unless the cause is
corrected and the surface is patched. Paint, especially water based latex
paint, should be removed completely wherever possible. Walls in severely poor
condition require a new backing surface before a thin-set installation can
Health clubs, saunas, and residential baths are some indoor
areas where heavy water usage occurs. Preparing the area to be tiled is an
important consideration. Before tiling, a waterproof backing or membrane
should be installed on all surfaces where direct water contact occurs. These
include the walls of tub and shower enclosures, bathroom floors, and any areas
exposed to high temperatures from steam. In addition to waterproof membranes,
latex modified mortars and grouts, a thick-bed installation is usually
Exterior masonry or cement must be in good condition to receive
a thin-set installation. For severely cracked or damaged surfaces, the
thick-bed method should be used.
Newly constructed floor areas such as patios and courtyards
will require slopes to drains and appropriately spaced expansion joints.
Terraces, balconies and roof decks require the same
considerations as above and must also be designed to protect against water
leakage to the space below. A waterproof membrane should be applied before
Swimming pools must be constructed of concrete in order to be
tiled. The tank should be tested by filling it with water before the tile work
is started. For residential pools, a thin-set installation is generally
Q. Why do you recommend not laying Ceramic Tile over an
existing vinyl floor? All of the contractors that I have gotten estimates from
so far are leaving the existing vinyl floor in place.
A. The reason we don't recommend this is because of the wide
variation of possible conditions that we would have no control over. If your
contractor is comfortable with the condition of your floor, then it should be
We invested all our efforts to answer to all your questions
concerning the purchase and the treatment of your ceramic tiles. If, for any
reason, you could not find an answer to your individual needs, please use the
contact form to let us know and we will try to answer you as soon as possible.
If your submission is relevant to this FAQ we will also include it within
shortly. Here are your most Frequently Asked Questions.
Q. Is there a minimum amount of drop or rise in a subfloor
that is acceptable for installing Ceramic Tile?
A. With regular tile adhesive, there can't be any variation in
the subfloor or you will have cracks. You can have some variation if you use a
more expensive bridging adhesive. You should consult your local ceramic tile
supplier for more information on this procedure, though.
Q. How do you cut tiles to go around a toilet pan?
A. For standard cutting around small, irregular shapes, we
recommend using a tile nipper. Tile nippers are available at most home center
or floor covering stores. You use the nipper to chip away at the tile to get
as close to the shape as possible.
Q. Is Wonder Board acceptable for floor tile applications?
A. Wonder Board is an excellent subfloor but you must have a
minimum of 1 1/4-inch plywood or lumber as your supporting subfloor. Then
apply Wonder Board over that.
Q. What is the best way to take up single tiles to replace
A. The easiest way to take up the tile is to hit it hard right
in the middle (make sure you wear eye protection) and chip it away from the
middle out. Then clean up the old thinset and re-do the tile.
Q. A friend uses a two-inch grout line between tiles in his
home and it creates a beautiful look. Any recommendations or advice on laying
tiles this far apart?
A. We don't recommend laying tiles with more than a 1/4" grout
line because past experience has shown us that it will eventually crack and
chip out. You can talk to a ceramic supplier and get grout that is fortified
with epoxy or some other product that will make it stronger, but we don't
recommend or warranty such installations.
Q. I am building a home and looking for Terracotta Floor
Tiles for my kitchen. Is this considered Ceramic Tile?
A. Terracotta is not considered ceramic tile. It is generally
referred to in the trade as Quarry Tile and is fairly common. It is usually
unglazed and requires some kind of coating on the surface. We would not
recommend it for the kitchen since it would absorb oil and grease.
Q. Can Ceramic Tile be applied directly to a cement slab
floor that is dry?
A. Yes, ceramic tile can be installed over a cement slab floor
Q. We need advice on installing a Diamond Pattern tile
A. This is a complicated layout. Lay out your floor with chalk
lines in the center of the floor perpendicular to the walls. Then bisect those
lines with another line, which will then give you the line for your diamond
pattern. This will be centered in the room at 90 degrees from square to the
walls. Proceed to lay your tiles from the center out to the edge. You may also
want to consider professional assistance for this project if you don't have
much experience with tile installation.
Q. Is tile a good flooring alternative for people who are
highly allergic to dogs, cats, dust, cockroaches, grasses, etc.?
A. You are absolutely right. Tile is generally referred to as a
hypo-allergenic floor covering.
Q. I'm installing ceramic tile on an upper level of my home
and currently there is a carpet on the floor with a 3-4 plywood underlayment.
When installing ceramic tile, should I use a Hardibacker or DuroRock type
layer below the tile or another layer of 3/4-inch Plywood?
A. You have a couple of options. You must have a minimum
thickness of 1 1/4 inches of exterior plywood as your subfloor before
installing ceramic tile so you can add a 1/2-inch thick piece to your existing
3/4-inch piece to reach the required 1 1/4 inch thickness. You can then
either: 1. install the ceramic tile directly over the 1 1/4-inch thickness of
exterior plywood; or 2. install HardiBoard, DuroRock, Wonderboard or a similar
substrate over the 1 1/4-inch thick plywood for added stability. Those
substrates are excellent surfaces for ceramic tile.
Q. What kind of adhesive do you use for Porcelain Tile?
A. You can use standard thin-set, which is a concrete-based
Q. I previously had ceramic tile installed incorrectly. I
removed the ceramic successfully but I would like to know how I should get the
mastic off of the tile and the floor (plywood)?
A. If the mastic is Thinset you can use a scraper. If it's
epoxy, it is virtually impossible to get up. In that case, you would have to
use some type of underlayment over the existing subfloor and then tile over of
Q. Tell me, please, what is the best way to clean ceramic
tile that will also clean the grouting?
A. A good detergent cleanser can clean both, but if the grout
is really grimy, there are numerous grout cleaners available commercially in
any home center or any place that sells ceramic tile. After cleaning the grout
with the grout cleaner, you should be able to use the detergent cleanser after
that. After cleaning the grout with the grout cleaner, you should be able to
use the detergent cleanser.
Q. What type of tool do I use to cut a hole in ceramic floor
A. If you are trying to put a hole in the tile you need a
diamond drill. You may also place a "hole" in the tile by splitting the tile
in half and then nipping out a hole with a tool called "nippers". They should
be available at your local tile store or possibly a home center or hardware
Q. Is there a problem with setting ceramic tiles tight to
each other so there is no space between them?
A. We do not recommend tiles be set tight. By setting tiles
this way, you still can't avoid some minute spacing, and the spaces would be a
dirt collector if you didn't grout. Also, even with grouting, this fine of a
line of grout would easily crack and not perform properly.
Q. Will I have to raise the toilet after installing tile
because of the added tile and plywood?
A. You will have to raise the toilet. This will require a new
toilet flange at the higher height.
Q. How can I tell the difference between a quality ceramic
floor tile and some of the rubbish being sold?
A. It's a good question, one that you don't have much help
answering. However, if you are intending to buy a ceramic tile in the near
future, it's a question you will be facing and should take a moment to read
and consider the following information:
Ceramic tiles are NOT all alike and some may be considered
time bombs ready, waiting, and ticking down until conditions are right to
cause you problems. Even the ceramic industry does not make comparative
advertising with competition products. Why? By law, much of the European
Community is restricted from this activity. Also, it's often viewed as
"It's cheap and it looks aesthetically the same." These are
often prophetic words. It may sound like just common sense remarks but lower
priced materials of any kind normally cost less because there are short cuts
in manufacturing them. I am told, "it is not possible to convince a cheap
customer to neither buy based on quality issues, nor easily convince a
customer who is accustomed to quality to buy something based on price alone."
With ceramic tile, an aesthetically nice looking tile doesn't
necessarily mean it is a quality tile. Some dealers will purchase inferior low
price ceramic tiles and represent them to be superior quality. Your
experienced dealer is there to assist you, but the fault lies in NOT
understanding the product and that's where a greater knowledge will better
prepare you to make a ceramic tile purchase.
What makes a quality ceramic tile different from the others and
how can you tell the difference? The expert ceramists intended design, quality
of materials, product, manufacturing processes, kiln temperature, duration of
firing time, etc. all determine the differences between one tile and another.
Absorption is the primary key factor in determining both
positive and negative factors influencing your ceramic tiles nature,
installation and bond, maintenance, durability, and long-term performance.
Floor tiles having a high absorption (7% or higher), perform
poorly and are often referred to as RUBBISH. These tiles will chip and crack
easily, before and after they have been installed. There is often a condition
of stress between the tile body (biscuit/bisque) and glaze. Even while
inspecting a selection of these tiles, straight from the carton, there are
often chips on corners and the dark reddish or brown tone biscuit is exposed.
They may exhibit size differences and dye lot variations. Even if this is
controlled with sorting, they often expand with moisture absorption, taken
from setting materials, which will adversely affect bond-ability to the
substrate. Although the surface glaze appears aesthetically similar in nature
to superior quality tiles, their performance is vastly different. Avoid
purchasing such tiles.
Floor tiles having a water absorption between 4-6% are more
stable and considered the lowest acceptable industry limit for targeted
quality and economics of production; however, they cannot be viewed as
anything more that daily residential performance tiles. Even then, avoid high
gloss surfaces and smooth dull, matte textured finishes.
Floor tiles having absorption between 0.5-3percent (vitrified)
are often designed with superior attributes. This is the most desired quality
range for ceramic tile selections. They can withstand freeze/thaw conditions,
have PEI 5 wear ratings / superior traffic and chemical resistant glazes for
medium to heavy commercial use, the compatibility of glaze and biscuit are
well designed, and these tiles are good value. They bond well, have consistent
size, stress tolerances, and are usually well controlled for color, tone,
caliber, and finish.
Floor tiles with a lower absorption or 0.5% or lower, often
referred to as porcelain tiles, have superior technical properties but are
aesthetically limited, compared with 0.5-3% absorptive tiles. In addition, you
may be paying more for less. For example, the low absorption means they were
kilned longer and hotter, so this means they cost more, but the lower
absorption also means that they are harder to bond and may stress to cracking
easier than 0.5-3% higher absorption tiles installed on wood composite
Aside from comparing one ceramic tile to another, quality
ceramic tiles are superior in many ways to other materials; although, a
consumer is usually predisposed to buying a quality ceramic tile, having been
told of the durability, low maintenance, long-term cost saving and maintained
Here's a short list, from which you can find arguments to favor
choosing ceramic tiles over the numerous alternatives of flooring materials:
Glazed or vitrified (low absorption) good quality ceramic tiles
are less expensive. Initially, when compared with natural stone tiles, and
over the life of the floor; they are easier to install, have low maintenance
and maintenance costs, offer an extended color palette, have controlled shade
variations, have greater dimensions, shapes, and trims commonly available;
they have greater acid, alkali, and chemical resistance, they are usually
impermeable and stain resistant; they have harder wearable surfaces with
impact and pressure resistance; they have greater bond strength, have a
multitude of surfaces and textures, will not decay and are bacteria resistant,
weather resistant, color-fast and won't fade; they are ecologically
compatible, environmentally green, with no chemical or toxic substances; they
have good heat energy retaining and conducting (conserving); they won't burn
and are not inflammable; they are scratch resistant, odorless, non-conductive,
time resistant, and slip resistant; glazed tiles never need stripping or
refinishing, allow for design flexibility, are easily repairable, UV
resistant, hygienic, etc.