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How to Tile A Floor

Learn How to Tile A Floor like a professional, with this step by step guide. Floor tiles are incredibly popular in the UK due to their wide range of styles, shapes and sizes. Tiling a floor has many advantages over other floor types such as carpet or laminate. This is because floor tiles are very durable and easy to clean.

How to Tile A Floor

Our guide below tells you how to tile a floor to a professional standard.

Step 1 – Floor Preparation

A professional floor tiling job always starts with good floor preparation, also known as a sub floor. If you have not already prepared your floor, then please refer to our guide on How to Prepare a Floor for Tiling before continuing to the next step.

Step 2 – Find the Centre of your Room

This step is about planning how your floor tiles will visually look when they are down, known as setting out your room. Ideally you want the tiles to look symmetrical, from wall to wall. This means that the tile pattern one side of the room should mirror the other side. The process of working out this symmetry is known as centering.

To do this, we need to find the centre of your room. Once we have this centre, we can draw a cross hair using the 2 arcs technique.

First, measure the width of your room, and then half it. Mark two of these points on the floor as shown in Figure 1 below.

how to tile a floor setting out

Figure 1. Marking centre points for room width.

Now use a chalk line to join these two dots together going from wall to wall. As shown in Figure 2 below.

Figure 2. Finding your room width centre.

Now find the mid-point of this line, by dividing it by two. The mid-point would be 4m from the wall, lengthways along this line. As shown in Figure 3 below.

Figure 3. Finding the mid-point

Now draw a circle, using the mid-point as your centre. Ensure the circle is at least 1m in diameter.

Figure 4. Drawing a circle at the mid-point.

We will now use the arc technique to draw a line 90 degrees to your existing line, to form what’s known as a cross hair. This technique ensures you have a perfect 90-degree angle.

Use pencil and string to draw arcs of fixed length.

Use the points where your circle intersects the blue chalk line as a start point. As shown in Figure 5 below.

how to tile a floor find centre

Figure 5. Using the arc technique to find a 90 degree angle.

Now ping a chalk line so that it is in line with your mid-point, and where the two arcs intersect each other. As shown in Figure 6 below.

TIP: If you are tiling very large floors, you can double check your 90 degree angle using something known as the 3, 4, 5 technique. Basically, you use mathematics to work out if your 90 angle is truly square with the Pythagorean theorem equation.

Figure 6. Drawing a line between the intersecting arcs and mid-point.

Step 3. Centering your Tiles Lengthways

Now we will use the centre point and chalk lines created in Step 2 to help plan our floor tile layout.  This is an important step, because we want to make sure the tiles are aligned in the best way possible.

First, we will plan how the tiles will look lengthways in the room.

Start by laying one tile on the floor so the edge of the tile is in line with your centre dot, and the line that is parallel to the wall, as seen in Figure 7 below.

how to tile a floor setting out

Figure 7. Centering the room length.

Then continue laying the tiles beside each other, along this parallel line towards both walls, leaving a 2mm space between each tile. When you get close enough to the wall, so that you can no longer lay any more full tiles beside each other, that will be the tiles that will need cutting.

If less than half of these tiles needs cutting, than this is the correct layout for you as shown in Figure 8 below.  

how to tile a floor allignment

Figure 8. Correct layout for centering the room length.

If more than half the tiles needs cutting as in Figure 9 below, then this is not ideal tile symmetry. Visually the layout would look awkward as there would be small tile cuts. The best way to correct this is to move the tiles along by half a tile, as shown in Figure 10.

Figure 9. Incorrect floor tiling layout, for room length.

Figure 10. Moving by half a tile.

Step 4 – Centering your Tiles Widthways

Now repeat the centering process you did in Step 3, for the room width. So you would start by laying a tile as shown in Figure 11 below.

Figure 11. Centering a floor widthways.

Now continue laying the tiles across the width of your room, leaving a 2mm space between each tile. If you are left with more than half a tile at the wall, then this is the correct layout for you, as shown in Figure 12 below.

However, if you are left with less than half a tile. Then this would look like an awkward floor plan. You would therefore more all the tiles along by half a tile to correct it.

Figure 12. Centering a floor widthways.

By this point you should know where you will be placing your tiles, and how the overall tiling plan should look. The only purpose of this step is to make your tiles look visually good, without any awkward looking small cuts.

Just as a recap, Figure 13 below shows how the tiles will be aligned in both directions. We are lucky, because no cuts are required widthways. However, cuts will be required lengthways. But those tiles will look symmetrical from the centre point. And less than half the tile needs cutting, which is why we did not need to adjust the horizontal alignment.

how to tile a floor centering process

Figure 13. Final floor plan after centering process.

Step 5 – Ping Parallel Chalk Lines on the Floor

You should now have a plan in your head of how the tiles will be laid out. Figure 13 in step 4 shows you how the tiles are to be positioned in both directions. But to make things easier you should also ping parallel lines to tile against.

Some tradesmen prefer to start around the centre point, and work there way out. And some prefer starting the furthest point away from the door. This guide will show you how to start from the furthest point away from your door. I believe this is the best point to start, so you can tile your way out of the room.

Ping 2 parallel chalk lines from from the back wall, but only 1 tile wide, as in Figure 14 below.

Figure 14. Marking chalk lines for guidance.

Step 6 – Fix your Tiles from the Back Wall

Now it is time to fix your tiles to the floor. For this example, we will start from the back wall and work our way towards the door.

But First, you need to mix up your tile adhesive. Please read this guide on mixing up tile adhesive if you are unsure how.

Figure 15 below shows where your first rows of tiles will be fixed. As you can see, they are all fixed between your parallel chalk lines.

Use the 10mm notched serrated trowel to apply adhesive to the floor at a 45 degree angle, only cover area where your tiles will be placed. Then place the tiles on the floor between your lines. As shown in the diagram below.

Figure 15. Fixing the first rows of tiles.

Place tile spacers in between each tile to get equal size joints.

Now ping more paralell chalk as shown in Figure 16 below.

how to tile a floor like a professional

Figure 16. Ping more chalk lines.

Now continue tiling from the back wall. Ensuring you only apply tile adhesive between your chalk line guides.

Figure 17. Fixing the tiles along the chalk lines.

Keep repeating the process, working your way towards the door. Remember, when you reach the walls, cut your tiles to fit, if necessary. Keep doing this until the floor is completely tiled.

how to tile a floor

Figure 18. Finish fixing the tiles.

Once tiled, leave to dry.

Step 6 – Grouting the Tiles

Mix up the grout. If you are unsure how to mix grout, then read this Guide to Mixing Tiling Grout.

Once mixed you can start grouting the gaps between the tiles. Apply the grout using a grout float. Work the grout into the gaps, don’t be concerned about getting excess grout on the tiles at this point. Cover an area of about 5m2 at a time.

Leave the grout till it starts to go hard.

Keep checking the grout to see if it is going hard. If it does, start washing if of immediately. The time it takes for grout to harden depends on the temperature of the room, so check frequently.

To wash the grout off the tiles you can use a bucket of cold water and a sponge. Moisten the sponge in the water and rub over the floor, working at a 45 degree angle to the tile joints. Do this until the grout joints look the same.

Rinse the sponge and squeeze excess water from the sponge.

Then in one long stroke, at a 45 degree angle do a clean wipe. repeat this process until all excess grout is washed off and the grout joints are looking the same.

Continue to do this in areas of 5m2 areas at a time, until the whole floor is grouted.

Congratulation you have just tiled a floor like a professional.


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Posted on 5th January 2021 at 12:47 pm

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