You Can Tile Your Kitchen Floor

Tiling your kitchen floor with ceramic, stone or porcelain evokes the sense of strength, value, and durability. It is aesthetically pleasing, and can cost about the same as a high grade vinyl covering, if you do it yourself. Other benefits are the higher rating on an appraisal of your property, buyer appeal (if you want to sell), and ease in caring for the tile. However all these benefits can be made nil if you do not prepare and install the tile in the correct manner.

Tools Needed For the Job:


Backer board

Power Drill (corded or cordless, extra battery pack if cordless)


Pry bar

Small piece of thin wood or laminate sample

Safety goggles

Dust mask

Circular saw

Razor blade knife

Gloves (both work and rubber)

Several clean buckets (5 gal. and household smaller size)

Jam saw

Tape measure


Chalk line

Carpenter’s square

Painter’s tape

Trowel ¼ inch groove, and smaller one made for corners

Thin set

Acrylic additive, or some thin set had it added

Mesh seam tape

Putty knife

Tile spacers


Wet saw or manual tile cutter

Tile nippers


Rubber grout float

Sponge, towels and water

Silicone caulk

Tile and grout sealer

Cleaner for tile

Steps to Follow:

1. Determine the suitability of the floor you want to tile. If you have determined the floor is not level, you will need to use a leveling compound that comes in powdered form in bags; at the same place you buy your supplies. This can be used to level a floor that is otherwise solid. Sometimes you may need to install a new stick on kitchen backsplash herringbone tile sub floor to get the solidness you need. However, most of the time, when a homeowner wants to install ceramic tile, it is over an existing vinyl floor. Never install directly on the vinyl floor because the tile will pop loose later. Use a tile backer board. There are several types to choose. One has a mesh type covering, with the core looking like rough, crumbled cement. The other has a smooth covering with a smooth core. Both come in either ¼ inch or ½ inch size. I personally prefer the smooth core type because of ease of use, and water resistance. Your choice of thickness will be determined by things such as the adjoining floor’s height, as well as things like how it meets at the dishwasher. Remove all moveable appliances and furniture.

2. Choose your tile according to your personal preference. Just be sure to use a tile recommended for floors. Think about the finish on the tile, because you may not want to use a tile that will be extremely slippery in a kitchen. I have found that a less expensive tile is just as durable as the more expensive, if installed properly. Also, for a beginner, it is much easier to use a square tile with a square on square pattern, then to use a complicated pattern.

3. Before laying backer board, determine if you are going to remove the baseboards. Your baseboard will be shorter if you don’t. To remove the baseboard and shoe molding (or called quarter round), use a small thin pry bar, a hammer, and your piece of thin board or laminate sample. Place the thin board against the wall. This protects the wall from damage. Place the pry in the crack at the top between the wall and the baseboard. Use the hammer to tap on the hook of the pry bar to wedge it between the wall and baseboard. Use a lifting motion at the end of the bar to pull the baseboard away. Be careful and you won’t have to purchase new molding, but just reuse the old. If you have door jams in your kitchen, they have to be cut shorter from the bottom. You do not need to take them down. Just use a piece of backer board, and a piece of tile on top of each other to find the height of the new floor. Mark this on your jam, allowing just a little more for the space the thin set takes up. Using your jam saw cut the jam off. It will now be ready to slip the backer board, and tile underneath when installing.

4. Now is time to install the backer board. Mix the thin set according to directions on the bag. For me, it is better to mix smaller amounts at a time in case I get interrupted, and because it is easier to handle. With a latex or rubber glove on your hand, use your hand to mix. This method is good to feel for lumps that need broken up with your fingers. Another method is to use a drill attachment to mix the water and powdered thin set.

5. Spread out the thin set, with the notched trowel, onto the floor. Arrange sheets of backer board over the thin set. Spread thin set for each piece of backer board one at a time to avoid stepping in it. Each piece than needs fastened down with screws. Use your drill to fasten in the screws. Space them at the marks that indicate placement on the backer board. When installing the screws it is very important that they are flush or slightly below the surface. If they are even a little above the surface of the backer board it can make the tile pivot, and or break after the job is done. Use a circular saw to cut the backer board, or use a razor knife and break the board at the groove you cut. Leave about a ¼ inch space against walls, and cabinets to allow for expansion. Use the mesh seam tape at seams, and use a putty knife and some thin set to embed it onto the seams. Let dry.

6. Using a tape measure, carpenter’s square, and chalk line determine a center starting point and be sure it is on square. I like to also use some painter’s tape to mark along the chalk line for the first few tiles. It is easier to see when using thin set, and when you remove it you have a straight line again. You only need these makings for the first few tiles. After that you will be lining up with your existing tiles, and tile spacers.

7. Don’t use the thin set yet. Instead do a dry layout of some of the tiles to determine the size of the tile at the edges. It is better to adjust by moving the center tile over a little than to try to cut ¼ inch pieces at an edge. Now mix more thin set, and apply in sections and place the tile on top. It is best to start at center of the floor and work out. When placing the tile, be sure that you use a twisting motion, and firm downward pressure to ensure adhesion. Then adjust the tile if needed by using the spacers. If you have to remove a tile before it is set, the pry bar really helps to lift it. The size spacers used is according to preference, and types of tile. Do only the full size tiles where they will fit.

8. The next day, or after areas are dry enough to carefully walk around, start measuring, and cutting tile. To mark, a tape measure and pencil can be used to get the size. But an easier method for most cuts is to lay a tile in the space that needs a cut tile. It will overlap the first full tile. Then line up another full tile on top of the edge of the tile to be cut, and even with the full tile. Allow for the spacing where the grout goes, and draw a line with the pencil using the edge of the full tile. I prefer using a wet saw over a manual saw, unless all the cuts are straight and the full length of the tile. When using a wet saw, first carefully read and follow directions in the manual, and cut some practice pieces. It is not as intimidating as it seems. The saw blade is in a set track. Don’t try to cut too fast. Slow and steady is better, and avoids broken tiles. Install cut tiles in the same manner as full tiles, and leave a tiny space at walls, and cabinets. It is now important to let the floor dry undisturbed for 24 hours.

9. Clean tile, using water and spray cleaner. The excess thin set will come off with the use of a scrubbing sponge. If you choose a porous stone tile, you need to seal before grouting. This is to avoid staining the tile. Polished marble, granite, ceramic, or porcelain, do not need to be sealed at this point. Mix grout according to package directions. Again, I like to use a rubber or latex glove to mix. Use the rubber grout float, holding it at an angle to spread the grout over the entire tile floor. Work in sections, and scrape excess off tile, after a few minutes, by holding the float at a more upright angle. After waiting about 30 minutes, use a sponge, and water to clean up more of the grout. Keep rinsing and squeezing the sponge out in your bucket. You may also change the water. You may want to repeat this procedure one more time. It won’t be clean yet. Wait until the next day, and then repeat the procedure. This time use old terry cloth towels to wipe and buff after you use the sponge. If there are resistant places, use a cleaner to remove grout haze.

10. Now let the grout cure for the next seven days. If the environment is dry, because of heating, use a spray bottle with water, and spritz on the grout to make it cure stronger. After the time period, and the floor is completely dry, the grout can be sealed. Some tiles need sealed also. It can be done at the same time with the same product. You may need to do a couple coats depending on the product instructions. Re install baseboard and shoe molding.

Here are a few precautions and helpful hints

–If your floor is very out of level you may want to veto tiling, and go with a floating type floor.
–Use thin set, never mastic for areas that will have water exposure. Mastic will melt away if a substantial amount of

water reaches it.
–If you are only tiling at your home, and not more often, rent a wet saw. Reserve it if possible, but don’t bring it home

until you are cutting tile.
–When grouting, use painter’s tape to protect surfaces such as the base under the counter.
–When mixing thin set, grout, or cutting with a wet saw, do it outside, or in a garage because of the dust. Also, wear

eye goggles and a dust mask.
–When cleaning out buckets or equipment, never pour it down the drain, even be careful about washing hands, because it

will clog the drain.
–Use silicone caulk for perimeter edges instead of grout. Put the quarter round in the wet caulk. Use finish nails to

securely install. The caulk will prevent water from running under edges of the tile.
–For cleaning, damp mop, or if the grout is dirty use a small amount of bleach and water.
–Re-seal the grout once a year. Porous stone may need to be re-sealed every six months.

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