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Lay a Ceramic Tile Floor

Choose Your Method

Building Smarts

Pro tilers mark tile layouts with chalklines. But the rest of us notice that chalklines disappear as soon as we lay down mortar. To tile as straight as the pros, use a straight 1 × 4 guide board that's as long as your starting line.

  1. Screw the guide board to the floor along the starting line, as shown in the diagram for Method A or B.

  2. Start laying tile against the board.

  3. When tiles on one side of the board are set (resistant to moving), unscrew and remove the board, without disturbing tiles. Lay the other side.

In Method A, you start on a center line. Place a joint along the center of the longer dimension of the room. Measure outward and calculate the width of the last row of tiles at the walls. If you will have pieces narrower than 2" or 3" (which are hard to lay but easy to damage), try Method B.

In Method B, you start parallel to a straight wall. Lay the first row along the longest straight wall, and let the chips (in this case, the smaller tiles) fall where they may.

Plastic spacers are a good way to keep the layout honest, both while testing fit and while laying. You're supposed to place the spacers flat on the floor, at the corners, but they're easier to place and remove in the standing position.

Here's a related cheat: Screw straight scraps of wood where tile meets carpet. Snug the tile against the wood to make a straight outside edge.

These methods for choosing where to begin laying out your tile will also be helpful should you decide to install wood strip or laminate flooring.

Cutting the Tile

Dave's Don'ts

Keep your fingers away from that wet saw's blade—it's sharp enough to cut stone!

I've already described how to choose a cutting technique. You can break most ceramic tiles with a tile breaker, which scores the tile and then presses it down across the score line. We rented a wet saw—which uses water to cool a diamond blade, because it's easier to use and can trim hairline amounts from the edge of tiles. Try to place cut edges toward the walls, because they will be either sharp (from a saw) or rough (from a tile breaker).


Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Simple Home Improvements © 2004 by David J. Tenenbaum. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon's web site or call 1-800-253-6476.

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