Tile Installation 101: A DuPage County Homeowners Guide

Tile Installation
Tiles are truly one of the most beautiful materials homeowners can work with when remodeling. Available in a range of colors, materials, textures, shapes, and sizes, your tile installation choices can revolutionize the aesthetic of your home.

If you’re thinking of sprucing up your kitchen with a new backsplash or swapping out your old tile with something new, then you’ve come to the right place. This blog will describe a few common varieties of tile, explain the different types of grout, and show you how to approach a tile installation project by yourself.

However, if you’re not DIY inclined or pressed for time, we’ve also included a section outlining how the experts at Mr. Handyman of Wheaton-Hinsdale can help make your tiling dreams a reality.

What are the Different Types of Tile?

There are many different types of tile that DuPage homeowners and businesses can choose from when remodeling a kitchen, bathroom, basement, laundry room, or any other living/work area. Read on to discover more information about the different types of tiles our team can help you install.

Ceramic Tile Flooring

Commonly used in kitchens and bathrooms, ceramic tiles can work well in any part of the house. Ceramic tiles have a hard surface that’s easy to clean because it does not attract dust, dirt, or allergens. Since this tile variety is very durable and water-resistant, it is perfect for areas of your home that have lots of foot traffic, such as foyers, mudrooms, and bathrooms.

Porcelain Tile Flooring

Porcelain flooring is actually a kind of ceramic tile. The difference between the two materials is that porcelain tile is harder, stronger, and even more resistant to water than ceramic tile. Porcelain tiles are stronger than ceramic tiles because they are made with very fine clay that is fired at a very high temperature. While ceramic and porcelain tiles both come in a variety of sizes and colors, porcelain does tend to be more brittle than ceramic.

Slate Tile Flooring

Slate flooring is derived from a naturally beautiful and exceptionally strong stone. This material is very strong and doesn’t break, chip, or crack easily. However, the slate requires a little extra maintenance. It needs to be sealed regularly to prevent staining. When it comes to slate tile repair, often the best course of action is to replace an entire tile. Installing slate tiling gives your home a sleek and modern look. However, since it is quite a heavy stone, installation is best left to the professionals at Mr. Handyman of Wheaton Hinsdale.

Marble Tile Flooring

A smooth and cool stone that ranges in a variety of naturally created colors, marble is sourced from quarries all around the world. Marble exudes luxury and is a very beautiful, natural stone. However, marble is quite a soft stone—which is why it’s so often used in sculptures. The drawback of its malleability is that this stone can be chipped and scratched easily. This material is also very porous. If water is left too long on marble tile, it could discolor. Marble is best used in countertops or in areas of lower foot traffic.

Laminate Tile Flooring

While laminate flooring is not actually real tile, it can look almost identical to ceramic tiles. This material comes in two shapes: squares that emulate tile or planks that look like three or four tiles stacked in a row. Laminate flooring clicks together, whereas tiles require mortar to set, making it a relatively simpler material to install.

What are the Different Types of Grout?

Not all grouts were created equally, and each variety has its own pros and cons. Read on to learn the basic differences between the different kinds of grout, and when it's best to use them:

  • Unsanded grout: This grout is sand-free and very smooth. It’s used best when applied to vertical surfaces and should be used in joints that are less than 1/8” wide.
  • Finely sanded grout: This grout contains sand, making it thicker and more durable than unsanded grout. However, it can’t be used on fine joints. Sanded grout is best used when applied to floor tiles where the joints are 1/8” to 3/8” wide.
  • Quarry-type grout: Like finely sanded grout, quarry-type grout incorporates a coarser grade of sand. It is best used for joints that are 3/8” to 1/2” wide.
  • Epoxy grout: Made out of epoxy resin and hardener, epoxy grout is highly resistant to stains and chemicals. It is also very strong, making it the ideal grout for countertops, backsplashes, and other areas that are stained easily.

DIY Tile Installation

If you’re keen on a home renovation project and want to try your hand at tile installation, continue reading to discover our step-by-step process for the DIY’er.

1. Collect Your Tools and Materials

Before you begin your tile installation project, be sure you have ready access to the following tools:

  • A level
  • Safety goggles
  • Rubber gloves
  • Knee pads
  • Line chalk
  • Chisel
  • Drill with bits
  • Floor scraper
  • Sponge
  • Cleaning cloths
  • Buckets
  • Rubber grout float
  • Tape measure
  • Hammer
  • Notched trowel or spreader
  • Tile cutter or tile saw
  • Plastic tarp
  • Safety mask
  • Rubber mallet
  • Level

You’ll also want to be sure you have all your materials gathered, including:

  • Tile membrane
  • Backer board
  • Spacers
  • Tile
  • Grout
  • Tile adhesive
  • Silicone caulk
  • Silicone grout sealer

2. Prepare for Installing Tile

It’s very important that you have adequately prepared your subfloor before beginning your tilling project. Complete the following steps to prepare your subfloor:

  1. Remove furniture, toilets, and vanities. Be sure to take anything that might get in your way—and is safely removable—out of the room you are tiling.
  2. Prepare the room. Use a plastic tarp to block off open doorways and windows. Wear safety goggles and a mask at all times to protect yourself against dust.
  3. Break up a section of old tile. Start by using your hammer and chisel to break up a section of the old tile flooring. After you remove one tile, it will be easier to use the chisel to get under additional tiles. You can also use your drill to loosen the old tile by drilling a few holes into it.
  4. Remove any remaining thinset. After you have removed all the tiles, use a floor scraper to get rid of any remaining thinset.
  5. Look at the subfloor type. Is your subfloor wood, concrete, or an old mortar bed?
  6. Make necessary repairs to your subfloor. Depending on your subfloor type, you will have to make different types of repairs. It’s important the subfloor is in good condition. It should be even, thick, dry, and level. Cracks and dents in concrete and mortar floors may need to be patched with concrete or mortar respectively. Wood subfloors may need planks replaced.
  7. Install the tile membrane. Roll the membrane along the floor and cut it to shape at the wall. Be sure to mark where the membrane goes on the floor.
  8. Mix the thinset mortar. Mix your mortar according to the package instructions
  9. Spread the mortar on the subfloor. Use the flat side of a tile trowel to spread the mortar. Then, comb over the wet mortar with the notched side. Comb in one direction.
  10. Carefully roll the membrane onto the floor. Making sure the bottom of the membrane is face-down, roll it over the mortar. Press into the mortar using a wood float. You can check to see if the mortar is sticking to the membrane by carefully lifting a corner.
  11. Mark the floor where the tile should go. First, it’s very important that you find the center of the room. Do this by finding the middle of two opposite walls and drawing a line between them with the chalk. Repeat with the other opposing walls.
  12. Lay the tile down loosely. Using spacers, lay the tile down. Leave a ¼-inch gap around the perimeter to allow for expansion.

3. Prepare and Lay Thinset Mortar

After laying down your tile membrane, you’ll have to put down a second layer of mortar on top of it. This will hold the tiles in place.

  1. Mix the mortar. Prepare the mortar by mixing according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  2. Spread the mortar. Spread the mortar out with the flat side of a trowel. Start in the center of the room. You should have marked this earlier when preparing the subfloor. Do not obscure the reference lines. Work in 3-foot by 3-foot sections.
  3. Comb the mortar. Use the notched side of the trowel. Hold it at a 45-degree angle and comb in one direction.
  4. Clean the trowel. Remove excess grout and place the trowel in your bucket.

4. Install the Tiles

Once you’ve prepared your subfloor and added your top layer of mortar, you’re ready to lay your tiles!

  1. Lay the first tile. Put this tile at the crossing of your reference lines. Gently press into the mortar.
  2. Add tile spacers. Place tile spacers along the corners of the first tile.
  3. Repeat. Continue laying tile—working from the center point out—and adding spacers as you go.
  4. Level the tile. Once you’ve completed a three-foot by three-foot section, level out the tile by hammering it gently with a rubber mallet. Use a level to ensure the tile is straight.
  5. Clean as you go. Remove any excess mortar with a damp sponge.
  6. Repeat laying thinset mortar. Continue spreading thinset and laying tile in a three-foot by three-foot workspace. Ensure you use spacers and level the tiles before moving on to the next section.
  7. Cut tile as needed. As you near the edges of the room or have to navigate around cupboards and doorways, you may have to use your tile cutter to create smaller tiles to fit the remaining spaces. Be sure to use a tile edging strip along the carpet, wood flooring, and entryways.
  8. Let the tile dry. Allow the thinset mortar to dry for at least 24 hours. Remember to keep a ¼-inch gap between the wall and the tile to allow for expansion.

5. Apply the Grout

Once your tiles have been laid and dried, you’ll need to apply grout as the final step in your tile installation process.

  1. Remove tile spacers. Be sure you do not leave the tile spacers in place when applying your grout.
  2. Prepare the grout. Mix your grout according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  3. Apply the grout. Use a rubber grout float to apply the grout to the tile joints. Remove as much excess as possible.
  4. Let it dry. Allow the grout to dry for 20 minutes or as recommended by the manufacturer.
  5. Clean away the excess. Using a sponge with water, wipe away any excess grout with a circular motion. If needed, follow up with a grout haze remover to clean any remaining grout from the tiles.
  6. Let the grout set. Allow for at least 72 hours for the grout to dry.
  7. Seal the grout. After around three weeks—you want to be sure the grout is completely cured—seal the grout. Use a grout sealer and follow the manufacturer's instructions.

Our Tile Installation Services

We hope our step-by-step, DIY guide helps those of you who are keen on home remodeling projects try tile installation for yourself. However, if you prefer this task be handled by the professionals at Mr. Handyman of Wheaton-Hinsdale, we are more than happy to help.

Tile installation can be a tricky process if you’re not well-practiced at completing home renovation projects on your own. Preparing the subfloor is a particularly important part of the process as correct preparation is key in preventing water damage and ensuring a long-lasting floor. This step is often overlooked by DIYers, but our expert team always ensures we have the necessary materials to correctly prepare the subfloor.

Additionally, we will be sure to bring all the tools we need to lay out your tiles in an even and straight manner. If you’re working with a heavy tile-like slate, we can ensure your floor has the necessary reinforcements for proper installation.

Once we have carefully laid your tile, we will also fill the grout lines. Since grout requires a few weeks to fully cure, we will come back and apply the grout sealant at that time.

Hire a Mr. Handyman of Wheaton-Hinsdale Technician Today!

Are you ready to get started on your tile installation project with the help of the professionals at Mr. Handyman of Wheaton-Hinsdale? We invite you to give us a call today or to request a service online. We look forward to your call and want to make your tiling dreams a reality!