Tile Work from a Novice Point of View

Having done extensive tile work on my home’s new sun room, I can now say that I know a thing or two about laying tile floors, specifically slate ones. I’m not an expert since this is my first ever tile work job, but I confidently provide some tips and tricks now that I know how to lay tile floor.


Tile Work: Which Tile to Work With

Slate is a very permeable stone. Most homeowners who choose to buy it over cheap tile flooring usually purchase slate ones that are sealed to avoid stone discoloration in case of spills. Most slate ones can be bought sealed and treated, but some variations still require to be coated with a sealant. Like paint, these sealants come in finishes that ranges from matte to high gloss. The choice is all up to the homeowner or designer. I used a water based sealant for this tile work to make cleaning up easier. Designers and manufacturers highly recommend that slate ones be coated with 3-4 layers of sealant. The more layers of sealant, the easier it is to clean. Slate with less sealant layers will absorb grout and cement, which would unfortunately take a long time to clean and result in some repair.

Remember the saying “Measure twice, cut once” when doing tile work for floors. Make a plumb line through the room’s center. Measure up to the center of each wall then draw a chalk line running in both directions and you’ll have your plumb line.

For this work, I chose 16×16 slate tiles. It’s a good idea to place the tiles starting from the center’s plumb line and work out to the edges of the entire room. This technique helped me see the floor designs so I can lay them out in the manner I want and aided me in double checking my measurements. I stacked tiles in several places for quick access during the floor installation. I used heavy duty, premixed cement especially designed for slate.

Tile Work – How to Lay Tile Floor

When doing a typical work, one tile is initially set at the center of the room. Since most rooms are not a perfect square, this technique pushes any imbalance in the tile’s shape to the corners making it less noticeable.

When I started laying floor, I spread a 3 feet square of cement on the concrete floor using a flooring trowel. I laid the first square against the plumb line and used spacers, which are essential when using slate or ceramic ones. Spacers are those tiny plastic plus signs found in different sizes at hardware stores. Lay down the next few tiles in a square pattern, all the while using spacers to ensure equal spacing. Use a level when using slate and ceramic tiles since they vary in thickness. Remember to lay down the squares in an outward direction when doing floor work. Let the cement dry for 1-2 days.

The next step in the work process is the application of grout. This comes in various colors and is easily mixed in small quantities just by adding water. When it’s ready, remove the spacers and apply the grout between tiles using a scraper. Let the grout set for a few hours before wiping it down. Warm water and a cloth or sponge are effective grout cleaners. It’s advisable to put another layer of sealant on the tiles once the grout is thoroughly dry to seal it.

To recap, you should prepare the following tools before embarking on your work – cementing trowel, chalk, level, spacers and a squeegee or sponge. Follow these easy steps for quick and hassle free tile work –

* Measure floor and draw your plumb lines.

* Set tiles on floor following the design you have in mind. Set tiles in stacks for easy access.

* Begin laying tiles starting from the center of the room, moving outward. Use spacers and level. Let dry for 1-2 days.

* Remove spacers and apply grout using a scraper or spatula. Let dry for 1-2 hours and clean the grout with warm water.

*Set for another 1-2 days and then reseal the floor.

Laying the floor can be exhausting, but it’s pretty rewarding once you’ve seen the finished product. Be thorough in your DIY tile floor preparations and follow these steps for easy work.

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