Floor tiling from mortar to grout

Floor tiling from mortar to grout

Tiling a floor is a very rewarding endeavour. Once your floor has been properly prepared, it's time to start tiling.

READ MORE: How to prepare your floor for tile

Trowels and mortar

Make sure you choose mortar that works with your tile type, size, colour and installation type. Choose a white mortar if your tile is translucent or lighter in colour so it won't change the tile’s appearance. We selected 12 by 24 inch medium-coloured porcelain tile, so we used a white mortar designed for large-format tile.

Mix your mortar until it reaches a peanut butter consistency. Only mix the amount you'll be able to lay within the working time of the mortar so it won't dry out. After mixing the mortar, wait a few minutes, then re-mix before starting to trowel the mortar on.

Your trowel’s size should be based on the size of your tiles. We used a half-inch by half-inch trowel for our tiles.

Apply the mortar to the subfloor so there are straight half-inch deep ridges. Hold the trowel at a 45 degree angle while working the mortar and trowel in the same direction to avoid air pockets, which can cause adhesion problems. The mortar should hold its shape but be sticky enough to bond to the tile.

Lightly applying a thin coat of mortar to the back of your tile, or back buttering the tile, will also help the bond—think of it as applying peanut butter to both pieces of bread rather than just one.

Lay your tile onto the mortar while adding pressure to the tile’s surface. Move the tile from side to side to collapse the mortar ridges and to ensure the tile fully connects with the mortar.

Place a level on your tile in both directions and use space clips and wedges to ensure the tile is level and to create consistent gaps between tiles for your grout.

Lift a tile now and then to see if you have the correct bond—the mortar ridges should be collapsed and the tile and the substrate should have complete mortar coverage.

As you're laying tiles into the mortar, remove any mortar that seeps into the grout lines or out of the spaces. If you don't remove the mortar at this stage, it will dry and be very challenging to remove before the grout can be applied.

Cutting your tile

Different types of cuts are required for different situations. Consider wall edges, duct openings, water lines, toilet flanges and corners.

Having the right cutting tools will get the job done well. Cutting straight lines is done best with a wet saw. To cut out small circles for water lines, you can purchase tile hole saws. An angle grinder with a diamond four-inch blade is the best tool for cutting tiles for around toilet flanges or finishing the inside corner of any L cuts.

Once you are done laying your tile, give the room time to cure based on the mortar manufacturer’s directions. Before you start to grout, remove space clips and wedges. Clean any mortar from the grout lines and wash the floor with a damp sponge.

Go with your grout

Once the floor is clean and dry, you're ready to start grouting. The grout should be easy to spread, but not runny. Start in the back corner, working your way out of the room. Apply the grout with a float—a trowel-like tool with a rubber pad to press the grout into the seams—held at a 45-degree angle. It's important that you fill the seams up with grout instead of only having a thin layer on the surface, so take your time working it in all directions. Use the float to remove any excess.

Shape your grout lines when the grout is stiff but not hard. It's ready when nothing is transferred to your finger when touching the grout. Using a clean damp sponge and medium pressure, wipe the tile surface to remove excess grout and shape the grout lines as you wipe. The grout lines should be full and even, so add grout when required.

Start your second wipe down when the grout is firm, as there will still be a haze on the tile. Use fresh water and ensure that the sponge is clean but only damp for every wipe. After the grout is completely dry, your floor will need a final wipe to remove the remaining grout haze.

Tiling and grouting a floor takes preparation and a bit of elbow grease. If done right, your floor will last a lifetime!

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