Setting the tile

LAYING OUT THE TILES. Test-fit the tiles along the layout lines as shown above. The object is to make the most use of whole tiles and to cut as few as possible. Shift the layout lines as necessary to get maximum use of the tiles. Once you're satisfied with the look of the layout, you can begin installing the floor. Keep the mortar sticky. If the mortar doesn’t stick to your fingers it won’t stick to the tile. If the mortar on the tile is too dry, scrape it off and reapply.

1 MIX THINSET MORTAR WITH A PADDLE designed for mortar, not paint. Make sure the drill has enough power for the job, and mix at slow speed. Mix only what you can use before it hardens. Start by mixing enough to fill a 3 1/2-quart bucket, then adjust the amount as you become more experienced.

2 SPREAD ADHESIVE. Press the mortar into the backerboard with the trowel at a shallow angle in order to make it fully adhere to the backerboard.

3 COMB THE ADHESIVE OUT INTO STRAIGHT LINES, HOLDING THE TROWEL AT A 45-DEGREE ANGLE to the floor and pushing the trowel teeth to the floor. Set the first tile in place, pressing it firmly into the mortar.

4 LIFT THE FIRST TILE AND CHECK THE MORTAR ON ITS BACK. Parallel rows show the bed isn't thick enough. Dry areas mean the mortar needs to be scraped and reapplied.

5 SET REMAINING TILES BY BUTTING EDGE AGAINST EDGE, hinging down, twisting slightly back and forth, placing spacers, and sliding into the final position.

6 PLACE SPACERS ON END SO YOU CAN REMOVE THEM EASILY. Although this requires more spacers, you can reuse them in another part of the project.

PROPER USE OF SPACERS - Spacers may be used flat, requiring only one per four-way intersection. However, removal requires use of a special tool and risks disturbing the set tile. It is better to place four spacers on end, as shown. Placed on end, the spacers are easily removed before grouting, allowing for a better grout seal.

Marking special cuts

GAPS AT WALLS. Place the tile to be cut on the last tile set. Place a marker tile on top, against a spacer tile at the wall. Trace the edge of the marker tile onto the tile to be cut. OUTSIDE CORNERS. Mark the first cutting line as above. To mark the second cut, mark the corner on the marker tile, allowing a 1/4-inch gap.

AROUND PIPES. MARK THE WIDTH OF THE NOTCH ON THE EDGE OF THE TILE, with the tile to be notched lined up with the tile beneath and butted against the pipe. MEASURE THE DEPTH OF THE NOTCH with a tape measure butted against a 1/4-inch spacer held against the wall.

OTHER CONTOURS. Mark the outline of the cut on heavy paper stock or cardboard. Cut it out with scissors or a utility knife. TRACE THE OUTLINE BY APPLYING MASKING TAPE TO THE EDGE OF THE TILE. Mark the outline with a grease pencil. Cut with a saw or nippers.

Cutting tile

USING A TILE CUTTER. Align the cutting wheel, raise the pressing bar, and then pull the wheel toward you with moderate pressure. Pull several times. Lift the cutting wheel, lower the pressing tee, and strike the handle to snap the tile.

USING A TILE CUTTING SAW. Adjust the fence (guide) so the cut mark lines up with the blade. Hold the tile with both hands; wear safety glasses. Advance the tile into the blade, guided by the fence. Avoid chipping the tile by cutting slowly.

Do not damp cure tinted grout. Damp curing can dissolve the tint and leave an inconsistent color.

CURVED CUTS WITH A NIPPER. Start at one end of the cut line, using one-quarter of the jaw to make the bite. Work from both ends toward the middle, taking small bits. HOLE CUTS. Mark the center of the hole on the tile. Break through the glaze with a center punch to keep the drill bit from wandering. Clamp the tile firmly to a table or workbench. Drill slowly and lightly to avoid breaking the tile.

Grouting tile

1 MIX THE GROUT PERTHE MANUFACTURER’S INSTRUCTIONS. Spread grout in sweeping arcs with a rubber grout float held at a shallow angle. Press the grout into the joints, filling them completely. For joints wider than 3/8 inch, use a grout bag. REMOVE THE EXCESS with the grout float held at a steep angle. Sweep the float diagonally across the tiles to avoid dipping into the joints.

2 WIPE THE TILES WITH A DAMP SPONGE (wring dripless) to remove grout residue. If the residue resists, use a scrub pad, but avoid scrubbing the joints. REMOVE THE HAZE immediately; do not take a break. First wipe the haze with a damp cloth, then buff the tiles with a clean, dry cloth.

3 DAMP CURE THE GROUT by misting it twice a day for three days. Do not damp cure tinted grout, it will discolor. When grout is thoroughly dry, APPLY TILE AND GROUT CLEANER with a sponge, then scrub the surface with a stiff brush. Rinse thoroughly and let the floor dry before applying the penetrating sealer.

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