Tiling a Kitchen Floor

Tiling a kitchen floor can be a major disruption to any household. This project may affect access to food, meal preparation, and upset traffic patterns through the kitchen. Some preparation can be done well in advance of the tiling; some cabinets can be removed, new subflooring applied, and doors removed. For the tiling itself, set aside a long weekend so that the kitchen can be back in operation as quickly as possible.

Tools: Screwdriver, hammer, pry bar, and putty knife.

1. Assess the cabinets. As a general rule, there is no need to install tile where it will be covered by cabinet bases or other permanent fixtures. Instead, use a thin pry bar and stiff putty knife to remove the toe kick and any molding along the floor. Set tile up to the cabinet. After all the tile is installed and grouted, trim the upper edge of toe kick to fit and reinstall it and the molding

Knee Pads - Tiling floors is hard on your knees. In addition to the stress of kneeling much of the time, your knees are vulnerable to injury from tools and pieces of material left around the work area. That’s why contractors who spend a lot of time working at floor level consider knee pads essential. For occasional use on wood or tile floors, nonmarring foam, rubber, or rubber-capped pads are a good choice. (You’ll find these useful for gardening as well.) For heavy-duty protection, but less comfort, buy the skateboarder-type knee pads that have a hard nylon shield on the front.

2. Remove cabinets where needed. Sometimes cabinets must be removed to take out the old flooring or to replace the subfloor. Remove fasteners holding the countertop in place, and the screws that join cabinets to each other and to the wall. In addition, remove overlapping pieces of toe kick and other molding.

3. Consider the appliances. One of the issues you will have to address is whether or not to tile beneath appliances. Think of how your kitchen floor would look if your home were empty and up for sale. Untiled spaces where appliances usually sit would be unattractive to potential buyers. Freestanding appliances, such as refrigerators, ranges, and dishwashers, should be removed from the kitchen to install tile underneath the appliance location. It is also best to tile beneath built-in appliances, although the work can be trickier. Often, when you tile beneath a built-in dishwasher, for example, you raise the floor level such that the dishwasher will no longer fit under the countertop. You can raise or notch out the countertop a bit to accommodate the appliance. Adjustments may also have to be made in the plumbing connections.

4. Lay out the job. At the center of the floor, mark perpendicular reference lines with a pencil or chalk line. (In odd-shape rooms you may want to center the layout on the most visible section of the floor rather than in the center of the room.) Check to make sure that the lines are square. Using appropriate spacers if needed with your tile, dry set tiles along the reference lines to check the layout. Adjust the layout to minimize the number of cut tiles and to avoid creating any extremely small pieces.

5. Set the tiles. Begin at the intersecting reference lines and spread thin-set mortar over a small area. Do not cover the lines. Set properly spaced tiles. Use a beating block after setting each section of tiles. Check alignment as you go.

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