Porcelain Tile Installation

Flat Floor Essential for Porcelain Tile Installation.

A strong base is the key to a ceramic or porcelain tile installation that remains great looking and crack free.  A flat floor is essential.  The bane of ceramic and porcelain tile installation is that these products have great strength if a given tile has a solid, inflexible base under it. But if that same tile has space between it and the sub floor or the sub floor flexes, the tile can bend and break.

The issue of ceramic tiles breaking grows exponentially as the size of the tile gets bigger.

Small ceramic tiles can be very forgiving but large (18 to 20 square inch tiles) demand perfect installation conditions if you expect your new floor to remain crack-free.

 Porcelain Tile Installation – Floating the Floor.

Chris Boyer produced this porcelain tile installation using rectified tile.
Porcelain Tile – Shouldn’t all rooms welcome you?

The most important step in the tile installation process is to ensure the surface you are installing the tiles on is a flat plane. The floor does not need to be level, but it must be perfectly flat. Humps or depressions in the floor create hollows under tiles as you lay them. You must make the extra effort to create a flat floor by filling in all depressions with a floor leveling compound. This process is commonly called “floating the floor.”

Porcelain Tile Installation – Efflorescence.

A prudent first step before floating the floor is to check for efflorescence. Efflorescence is the movement of moisture upward through Portland cement and concrete slabs. The result of that moisture is a visible white powdery substance that is seen at times on the surface of grout joints. Generally, efflorescence can be cleaned off the tile and joints by a good washing with pH balanced cleaners.

In extreme cases, it can be cleaned with acid washing. Do not use any acids other than sulfuric or phosphoric. Use them according to the manufacturers instructions and remember that Portland cements are alkali based. Acid eats alkali. To check for the likelihood that efflorescence might be a problem, tape a small piece of plastic polyethylene film on the slab to be tiled and make sure the tape seals all of the edges. If water condensation appears under the plastic within a day or two, efflorescence will most likely occur. To avoid bonding and grouting problems a waterproofing membrane may be necessary.

Porcelain Tile Installation Grouting Process.

Once the tile has been installed and has dried properly, the grouting process can begin. But, allow tile to set firmly before grouting. Grouting tile too soon, before the setting material has set-up, can lead to problems. Uncured setting material may bleed through the joints and discolor the grout. Also, there is the risk of destroying the bond by shifting tiles, so allow as much time between setting and grouting as feasible. Two days is advisable, but as much as four days might add a level of assurance.

Bathroom Floor Tile Installation using tight set rectified tile with custom ceramic inlays
Rectified porcelain tile installation with multiple small custom inlays.

Prior to grouting, joints between tiles must be clean and free of excessive setting bed materials. Once the grout has been applied, begin cleanup immediately by sprinkling dry grout over a workable area. Using terry-cloth rags and a circular motion, rub dry grout into the fresh joints. Rub until the joints are uniform and the tiles are clean. A second, very light sprinkling of grout over the same given area, polished in the same manner, will give a perfect joint. This method increases joint hardness, removes excess water, and fills the joints, making them flush with the surface of the tiles. Proceed to the next area and continue grouting in the same manner. If grout film appears, wipe with a lightly dampened sponge, rinsing and wringing it often. Polish floor with a terry-cloth rag.

Damp curing is always recommended to improve the strength of the grout. Cover the finished installation with non-staining Kraft paper for three days or wipe the joints with a damp sponge or mop daily, after the initial 24 hours, for a period of three days.

Beautiful, long-lasting colored grout installations are the result of preparation. Check out Boyer Tile on Facebook for some examples.

Porcelain Tile Installation –  Floor Tile Installation.

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