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Installing ceramic tile on your floors or walls is a simple process, as long as you have a good work area and are patient. If you have a level floor, or square wall to work with, the average do it yourselfer should be able to set their own tile. The process has been made much simpler by the advent of specialized tools and materials for the job, however if you have many intricate cuts, or a bowed or warped floor, you may want to leave this job to a professional.

Before you begin you should get an idea for what you want to do. Do you want simple 12-inch tiles across the entire floor, or maybe 6-inch? Hand painted? The wonderful thing about tile is that you can make your floor or wall look custom without a huge outlay of money. Regular square tiles are usually less than a dollar apiece. Hand painted tiles are a bit pricier, but by using them as decorative accents, you can still come out cheaper than many other flooring styles. Sketch out your floor plan and then envision what it would look like several different ways. If you have a very small room, such as a half bath, you may want 12” x 6” rectangular tile; you will be surprised at how that look opens the room up. Want a different look for our kitchen back splash? The 1” mosaic tile may be just the ticket. Just when you think you have thought of all the possibilities you should realize that most tile is available in a variety of shapes, should you choose square, rectangle, or octagonal? This is the fun part, take your time and sketch out various patterns before making your decision.

Once you have decided what you want you will need to get your supplies. Measure the room carefully, and figure out how many tiles you will need. If you are using 12-inch tiles, this should be easy enough, however if you are using different sizes or shapes you will have to do a little math. There are a variety of calculators on the Internet that can calculate this. Perform a search for “construction calculators” and go from there. You can also talk to your sales clerk at your local home improvement store. He will also be able to figure the amount of tiles you will need. You should plan on getting 5% to 10% more than you will need, to allow for breakage, waste when matching, etc. Most home stores will allow you to return unused tiles once your project is complete. Once you have picked out your tiles, talk to your local home improvement sales clerk about the recommended type of adhesive for your tiles. You will also need a trowel to spread the adhesive on, and some snips to cut your tiles.

To prepare the surface, make sure that it is clean, wipe it with a damp cloth and allow to dry if it is a new structure (bare wood, concrete, etc.). If you are laying the tile over existing floor, you may want to throw some TSP into the water. This is available at any hardware store, and really cuts through all types of buildup.

Once the area is clean, lay out the tiles, leaving the spaces between them, just as you will when you glue them down. This enables you to see where your tiles will break. It is much better to break the tiles with several inches showing than have to cut it down to an inch or less. This may mean breaking tiles at both walls rather than having one long run, with the last tile only an inch or so wide. This is a more pleasing picture, and will be less likely to crack later. Once you have the floor laid out, look it over thoroughly, is this what you want, is it even? If so it is time to “mud in” the floor. This is the expression for gluing the floor down. Work carefully, starting at the furthest corner and working toward the door. After you are done you can take a break while allowing the tiles to set. Once that is done you need to apply the grout. You can choose from an almost endless supply of grout colors, to compliment or contrast with your tile. This is another job that, while simple, is better to take your time and exercise patience. You are really done at that point, however if your tile is in a traffic area, you may want to seal it to make it easier to clean.