Over the years, new methods and materials have been introduced, but tile setting remains the same hand-operated, labour-intensive process that it has been since ancient times. That process begins with the preparation of the tile foundation, or what’s called the substrate. Common materials used as tile substrates in home installations include concrete, plywood, and drywall. Each substrate has its own unique set of issues, yours included, and is prepared according to industry and manufacturer guidelines. So you can rest assured it’s done to recognized standards. The first step in your ceramic tile installation involves the cleaning of the substrate. Dirt, moisture, and oil can interfere with the adhesion of the tile, so care is taken to remove all foreign debris prior to beginning.
Next the installers will level the surface of the substrate. Why is this step necessary? It’s to provide a strong support base for the tile, and to ensure that the individual tiles will appear flat when installed. Flat, obviously, is the goal. If the substrate is not level or flat, the result could be tiles not being set correctly that can cause chipping or cracking when weight is applied. Once the substrate has been leveled it may have a waterproofing layer applied to it. This is important in installations where the tile is frequently exposed to moisture, like kitchens, bathrooms, and exteriors.
In the past, ceramic tile was installed using what is called the thickset or mud set method. In this method, a thick layer of mortar was applied to a waterproofed and steel reinforced substrate. This provided a strong, flat base onto which the tile was installed. The thickset method is effective, but it’s an involved and labour-intensive process. An alternative method was searched for – and found.
Today, many tile installers have opted for the industry accepted and more efficient thin set method, where the tile is adhered directly onto a backer board that is nailed to a plywood or concrete substrate using a much thinner layer of mortar. This backer board is called a CBU, or cement backer unit, which provides a supportive and water resistant layer between the porous substrate and the mortar and tile applied on top of it.
Once the substrate has been prepared, the next step is to create a layout plan. This plan shows the dimensions of each room, and will help determine the amount of ceramic tile and other materials needed for the installation. The installer will use this plan to estimate the amount of product needed, and to anticipate any installation issues that may be caused by architectural features like stairs, transitions, and cabinets. The installers will also use the layout plan to determine the pattern and orientation of the installed tile.
A chalk line is commonly used to lay down a guide for the installer to work from. This leaves a temporary line that can be used as a straight guide.
Next, a single row or column of tile is laid directly on the substrate without adhesive. This step gives the installers a better sense of how the tile will fit into the room. Another row or column is then added perpendicular to the first, forming the shape of a ‘T’, giving the installer a starting point for their tile setting. Once the installer has determined the correct layout, the next step is to apply the adhesive mortar to the substrate.
Once the tiled floor has been set into place and left to fully cure, usually 12 to 24 hours, the grout is applied. Grout is available in a wide range of colours, and in sanded and unsanded forms. Sanded grout is commonly used for grout joints that are wider than 1/8th of an inch. This type of grout joint is typically used with floor tile because it helps strengthen tile joint and it will not sag after it is cured. Unsanded grout is used with narrow grout joints typically found with wall tile and many natural stone installations.
So, you may be wondering, how long before I can walk on my new floor? The mortar and grout need 24 hours to cure before walking on the tile. This ensures that the tiles won’t shift or become loose before the adhesive thinset mortar and grout have a chance to set.
In some installations the tile may be mopped daily for several days to prevent the grout from cracking, pulling moisture from the underlying mortar, or curing unevenly. And that is how your new ceramic floor would be professionally installed.
Furniture is first on your to-do list
Remove all furniture and other objects and materials from the areas where the installation will take place. Some installers will move your furniture, but there may be an additional charge for doing so. Before moving, you’ll also need to empty the contents of china cabinets, closets and the like. Be aware that the area of installation must be climate controlled (heated or air conditioned). Indoor humidity should be maintained between 45-65%.Make a decision on your old floor covering
Please consider how your old floor covering will be taken up and disposed of. We recommend that you check with us about the cost and the method of disposal. If you prefer to remove your present floor covering, do it at least one day prior to installation to allow for cleanup and floor preparation. If removing old carpet, please leave tack strips in place and pull the staples out of the floor from the original pad.Now turn your attention to the trim
In many cases, moldings and baseboards need to be removed for installation. Your installer may do this but at an additional charge and they will probably not be responsible for damage or breakage due to dry or brittle wood. Painted baseboards, woodwork and paint may need retouching after the installation is complete. If necessary, this is your responsibility.Next on the list is the subflooring
Your existing subfloor may need to be prepared to receive the ceramic, or a new subfloor may be required. We suggest you discuss this with us and, if subfloor work is necessary, that it be done by qualified professionals. It is important that the subfloor be as clean and level as possible.Know this about your doors
When your new floor is installed, there’s always the possibility that the doors, especially closet, basement and bedroom doors, may not clear the new floor and swing free. Some installers will remove doors in order to install the new floor and re-hang them if possible. They probably won’t shave or cut down doors to insure clearance. You should check with us as to their policy and the cost. You may need to arrange for a qualified carpenter to provide this service after the installation of your new floor.Check up on the clean-up
Installing new ceramic will produce waste. Usually these materials are collected by your installer and left at your trash collection site. Check with us before the day of installation so you’re clear about the clean-up, if there are added costs to do so, and ask about the plan for remnants.