Condo Blues: 11 Floor Tiling Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Sunday, February 16, 2020

11 Floor Tiling Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Tiling a floor is a pretty easy DIY job.

It is also a DIY job that is easy to mess up if you don’t follow a few precautions first. You really don’t want to put in all of the work of tiling a floor only for the tiles to eventually come loose or crack after the job is done.

how to tile a bathroom floor
Save these handy floor tile tips to your Pinterest boards for later! Share them with your friends!

1. Not adding an extra 10% of tile to your tile order – Depending upon the design, you may need extra to match up the pattern in the room. It is also good to have extra tile on hand just in case you cut one incorrectly or worse drop one and break it.

2. Not preparing your floor with the correct underlayment - Flooring underlayment is the layer of material that sits in between the subfloor and the flooring material. As tempting as it may be to skip the underlayment – don’t. The underlayment layer is what keeps your floor tile from shifting and cracking over time. The success or failure of your floor tiling project depends upon how well you prepare the surface for the tile itself. The more care and consideration you take when installing the tile underlayment, the better.

You have two choices for tile underlayment:
  • Cement backer board which is also called cement board (learn more about cement backerboard here) which requires cement backer board screws and can be tricky to cut correctly if you are tiling a small room with a lot of fixtures like a bathroom.
  • Waterproof floor uncoupling mat underlayment which is a lightweight honeycomb polymer mat that uses thin set to attach to the subfloor and can be easily cut with a utility knife or scissors while you are doing your dry fit. Uncoupling mat underlayment is moisture resistant which makes it perfect for bathrooms. This is what I used and it is absolutely worth the extra money and I’m never ever going back to using cement backer board again. There are two major brands: Dural Durabase (learn more here) and Schluter Ditra (learn more about it here.) For this project I am using Schluter Ditra because that is what I could order online and pick it up at Home Depot along with the bathroom vanity. (Disclosure: I am including affiliate links in this post for your convenience.)

2. Not taping underlayment seams in high moisture rooms, such as a bathroom – If there is even a tiny sliver of an unprotected seam in your underlayment or tile, water will find its way into it and over time wreak havoc on your floor or room.

As you can see from the underlayment dry fit below, there will be seams around the plumbing fixtures and pieces of underlayment which will still be there when I attach the mat underlayment to the subfloor with thinset mortar.

For mat underlayment like mine you can easily use thinset mortar to apply Kerdi-Band Waterproofing Strip (learn about it here) over the seams like taping the top of a cardboard box shut to keep water from potentially leaking through the seams before, during or after the tile is installed.

floor tilining mistakes and how to avoid themNo matter what type of underlayment you use, I suggest you wear construction kneepads like these because you will be spending all of the tile floor prep, tiling, and sealing on your knees which is killer – ow! Also if you plan to cut cement backer board and tile, you should were a respirator (it looks like this) to protect your lungs from the dust.

3. Using the wrong kind of thin set mortar adhesive for the type of tile you are using. For example, glass tile, natural tone tile,  and porcelain tile use different types of adhesives that will effect the outcome of your project poorly if you try to interchange them. This is easily solved by carefully reading the package for the type of tile you will use for your project. In this case, I am using a porcelain tile that is printed and textured to look like natural slate tile. That means I used this exact porcelain tile thin set mortar to adhere it to the mat underlayment.

4.  Not doing a dry fit from the center of the room of your floor tile – while it is usually easier to start at the end of a room and work your way out of the door, chances are you want a full row of tiles when you enter the room and any half cut tiles in the back of the room possibly under cabinets and moldings. That’s why you should layout a row in the center of the room and a row of tile from the center row of the room to the front of the room and to the back of the room to get an idea how to plan your cuts if needed, match patterns, or order more tile if you miscalculated when you bought it.

Tip: At this point in the project, it is usually a good idea to shuffle and mix the floor tiles up from their boxes just in case there are variations in color or pattern as the case with stone tile.

5.  Using the wrong tools to cut tile – The type of tile cutting tool you will need to use will depend upon the size and type of tile. If you are using small mosaic tile you might be able to use a tile nipper (it looks like this) (if nothing else a tile nipper is handy to have if you need to make small cuts in your tile to go around plumbing and such.)  If you are using thin small format tiles you may be able to use a manual tile cutter (it looks like this.) If you are using thick, natural stone, or large format tiles you will most likely need to use a wet tile saw with a diamond blade like this one.

floor tiling mistakes and how to avoid them
I had to rent a wet saw to cut my textured large format tile and didn’t lose a body part in the process. Go me!

6 Mixing your thinset mortar adhesive and tile grout too thick or too thin – Both should have the consistency of peanut butter. I took the guesswork of trying to mix my tile mortar too thick or too thin by buying premixed ceramic thin set tile mortar here. I mixed the tile grout from powder because I had it leftover from another project otherwise I would have gone the premixed route for that too.

7. Not using tile spacers to keep the spaces in-between your tiles and what will eventually become the grout lines even.

8. Using the wrong notch size trowel for the size of the tile and not applying an even coat of thinset tile mortar. Use the small notch side of the trowel when you are using small format tiles like the photo below. Use the large notch side of the trowel when you are working with large format tiles (which is what I used for my large bathroom tile.) This will also help you spread and then notch and even coat of thinset on your surface. If your thinset is uneven, the floor tile may eventually crack with use.

how to use a grout trowel
I usually favor reusable over disposable options with the exception of wearing these disposable work gloves during the messy tiling and grouting parts of a tiling project.
If I didn’t I’d probably still be trying to get my hands clean from all of the yuck I have to handle during the project.

9. Grouting the tile too soon after it is laid – It’s best to wait as least 24 hours from the time you’ve laid your tile to the time you grout it to let the adhesive set otherwise the tiles can shift and/or crack. Chances are you’ll be tired after tiling so kick back with an ice cold beverage and think about the fantastic tile you just laid.

Or you can pass out from exhaustion aftward. Your choice.

10. Using the wrong type of grout for your tile – If the area in between your floor tiles is less than 1/8 inch wide use unsanded grout. If the area in between your floor tiles is larger than 1/8 inches wide you need to use sanded grout. If you are using glass tile, you will need to use glass tile groutNo matter which type of grout your tile requires, you should wait 24 hours for it to dry before sealing it.

Aren’t you glad you used those tile spacers to keep your grout lines nice and even?

11. Not sealing your grout – Even when dry, tile grout is still a bit porous and can absorb water because it is made from a mixture of sand and cement. This is why grout may mold or mildew.

Applying grout sealer to the grout lines in your tile project is easy to do and helps prevent the grout from absorbing moisture and bacteria. You can buy grout sealer in a grout line sized squeeze bottle like this, apply it to the tile grout lines and wait until the sealer dries. Simple! And something that should be reapplied every two years or so. You really don’t want to ruin all of that hard work, do you?

how to lay a big large format  tile floor
The finished bathroom tile floor! The grout sealer is dry and as you can see from the photo, I started installing the new floor and door molding.

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Unique creations by Anita said...

Some really great advice here, thank you for sharing what you have learnt.

Marie-Interior Frugalista said...

Great tips in here! We are guilty of the loose and cracked tiles and about to do a second makeover of our bathroom. Thanks for the terrific tips, they couldn't have been more timely! Pinned

Michelle said...

We are getting ready to put tile in our bathroom so I came across this post at exactly the right time! Thank you so much for these tips!

Teresa B said...

Thank you for sharing these tips at The Really Crafty Link Party!

Donna Reidland said...

Very helpful tips!

Joanne said...

Great tips!! I really wish we had reapplied grout sealer every few years as our grout has discolored over time and I am not looking forward to ever having to re-do the job.

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