By Polly Keary, Editor
Few do-it-yourself projects are as suitable for novices, and as rewarding, as adding tile to floors or kitchen areas.
Replacing linoleum in an entryway with terra cotta tile or adding a glass and ceramic backsplash to your kitchen can add value to your home and pleasure to your life.
And with a little advice from Judy Haight, co-owner of Haight Carpet in Monroe, you can start with confidence.
“Tiling a floor is not that complicated,” she said. “It’s a good place to start.”
First you’ll need to decide what area to tile, then remove all the existing flooring from that area. Then you will lay down backer board, a stiff board that won’t buckle, as buckling destroys tile floors.
“The most important step that a lot of people don’t think about is that you need to draw and lay out your pattern first,” said Haight. “That’s critical. You do not want to skip it. You need to draw it and then dry-lay it out.”
One thing to avoid is having cut tiles in the doorway.
But you will more than likely have to cut some tiles. Unless you are only cutting a few, in which case you can use a scorer to score the tile, then break it off, you can rent a tile saw at large home improvement stores. The saw uses a water jet to cut the tile, and it can be used to cut the backer board, too.
Once your backer board is down and you’ve laid out the tile and figured out the pattern, it’s time to put the adhesive thin set down.
It is available pre-mixed, but to save money you can mix your own.
Make sure the tile you buy is floor tile; you can use floor tile on counters but not the other way around. As you lay the tiles down, separate them with spacers, which will be available where tile is sold.
“Spacers are a nice cross-shaped item that keeps your tiles evenly spaced,” said Haight. “A trick that professionals use is, don’t push the spacers into the mortar, but just rest them lightly on it so you have a easier time getting them out later.”
Once the tile is all laid, give it about 48 hours to cure. Then it’s time to pour grout.
There are all kinds and colors of grout. You can buy grout pre-mixed or mix it yourself to the consistency of thick pancake batter. Pull out all the spacers and carefully pour the grout between the tiles.
“You spread your grout in with a little tool, and try not to get it all over the place,” said Haight. “Then you let that dry up to 48 hours, or whatever the manufacturer says, and then you clean everything off. Then you seal it.”
Sealing is important because grout is porous. One spilled cup of coffee can permanently blemish a lot of hard work. So cover your floor with a quality sealant, and let that dry.
“At that point you are done,” said Haight. “It’s really not that bad.”
Backsplashes behind your sink or a bathroom floor are also reasonably easy.
Just avoid doing anything in areas that regularly get wet, such as shower stalls. Those projects are complicated, and getting it wrong can mean leakage that results in black mold and water damage in your walls.
For projects like that, call a professional installer, such as Haight Carpet.
Tile floors can cost a little more than carpet or laminates. But they are a bargain in the long run, said Haight.
“Tile floors can literally last forever,” she said.