Installing Cement Tiles

So, you just ordered your gorgeous, new cement tiles. The good news is, the hardest part is over. You sifted through hundreds of designs and chose the pattern that best fits your space.

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12 / 15 / 2021

  The only thing left to do is lay the tiles. There’s a time and a place for DIY projects, but we never recommend laying tiles yourself. Always consult a professional for your installation. Even if you think you’ve found the best tiler for the job, there are a few tips and tricks to go over to ensure your tiles look perfect – and stay that way.   

Prepping Your Cement Tiles

 The process of laying down cement tiles takes thorough planning and attention to detail. Try to complete all other renovations before starting to lay the cement tiles. This will keep your workspace tidy and let you focus entirely on the tile installation. Finishing all other construction prior to tiling will also prevent debris from potentially getting in the way or damaging your tile. The last thing you want is to ruin all the hard work. Use a saw with a diamond blade when you are cutting cement tiles. This will help to create more precise cuts and shapes and it’s especially essential if you’re tiling an unconventional area that requires lots of cuts, corners, and mitered edges.  Standard cement tiles are 5/8" (16mm) thickness.  Various surfaces and subfloors require different techniques and preparations. Concrete slabs must be completely cured before laying tile, and 30 days is the general rule of thumb for proper slab curing. This will help prevent unwanted efflorescence from appearing as moisture dissolves into the tile. If you are not installing cement tile directly on a concrete slab, we recommend adding a cement backer board prior to installing the tile.   

Laying Your Cement Tiles

  Before you lay your tile, make sure the area is free from grease, debris, and wax. Do a "dry run" first, especially when laying down more complicated patterns. That way you can make sure everything is correctly placed. Be careful not to step on the tiles during this process. Another method to try is cutting out substitute copies and placing those on the ground so you can visualize the final pattern. Start by measuring the area to be tiled. Then, find the center point between two opposing walls. Use chalk to draw a line between these two walls. Next, draw a perpendicular line to form an intersection at the center of the floor. With a carpenter's square, check to make sure the lines form a 90-degree angle. Begin laying tiles at this cross section and work outward.  An experienced installer will also be careful to plan where any cut tiles will be placed so they are not in the areas of highest visibility.  When using a thinset adhesive, spread it on the back of the tiles as well as on the surface you are using. A fine-toothed trowel will give you even and consistent results. As you are leveling the tiles, place by hand and do not use a mallet. This can lead to all of our worst fear…cracks in the tile. Just use your hands to set the tiles in place using a back and forth motion.    

Tips for Grouting and Sealing

  Always use a neutral color grout in small sections, and wipe away the excess grout immediately.  Grout should never be spread across the surface of the tile to avoid grout haze and staining. Ensure your installer grouts in small sections at a time.  We love the look of using a bold grout color, but it’s important to remember that using contrasting grout means being much more careful. If you plan to use dark grout, ensure your installer uses a grout bag, just like a pastry chef applying icing on a cake.  Never spread dark grout over cement tile. Seal your tiles once before you grout, then again after grout is complete.  Sealant should be applied in thin layers, so one to two coats in fine. Sealing is quick and easy, but it does need to be done correctly as sealant acts as a grout release and protects the tile long-term.  We recommend 511 Porous Plus penetrating sealer and Fila Matte Wax for high traffic commercial spaces like restaurants, bars, and hotels.   When your install is finished, make sure to cover the tile with durable paper board like Ram Board until your construction project is complete.   If you or your contractor have any questions regarding cement tile installation, don’t be shy! We love helping our customers install their perfect design.

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