DIY Porcelain Tiles

Porcelain tile is a superior product for green and LEED building projects. It is 30 percent stronger than granite and is more dense and durable than ceramic tile. It adds beauty and value to a home, whether it is installed as flooring or on counters and back splashes in kitchen, utility and bathrooms.

Gather Ideas of What You Like

Unless you are already clear about the look you want, visit tile centers, home shows, home improvement stores, to gather ideas. Go to the library and look at home improvement magazines. For overall ideas, numbers of stores have software that can change the color of the tile in a digital room so you can get a feel for what looks good.

Wood Look Porcelain Tile No Grout
Wood Look Porcelain Tile No Grout

Price Your Project With an Open-Minded Stance

Sometimes, little accents can make a big difference in the overall look of the project. If you are going for a classical look, accent strips can be purchased in 12-inch lengths and used to enhance the project. For a personal touch, you can take children or friends to a tile shop and have them decorate ceramic tiles and add them as part of a back splash to an outdoor barbecue, a child’s bathroom, play area or craft table. Lay your tiles down on the surface to be covered (unless it’s a wall, and then use something the same dimensions) and play around with it. Try the tiles in a checkerboard pattern, then rotate them so they are in diamonds. See what you like and what looks good. Ask others for their opinions too. When you have your ideas firmly in mind, purchase the rest of the materials.

Prepare the Surface

A tile surface is going to last a long time and be very durable, so you want to make sure what you lay it on is also strong, level and durable. Get down to the hardwood floor or subflooring if you have carpet. Test it with a level in several places to make sure it is overall level. Make whatever modifications are needed to level it out, which could mean adding plaster or cement to the floor and/or adding supports from a lower level. When it is level, cover the entire area to be tiled with backer board, a product like sheet rock with lots of concrete or gypsum that you put the tile on. It has two purposes. Backer board acts like a ready-made concrete surface so you don’t have to let it cure a month or so before the tile is laid; it also acts as a barrier to protect moisture that gets through the grout from getting to the wood and rotting it over time.
If you are tiling a wall, also make sure the studs and framing are square before fastening the backer board. Use rust-resistant screws or nails to fasten the backer board to the framing.

Lay the Tile

After all the work you’ve been through, the next part will seem easy. Determine where to put your first tile by starting at your door, and laying down a line of enough whole tiles to cover the width you wish to cover. Make sure you use spacers or a tile edge to have the gap between each two tiles be the same as between any other two tiles. When you’ve gone as far as you can with whole tiles, use a board the same length as the room and screw it into the sub floor at the perpendicular to the line of tiles and exactly even with the open edge of the last tile. Lay whole tiles on either side of this tile using spacers or the tile edge between each tile and the board as the other edge until you can no longer lay down a whole tile on either side. Finally, center these tiles between the two outer walls, so that the gap between tiles and the wall on either end is the same. You have found the place to start laying the tile. Apply two square feet of adhesive and lay down the first four tiles, using spacers or a tile edge to make sure the gaps are equal. Use a level and rubber mallet to make sure all the tiles are level. Add more adhesive and lay four more tiles, and continue this until you can no longer lay a whole tile. At this point let the floor cure overnight.

Cut the border tiles with a glass cutter or a tile saw that uses water. Place adhesive on the floor and lay the border tiles. When this is completed, you may grout the tiles. After they are grouted carefully and completely, let the entire project sit for a week, then seal it with a silicone sealer.

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