install ceramic tile

How to install ceramic tile floor – a guide to different floor surfaces

Installing ceramic tile requires some extra work. The process is specific and takes a long time. But, this is not hard to do. With a few steps and the right materials, you should be fine. The bigger issue has to do with the flooring you have- not the tile you are installing.

This is because there is a different way to install ceramic tile over every different type of floor. If you get this wrong, you may have to redo your whole project. Make sure you use the appropriate steps to make sure your new ceramic floor is right.

This is because there must be proper adhesion between the two surfaces. Also, make sure that your original flooring is leveled and cleaned. This will guarantee proper bonding so you won’t have to worry about any mistakes later on.

If you are still unsure what type of tile you should use, you can take a look at our post and find out the best tile floor for every room. Check it out!

Installing ceramic tile over wood

It is important to make sure your wood flooring is sound enough for ceramic tiles. Some types of wood flooring will not be able to support the weight of the ceramic tile. A lot of wood-based floorings are not compatible with the direct installation of ceramic tile. This is because ceramic tile is much harder than the wood.

If the surface under it bends under the load, you may end up with chipped, broken or dislodged tiles. The basic properties of wood are an issue as well. Depending on heat and moisture, wood can expand or contract. This may lead to more tile breakage and impact the surface’s ability to stay level. You should avoid installing ceramic tile over some wooden surfaces. These wooden surfaces are: hardwood floors, interior-grade plywood, tongue and groove planking and orientated strand board (OSB)

Yet, there is a solution to installing ceramic tile over wood floors. If your wood flooring is not suitable enough, install the backer board over it. Afterward, install the tire over the backer board instead of on the original wood flooring. In the case of installing over appropriate wood flooring, make sure to sand it first. This will make the flooring smoother and easier to install ceramic tiles over. Your installation would work great on a subfloor around 1-1/8 inches thick.

You should also look into installing an isolation membrane over your wood floor. An isolation membrane will protect it against contraction in expansion. This is especially true if you are installing tile in your bathroom.

Installing ceramic tile over concrete

install ceramic tile
Photo by Mockaroon

When it comes to concrete, you will have to do some extra work. This is because concrete tends to have lots of cracks and voids. It is important to gill up all these cracks before you begin the installation process. This is because cracks in the concrete will lead to cracks forming on the tile as well. Because of the weight of the tile against the concrete, these cracks can form early on, damaging your flooring altogether. Be sure to use crack suppression products for any crack less than 1/8 inches.

If the cracks in your concrete are larger, consider removing that section of concrete and pouring in a new concrete slab. A lot of people opt for an isolation system here. You can install one to detach your slab and tile. This membrane separates the tile from direct contact with the concrete underneath. This will help you provide support. Usually, this is done for wood flooring because of shrinkage or expansion. Although this is less common for concrete, you still may want to consider it.

You should also look into there being no chemical products over the concrete surface. Chemical products over your concrete surface can decrease the binding capacity of the tile. You can run a test to check for the presence of a chemical coating. drop a few drops of water over the concrete. If it begins to bead, it means that a chemical coating was applied before.

Installing Ceramic tile over linoleum

install ceramic tile
Photo by Lasse Møller

Linoleum flooring is the least compatible with ceramic tiles. You should avoid covering linoleum or vinyl with ceramic tiles if you can. Most people opt to remove the old surface from the floor before placing ceramic tiles. But if you cannot do this, there still is another solution. You should lay a backer board with a thin-set over the linoleum.

This will now serve as your subfloor material. The thin-set you use must be recommended by the backer board manufacturer. You should also look into if the adhesive is removed from the surface. This will make sure that a good bond between the two materials can be achieved. In the case of cutback adhesive residue, make sure the thin-set manufacturer’s mortar is compatible.

Installing ceramic tile over ceramic tile

install ceramic tile
Photo by Bernard Hermant

You will have to follow a lot of steps to properly install tile over tile. The good news is, the surface should hold without any problems. The first thing you need to do is roughen up the existing tile flooring. People usually recommend an 80 grit sandpaper for this part of the process. This will help produce a stronger grip for the new ceramic tile. The next thing to do is to clear out and clean all noticeable debris from the floor.

Afterward, apply a floor leveler product to the grout lines and completely level the surface. This will make the surface ready for new ceramic tile application. Most people choose to use a thin-set product when installing ceramic tile over existing tiles. The cement, fine-grain sand and water mixture does a great job of making the new tile adhere to the old. Choose latex or epoxy option for mortar.

You should also keep in mind that you may need to replace or rework hardware. Things like doors and cabinets may have to be reworked. This will compensate for a higher floor.

Installing ceramic tile over plywood

install ceramic tile
Photo by Marc Hastenteufel

You should not have a problem installing ceramic tiles over plywood. Though it falls in the wood category, it can be a little different. Many professional tile installers install ceramic tile on plywood. But you do have to keep a certain number of precautions in mind. By doing all the steps, you will ensure a successful installation.

The best choice is to intervene with two layers of two sheets of plywood. This is much better than applying plywood to the subfloor itself. When it comes to thin-set, be sure to use one with a higher latex content. This is essential for the ceramic tile and the plywood to bond. Mixing a latex additive to an unmodified thin-set should work great. The type of plywood here is essential as well.

Some types of plywood are better than others. Exterior grade plywood is best used for the substrate. It is best to avoid veneer-bond plywood. This interior-grade plywood has a top and bottom layer of thin hardwood. If you lay ceramic tiles over veneer plywood, you may risk loosening the veneer. This, in turn, creates an unstable base for the tile.

Installing ceramic tile over a backer board

install ceramic tile

Installing ceramic tile over a backer board is a great strategy. If your original flooring is unsuitable, a backer board comes in handy. A backer board is also called a tile backer or a cement board. Acting as a rigid panel material, people install it over wood framing. It is a lot like drywall in this sense.

The backer board is made of cement and sand. It also has no paper that deteriorates or promotes mold growth when wet. This is why many people add backer board when they want to install a ceramic tile floor. It works as a great foundation for ceramic tiles. It is a great substrate that helps with ceramic tile bonding. You cannot go wrong by adding a backer board to your original flooring.

Choosing to install the backer board is a lot like installing drywall. There is a difference in joint tape, screw type, and moisture barrier. You should always make sure the subfloor is fastened right and has no soft spots or loose panels. Also, make sure to use a thin-set when installing the backer board. After applying the thin-set to your backer board, you should have no problem when placing ceramic tile for the next layer. Also, keep in mind that adding this layer may raise the floor a bit.

Installing Ceramic tile over stairs

install ceramic tile
Photo by Bernard Hermant

A frequent question people ask is: “can you install ceramic tile over stairs?” The steps for installing over floor surfaces still count. Your installation will generally depend on the surface you have on your stairs. You should keep the tips mentioned previously into consideration.

The main thing to worry about is your stairs being flat, solid and level. For example, installing ceramic tile on wooden stairs works just fine. You just have to make sure the stairs are stable enough to withstand the weight of the tile. Most people choose to install a sub-floor cement board to make a smooth and level surface. This will help with stabilization. You also have to make sure that you use ceramic tile that is specially made for stairs.

However, this is a process that is different from a flat surface. The process of installing ceramic tiles over stairs may vary. For example, there is the risk of your stairs shifting. This, in turn, may make your newly installed ceramic tile crack.

Extra installation tips

There are certain things you need to expect when installing ceramic tile over any surface. We have considered this and included a few tips that will help you keep your new floors in optimal condition. For example, you may need to level a subfloor. Subfloors tend to develop low spots or imperfections over time. Fill in a low spot with the floor-patching mixture. Afterward, sand it once it hardens.

When you are laying tile, make sure to measure out an area away from walls. Also, make sure that there are no borders so you can install full squares of tiles. After letting this set enough for you to walk over it, measure the space along walls and border areas. Start marking where the tiles need to be cut so you can fill in the odd spaces. This is a great and precise way to measure the tiles for cutting and can save you a lot of time. By keeping all of these tips in mind, you should be able to successfully install ceramic tile over any type of flooring with no problem at all.

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