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So, you’re ready for an upgrade and the floors are your next target? Maybe you are a huge fan of the new wood-plank-style tiles, and you want it laid in your new house or you want to rip up your old floor and replace it in your current home.

We asked Ralph Williamson, executive director of the Ceramic Tile & Stone Association, for some advice. Here are seven steps that should be followed in installing tile flooring:

1 | Hire a good contractor

When you hire your responsible, licensed flooring contractor, insist on having a layout of how the floor will look as well as a schedule for the work and a contract.

2 | Make the project easy for all involved

It might be easier to move out of the house temporarily, depending on how much of your home is involved in the flooring change. In some situations, using rooms in the house that are being tiled can be difficult.

3 | Clean the area

To lay tile on a concrete slab or wood surface, the area must be perfectly clean and level. If tile is on the floor now and is removed, leftover adhesive on the concrete should be removed before the installation begins. Workers may have to use some chemicals to remove that leftover adhesive. Make sure the contractor proceeds per the manufacturer’s instructions as the chemical may produce a lot of fumes. Another possibility: Special machines may be used to “scarify” or to “grind” or “shot blast” the concrete surface.

4 | Laying the tile

Next the thin-set (an adhesive) is put down and tiles are laid. During this process, movement joints (small un-grouted gaps) should be installed all around the perimeter of the tile floor and every 20 to 25 feet of flooring on the interior and 8 to 10 feet on the exterior. These joints will prevent the tiles from popping up or “tenting” later when the temperature of the concrete changes as the seasons change.

5 | Patience will be worth it

Then the thin set must dry thoroughly. During that time, no one – not even the workers or a construction supervisor or you – should walk on the surface. Drying can take several hours or even longer. It is much quicker in hot, dry weather and longer during colder weather.

6 | Pre-sealing

With some types of tile – like natural stone, certain porcelain and marble tiles – pre-sealing may be needed. If that is not done, “picture-framing” can take place when the grout is applied. “Picture framing” means moisture from the grout or thin-set seeps into the tile to make an ugly border all around each tile. The good news is that the pre-seal only takes 15 to 20 minutes to dry. Pre-sealing may also be done on other tiles especially if they have a textured finish.

7 | Grout

Finally, grout is applied to the flooring. Certain tiles may need sealing again, though not all kinds of tile need that.

After all the sealing dries, it’s time to celebrate and move in the furniture on your beautiful new floor.



The No. 1 seller in flooring right now, says Ralph Williamson, is tile that looks like wooden planks. And homeowners want the tiles to be larger than ever. Some “planks” these days are 60 inches long.

If you’re buying tile planks, however, the larger the tile, the more the possibility is of some warping taking place.

In general, today’s homeowners also want tiles to be bigger rather than smaller. Tiles that are 12 by 12 inches or 8 by 8 inches have gone away. Even 16 by 16s are less popular.

“People want 24 by 24 or 36 by 36 inches because larger tiles make a room look larger and they don’t look as ‘busy,'” Williamson says.

Travertine tiles are still a popular seller, but now they are losing ground to porcelain tiles that look just like travertine and that will wear better. There will also be less maintenance with porcelain.


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