Tile Floors

A quality tile floor installation will provide a long lasting, low maintenance floor. As with most floorcoverings, preparation is the key to a good installation.

Sub-floors

Some things are universal when it comes to sub-floors; clean, flat, and solid enough to support the tile without movement. What can you tile over? In this area, concrete is the most common and is an excellent sub-floor provided that in addition to clean and flat it is also free of cracks. Cracks represent movement in the sub-floor that will eventually turn into either cracked grout or cracked tile. The cracks must be addressed to prevent future problems. Generally, installation of a crack isolation membrane will resolve these issues.

When tiling over wood sub-floors, things get much more complicated. We still need clean and flat, but we also need to limit the deflection in a “conventional” or wood floor. In other words, the subfloor can only “bend” so far before the tile, grout, or both, will begin to crack, or come loose. A subfloor, in order to receive ceramic tile, cannot deflect more than 1/360 of the length (in inches) of the floor under a concentrated 300 pound load, and for natural stone, it can’t deflect more than half that distance (1/720– also known as L/360 and L/720). One major misconception is that this is only important over the unsupported length of the joists. It’s just as important in the spaces between the joists, as well.

We also need to be concerned with what we are adhering the tile to. Most commonly used sub-floors are mudbed(mortar bed), plywood, concrete board and tile isolation or uncoupling membranes. Which is best? It depends on the specific conditions of your job. A complete inspection of your floor will help determine which is best for you.

Can I tile over vinyl?

This question guarantees complete disagreement between many tile installers. While many thinset manufacturers state their products will adhere to vinyl, there are many more issues involved in this question. Not only do you need to be concerned with how the vinyl was installed, but what it was installed over, which generally can’t be determined until the vinyl is removed. To me, it’s really pretty simple. The Tile Council of North America (TCNA) publishes a handbook listing the guidelines for tile installation. The TCNA does not list a method for installing over vinyl, therefore, I do not install over vinyl floors.

Layout

It has been well said that no one notices a good layout but everyone notices a bad layout. If the world was perfect, every tile installation would have equal sized cut tiles around the perimeter of every room. With many tile installations covering multiple rooms, equal sized cuts generally become an impossibility. However, by taking our time in the layout process, we can make the finished floor look beautiful. We will always discuss the layout before any tile is installed.

Ceramic or Porcelain?

This can be another confusing issue when it comes to buying tile. Simply put, tile has a hardness rating from 1-6. Tiles for floor use must be rated 3 or higher for an average kitchen. Most tiles that you see today will be rated 4-5. The fact is that you will pay more for tile as the hardness rating goes up because the higher the rating the harder it will be to scratch or chip the tile.

Porcelain tiles are rated higher than ceramics, therefore porcelain can last longer without showing wear and tear than ceramics. One word of caution, many porcelain tiles are oversold by claiming that the color goes “all the way through” the tile.While that is true for commercial products, most of the porcelain tiles used in the home actually are glazed with an additional layer of design and color which does not continue into the body of the tile.

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