How To Floor Tile

Our comprehensive guide to floor tiling

Applebys tiles and our team don't just simply hit the internet and copy guides and bits of information! Our team of sales assistants and our customer service departments are all previous tilers! that means no matter who you speak to they can guide you on how to install tiles and together we have put together this guide to explain how to tile!

Importantly for any floor tiling project you need tools and accessories a list of which we keep below! At the time of publishing were not massive on tools and accessories but, were working on it! so stay tuned

  • Crayon - for marking tiles and where to cut them
  • Permanent Marker - For drawing your centre line
  • Tape Measure - Ensure it is longer then the length of height of your wall
  • Spirit Level - To ensure you are tiling level and your staring point is level
  • 3 Buckets - 1 for Adhesive, 1 for water and 1 for grout
  • 2 Sponges - 1 for cleaning grout and 1 for keep working area clean
  • Manual tile cutter - Used for straight cutting tiles
  • Wet Tile Saw - Used for cutting around pipes and sockets
  • Safety Wear - Gloves, Glasses, Dust Mask
  • Adhesive - To fix the tiles to the walls (20kg for every 4m2)
  • Grout - For Grouting the Tiles (5kg for ever 3-10m2)
  • Grout Float - For applying grout
  • 10-12mm Tile Trowel - For spreading adhesive 
  • Spacers
  • Primer
  • Mini-roller


1. Picking your floor tiles

Picking the tiles is the easy part! When deciding which floor tiles you wish to use there is not much to over-think about, the most important thing to consider is your own taste! what you want and how you want it. If it is your first time installing wall tiles we would advise the use of mosaics or natural stone as these take a lot of work! Below is some advice on they types of tiles and where you can use them

Ceramic Floor Tiles - Make sure you check the product information some ceramic tiles can only be used on walls others, can be used on floors. If you are using ceramic floor tiles ensure, they are going in a light foot traffic area (a home is fine) these can not be used externally and are not as tough as porcelain floor tiles so if you have a busy home and you tend to have clumsy hands in the house then it might be best to steal clear of ceramic.

Porcelain Floor Tiles - Porcelain tiles are the most popular choice when it comes to floor tiles, this is because of their versatility, they can be used anywhere within the home both floors and walls and with the use of underfloor heating systems. In addition to this, most porcelain tiles can be used externally, excluding gloss or polished tiles. You will find looking through our range of floor tiles, that most tiles now are made from porcelain. Porcelain tiles are tougher to cut due to the strength of porcelain, this shouldn't put you off as providing you have the above listed tile cutters this will pose no issue.

Stone Floor Tiles - Stone tiles are beautiful, they offer natural beauty full of variation and come in forms of marble, slate and limestone etc. If it is your first time installing floor tiles or you plan on DIY then we would advise approaching the use of stone with caution. Stone requires a lot of maintenance, preparation and on-going care. Most natural stone needs sealing to prevent stains from locking in to the tile as natural stone is porous. To do this we would advise sealing the stone on all sides and edges twice with the required stone sealer before even installing the tiles, you would also need to use white adhesive with these and keep them clean at all times! Stone tiles are easy to cut but it is labour intensive. You can not cut stone tiles using a manual "score and snap" system they all require being wet cut and if you have a lot of cuts to do, it can take some time! In 2019 tile manufacturing has come a long way and it is now possible to get identical replications of natural stone tiles by using a stone effect floor tile.

Mosaic Floor Tiles - Mosaic tiles again can prove incredibly difficult to install and come in various materials such as stone, glass, porcelain, metal etc. for the purpose of this guide we would advise only using porcelain mosaic tiles on the floor, remember although relatively easy to install the large sheets, the cuts prove incredibly difficult a mosaic can be as small as 1cm x 1cm and if your measurements leaves you with cuts of 0.5cm that can be very difficult to cut from a 1cm tile.

Matt Floor Tiles - These can be any of the above materials "Matt" simply refers to the texture of the tile, a Matt finish will be slightly rough and non-reflective on the surface, these are genuinely better for wet areas such as bathrooms, wet rooms and outside but can be used anywhere in the home and is usually the preferred choice.

Gloss/Polished Floor Tiles - Polished and gloss tiles look amazing, they are reflective and can bounce light around the room and offer a very modern finish however, in busy houses with little people and pets running around they can become quite the hazard when wet so consider your environment before using these.


2. Preparing the Floor

An important factor in floor tiling is the preparation. It is very important you floors are properly prepped before starting such as, making sure all previous floor covering is removed and stripping back to the original surface which should be concrete or wood.

Check the levels of the floor to ensure they are flat and level before installing tiles, if it is unloved then use a levelling compound to ensure it is level. Tiling when the floor is uneven can cause lips and unsightly tiles.

If the floors are level and concrete, ensure they are free of any dust then using a mini roller apply acrylic primer mixed as per the primer instructions and use two coats so the floor appears sticky.

If the floor is wooden - DO NOT TILE. This is really important and there is a lot of conflict around this but as this is written by an expert team of tilers with 30 years experience we would never tile on top of wood if any builder or tiler advises to, refuse!

Wood regardless of thickness etc will shrink and expand with changes in temperature and humidity if tiles are applied on top of wood when the wood does shrink and expand it will cause the tiles to work loose from the floor and the grout and tiles to crack, once this occurs the whole floor will need replacing. How do we prevent this you ask?

It is easy a product has been around for over 10 years it is called Hard-Backer cement board it is designed specifically for tiles and is made from cement (Make sure you are wearing an aspirator when working with cement board)  you then lay the cement board as per the instructions directly on top of the wood this will then provide you with a solid base to tile on.



3. Laying out your tiles

You have your floor tiles, your adhesive, grout and tools so now the most important part comes in! Now is when you decide your layout which is dependant on the pattern you wish to achieve. There are 3 main options when it comes to choosing patterns for your new tiles.

The first option is to "stack lay them" this means installing the tiles on top of one another either vertically or horizontally, this is one of the easiest patterns for beginners.

The second option is to lay them in a "brick bond" fashion, this is an intermediate tiling pattern whilst still easy to do the layout is a little more complicated.

The third option is to lay the tiles in a herringbone pattern - this is more for the expert DIY'er it involves pre cutting tiles at a 45 degree angle.

The most important thing to consider with the layout is to ensure that you get as much of the full tile as possible, whilst avoiding any small and tricky little cuts, which can look unsightly and become hard to work with. In an ideal situation the previous statement would always be applicable however as tilers, we understand no wall and no room is "perfect" you will come up with issues such as boxing in for  pipes or architraves around doors, radiator pipes or pillars. So Inevitably in some rooms, you will have to have a small cut – but working out the layout for your tiles will at the very least ensure you have equal cuts as after all tiling should be as symmetrical as possible. 

Now you have your pattern thought out its time to get drawing! Firstly find the centre of the floor, this is done by measuring from one side to the other side (measure at the widest point) once you have this divide the measurement by 2 (for example you floor measures 200cm your centre will be 100cm once this is found make a mark on the floor We would suggest using a permanent marker so you don't lose it!

Then measure from the same floor again 100cm about 1 meter down the room Then using a spirit level vertically align it to your two marks on the floor ensuring it is perfectly level and draw a line from top to bottom of where you intend to tile.

Then repeat this process with the length of the room.

You will now have a cross with four different sections next comes the PRO tip. From the centre of your cross measure exactly from the centre to the left or right (width of  room) 80cm's make a mark at the 80cm point. the measure from the centre up or down the vertical lines 60cm's mark it at 60cm then get your tape and measure from the 80cm point and 60cm point this should be exactly 100cm's if it is then you have a perfectly set out floor.

To double check place the corner of one of your tiles on the centre point and ensure you can just about see the vertical and horizontal lines.

Now if you intend on doing a brick bond pattern with your tiles, measure half of your tile length (for example if using a 60cm x 30cm floor tile half of the length would be 30cm) make a mark half a tiles length from the centre line - it doesn't matter if thats to the right or left. 


5. Applying the tile adhesive

The adhesive! now you have your floor prepared, pattern sorted and centre found its time to get tiling. We would advise as a DIY'er to use a slow setting adhesive, this will allow you to fix your tiles and adjust them for a few hours incase of any mistakes made. Once you have mixed your adhesive (with a dust mask on) as per the guidelines on the back of the packet. Ensure you are wearing gloves to apply adhesive as it has skin irritants within the ingredients, safety glasses would also be in your best interest to prevent any adhesive getting in your eyes.

Once you are ready to go apply a small amount directly on to your notched tile trowel and then apply to the floor. Remember you need to get out of the room when  you have tiled so start on a crooner away from the door working your way back to the door so you can leave without standing on the tiles.You are going to tile in parts, you have your vertical and horizontal lines down so start with one far corner and lay the adhesive down from the centre point either left or right. Use just a small amount at a time to ensure the adhesive does not dry before you are able to apply tiles.

One of the most important rules to remember when applying your adhesive is to ensure you have consistent notches within your adhesive see below


The way to achieve this is by holding your trowel at a 45 degree angle so the notches of the trowel make contact with the floor, push it softly to the floor and then push up or down or left or right (don't do both) so that you have straight lines all going in one direction. Now that you have straight notches on your floor remove the excess adhesive from your trowel back in to the bucket and clean it, you don't want adhesive to harden on your tools.



6). Applying the tiles to the floor

Put the tools down, have your tiles and spacers ready! place your first tile with the corner against the centre point so that your tile is in one of the four segments, make sure you can just about see the horizontal and vertical line you drew earlier, if you can't see it then wipe away with a finger where the centre line should be then place your first tile in to the adhesive, don't use too much force but ensure it is bedded then move it about 5mm and then back again this ensures that the tile has made good contact with the adhesive.

Once the first tile is installed then place your second tile right up against the first tile then move it 5mm to the left or right to create a gap and achieve contact, insert your spacer and then push it up against the spacer so it holds it in. 

Repeat this process until all the adhesive you applied on the floor is covered. Once this has been done repeat the previous two steps, add adhesive than add tiles with spacers and keep going remember you need to get out of the room so your last tiles to be laid should be at the room exit!

**Ensure your tiles are level by using a spirit level and placing them over tiles every m2 or so.**


7. Tiling around obstacels

When it comes to tiling a floor, be it kitchen, hallway or bathroom there will always be something that you need to tile around unless you want to make your life easier, we would always suggest to make it easier and for better results remove anything you can that will require cutting around such as, skirting boards, sinks and toilets etc. if you can't remove these then you would need to cut around these obstacles.

For the basis of this manual we will discuss cutting around radiator pipes as this is one of the objects you won't be able to remove very easy at all. As tilers 99% of the time we cut around these, we don't have the radiator removed.

To do this, tile the room as mentioned then, when your last full tile is laid before the radiator you will have a cut to reach the permitter of the room. measure the cut using a tape measure from the wall to the last laid tile for example 120mm then remove the spacer size 2mm cut the tile on either a manual or wet tile saw.

Once you have this cut, place the cut side of the tile up against the radiator pipe and inline with previous tile, then using a crayon make marks on the tile where the pipe is (usually 15mm - 22mm apart) now you have the width of the pipe drawn on you need to add the depth to the cut so when you lay the tile, the pipe goes inside the it you cut out. To do this measure from the wall to the front of the pipe and use this measurement to draw a line on the tile to guide your cut. then using a wet cutter cut the two lines and using a set of tile nips snap the remainder out. Your tile will now fit around the pipe.


9. Grouting The Tiles

Once you have finished tiling, the first step before grouting is to clean up. Ensure your tiles are completely dry before you start cleaning them if you have used rapid set adhesive wait 3 hours if you have used a slow-setting adhesive wait 24 hours. 

Then remove all of the tile spacers you have put in between the tiles, these should come out quite easily if not, use a Stanley knife or a pair of pliers to pull them out. Once you have completed this step you now want to look along all of the grout lines and ensure no grout is pointing through, if there is adhesive protruding from the lines scrape this out gently (ensuring you do not damage the tiles) with a Stanley knife.

The next step is to wash the tiles, using warm water wash all of the floor tiles ensuring any dirt, residue and glue is completely removed from the surface. Once dry if you are satisfied the tiles are perfectly clean you can then clean the floor or worktop to ensure no contamination when grouting.

Using a clean and preferably new bucket mix the grout as per the guidelines, grout usually drys pretty quick so we would advise mixing up enough grout for 1m2 at a time to ensure none is wasted and it doesn't dry to quickly. ensure you have throughly read the grout instructions such as, drying times, how quickly to wash them etc.


10. Applying the grout

Use the freshly mixed grout you have just prepared use a perfectly clean grout float and bucket trowel put a fair amount of grout on to the float with the trowel. Press the float against the surface of the tiles and then push the float left to right to ensure the grout lines are completely covered in grout by holding the float at a 30 - 45 degree angle.

how to grout tiles

Any large build up of grout on the surface of the tile simply clean up using the float and then carry on applying. When you have used up that amount, give the tiles a gentle wash with cold water to remove the excess grout from the surface of the tiles. after 15 minutes use warm water and clean that area again ensuring you clean in the lines to remove any access and the face of the tiles, any longer then 15 minutes and it can make it difficult to remove the excess grout. Repeat this process until all grout lines have been grouted and cleaned.

After this you will then (using fresh warm water) clean the tiles again - do this twice both times with fresh clean water) allow to dry for two hours then using a rough non-abrasive material such as kitchen towel, bath towels, carpet off cut polish the stiles simply just clean them, get in all the grout lines etc after this, you would have completed your first wall tiling job! Well done.

If you get stuck in the middle of a job head over to our live chat or pick up the phone, we will guide you through as best we can.