Tiling a Basement Floor

Basement Floor Tile

Tiling a Basement Floor

Tiling a basement floor is something that most any homeowner can handle provided you got a couple tools to do the job and enough time to get it done right. If you don’t then you can certainly contact a professional to get it done for you.

Having tile floors in you basement is actually a superb flooring option as you won’t have to deal with all the water issues that you would with other types of flooring materials like carpet or laminate basement flooring because tile is waterproof. Now the tile I’m speaking of in this case pertains to ceramic, porcelain or stone tile

What To Look At First For Tiled Basement Flooring:

One of the first things you need to look at when tiling a basement floor is the actual condition of the floor itself. Is it clean and basically level? Does it have cracks or holes that will need to be taken care of first? Do you have any moisture issues that you’ll need to deal with first through some waterproofing measures?

Tile can be a fickle fiend when trying to install and maintain it on an unlevel, unsightly floor. You absolutely need a clean, mostly level floor to install tile on in the basement or it will eventually to cracking and grout problems.

To seal or not to seal, that’s the next question. Depending on which “expert” you talk to, there are definitely two differing opinions with whether you should seal the basement floor before tiling it.

Some will tell you that it’s needed to protect the tiles and grout from moisture related problems while others argue that’s what the latex added thinset is for and that tile is already waterproof.

Personally, I’d stay away from sealing it if you are going to install tile on it. But you should always check with the manufacturer first for a final ruling depending on the type of tile you select and the warranty you are expecting.

Basement Floor Tile Selection:

When it comes to finding the right tiles for basement floors, there’s really no wrong selection to make, just depends on what look you are going for and how much time you have to do the job.

The first thing to do would be to go to a tile store so you can actually get a good visual of the selection they have and actual touch and feel it. Remember that you’ll likely walk barefoot across it at one time or another.

You can mix and match them to come up with basically any pattern that you feel “fits” the situation.

One suggestion that I can give on your tile selection is this, larger floor tiles work better. If this is your first tiling job, try to stick to at minimum the 8”x8” squares, preferably the 12”x12” or 14”x14”. They do come larger than that, all the way to 24” squares, but those are a little bulky to work with starting out.

Why You Need A Grid Layout:

There’s no better solution to laying your ceramic tile basement floor than to start by popping chalk lines into a grid styled layout. Why? For starters, a grid styled layout allows you to see precisely where each tile is going to be and where you’ll have to make your cuts.

This is especially true on large basement floors. In addition, it ensures that the installation of a ceramic tile basement floor is consistently square.

I can’t stress enough the importance of maintaining accurate measurements throughout the layout process.

Measuring Basement Tiles for Chalk Lines:

Measuring Basement Tiles for Chalk Lines

One thing to note, this works for basically any floors, not just basements. To gain an accurate measurement, you actually need to have the tiles in hand at this point.

Do a quick sort and make sure that they are all roughly the same size. Then pick 3 of them and lay them out linearly like the picture shown.

Be sure to put your spacers in place between the tiles now so that you’ll have the gout lines represented.

Now what you do is measure from the outer edge of the first tile to the inner edge of the third tile, making sure to include the grout joints in your measurement. This is denoted in the “red” space on the image.

Take note of this measurement as that is what you are going to be using to pop the chalk lines on the basement floor.

cutting tile

Marking Basement Floor Chalk Lines:

After you’ve got the floor all cleaned and dust free (you might need to sweep and vacuum it a few times) you are ready to start setting the chalk lines. These are nothing more than guidelines to keep your tile installation all “square”. There’s two ways you can go about this and both look good.

The first way is to work from the center of the room out to the exterior walls. First, you simply find the center of the room by snapping chalk lines from the middle of opposing walls.

What you end up with at the intersection of the two lines is the “center” of the room. From there you work both left and right snapping chalk lines that will keep your tiles square throughout the installation.

You may even want to make the entire grid using both horizontal and vertical chalk lines to ensure even spacing throughout. Just remember to add in the extra space for the spacers that you’ll remove and grout later. This will create a nice evenly spaced pattern throughout the room starting from the center of it.

The only downfall to this method is that if you are new to tiling, you tend to end up with a lot of cuts around the edges to fill in.

The second method is a little different as you start from a corner instead of the center. Find the longest and straightest wall in your basement and start in that corner. Typically, these are an exterior wall, but if you have an interior load bearing wall it could be that as well.

Next, you simply measure and mark off the floor from one end of the wall. When done, repeat the same process on the other end of the wall with the same measurement. Pop a chalk line between the two marks. Then repeat these same steps for the walls on the opposite sides.

Use a square and make sure everything is “in square” by testing a few of the intersecting chalk lines. If they aren’t, you’ll need to adjust and re-pop the lines.

This is an easier installation for the first timer’s. The only downfall with this method is that you’ll likely end up with one or two walls having cut tiles along the edges. Still, it’s all square and will look good.

laying tile

Special Note Before Installing Ceramic Basement Tile:

For this installation, we are going to assume using the second method listed above. You are going to want to start your ceramic basement tile installation in the corner you first started popping the two original chalk lines.

To make this smooth and easy, you are going to want to start your first grout joint to the wall, don’t butt the tile directly on the wall. If you don’t have a 4-foot level, you are going to need one. This will help you keep your tiles straight throughout the installation.

You will insert spacers on each corner of the tile joints. Spacers come in different sizes but typical spacer size is between 1/4” to 5/16” wide. If you are using the larger tiles I find it best to keep about a 1/4” spacer between the tiles.

It’s much more important to keep the ceramic tiles properly aligned to your chalk lines within the grid versus keeping the grout lines at a consistent width.

How To Tile A Basement Floor:

The first thing you are going to need is a large 5 gallon bucket. If you don’t have one you can usually pick them up from a hardware store for a couple bucks. You’re going to use this bucket to mix up the thinset with a latex additive. Not all thinsets are the same so make sure you follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

You’ll know when you are done mixing when the thinset has the consistency of mom’s morning oatmeal. Never had it? You should, great way to start the day.

Next, start in the corner we noted above and using a 1/4 inch notched trowel apply the thinset to the first grid squares on the basement floor. You only want to work one grid square at a time to maintain consistency so be sure to only cover that much.

Then you’ll want to apply a small amount of thinset to the back of the ceramic tile and place it in the desired location. To really set it, just wiggle it back and forth a couple of times pressing firmly to ensure that it bonds with the thinset you already laid on the floor.

Set your spacers and move on to the next tile.

Continue installing the tiles checking to make sure that you are still “square” and “in-grid” as you go working your way down or across to the opposite wall.

As you get closer to the edge of the surrounding walls, you will need to cut the basement tiles to the appropriate size using either a tile cutter or wet saw.

Grouting a Tiled Basement Floor:

After the tile basement flooring has set up over a 24 hour period you can then grout the tile. The first thing you are going to need to do is to remove all the spacers. Have a pair of pliers handy as some of them maybe a little tough to break loose.

Once you’ve got all the spacers up, it’s time to move on to a little more cleanup and preparing the grout. You are going to need a couple 5 gallon buckets here, a couple of sponges and a grout float to do it right.

Before you start grouting a tiled basement floor, you need to clean the joints and the surface of basement tile thoroughly. You’re trying to remove all the dirt and dust that may have settled as well as any remaining dried thinset mortar.

Now you need that clean 5 gallon bucket again to mix your grout. Just follow the instructions for the grout mix you got. This time you want to make it a little smoother, something along the consistency lines of peanut butter versus oatmeal. This will allow the grout to be worked and spread much easier.

tiling a floor

Just go back to your starting point and drop a fairly big glob of grout down. Take your grout float and angling it slightly, push and pull the grout to you working it in between the tiles. Yes you will get grout on the tiles as well but you’ll clean that up in a bit.

Take your time and only grout a small area of the basement floor at a time. After a while you’ll get more comfortable with the process and be able to do larger sections. If you have grout left over on the floor, use a clean grout float to pick up the excess. Just be sure to not dig into the grouted areas when you’re doing it.

It’ll take about 15 minutes or so for the grout to set up, then you can move to the next portion of the project where you’ve got to clean up your mess.

With a clean bucket of water, go back to your starting point. Take one of your sponges and get it damp. On this part you are going to want to work your sponge on the tile at an angle to the grout lines. You will cross the grout lines, but don’t work directly on them.

Pull the sponge back towards you to wipe up the filmy grout off the tiles. Just don’t dig into the grout lines. Flip the sponge over and repeat. It’s important at this step to rinse the sponge clean, you are trying to get the excess grout up and not spread it around.

You are going to repeat this process over the entire basement floor. During this, your water may become quite dirty. In an effort to keep it clean, take the time and refresh the water.

Now you’ve just finished tiling a basement floor. Before you get all giddy and start rushing to put everything in your new basement, just allow 24 hours for the grout to really set and dry.

If after the 24 hours there still seems to be a little “film” on your beautiful ceramic tiles, use a quick mixture of 1 cup of white vinegar per gallon of mop water and mop the floor thoroughly.

Be sure to do a secondary mopping with clean water after that.

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