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How to install or lay ceramic tile

Ceramic tile comes in a variety of sizes, shapes, colors, and patterns. The most common sizes are 1, 4’/4, 6, 8, and 12 inches square. Use glazed tiles on walls; unglazed or mat-glazed tiles are better for floors. Coat unglazed tiles with a waterproof sealant. On uniform surfaces, you can use tiles that come on prespaced backing sheets that make installation easier.

Measure the area to be tiled accurately, choose your tile, and ask the dealer how many tiles you need. Consult him also about the proper adhesive to use.

Preparing the surface
You can lay tile on concrete or exterior plywood. The surface must be firm and level. Uneven concrete surfaces can be made smooth and level with a layer of mortar. Springy wallboard and subfloor should be nailed securely. Cover a disfigured but firm surface with 3/,3-inch exterior plywood.

Laying tile
The first row of tiles is crucial. On a wall surrounding a bathtub, for instance, draw a tile-height line right above the bathtub rim. Hammer in tacks at either end of the line and stretch a chalked string between them; level the line. Snap the string to mark a horizontal line. Next, mark a yardstick with lines the width of your tiles. Shift the stick left and right to find a starting point for laying tiles so that fractional tiles at either end will be equal. After marking the tile widths on this line, snap a vertical chalk line at each full-tile end, making a squared-off area.
Start at either vertical line. Spread the adhesive evenly on the bottom half Notch-edge of the square area trowel with a notch-edge / trowel, as specified on the adhesive package. Press the wall tiles gently into place. Then do the top half. Apply fractional tiles after you have tiled the squared-off area.

Cutting tiles
To cut a fractional tile, draw a line on top with a china-marking pencil; score the line with a glass cutter. Lay a pencil or a nail under the scored line and press down on both halves, snapping the line. For cutting out a curved portion, score a line; then, using tile nippers, remove small bits until the curve has been achieved.

Grouting
Let the adhesive set for at least 2 days. Trim excess at the joints with your fingertip and wipe the adhesive thoroughly from tile surfaces with a damp sponge. The next day, fill the joints with grout. Press this paste (commonly purchased as a water-soluble powder) into the joints with a rubber squeegee. After the grout has cured for 72 hours, coat it with silicone sealant to protect it from water splashes.