How to Install Cement Tiles
Whether you are a DIYer or a professional installer, here's our guidance on how to install cement tile.
Installing cement tiles is a simple process, but it must be done with care, thought, and above all some planning. Because each cement tile is individually handmade you will find slight variations in the thickness, shape, and color. Slight imperfections, irregular edges and crazing are inherent to cement tile and add to the product's natural appeal.
In order to achieve the best results, I recommend using a professional tile installer because cement tile is slightly less forgiving when installing than porcelain tile or glazed ceramic tile. Nonetheless, we have had many DIYers install cement tile with success by following these guidelines. Patience and planning are the keys to any successful tile install. These cement tile installation guidelines apply, regardless of the pattern, color, location or application. Follow these installation guidelines for floor installations, tiled stairs, or for a kitchen backsplash. Bear in mind, wall and ceiling applications are the most difficult.
Pre-Installation Tips for Installing Cement Tile
- Because concrete and cement tile is porous care must be given to avoid staining from oil, grease, markers, and dirty hands. Consider pre-sealing, pre-sealed or polished tiles, if available. This is especially for wall applications or if you are DIYer.
Pre-sealing cement tile prevents staining during installing, if pre-sealed or polished tiles are not available
- Each cement tile is hand-made and you should expect slight variations in thickness, size, and shade. It's important to note that these characteristics add to the products natural appeal and do not compromise the performance of the tile.
Cement tiles come with slight imperfections because they are handmade
- Make sure to pull pieces at random from different boxes in order to achieve a better blending of the material. This is very important for plain or solid color cement tile. Cull any tiles that prior to installation that seem you don't like.
Expect variation in color and shade of cement tile
- For patterned tile installations, do a dry layout to ensure any pattern irregularities or stark color differences can be blended with different tile.
For patterned tile installations, a dry layout ensures problems are spotted before installation begins
9 Steps for a Successful Cement Tile Installation
- The tiles should be installed with a narrow (1/16") grout joint using tile spacers.
Install cement tiles with a narrow grout joint on a clean, level surface
- Tiles should be laid on a perfectly level and clean surface. If laying on concrete, make sure the concrete has had time to cure and is completely dry.
Cement tiles must be laid on a perfectly level and clean surface
- The tiles can be cut using a wet saw with a diamond blade.
Cement tiles tiles can be cut using a wet saw with a diamond blade
- When installing a pattern, install the center portion first, then the borders and finally the field tile that will surround the pattern. Avoid laying borders next to the edge of a room, since nothing is plumb and square.
When installing a cement tile pattern or rug, start with the main field pattern in the center, then the border
Then add plain, solid color tile surrounding the border last
- Tiles can be installed either with a pre-mixed adhesive, such a Mapei Type I, or with regular thinset mortar. In either case use a high-notched trowel to spread the adhesive on the surface as well as on the back of the tile in order to achieve adequate adhesion.
For proper adhesion, apply thinset with a notched trowel to the surface and back of the tile
- When using thinset mortar the back of the tile must be dampened. When using a pre-mixed adhesive the back of the tile should be cleaned lightly.
When using thinset mortar the back of the tile must be dampened
- The tiles must be laid by hand and handled carefully to avoid damaging the edges. Level the tiles using your hands. Using a rubber hammer to do this could damage the tiles surface. Cement tiles can not be grinded down after they are installed, so it is very important that they are perfectly leveled during installation.
Level cement tile using your hand
- Any residue of mortar left on the surface of the tile must be cleaned immediately to avoid staining.
Any mortar left on the surface of the tile must be cleaned immediately to avoid staining
- Do not step on the tiles until the mortar has dried.
There is nothing like experience when it comes to laying cement tile. However, if you follow and understand these guidelines you are sure to avoid any problems and make your project a success! Whether a weekend DIYer or someone that wants to make sure they avoid problems with their install, our illustrated guide to installing cement tile provides the information you need to ensure a problem-free installation. Don't miss next week's blog post where I show how to grout cement tiles.
Want to know more about cement tile? Our Cement Tile Information Center is just the place to start! Our passion for cement tile has led us to offer one of the broadest collections of cement tile patterns anywhere on the Internet. If you are looking for customization, floor layouts, or installation experience - look no further. With our extensive experience in selling cement tile, we care immensely about finding cement tile solutions for any budget. At our Handmade Cement Tile Information Center, you'll find links to resources designed to answer all your questions.