Laying Tile on Concrete

Concrete floors are the easiest to clean and most durable of all floors, but they are very hard on the eyes. If you want to turn your concrete flooring into something more visually pleasing, you could try adding tiles to it.

Tiles can last a very long time if properly laid and taken care of, with the added benefit of being available in different prices, colors and sizes. If you decide this is the right choice for you, following is a list of steps you should take when laying tile on concrete.

1. Prepare your concrete floor

Before you start laying tile on concrete, you should prepare your floor. Start by sweeping the whole concrete floor thoroughly in order to remove debris and dust that may have set on the concrete. After this is done, mix up 2 or 3 tablespoons of trisodium phosphate or another good degreasing cleaner, such as dishwasher, into a gallon of warm water, and apply this to the floor.

This solution will remove any existing dirt, oil or grease that may already exist on the surface; use a brush to scrub the floor, making sure you remove all stains, and allow the solution to dry up completely.

Tiles on Concrete Floor
Laying tiles on concrete floor.
Once you have completed this, carefully examine the whole surface and check for pits or cracks that might need to be leveled before you lay the tiles on the floor. Any small holes and cracks must be covered using patching compound.

To do this, use a small trowel to apply the compound, sweeping across the surface with the flat edge of the trowel to make sure the patch is leveled with the floor. After the compound has hardened, feather the edges with sand paper to make sure it is as leveled as possible.

Also, fill in any deep concrete depressions or flaws that might have happened while the concrete was still drying with floor leveling compound. This compound will dry hard, allowing you to make the surface of the concrete floor leveled. Since this compound is a thick liquid, it requires you to wait overnight for it to dry up completely before continuing.

This is a very important step for laying tile on concrete, since any uneven areas of your floor will allow a tile to move back and forth, even after the installation has been completed. This will result in tiles breaking after a while, which is something you want to avoid.

2. Seal your concrete floor

When you have finished fixing all the uneven parts of the concrete floor, you should apply concrete sealer to you floor. Using a long handed roller, apply a sealant starting from the farthest part of the room and working your way out towards the door.

Work slowly, making sure the rolling motion does not overlap itself, since this will result in thick seams where dampness could seep up from underneath the concrete in the future. Applying sealant will also help the mortar to stick tightly to the concrete and prevent moisture from settling under the tiles in the long run.

3. Lay your tiles

From this point on, the process of laying tile on concrete is the same as for all other floors. After you have finished planning your layout, setting up guidelines that will asure your tiles are centered and straight, you can start laying your tiles. Mix up the thinset mortar and apply it evenly with a trowel, laying a only a few tiles at a time to make sure the mortar does not harden as you do this.

Tips on picking the right trowel

Use plastic spacers between every tile. After laying a few tiles, check your work to make sure the tiles are straight and following that you are following the guide lines corrrectly. Once you finish laying all the full tiles in the room, allow 24 hours for the mortat to harden completely before you attempt to set partial tiles.

When the mortar dries up, you can cut and lay partial tiles, allowing another 24 hours for this to dry, before aplying drout into the joints.

Laying tile on concrete is not a difficult task, albeit a delicate one which will require patience to be completed neatly.