How to Install Tile Like a Pro

It is a fire and building code requirement to install a fireproof barrier under and on any wall behind or beside a woodstove.  The laminate floor we have is NOT such a material.

We installed a slate tile on the floor and on the wall behind the woodstove.  Specifically we used a combination of 6x6 and 6x12-inch tiles, laid in the pattern you see in the picture.

Here are the steps we followed:
  1. Cut out the section of the Laminate floor.  Be sure to make allowance for the space between and around the tiles.  The size of the area needed will depend on your local building code.
  2. Test Layout:  Lay the tiles down and test your pattern - make sure it works for you because it is too late to change your mind once you start.
  3. Make sure the substrate is clean and strong.  Because this section of tile was not going to be subject to traffic we were less worried about the strength.
  4. Towel down a small section of adhesive at a time.  We used the same adhesive as that to be used on the wall.  Normally a thin set motor is used to install tile on floors.  A small bit at a time allowed us to keep within the set time of the adhesive.
  5. Press each tile in to the adhesive and use a level or straight edge to ensure the tiles are all level and flat.
  6. Get and use tile spacers.  This is what will ultimately make your installation look like a pro did it.  One goes at/in each corner of the tile.  Here is a tip...  The pros use the spacers on end rather than in a four star pattern in the corners - that means you use four spacers per corner (see the picture below).  This makes them much easier to remove once the adhesive has set.
  7. Allow enough time for the adhesive to cure - at least a day.
  8. Use the right tools when grouting. You will need a grout float and a sponge.  You use the float to push the group well into all the spaces between the tiles.  You use the wet sponge to remove the extra grout and clean the tile.  This is a two step process.  let the gout set for a bit (read the instructions on the box for the time) and then remove all the excess grout.  Then a bit latter (again read the box) use the sponge again to clean all the remaining group on the tiles, generally avoiding the grout in the spaces.
  9. Allow enough time for the grout to set before sealing the tile and grout.
  10. As a finishing touch we installed a molding at the transition point between the laminate floor and the tile.  This served to cover the space and to act as a debris barrier.
How Much Time ?
Installing tile is not a one day task.  Plan on at least three days.  Our scheudle went something like:
Day 1:  cut and prepare the floor, and install the tile
Day 2: Clean, remove the spacers, and grout
Day 3:  Clean the tile again
Day 4: Apply the sealer
Day 5: Install the transition molding

We followed this process for both the floor tile as well as the tile we installed behind the woodstove (on the wall) so we actually combine a few steps - for instance we did the sealer for both at the same time.  Overall the installation of the tile for both the floor and wall took 6 days.

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