To begin, our tilers will assess the surfaces in preparation for the tiling process. The surfaces need to be level, smooth and free from obstruction. Features such as floor joists or wall studs need to be rock solid, we will repair or strengthen these when necessary to ensure our foundation is perfect.
Now we can trust our foundation we're ready to install our substrate, (which is also considered to be part of the tile foundation). First we spread (or comb) a layer of thinset onto the flooring using a trowel. Next we apply the cement substrate, measuring and removing as needed until we have the perfect amount. Next we secure the substrate to the floor with screws (bear in mind, with wall tiles, its not required to use thinset under substrate)
Now we have our secured substrate installed we tape and mud all the seams. This is an important step which helps to solidify the floor. If this is done incorrectly our tiles can easily crack along the seams. This is a common error made by those who try to DIY or rookies.
Now we have our seams taped and mudded and our substrate installed we're ready to 'Lay out' the tiles. If you start laying tiles by just picking a corner and working from there, you will most likely end up with an unbalanced look, with lots of small pieces to fill in odd angles and corners. While the overall strength of the installation is not affected by this, it's not the most aesthetic approach. This is a common problem faced by inexperienced tilers or DIY home jobs. It's much better to take the time to plan carefully the placement of all the tiles to ensure that you get the most out of your perfect factory edges and minimise the amount of cut edges in the installation.
Now we've got a detailed plan of our tile layout, it's time to start installing. If overnight temperatures are very low, as in the winter months, it's important to bring the tile inside so they are not too cold when the laying starts. If they are, it can often result in poor adhesion which can lead to the tiles failing much sooner than they should. We start by using a trowel to lay thinset before dropping and pushing the tiles into place. We always use a 'push and twist' motion which allows for a strong bonding. We also mark and cut when needed and start using our tile spacers to get consistent spaces between tiles for the perfect finish.
Once all our tiles are installed we need to make sure there is no traffic whatsoever overnight. The next morning, we can pull out all the tile spacers and clean the grout joints before we start grouting. This is a small detail but its also quite important, because we do not want to see thinset sticking out through a grout joint. Now were ready to mix and apply our grout, after which we wait for around 10 minutes for it to set before wiping with sponges and clean water, to give it a nice clean and even look.
The final stage, now the tiles have been grouted and washed, we allow it to 'haze over'. When the grout has hardened or 'snapped off' or hardened we will wipe it down one last time with water or buff it with a terrycloth towel. We will always apply a grout sealer around 1 week after laying the tiles. Grout is a porous material and as such, needs to be sealed to stop anything staining it. With this our tile installation is complete and they should look clean and tidy and will definitely stand the test of time.