There are many different types of tiles which, the handyman can apply to floors, walls and ceilings. One of the oldest types is ceramic tile – these are baked clay and have been used generally in the bathroom for walls and floors. There are also plastic tiles which have been used mainly for walls and ceilings.
Ceramic tiles, however, have moved out of the bathroom into other parts of the home. Contemporary homes often have kitchen counter work tops and sometimes even living room walls made of ceramic tile. These tiles can be applied with special waterproof adhesive to any suitable smooth surface. No longer is it necessary to apply wire lath and cement to set the tiles in place.
Plastic tiles, which have gained in popularity since the end of World War II, are available in many different colors, sizes and patterns.
There are basically two types of plastic tiles. The rigid ones are made of polystyrene; the flexible tiles are usually made of vinyl. Both are applied in somewhat the same manner, although some flexible tiles come already glued. All that is necessary is to moisten the adhesive backs of these self-adhesive tiles and they can then be applied to the wall or floor.
Metal tiles of various kinds also are available. One of the most recent developments is an aluminum tile to which a ceramic coating is bonded at a temperature of from 900° to 1000° F. It can be cut easily and even bent if necessary. The tile is applied with mastic.
Ceramic tile is one of the oldest building materials known to man. Its history dates back centuries ago when it was first discovered that clay baked at high temperatures turns into a hard, durable material which is both waterproof and fireproof.
But tile is one of the most modern of materials, too. It is easy for the average handyman to install and will afford a lifetime of constant, rugged use without deterioration. Real tile – that is, tile made from baked ceramic materials – is a permanent installation. Its colors never fade. Because of its durability and the absence of any upkeep or remodeling, real tile constitutes a significant economy.
Today, ceramic tile is available to the homemaker in an amazing variety of sizes, shapes, colors, and textures. With a good waterproof adhesive, tile can be readily installed on walls, floors, and countertops.
Technically, there are two main divisions of tile: wall and floor tile. Wall tiles in popular use range from 17/4″ square to 6″x9″ rectangles. They come in either a high glaze or a matt glaze which is a somewhat softer-looking surface.
Floor tiles go from “dots” (11/32″ squares) to 9″ squares. Commonly used nominal sizes, though, are the 2″ square, the 1″ square, and the 1″x2″ rectangle. Floor tiles are generally unglazed.
Floor tiles can be broken down into three subdivisions:
• Ceramic mosaics are less than six square inches in facial surface.
• Pavers are those unglazed floor units measuring six square inches or more in facial surface.
• Quarries are made to resist especially severe conditions of weather and wear. They have a strong, dense body which can withstand extremes in temperature.
Technique of Handling Tile
Here are simple instructions for installing ceramic wall and floor tiles.
Virtually all common home surfaces which are true, level, free from moisture and foreign matter are suitable for receiving tile. In any area affected by steam or water, the base surface should be covered with two coats of primer, the second applied at right angles to the first.
All joints and apertures, such as those for bathroom fixtures, should be sealed off with a waterproof tape.
To begin tiling, install the bottom row first. Establish a level line for it. If the floor is not level, make cuts in the bottom row of tiles. If this is done, the top row of the wainscot will be level.
Simply draw a pencil line over the glazed surface parallel to the raised bars on the back of the tile, take an ordinary glass cutter and score the surface along the line. Then place the tile, glazed side up, over a nail and press on either side of the scored line. The tile will part cleanly down the line.
For special cutting, such as around fixtures, use pliers to nip off small chunks of the tile. Then smooth the surface with a Carbo-rundum stone.
Tiles in the bottom row should be “buttered’ individually with a small dab of adhesive and then pressed against the wall. Don’t put on too much adhesive; it may ooze out of the joints between tiles.
After setting the first row, spread a thin layer of adhesive over several square feet with a saw-tooth trowel. Press the tiles firmly into place with a twisting motion of the hand. Spacing bars on the edges of wall tile will keep the pieces a uniform distance apart.
Once a wall has been tiled, let it set for a day or so that the volatile elements in the adhesive can escape. Then soak the joints between tiles with a wet sponge at least four times at five-minute intervals. A gallon of water is enough for about 50 square feet of tile-work. Soaking – thorough soaking – is done so that the tiles will not draw water from the fine cement, called grout, used to fill the spaces between them.
GROUTING AND FINISHING
Commercial grout is a fine white powder. Mix it with water to the consistency of heavy cream. Let it stand for 15 minutes and remix. The mixture can be applied to the tile joints with a sponge, a squeegee or by hand with a pair of rubber gloves. Fill the joints completely.
Going over the job with the end of the handle of a toothbrush will give it a professional finish. It will help to force the grout into the joints, too.
Cleaning is simple. A damp sponge or cloth will remove the excess grout from the face of the tile. A dry cloth should be used for polish.
But before the final polishing, all the grouted joints should be wet down with a sponge several times in the next four or five days, so that they will set properly.
How to Tile Floors
Floor tile is set very much the same way as wall tile. The surface must first be in good condition, firm, perfectly smooth and free from moisture and foreign matter. Floor tile – the smaller unglazed units – come pasted on to paper sheets measuring l’x2′.
Sheets of the tile are pressed into the adhesive spread on the floor, with the papered side uppermost. Let the tile set an hour. Wet the paper slightly with a damp sponge and pull it off the tile. At this time, the adhesive will still be pliant so you can re-align individual tiles if necessary. If you have to walk over the floor now, do so on board or cardboard so your weight will be more equally distributed.
The floor, just like the wall, should be allowed to set for a day before grouting. But floor tile, which has little absorbency, doesn’t have to be soaked before grouting.
The grout mixture here is different. It should consist of one part waterproof Portland cement and one part finely screened sand. A minimum amount of water should be used in mixing – just enough for workability. Spread this mixture over the floor and work it into the joints with a squeegee. Joints should be completely filled.
All excess mortar should be removed before it begins to harden. Use a burlap cloth at first and then a damp cloth. If necessary, go over it several times until all traces of grout are gone. Then polish with a dry cloth.
The floor must now be cured. Cover it and keep all traffic off it for about three days. If it’s necessary to walk on it during that time, put down boards.
Where Tile Can Be Used
Fine installations of ceramic tile by the homemaker have been made on bathroom walls, floors and countertops; in home laundries where a definitely waterproof surface is required; anywhere in the kitchen, including extensive countertops and splash-backs; and in game rooms where a durable yet permanently decorative finish is desired. Tile is being used increasingly as surfacing for living room floors and in the dining area. The most recent trend is the use of colorful tile on the exterior of homes where a decorative yet weatherproof paneling is desired, such as the exterior overlooking the outdoor terrace.
Terraces, of course, have long been made of tile – quarry tile which is also made from natural ceramic materials. Quarry comes in shades of red, chocolate and buff. Entranceways are also popular sites for quarry tile.
Smaller decorative uses of tile around the home include: fireplace fronts, hearths, windowsills where plants are set, table tops, surfaces of room dividers, radiator tops, stairways, and shelves.
Cleaning Ceramic Tile
All tile made from natural ceramic materials is easy to keep clean. A detergent is best for both floor and wall. For floors, the detergent solution should remain on the surface a few minutes before mopping. Wipe the floor and wall dry with a soft cloth. Most soap leaves a sticky film over tile. This film retains dirt and could make the floor slippery. If such a condition already exists it can be remedied with a wash of commercial scouring powder or kerosene. Waxes, plastic finishes, polishes, emulsions, nonslip coatings and the like are never required.
Marble tiles are available to be applied to any wall surface that has been properly prepared. The marble tiles are installed in a manner somewhat the same as ceramic tiles. Here is the technique of handling marble, in this case Vermont Pavonazzo.
Although extremely popular in 12″ squares for floor covering, vinyl tiles in the 17/4″ squares for use on walls has decreased in popularity in the last few years. They have given way almost exclusively to ceramic tile which once was a mark of affluence because of their then high cost. Now, fired clay, or ceramic tiles, are being imported and sold at prices comparable to that of vinyl.
Even at comparable prices, other factors weigh in favor of ceramic for wall applications. Ceramic tile has a sheen and luster that cannot be matched by vinyl. They are hard, however, and in places where furniture may bump against the tile, vinyl may be preferred. The resilience of vinyl is, of course, excellent for use as a floor covering.
Vinyl tile is good for use in bathrooms, and it washes easily. For use in kitchens, one precaution must be considered. If vinyl tile is used behind the kitchen range there is the possibility of discoloration in time. Vinyl tile is not fireproof and the heat of the range may affect it.
Of two types available one is applied with a mastic or adhesive and the other is self-adhesive.