How to Tile on a Concrete Floor

Nobody enjoys the austerity of a concrete floor - even outdoor surfaces that use the material are often covered in one way or another, and for good reason - the sturdy and even surface that concrete naturally provides is wonderful to use other materials on. Particularly in bathrooms and kitchens, people use tiles to stamp their own personal touch on the home - luckily, tiling a concrete floor is a lot easier than you may think.

What you will need:

  • Your choice of bathroom floor tiles
  • A broom, vacuum cleaner or mop
  • Filler for cracks or holes in the concrete
  • Acid-based solution (optional)
  • Levelling compound (optional)
  • Pencil
  • Notched tile trowel
  • Tile spacers
  • Rubber float
  • Your choice of tile adhesive
  • Sandpaper
  • Tile cutter
  • Caulk
  • Sponge

Preparation

In order to get the best results, a concrete floor needs to be cleaned thoroughly before laying tiles on it. This means that any old paint, fillers, sealants or glues ought to be removed before their installation. On top of this, any dust must be removed; after sweeping and/or vacuuming the floor, get hold of a mop and use water to pick up finer dust and then allow it to dry completely.

If the concrete is very smooth, use a supplier-recommended acid-based solution to roughen it before laying tiles, as it will create a stronger bond. After this, fill any holes and smooth bumps before laying tile on top of it; a floor patch and levelling should do the job.

1) Dry-fit the tiles on the floor

Estimate the midpoint of the floor you're tiling and lay out the tiles to see if the pattern ends in a similar way at every edge - this is particularly important if you're establishing a pattern. Using your pencil, mark both vertical and horizontal lines for each row, or each 2x2 or 3x3 block to save time.

2) Apply adhesive to the concrete floor

Apply the tile adhesive with a notched trowel over a space that will lay down tiles over an area of around one metre squared, starting in the middle of the floor. Make sure you follow manufacturer instructions and comb the adhesive onto the floor in even-sized ribbons. Lay tiles in the adhesive and don't forget to keep them apart with spacers. Ensure you also give every tile a little twist to make sure there is a solid bond.

As you radiate outwards, finish at the spot when you no longer have room to lay full tiles, before allowing them to set overnight. The following day, cut your final ones to size, smoothing the tile edges with sandpaper if they remain pointed or sharp after cutting. After laying these final custom-sized tiles, you can leave them to dry overnight once more.

3) Mix and apply the grout

Remove tile spacers and mix the grout as per manufacturer guidelines. From here, you should apply grout to the concrete floor. Using your rubber float, push the grout into the gaps between the tiles at a 45 degree angle. Use a thin blunt object to compress the grout in the gaps, as this offers a professional look as well as an improved water-resistant finish.

Before it dries, ensure that you wipe down any excess grout with a wet sponge before buffing all tiles for a great finish. It will take around two to three days for the grout to dry fully, though it may take less time - or perhaps more - depending on the brand you use. Whatever you do, avoid walking on the floor when the grout is drying, as it could undo all of your hard work.

4) Seal any edges with caulk

Finally, seal the edges of your newly-tiled floor. It's worth investing in damp-resistant caulk if it is a wet room like a bathroom or kitchen. Leave it for a couple of days before putting any more pressure on it and voila - the perfect, glistening flooring surface for your home!