Tiles are one of the most durable, long-lasting and aesthetically pleasing types of flooring you can use in any bathroom space, so it's easy to understand why they are New Zealand homeowners' most preferred bathroom flooring option.
Can you tile a bathroom floor yourself? Tiling your bathroom floor requires a highly developed skillset that takes time and patience (and money) to master, which is why it is best left to the professionals in most cases. However, tackling a small tiling job yourself is possible if you prefer the DIY approach.
Whether you are a beginner and have never tiled before or just looking for some insight into the tiling process, it is always best to do some research into how to tile your bathroom floor before starting any tiling project. So let's take a look at the basics of tiling a bathroom floor.
1. NZ Building Code Rules And Regulations
In most cases, DIY tiling in NZ is permitted without the need for a Licenced Building Practitioner or Building Consent however, NZ building regulations require building consent when installing a tiled shower, so using a professional tiler is essential in this instance.
In short, it is best to check with your local council to see if you require a building consent, and your local professional tilers before setting out on any bathroom tiling projects.
2. The Importance Of Waterproofing
The bathroom floor requires the highest degree of waterproofing found within the home. Tiles themselves are not a complete moisture barrier, they are designed to provide a durable, easy to clean flooring option that protects the waterproof surface below them. Only attempt to tile your bathroom floor if you are confident you can complete the waterproofing requirements to the highest standards.
Without proper water containment, you can end up with damage to the framing and flooring structures of the home. Some local councils require waterproofing work to be carried out by licensed professionals, so always check what applies in your area.
3. Estimating The Cost Of Tiling Your Bathroom Floor
Taking into account the costs involved in your tiling project is a good way to assess whether or not you wish to proceed. Start off by getting an accurate measurement of the size of the floor area in square metres. Then add on 10-15% for cutting waste and breakages etc. From this, you can work out the cost of the tiles you will need to complete the job.
You will also need to factor in the cost of tools and materials, such as a tile cutter, a rubber mallet, a tape measure, tile spacers, a level, a tile trowel, tile adhesive, sealant and grout – see more on what tools and materials you need below.
4. What Do You Need To Tile A Bathroom?
Use this checklist as a rough guide for the tools and materials needed to complete a tiling project.
5. Preparing Your Floor For Tiling
Before you can begin tiling, you must determine whether you can lay tile on the current flooring or if it must be removed, reinforced or covered.
The success of any tiling project depends on the rigidity of the subfloor, even slight movement of a subfloor can cause grout lines to crumble and tiles to crack. Generally speaking, if you have a concrete floor - you're good to go (as far as rigidity is concerned), but a wooden floor requires a little bit of extra attention because wood is prone to shrinkage and expansion under temperature and humidity changes and will need a backer board/tile underlay to provide a more rigid surface for the tiles to be laid.
Your flooring surface also needs to be flat and level. This may mean levelling is required and applies to both wooden and concrete subflooring. This can include additional joists and/or using a floor levelling compound. If there are drains located in the floor, slight sloping of the floor toward the drain might be needed, this can usually be achieved through the use of floor levelling compound.
6. Tile Underlay/Backer Board
What are your tile underlay options? There are three main types of tile underlay here in NZ, Sheet-type fibre cement board, Extruded Polystyrene (EPS) and flexible tile matting. If you need help deciding what type of underlay to use, always consult a professional tiler.
Fibre cement board is the most popular product used in NZ as it is reasonably priced and easy to use, it is not waterproof, however, and can be difficult to cut. EPS is very light and 100% waterproof, but it is more expensive and harder to come by than traditional fibre cement board. Flexible tile matting is a reasonably new product to hit the market, offering a thin, light product that is waterproof and easy to work with the added bonus of integrated insulation.
7. Choosing Your Tiles
Tiles are difficult to replace, so it makes sense to spend money on something you know will last. Four things to think about when choosing your tiles are:
8. Cutting Tiles
As you move through your tile installation, some tiles will need to be cut to accommodate existing features and the size of the room. Edges can be cut with a snap tile cutter or a wet tile saw. Cutouts for tiles around cabinets, toilets, and doors can be cut with a tile nipper.
How To Tile A Bathroom - 10 Step Guide
When tiling your bathroom floor, it is a good idea to have a complete picture of the entire process to ensure you get it right. Here is a quick step-by-step guide to tiling your bathroom floor.
Step 1: Remove Any Obstacles
Remove as much from the room as possible, including the toilet, cabinets, the bath, baseboards and door jambs. If you are just retiling the bathroom without moving anything around it is ok to leave cabinets and bathtubs in place and just tile right up to them.
Step 2: Prepare The Subfloor
The subfloor needs to be flat, level, and free of any holes or damage. When renovating an old bathroom, you may find water damage to the flooring near the shower, bath, toilet, or sink, this will need to be replaced and repaired to create a flat and level flooring surface to place your tiles on. If the subfloor has dips or areas that aren't level, use floor levelling compound on these areas and allow them to fully cure. Install tile underlay and a waterproofing membrane where appropriate.
Step 3: Plan Your Layout
Starting from the centre point of the room, mark the floor at regular intervals to help align the tiles. Set out the tiles in the pattern you wish to get an idea of how they will look. Now is the time to work out how to avoid small or narrow cuts wherever possible and plan how one area may flow on from another.
Starting from the centre also allows for adjustments where the walls may not be square and helps align the tiles at right angles to the walls. Don't forget to allow for the space of the grout joints and a perimeter expansion joint. Usually, you would allow 3-5mm for indoor tiles. Remove all tiles and number them, or stack them in an orderly fashion and set aside.
Step 4: Apply Adhesive
Using an adhesive trowel, spread the tile adhesive across approximately one square metre of the floor at a time. Use the smooth side of the trowel to spread the adhesive, then go back over it with the notched edge held at a 45 degree angle to form ridges. These ridges help to leave a more even depth of adhesive, which helps to create a level surface for the tiles.
Step 5: Set The Tiles
Press tiles firmly onto the floor, remembering to insert tile spacers as you go (helping ensure equal and consistent spacing between tiles). The first tile put down determines where every other tile will go, so getting this one right is important. Set your following tiles by aligning the edges and corners, then hinging them downwards, twisting back and forth as needed for an even alignment and secure placement. Throughout the laying process, use a damp sponge to clean off any finger marks or adhesive that makes its way onto top of the tiles, as once it dries, it is harder to remove.
Step 6: Check Tiles Are Level And Aligned Properly
After placing several tiles, check they are level with each other to avoid the possibility of one tile being higher than the other, creating an uneven surface. Use a rubber mallet to adjust tiles where necessary. Continue spreading mortar and setting additional tiles. Check tile alignment regularly by stepping back and looking down the edges of the tiles. This is important now because if you find alignment issues, you can adjust them while the mortar is still wet but not after it hardens.
Step 7: Allow To Set
Ensure your tiling ends near the doorway so that you can exit without stepping on any tiles. The adhesive will require at least 24 hours (preferably 48 hours) before it hardens. Do not step on the newly laid tiles before they are fully set.
Step 8: Apply Tile Grout
After the tile adhesive has fully set, mix the tile grout to the consistency of mashed potatoes and apply it with a rubber grout spreader pulling firmly toward yourself as you work diagonally across the tiles. Work the grout across the floor until all joints have been filled, and scrape off any excess. Use painter's tape to protect walls, toilets and cabinets etc from grout if necessary. Be sure to use enough grout to fill the joints and the grout is level with the surface of the tile.
When the grout is hard enough, take a damp sponge and gently wipe across the tiles diagonally to clean off any excess grout. Wash sponge frequently to avoid smearing the grout. Different grouts will have different curing times, read the packet for guidance, but most will require you to stay off the tiles for at least 24 hours and leave a full 48 hours or more to fully cure.
Step 9: Seal It Up
Having left the newly grouted tiles to cure for a few days, grout sealer can then be applied. This will prevent moisture from seeping through the grout and going under the tiles, as well as helping prevent stains and keeping mould and mildew from appearing in the grout. Be careful not to get the sealer on the tiles as it may show up, especially on glossy finish tiles. New sealer will need to be applied every couple of years.
Silicone sealant will also need to be applied around all edges where the tiles meet the wall, any cabinets and the toilet. The sealant will allow for movement or expansion between these areas as well as preventing any water from getting underneath the tiles. Aim for a consistent bead of sealant using a caulking gun with steady pressure and speed, leave to dry for 24 hours.
Step 10: Finishing Off
To finish off, remove any painter's tape from protected surfaces, and replace baseboards, door jambs, toilets and cabinets if you removed them. If you have leftover tiles or unmixed grout, keep these in case you have to make repairs in the future. It also pays to keep a record of the brand, colour and retailer of your tile and grout for future reference. Congratulations - you're all done; all that's left is to enjoy your new bathroom floor!
If DIY tiling your bathroom floor seems a bit daunting, give the professionals at LaserLine Tiling in Christchurch a call today to discuss your tiling needs and let them transform your bathroom space - hassle free!