Kitchen Porcelain Tile Installation

After hanging some of the upper cabinets we (my dad and I) decided to get started on Tiling the kitchen floor.  This is a three step process if you decide to use the subfloor – cement board – tile method (versus double layer subfloor – moisture barrier – tile method).


The first step requires the installation of the cement board (we used 1/4″ Hardiebacker) and allowing the thin-set mortar to cure for at least 24 hours. We started by making all of our Hardiebacker cuts (used a jigsaw with a diamond blade) and laying the boards out on the floor.  We spaced each board 1/8″ from its neighbor. Once all the cuts were made we picked them up and applied our Versabond Thin-set directly to our plywood subfloor using a 1/4″ trowel.  I decided on the Versabond versus Flexbond for the sub – backerboard mortar because I expect little deflection.  I have more than enough strength via the joists (2×10’s at 16 on center with a short span of less than 12 feet and a subfloor nearly 1″ thick).  The thin-set was mixed in a bucket using a paddle mixer attached to one of our more powerful drills (Milwaukee Hammer Drill).   We started applying the thin-set at the living room – kitchen interface and worked our way back to the rear wall; all the while laying  down the Hardiebacker as we went.   This was done because we wanted to make sure the transition between the hardwood floor and tile was very clean and we knew the rear of the room was going to be covered by the cabinetry therefore covering any wall / floor inconsistencies.  My dad applied the thin-set because he says i never do it right, which is probably true.  So, we laid down the boards together and I followed behind him driving in 1-1/4″ Hardiebacker fasteners using a portable drill.  This a tedious and tiresome process due to the large quantity to be installed!    After all the boars were laid and fastened, we went back over the floor to tape all the seams using an alkali-resistant tape.  Each seam was then filled and tooled over to fill the 1/8″ gap and bond all the boars together, creating a homogenous substrate for the tile . Once the floor was installed we let it sit overnight to cure…  and started tiling 1.5 days later.

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The second step is the actual laying of the tile and again allowing thin-set to cure.   We again began the layout at the living room hardwood interface to keep the tiles as full as possible, because that is what the eye will first see when walking in the house.  The transition to the wood floor was kept perfectly straight using a 2×4 stop seen in the photos.  We (Angela and I) decide to use fairly large tiles that were longer than wide.  No particular reason, we just liked the look.  The tiles are porcelain and are 13-1/8 wide x 19-3/4″ long.   I used Flexbond to allow some expansion / contraction between the tile and subfloor from either walking or environmental conditions.  Even if the subfloor has minimal deflection, there is the chance to point load a tile (stepping on the corner) and having some flexion without cracking the mortar is good practice.  The thin-set was applied using a 3/8″ trowel (needed for larger tiles) and we set each tile in place by laying it on the mortar bed, twisting it, then tapping in into place with a rubber mallet. We spaced each tile 1/4″ apart.  The cuts were all made using a very large wet-saw, a Felker Tile Master. I used 1×8 planks to walk back and forth over the floor while setting them in place.  In hindsight, we should have just worked the opposite way, though I was still concerned about getting a perfect fit at the kitchen entrance.   You can clearly see the “awkwardness” of working yourself into a corner, even if you know what you are doing!

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Lastly, we need to install the grout.  I love and hate this step because it makes the floor come together and look great, but it such a royal pain to clean up the grout and prevent surface hazing.  We trowed in the grout and let it setup while wiping away the excess.  We came back several times as grout firmed up to clean up the grout – tile edges and keep the tile surfaces clean.  The grout cured for 48 hours and Angela came back and sealed the entire floor using a small paint brush and Aqua Mix® Sealer’s Choice® Gold.  Another tedious process that she saved me from!  The absolute last step was caulking the wall tile interface using grout colored silicone.   Done.  Now we can begin floor cabinet installation… how exciting!


Of course Leo made his appearance and made sure we captured him in several photos.  He likes to walk or inspect any new thing we do and he left his paw prints in the thin-set several times!


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