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25 Things to Know Before Installing Porcelain tile in Your Bathroom

Posted on 12 July, 2018 by Gary W. Knight
87 out of 100 based on 676 user ratings

25 Things to Know Before Installing Porcelain tile in Your Bathroom

Here's an important laundry list of tips and info to know before installing porcelain tile in your bathroom.

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Bathroom with porcelain tile walls and floor

Porcelain is a fabulous material for various products and purposes.

It’s extraordinarily hard, durable with a non-porous surface.  It’s easy to clean as a result.

The chemical composition of porcelain is a combination of clay, kaolin (a primary clay known for its translucency), feldspar, silica and quartz, but other materials may be added [nicolettabertolissi.com].

Check out the photo above – it’s a bathroom with porcelain tile walls and floor.  It’s shiny; in fact, porcelain is the only earthenware that’s translucent.

If you’re considering porcelain tile for walls and/or floor, consider the following facts.

1. Choosing the Right Tile for the Job

When you are thinking of remodeling an area of your home with new flooring, choosing the right material is the first step to keep in mind throughout the process. Selecting the optimal material for a floor remodel greatly depends on your plans for the space and the amount of maintenance you are seeking. Some of the most popular choices for flooring include wood, ceramic, and porcelain tile. Consider the purpose of the room you are remodeling and the amount of foot traffic you expect in the space. Porcelain tile is an ideal choice for any space that your household spends plenty of time in. Bathrooms, kitchens, and even hallways are often complete with porcelain tile.

2. Getting Your Color Choices of Your Tile Right

After you have calculated just how much porcelain tile the space you are renovating requires, it is then time to begin searching for colors that fit with the theme or color scheme you have in mind. Unfortunately, not all tiles may look the same after purchasing and opening your tile boxes. When shopping around for the same colors of tile, search for dye lot numbers that are the same or similar. Mix and match your newly purchased tiles to keep them from appearing mismatched or unappealing once you begin to lay them onto the floor.

3. Properly Prep the Area

Before you can begin installing your home’s new porcelain tile you must first properly prep the area. Remove all furnishings and removable fixtures from the surrounding area along with any accessories and decor in the room (even if the items are hanging on the wall). Remove all base trim from surrounding walls and trim surrounding toilets if you are remodeling your bathroom. If you have plans to remove your entire toilet from the room, ensure you do so properly by plugging the drain (using a rag or another material). Plugging the drain attached to your toilet prevents potentially harmful gasses from leaking into the room or affecting other individuals in your household. Always use a proper ventilation mask when removing old flooring including tile and wood to prevent the inhalation of dust and harmful debris.

4. Selecting the Right Color Scheme for Your Desired Room

Selecting the right color scheme for your desired room ahead of time helps when planning the overall style and layout you want to implement in the space. Consider which colors are best for the room you are updating based on the amount of traffic you expect in the area. Select a porcelain tile pattern that is neutral if you expect a heavy amount of dirt and foot traffic. Wood porcelain tile along with white tile work optimally in areas with medium to high levels of foot traffic. Steer clear from dark tiles if your home is prone to dust or if you have a member of your household who works with plaster, dust, and lighter debris. Light-colored porcelain tile can quickly show off dirt, mud, and other stains, although it is possible to clean porcelain with less effort compared to alternative tile and flooring solutions.

5. Compare Installation Patterns

Installation patterns widely vary and provide you with creative freedom and flexibility when installing porcelain tile on your own. Choosing the right type of pattern greatly depends on the size of the area you are remodeling and whether or not you intend to install porcelain tile on the walls of the room you are updating. Some of the most common porcelain tile patterns used in home projects include square tiles, diagonal tiles, and even symmetrical patterns. Research projects that include different installation patterns to get a better idea of the overall result and aesthetic you are looking for in your home.

6. Removing Old Tile First

When you have old flooring or tile to remove it is important to prepare for this part of the project first. Use both a hammer and chisel to get started. Begin by breaking a small spot of the tile you want to remove using your hammer. As the tile begins to crack and break, it becomes much easier to utilize your chisel to lift the tile from the floor underneath. Additionally, it is also possible to use your chisel to directly access and break grout lines that are already in place in your flooring or walls. Once you find a solution that works best for you (based on the age of the flooring and the material you are removing), create a system that helps expedite the process and get the job done as quickly as possible.

7. Leveling Floors and Surfaces

Leveling floor and wall surfaces play a major role in the overall outcome of a porcelain tile project. When you do not level a surface, you run the risk of unbalanced tiles or tiles that simply appear unfinished. Patch up any holes you find below your removed tile to ensure the area is level and ready for tile installation. Always verify that the wood subfloor is solid and not rotting or damp. If a wood subfloor is unstable, damp, or flimsy, you may need to replace it before you lay your porcelain tile. Laying porcelain tile over an area with an unsuitable wooden subfloor can lead to expensive repairs and replacements in just a few years, immensely decreasing the overall longevity of the tile itself.

8. Comparing Large Vs. Small Porcelain Tile

Compare both large and small porcelain tile sizes before choosing the most suitable option for your next project. Measure the area you are working in while comparing standard sizes of the porcelain tile you are eyeing for your upcoming project. While smaller porcelain tile sizes allow for more creative freedom and flexibility, they also require more time and can become tedious during the installation itself. Choose a larger porcelain tile size if you are working in an open and wide space to help save time without feeling overwhelmed while laying the tile.

9. Review Your Budget

Before conducting a tile installation job on your own it is essential to calculate and review the budget you have available for the project. When you choose porcelain tile as your main material to buy, keep in mind that porcelain is often much more expensive than alternatives such as ceramic and standard adhesive tiles. Due to its heavy weight and durability, porcelain’s costs are likely to surpass any other materials, regardless of the size of the room you are remodeling. In addition to calculating the cost of the tile itself, consider the grout and necessary tools you require to complete your project.

10. Calculate Time Necessary to Complete the Project

Whenever you are taking on an installation of porcelain tile it is advisable to calculate the time you will require to get the job done, especially if you have plans to complete the project on your own and without the help of a professional team. Even if you have plans to remodel the floor of a guest bathroom in your home, set aside at least a few days to remove old flooring, prep the floor, level the area, and install the tile itself. If you are remodeling the only bathroom in your home, consider alternative options for showering and using the restroom for your household before you begin the project.

11. Gather Necessary Tools When Completing a Solo Porcelain Tile Installation

Before taking on the task of installing brand new porcelain tile throughout your home, prepare by having all of the necessary tools required to get the job done readily available. Some of the most common tools used when removing flooring and laying porcelain tile include:

  • Hammer
  • Chisel
  • Ventilation Mask
  • Wet Tile Saw
  • Construction Gloves
  • Grout Sponge
  • Grout Float
  • Notched Tools
  • Box Level
  • Bubble Level
  • Buckets
  • Heavy-Duty Bags
  • High-Grade Mallet

Review all of the items you have available and consider the area you are working with to confirm you are ready and prepared to begin the installation of your new floor or wall.

12. Browse for Pattern and Style Inspiration

If you are unsure of where to begin with your new porcelain tile project, browse for inspiration online and within your favorite home improvement magazines. Compare patterns, styles, and various themes that are most popular to help envision the final look and feel you are going for in the space you are remodeling. If you are seeking a specific aesthetic and theme, use relevant keywords to find inspirational imagery and video tutorials. Save images you find the most inspiring to help you throughout the process once you begin prepping and laying the tile.

13. Determine the Thickness of Your Ideal Porcelain Tile

Determine the optimal thickness of the porcelain tile you are installing before making a purchase or beginning the installation process. Consider the subfloor you are working on and whether or not you require thicker tile for damper areas or rooms with more traffic.

14. Use Chalk Lines

Chalking the area you are installing tile in is essential before laying or placing porcelain. Use chalk lines to define your starting points and to ensure the installation is complete with straight lines of tiles. Use the letter “T” while laying an entire row both horizontally and vertically in the room you are working in, prior to using adhesive on the substrate. Chalking ultimately helps to save time once you have a clear idea of the layout and pattern you want to implement.

15. Using Grout

Do not immediately use grout once you have laid your tiles into place with an adhesive. Most adhesives require anywhere from 12 to 24 hours to completely cure before grout should be utilized. Choose a grout color and the overall look and feel (sanded or un-sanded) before inserting the grout into cracks between each of the tiles you have placed. If you are using a rectified tile installation, you will likely require less grout or grout altogether depending on the type of porcelain you have selected.

16. Consider Surrounding Trim

Prep surrounding trim in any space you are adding new tile by removing it or taping it off. Consider the overall height of your tile to determine whether or not the trim is likely to interfere with the tile type you plan to use. In some cases, you may find it easier to eliminate the trim in an area altogether and installing new trim to better suit the look and feel of the porcelain tile you plan to use.

17. Prepare Doors and Entryways

Prepare all doors and entryways in the room that you are remodeling with new porcelain tile. Oftentimes, it is best to simply remove doors from their hinges to eliminate problems that may arise when you begin laying tile near the door itself. Be sure to measure the height of the tile (how thick or thin it is) from the base of your subfloor to determine whether or not you need to cut or trim your door once the project is complete.

18. Allow for Movement After Installation

Whenever you are laying porcelain tile it is imperative to leave room for movement, especially before adding grout and sealing your work. When porcelain tiles are unable to breathe or move properly as they settle into their new place, they are much more likely to crack or break with the slightest disruption. Allowing for movement ensures the tiles will settle into your floor or wall space without potential unexpected issues from arising.

19. Waterproof Bathrooms and Damp Areas Before Installing Porcelain Tile

If you are installing porcelain tile in a room that is damp or often wet, such as a bathroom, it is highly recommended to waterproof the area before using it. While porcelain tile itself is non-porous and waterproof, grout is not. Solutions such as Deltaboards help keep water from seeping into the ground and causing mold growth and discolorations for long-lasting results.

20. Watch Out for a Lack of Standard Labeling

Unfortunately, there is a massive lack of standard labeling used in the porcelain tile industry. Without standard requirements for porcelain tile, companies often mislabel materials and characteristics of the type of porcelain contained in boxes and palettes. Any time you are in the market for new porcelain tile, be sure to thoroughly inspect each box or package of porcelain you purchase to ensure it matches its original description before making a purchase.

21. Read Reviews on Various Porcelain Tile Brands and Styles

Read reviews and customer testimonials on various porcelain tile brands and styles that you are most interested in before making a decision. Customer reviews provide valuable insight into the overall quality of tiles along with the accuracy of descriptions and labels available with each style you are thinking of using. Use customer reviews to find a porcelain tile company you can trust and rely on, especially when you have a project that requires a large order of the same colored or patterned tiles.

22. Understand the Labor Involved in Installing Porcelain Tile on Your Own

Taking on a porcelain tile installation is an ambitious project, even if you are familiar with the process and have experience in home DIY projects. Porcelain is extremely heavy and has more weight to it than alternative flooring options, causing it to quickly become physically demanding when working in a medium or large-sized area. If you are working solo it is also necessary to have a clear understanding of the removal, prep, and grout process to ensure the installation goes as smoothly as possible. Before getting started with a solo installation project involving porcelain tile, be sure to conduct an adequate amount of research until you feel comfortable with and confident in any decisions you make once the process begins.

23. The Hassles of Grout Maintenance

While porcelain tile is one of the most durable and reliable floor and wall materials, grout is a different story entirely. Grout is necessary to complete a porcelain tile project, but it is also comprised of an entirely porous material. Whenever you have grout in an area, proper maintenance is key to preventing mold and mildew building. If your porcelain tile is installed in an area that is damp or easily collects moisture, keep an eye on surrounding grout to prevent discoloration, yellow spots, and mold growth. Maintaining grout over time is highly advisable for the best results and to maintain your new porcelain floors or walls.

24. Hire a Professional Team to Get the Job Done

One way to expedite the process of completing your porcelain tile project is to hire a professional team of contractors to get the job done right. When you choose to hire professionals, speed up the overall time of the project with the help of multiple members of a team. While it is convenient to hire a team of professional contractors, it is also important to keep in mind that the project may still require the same number of days as it would take when completing it on your own. Floor removal, prep work, leveling, and grout all require time before moving to the next portion of the installation.

25. Ventilation Matters

Ventilation is extremely important when installing new porcelain tile, regardless of the size of the room you are working in. If you or anyone in your household is sensitive to various odors, dust, and debris, ensure the room is properly ventilated once the installation job is complete. Keep any area you lay tile in properly ventilated using windows and fans for 48 to 72 hours after the final tile has been placed and set.

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