Tiling a Floor - to DIY or not to DIY

Can you tile a floor without hiring a professional?  In the popular phrase of the day – Yes, you can! 

It’s not the easiest DIY project in the world, and it’s not a one day project.  But if you know how to read, and can handle a few power tools, you may be able to pull this one off. 

Consider the cost savings if you were to tile the kitchen rather than hiring someone, standard tile installation averages $7 per square foot, with a 15 x 18 foot standard sized kitchen, that’s over $1,800 – a fairly motivating factor when you’re trying to redecorate your kitchen on a budget.

Keep the following tips in mind when considering a DIY tile project.

  • Marble, slate and granite are difficult for a first-timer.  It’s doable if you insist, but you need special mortar, sealer and darn good even subfloor.
  • And speaking of subfloors…what are they?  A subfloor is the layer of planks or plywood that is laid over the floor joists when your house is built. Concrete can also be a subfloor.  It is the base for whatever else is laid upon it such as carpet, linoleum, laminate or tile.  Between your flooring and subflooring, there is a layer of underlayment. Underlayment is the materials used over the subfloor to create a stable and smooth surface for the finishing material.
  • Underlayment when tiling is usually backer board or Hardi-backer, it is a cement type board that comes in a 3x5 foot sheet that is screwed to the subfloor to create a solid, unmoving surface.  It’s fairly easy to work with, even for a novice.
  • Your goal in tiling the floor is to end up with a solid, unmoving surface so it won’t crack the tile.  Replacing one cracked tile in the middle of a floor is not something you want to do, you have to get the tile out without breaking the tiles around it, remove the mortar and do it all over again.  It’s a nightmare you want to avoid.
  • When choosing tile, and whether or not you’re going to try the installation on your own, you need to account for the extra height in the floor – with backerboard, mortar and tile, the floor can be raised up to two inches.  That may be a problem with your appliances, such as your refrigerator and dishwasher and how they fit in the cabinet openings.  If you tile up to the appliances, and not under them, are you going to be able to slide them out to be replaced or repaired if that’s ever needed?  Are you going to have to shave down doors to be able to open and close properly?  It’s something you need to consider BEFORE you begin your project, not during or after.
  • Tiles need to be perfectly even, not only for looks, but so you don’t trip.  If you choose a tile with an uneven surface, such as porcelain with a slate look, it is more forgiving if it’s not perfectly even.
  • You’ll also need to figure out how your tiles will be laid, side by side, in a pattern, or ‘checkerboard’ style.  As a novice, the checkerboard style can be more forgiving if you’re tile doesn’t line up perfectly.
  • When planning your tile installation, consider the cost of the tools and materials as well.  You’ll need tools to cut tiles – either a scoring cutter or wet saw, both which can be purchased for under $100, along with a grout float, nippers, and a power screwdriver for installing the backer board. 

Consider the complexity of the project when deciding whether or not to DIY or not to DIY.  That is the question.