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How to Tile and Grout a Bathroom Floor

wood tiles
bathroom wood tiles

When bathroom floor tiles are installed, grouted and finished well, they give an incredible professional look. And that’s exactly what I’m going to teach you guys to do. We’re going to cover the tools and materials you need, installation, grouting, the full process.

Preparation and Planning

measuring floor surface

The best bit is by the end of this, you’ll all be able to tile a bathroom floor and get a professional look and finish like this. First, let’s get the floor nice and clean. You don’t want anything on the floor and you want a clear space to work. Now, check that the surface you’re tiling on is nice and level and well-prepared. In this case, this is a timber floor with underfloor heating and self-leveling compound over the top.

If your floor’s not level, self-leveling compound is a great way to get it up to a standard that you can tile on. The surface you’re tiling to, also known as the substrate, is one of the most important things. So make sure you spend some time getting it right.

One good way of knowing how you should prepare the substrate that you’re tiling to is to check the back of the bag for the tile adhesive. It’ll often list different ways to prepare different substrates before trying to lay tiles. So this floor’s prepped. I’m happy with it and we can continue to the next step.

So what should you tile first, walls or floors? Well, if you’re tiling the walls, what I would do is tile the bulk of the walls first down to a batten. You’d then tile the floor, remove the batten and put the last row of tiles in so they overlap onto the floor.

Now, the room we’re working in, the walls aren’t being tiled. They’re being fibro-boarded. So we don’t need to worry about that. We get the floor done and then we get the boards in on top of them. Now we’re going to move on to setting out. Setting out is the term that we use for planning out your tiling.

There’s an old saying in tiling, don’t lay your first tile until you know where the last one’s going to go. I know it can be tempting to rush into getting a decent out, get some tiles down, but you don’t want to do that. You want to spend as much time as you need, be patient and get the plan correct first because it’s really important to the finished look.

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tile installing

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Now there’s a lot of different ways to setting out and tiling, different techniques. I’m just going to show you the way I do it. First thing I’m going to do, if you’ve got a bath in the room, you want to mark where the bath panel’s going to go. So the bath is in position. I’m going to drop a level down to the floor from the edge of the bath.

Make sure the level’s plumb and make a mark at the bottom of the level. Do that along the length of the bath and then we’re going to run a line along the bottom of where the bath panel’s going to go. Because what we don’t want to do is stop our tiles up to the bath panel, we want a tile slightly under the bath panel so we get a nice seamless finish when it comes to installing a bath panel. Now we’re going to start to dry lay some tiles and that’ll help us get a feel for where these are going to go in the room.

These are porcelain floor tiles, make sure you get tiles that are rated for floors. And we’re just going to lay a full tile in the doorway to start with, butt the tile up to the threshold. Now these tiles are 600mm long, so if I use a tile marker and just mark 300mm, I know by doing that what halfway is along that tile. And because we’re brick patterning, lay a second tile halfway along that first tile. What I don’t want to do is end up with a little sliver of tile, a small cut in the doorway.

There’s two reasons for that, first one, doorway’s always the first bit you see, you see it from the landing, you see it from other rooms, it’s going to look horrible if you have a small cut in a doorway. Secondly, there’s loads of traffic in the doorway, you don’t want a tiny little cut right where the foot is going to fall every single time someone comes into the room.

And that’s why I start in the doorway, because if I can, I want full tiles in the doorway, I want cuts to be up that end of the room, especially where there’s a vanity unit or something going over the top of them. So we’ve got a full tile here, and because of the brick pattern, we’re going to have half a tile just here.

Now we’ll start to dry lay some more tiles until we get to the end of the room. And as you start to dry lay them, as a beginner, it’s really helpful because it allows you to visualise where any cuts might be. What you can see is we’re going to have a small cut here, and we’re going to have a nice big cut in this piece here. This is really up to you and your individual circumstance, that cut for me is under a vanity unit. There’s no other show of that cut, so I’m not too worried about it. My suggestion is if it’s under a third of a tile, it’s not going to look visually appealing.

So to increase that gap the other end, I’d bring all of these tiles along a little bit. I’d keep as much tile in the doorway as possible, because what we don’t want is this gap here to become too small. But by moving them all up, we do end up with a much bigger cut this end, and it’s more visually appealing.

And by doing this dry laying process, you’ll be able to figure out the best pattern for you. Now what we’re going to do is concentrate on the width of the room.

Installation Techniques

So I’ll show you how I’ll measure this out, but you could use a mixture of the two techniques to get the perfect plan. So we need to find the middle of the room.

Grab a tape measure, and what we’re going to do is measure the width of the room, and then we’re going to half that measurement. Half the width of the room is 98, so I’ll mark that on the floor.

So we’re going to measure off from that wall in two places, then we’ll run a line down the middle of the room. Now you can see that center line that I’ve made just there, and by finding the center, that means that the gap on each end of the tiles is going to be the same. So you can see we’d have a tiny cut at the bath, and a tiny cut at the wall.

And of course visually, that’s horrible. So what we’ll do is straddle the center line with a tile. So move your tile over by half a tile, and now look at what we get. A nice big juicy piece of tile on either side. That gives us a nice even gap, and we know we’re going to get visually appealing tiles throughout the room. And sometimes it is a case of picking the lesser of two evils, and getting it as visually pleasing as you can.

Floor prep’s done, set and oak’s done, it was worth spending that little bit of time to get this right. Now what we can do is stand all the tiles up, get them out of the way, and get some adhesive mixed up, ready to lay these things. There’s a bunch of tools that we need to grab before we start the job.

In no particular order, tile marker, tape measure, bucket trowel, small level, you can see I use that one for tile interlocks, it’s covered in tile adhesive, very small scraper, a couple of fiddly notch trowels, rubber mallet, only really needed for large format tiles, and a sucker. For floors you want a 10 millimeter notch trowel, this is an angled ruby trowel, it’s a really great trowel.

These are three mil spacers, it’s a pretty standard spacing for floor tiles, and this is a ruby floor leveling system, optional, I’ll show you how to use it in a bit.

I’ll use undersized ones, so 1.5 mil spacing. You’ll want a manual tile cutter. For tricky cuts, we don’t need any wet cutters for these particular tiles, all we’re going to use is a simple grinder, just make sure you use a tile cutting disc for cutting tiles.

The tile adhesive I’m using is Balflex one, it’s a flexible tile adhesive, perfect for the underfloor heating that we’re using, timber floors and things like that. Ask at the tile shop and see what adhesive they recommend for your application. This is a panel mixer for mixing up the adhesive, you can get cheap ones that go in the end of a drill, you don’t necessarily need a big one like this.

Now we can mix up our adhesive to the required consistency. When it starts to hold a bit of shape, like you can see there, it doesn’t fall in on itself, that is the perfect consistency. Now we can get our first tile down. Use your bucket trowel, get a bit of that adhesive on the deck there, and then we’re just going to spread that out. Now it hasn’t got to be pretty to start with, get it on there and then I’ll show you the pattern in those notches that we need. I’m pulling the trowel towards me and that gives me those nice straight notches.

What you don’t want is loads of waves because that traps air in those notches, when we push the tile down we want those to collapse and the air to be pushed out of the ends. Now we’re going to back butter the tile, so if you look at this tile it’s got a textured effect on the back. What we want to do is back butter the tile to fill those voids.

Now I usually just flip it over on my knee. Now I get my adhesive on the trowel with what’s left on there and then use the flat edge of the trowel to spread it around and back butter it. There you go, just like that. Now you only need to do this with large format tiles, you don’t need to do this with small tiles. We’ll get that on there. Now this first tile, I need to line these marks up to make sure it’s in the right place.

Those clips I showed you earlier slot underneath the tile, so we’re going to pop some of those in and now we just want to bed that tile onto the adhesive, but now we’re going to lift it up again. So I’ll put the corner of my bucket trowel under the tile. If I bring you this side, I don’t know whether you can see that, but we’ve got complete coverage.

So what we’re going to do now is pop that tile back down again. Now we only need to check the coverage on the first tile and the odd tile throughout the process. You don’t need to do that on every single tile.

Now if you’re a beginner, I’d recommend that you work in small areas. Don’t pull out big beds of adhesive with your notch trowel because it’s just going to get messy and you’ll lose control of it. Once you’ve got a couple of tiles down, we can start to look at the tile leveling system and the spacers.

Of course we use the 3mm spacers to make sure that the spacing is correct between the tiles. I like to use spacers bigger than the leveling clips because it allows for the clips to come out easier later. If they’re embedded in the adhesive and they’re fully sized, it can actually chip the very edge of the tile.

I’ve seen it happen, so I use these ones. Now this next tile we need to cut, so just take a measurement. We can cut that with a manual cutter. Now handily, this tile cutter has measurements on it, so I can line that up at 48. That’s the amount I want. This tile cutter works by scoring the tile, push it up to the top and we snap the tile.

Now I can drop the tile in there with the cut edge against the wall. Now I can get some spacers in there to get my spacing correct. So what we do is we pop the wedge in there. I start it by hand and the pressure of those clips nipping down on the tile actually bring the two tiles level. You use the clamp to then clip to a set pressure. And if we use the bottom of one of these, what you’ll find is that the tiles are perfectly level with no lips at all.

So that bit of the rim’s done. It’s really tricky to get in there and film. Working from the center going that way is difficult. Working from the center going this way, nice and easy. So we’re going to film a little bit more this side. So what we’ve got here is a cut around this corner.

So now grab a tile, lay it roughly the space it’s going to be, just there. Make a little mark with your tile marker, just there. And then we’re going to bring it in this way as well. Do the same on this side.

Bring a square in and then we’re just going to square that off. Same on this side. And that’s the bit we remove. So we’re going to cut the tile using our grinder and our disc, eye protection and ear protection. Also tiles can be sharp once they’ve been cut, so probably good to get a pair of gloves on if you can. And we can drop it in position.

If you’ve got boards, tiles or skirt ends, you can leave a little gap. You don’t need to be really tight to the wall. Now rinse and repeat as we work our way across the bathroom floor. And we’ll just fly that last tile past where the bath panel’s going to be, so the bath panel sits on top of the tile. Right, last little bit of tile going in now. I’ve cut that around the doorframe.

I’ve worked my way back out the door and that is all the tiles down. So now this is done, have a clear up. Make sure there’s no adhesive on the top of the tiles or in the grout joints because it’s easier to get rid of that now.

And check the back of your adhesive packet because that’ll tell you how long it takes for the adhesive to go off and how soon you can grout it. So it’s the morning after the day before. We can now walk on the floor, it’s solid, you’re not going to damage anything.

First thing we’re going to do is take out all the spacers. So that’s all the spacers out, they should come out nice and easy. Now we need to take out the wedges and the clips from our tile levelling system. This is where you want a rubber mallet. Don’t use a hammer. If you hit the edge of a tile, it’s game over, you’ll damage the floor.

So all we need to do with this, give it a little tap in one direction. You save the wedges for the next job and the top of the clip goes in the bin. You buy new ones of these for the next job. Now I’m just going to give the floor another good hoover before we move on to the next step. Now if you kept everything clean as you were laying these, your grout joints shouldn’t be full of adhesive. You can see here you’re probably going to get a couple of little bits like this that are sticking out where the clips were.

Now we just need to get them little hard lumps out. We can just use a Stanley knife for this. You can use special tools. I just use a Stanley knife. There you go, nice and easy to cut out of there. Now just give the floor a little wipe over to get rid of any adhesive or marks that you’ve made on the tiles as you were laying them.

It’s important that we don’t get any dirt in the grout joints. Now also you don’t have to grout at this point. I’d advise if you’re now going to tile the walls and do all that kind of thing, do that first and then grout the floor. Cover it up with some cardboard or floor protector for now and then come back to grouting it because that way you don’t get loads of dirt in it.

For the purpose of this article, so that I can get it finished for you guys, I’m going to grout it and then I’m going to cover it up whilst I work on the rest of the bathroom.

Grouting

removing tile grouting

Now there’s a bunch of tools we need for grouting. First of all we need some grout of course. This goes a long way. It looks like a small bag but this 2.5 kilogram bag will go a long way so make sure you read the coverage on the back of your chosen grout. The second most important ingredient to grouting is of course water.

So we need to head to the shop and get some. So I’ve come to a slightly unusual place to get your DIY supplies. So the reason we went to the DIY shop to get our water is that we don’t use tap water anywhere near grouting because in hard water areas, especially on dark coloured grouts, you could get a lime scale staining in the grout.

So no tap water near your grouting, use some cheap bottled water. Now you want a nice clean new bucket as well and a nice clean paddle mixer that you can put into a drill. You can see this isn’t the one we used yesterday, that one’s got adhesive and lumps of plaster and all kinds of things on it.

Brand new grouting sponge, use a new one for every job. Now last of all this is a grouting float. What it does is it works the grout into the joints. I’ll show you how to use that in a minute. So we’ve got two buckets, first one is our rinse down water, second bucket is our mixing bucket. We want five parts powder to one part clean water and we’re looking for a nice creamy paste.

I’ll show you the consistency once we’ve got it mixed. What we’ve got there is a nice smooth paste. All I want you to do is grab a small amount of grout on the small end of your grouting float and we’re going to work it into the joint.

Now you push the grout into each joint and you work in a small area at any one time and you’re aiming for a nice even smooth finish like that. Where any tiles kind of intersect just work diagonally across the joint. Now there’s a bit of a knack to it but you’ll get the hang of it fairly quickly.

So now we’ve done an area you can see that’s starting to haze over, starting to dry already. So grab your rinse bucket and just wring out the sponge. What we don’t want is a soak and wet sponge, you just want a damp sponge, that’s all you need. And now we’re just going to give this a wipe over. You want to keep the sponge nice and flat, apply hardly any pressure at all. I’m just gently pushing, very very gently with my hand, I’m not putting any weight behind it and in a diagonal pattern we’re just going over those grate lines.

And what you’re going to see is it’s going to smooth them all off and give them a nice kind of glossy finish. If you accidentally pull any grout out or you notice there’s a little gap in the grout, fix it now, get some more grout in there and re-sponge that little section. Now I’m just working my way towards the door.

Now if you look we can get a lovely smooth finish on that grout and that’s that initial look that you’re going for. Gentle haze across the tiles but lovely smooth grout. So this grout’s hardened up a bit, it goes off in a couple of hours. I’m going to walk in the middle of the tiles, I’m not subjecting it to any traffic or regular use yet.

What I can do now is grab the sponge, nice and damp again, fresh clean water again and same as before we just give it a nice clean and that just gets the rest of that residue off there. If you see any little stubborn bits you can just wipe them off at this stage and once it’s hazed up we’re just going to buff the tiles with a microfiber cloth.

We’re going to put a bit of pressure on the microfiber, buff the floor and you’re going to see that dusty haze come off and a nice shiny finish. As long as the grout’s nice and hard you’re not going to damage the grout, you can just put pressure on it and really buff that haze off the tiles. Don’t be concerned if it takes a couple of goes to get all the haze off the tiles, it will come off it just takes a bit of elbow grease.

Check out the shine on that, there’s that professional finish that you were looking for. To finish off once your walls are boarded or tiled I like to use the colour match, same colour silicone as I did with the grout around the bottom of the walls.

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