September 23, 2023

Tile Basement Flooring – Tiling Your Basement Floor

Tiling a basement floor is something that almost any homeowner can handle, provided you got a couple of tools to do the job and enough time to get it done right. If you don’t, you can certainly contact a professional to get it done. Having tile floors in the basements is a superb flooring option as you won’t have to deal with all the water issues that you would with other types of flooring materials like carpet or laminate basement flooring because tile is waterproof. Now the tile I’m speaking of in this case pertains to ceramic, porcelain, or stone tile.

tile basement flooring

What To Look At First For Tiled Basement Flooring

One of the first things you need to look at when tiling a basement floor is the condition of the floor itself. Is it clean and basic level? Does it have cracks or holes that must be taken care of first? Do you have any moisture issues that you’ll need to deal with first through some waterproofing measures? Tile can be a fickle fiend when installing and maintaining it on an unlevel, unsightly floor. It would be best if you had a clean, mostly level floor to install tile on in the basement, or it will eventually lead to cracking and grout problems.

To seal or not to seal, that’s the next question. Depending on which “expert” you talk to, there are two differing opinions on sealing the basement floor before tiling it. Some will tell you that it’s needed to protect the tiles and grout from moisture-related problems, while others argue that’s what the latex-added thin-set is for and that tile is already waterproof. I’d stay away from sealing it if you are going to install tile on it. But you should always check with the manufacturer first for a final ruling depending on the type of tile you select and the warranty you expect.

Basement Floor Tile Selection

basement tile floor selection

When it comes to finding the right tiles for basement floors, there’s no wrong selection to make, it depends on what look you are going for and how much time you have to do the job. The first thing to do would be to go to a tile store to get a good visual of their selection and touch and feel it. Remember that you’ll likely walk barefoot across it at one time or another.

You can mix and match them to create any pattern that you feel “fits” the situation. One suggestion that I can give on your tile selection is this, larger floor tiles work better. If this is your first tiling job, try to stick to, at minimum, the 8”x8” squares, preferably the 12”x12” or 14”x14”. They come larger than that, all the way to 24” squares, but those are a little bulky to work with starting.

Why You Need A Grid Layout

There’s no better solution to laying your ceramic tile basement floor than to start by popping chalk lines into a grid-style layout. Why? For starters, a grid-styled layout allows you to see precisely where each tile will be and where you’ll have to make your cuts. This is especially true on large basement floors. In addition, it ensures that the installation of a ceramic tile basement floor is consistently square. I can’t stress enough the importance of maintaining accurate measurements throughout the layout process.

Measuring Basement Tiles for Chalk Lines

One thing to note is that this works for basically any floor, not just basements. To gain an accurate measurement, you need to have the tiles in hand at this point. Do a quick sort and ensure they are all roughly the same size. Then pick 3 of them and lay them out linearly like in the picture. Be sure to put your spacers in place between the tiles now so that you’ll have the gout lines represented.

Now, you measure from the outer edge of the first tile to the inner edge of the third tile, making sure to include the grout joints in your measurement. This is denoted in the “red” space on the image. Take note of this measurement, as that is what you will use to pop the chalk lines on the basement floor.

Marking Basement Floor Chalk Lines

After you’ve cleaned the floor and dust-free (you might need to sweep and vacuum it a few times), you are ready to start setting the chalk lines. These are guidelines to keep your tile installation all “square.” You can go about this in two ways, and both look good.

The first way is to work from the center of the room to the exterior walls. First, you find the center of the room by snapping chalk lines from the middle of opposing walls. What you end up with at the intersection of the two lines is the “center” of the room. From there, you work both left and right snapping chalk lines to keep your tiles square throughout the installation.

You may even want to make the entire grid using horizontal and vertical chalk lines to ensure even spacing. Just remember to add extra space for the spacers that you’ll remove and grout later. This will create a nice evenly spaced pattern throughout the room, starting from the center of it. The only downfall to this method is that if you are new to tiling, you tend to end up with many cuts around the edges to fill in.

The second method is slightly different as you start from a corner instead of the center. Find the longest and straightest wall in your basement and start in that corner. Typically, these are exterior walls, but if you have an interior load-bearing wall, it could also be that. Next, you measure and mark off the floor from one end of the wall.

Repeat the same process on the other end of the wall with the same measurement. Pop a chalk line between the two marks. Then repeat these same steps for the walls on the opposite sides. Use a square and ensure everything is “in the square” by testing a few intersecting chalk lines. You’ll need to adjust and re-pop the lines if they aren’t.

This is an easier installation for the first-timer. The only downfall with this method is that you’ll likely end up with one or two walls having cut tiles along the edges. Still, it’s all square and will look good.

chalk line

Special Note Before Installing Ceramic Basement Tile

For this installation, we will assume using the second method listed above. You will want to start your ceramic basement tile installation in the corner where you first started popping the two original chalk lines. To make this smooth and easy, if you want to start your first grout joint to the wall, don’t butt the tile directly on the wall. If you don’t have a 4-foot level, you will need one. This will help you keep your tiles straight throughout the installation.

You will insert spacers on each corner of the tile joints. Spacers come in different sizes, but a typical spacer size is between 1/4” to 5/16” wide. If you are using the larger tiles, I find it best to keep a 1/4” spacer between them. Keeping the ceramic tiles properly aligned to your chalk lines within the grid is much more important than keeping the grout lines at a consistent width.

How To Tile A Basement Floor

The first thing you are going to need is a large 5-gallon bucket. If you don’t have one, you can usually pick them up from a hardware store for a few bucks. This bucket will mix up the thin-set with a latex additive. Not all thin sets are the same, so follow the manufacturer’s instructions. You’ll know when you are done mixing that the thin set has the consistency of mom’s morning oatmeal. Never had it? You should, great way to start the day.

Next, start in the corner we noted above, and using a 1/4 inch notched trowel apply the thin-set to the first grid squares on the basement floor. You only want to work one grid square at a time to maintain consistency, so only cover that much. Then you’ll want to apply a small amount of thin set to the back of the ceramic tile and place it in the desired location. To set it, wiggle it back and forth a couple of times, pressing firmly to ensure it bonds with the thin set you laid on the floor. Set your spacers and move on to the next tile.

Continue installing the tiles checking to make sure that you are still “square” and “in-grid” as you go working your way down or across to the opposite wall. As you get closer to the edge of the surrounding walls, you must cut the basement tiles to the appropriate size using either a tile cutter or a wet saw.

install basement tile

Grouting a Tiled Basement Floor

After the tile basement flooring has been set up over a 24-hour, you can grout the tile. The first thing you are going to need to do is to remove all the spacers. Have a pair of pliers handy; some may be a little tough to break loose. Once you’ve got all the spacers up, it’s time to move on to a little more cleanup and preparing the grout. You will need a couple of 5-gallon buckets here, a couple of sponges, and a grout float to do it right.

Before you start grouting a tiled basement floor, you need to clean the joints and surface of the basement tile thoroughly. You’re trying to remove all the dirt and dust that may have settled and any remaining dried thin-set mortar. Now you need that clean 5-gallon bucket again to mix your grout.

Just follow the instructions for the grout mix you got. This time you want to make it a little smoother, something along the consistency lines of peanut butter versus oatmeal. This will allow the grout to be worked and spread much easier. Go back to your starting point and drop a fairly big glob of grout down. Take your grout float, angle it slightly, and push and pull the grout to you, working it between the tiles.

Yes, you will get grout on the tiles as well, but you’ll clean that up in a bit. Take your time and only grout a small basement floor area at a time. After a while, you’ll get more comfortable with the process and be able to do larger sections. If you have leftover grout on the floor, use a clean grout float to pick up the excess.

Just be sure not to dig into the grouted areas when you’re doing it. It’ll take about 15 minutes or so for the grout to set up, then you can move to the next portion of the project, where you’ve got to clean up your mess.

With a clean bucket of water, go back to your starting point. Take one of your sponges and get it damp. On this part, you will want to work your sponge on the tile at an angle to the grout lines. You will cross the grout lines but don’t work directly on them. Pull the sponge back towards you to wipe the filmy grout off the tiles.

Just don’t dig into the grout lines. Flip the sponge over and repeat. It’s important at this step to rinse the sponge clean, you are trying to get the excess grout up and not spread it around. You are going to repeat this process over the entire basement floor. During this, your water may become quite dirty. In an effort to keep it clean, take the time and refresh the water.

Now you’ve just finished tiling a basement floor. Before you get all giddy and start rushing to put everything in your new basement, allow 24 hours for the grout to set and dry.

If, after 24 hours, there still seems to be a little “film” on your beautiful ceramic tiles, use a quick mixture of 1 cup of white vinegar per gallon of mop water and mop the floor thoroughly. Be sure to do a secondary mopping with clean water after that.

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