Laying tile can be an easy process in itself, but doing it well and producing quality flooring that lasts for years to come can be more challenging and far more rewarding. Knowing the type of tile installation is the first step in a successful project completion. It is important for installers to consult the manufacturers of products they wish to use prior to installation— regardless of experience —as tile installation and surface preparation requirements and methods vary depending on the type of substrate, subfloor, underlayment and floor covering specified.  

To be prepared for a smooth installation process, installers should make sure to have a plan, and use the most current products best suited for the installation and jobsite conditions. They should also make sure they are up to date with industry recommended installation practices and requirements. 


1. Start with a Perfectly Flat Surface

To achieve an effective tile installation experience, the substrate must first be perfectly flat. A quality self-leveling underlayment is key as well as patches and skimcoats, which are intended to repair minor imperfections to the substrate prior to installing the floor covering. 

Self-leveling underlayments, patches and skimcoats are easy products to work with and typically do not require installers to have extensive training. Proper preparation is essential, which includes knowing the capabilities of each surface preparation material prior to installation, such as substrate compatibility, working times, curing times and minimum and maximum thicknesses. 

If the substrate is in poor condition, whether that be not dry enough or properly cleaned before using leveling products, the finished flooring performance will be compromised. Once the self-leveling underlayment, patch or skimcoat is installed, it is critical to test that the surface is as level as possible before installing the floor covering. This step can prevent hours of corrective work and costly repairs later on. 


2. Crack-Proof and Waterproof the Substrate

Floors and walls shift over time, causing cracks beneath the finished tile. Crack isolation and anti-fracture membranes can be applied prior to the installation of tile to prevent this from being a costly issue down the line.  

Crack isolation and anti-fracture membranes are designed to isolate tile and stone finishes from minor in-plane substrate cracking. These membranes can take the form of liquid applied, sheet goods and trowel applied systems. Additional characteristics such as waterproofing and sound reduction properties are sometimes also included in these membranes. 

Furthermore, moisture poses a problem as it can seep through and attack the substrate, putting the overall installation at risk of failure. Making waterproofing part of the installation is crucial for protecting the floor from water damage. Adding waterproofing to an installation can be as easy as applying a waterproofing membrane to the substrate. 

 

3. Use Rapid Products for Quick Turnaround

It’s no secret that the construction industry, along with the world, has experienced hurdles with the pandemic. Constricted timelines and controlled jobsite access to allow for social distancing and provide workers with proper safety measures have meant projects everywhere have been forced to play catch up. Now more than ever, speed is required to help us all rebound from the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Manufacturers are continuing to address this concern with solutions that provide quicker cure times, which speed up installation schedules and time frames. In addition, multifunction products with two-in-one and three-in-one functions can effectively shave days, or even weeks, off schedules. These formulations work overtime to offer a combination of benefits such as crack isolation, sound reduction, waterproofing and more, and while often requiring minimum downtime for the contractor. 

Information for innovative, fast-acting and multifunction solutions are within easy reach thanks to a recent expansion of readily available education. Installation products manufacturers are increasingly offering easy-to-follow programs that can be accessed from the comfort of home or office anytime as well as providing technical services to answer any questions. 


4. Employ the Right Materials

To ensure a quality, long-lasting tile installation, be sure to select only the top products recommended for your installation type. Choosing an adhesive that withstands the appropriate time, wear and environmental elements is essential. Perhaps equally important is the grout that fits between the tiles and locks them in place. Besides providing much needed structural support, an aesthetically pleasing grout should be selected for a clean and appealing look.

One of the biggest factors to consider when selecting the right materials is the location of the tile installation. Usually, the more demanding the application, such as commercial buildings, the more intensive the adhesives, grouts and installation accessories need to be. These types of applications require the installation products to have better working properties and ultimately better performance and characteristics, compared to smaller scale single-family residential applications.