HOW- TO

HOW-TO LAY SOFT FLOOR TILES

MATERIALS
• • • • Tiles: cork, carpet or vinyl Threshold strips Self-levelling latex screed compound for concrete and asphalt floors Adhesive, to suit the tiles and conditions (see ‘Adhesives’ page 4) • • • • Polyurethane, acrylic floor varnish or two-part cold-curing flooring lacquer Abrasive paper, coarse and fine Red insulating tape PVA adhesive

TOOLS
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • Hot air gun Bench plane, No.4 Hand saw, fine-tooth, hard-point Junior hacksaw Club hammer Bolster chisel, 100mm Firmer chisel, 6mm Screwdriver, 4mm flat blade Flat file, fine cut Bradawl Steel screeding trowel Paint scraper, 100mm wide 2 trimming knives, one with a heavy-duty straight blade and one with a hooked blade PVA adhesive • • • • • • • • • • • • • • Steel rule, 300mm Combination try square ‘Mimic’ Profile template tool Old paint brush Softwood block, 25mm longer than the tiles x 100mm x 25mm Cork block Chalk line Pencil Damp cloth Bucket Dustpan and brush Vacuum cleaner Heavy-duty gardening gloves Steel tape measure, 5m
HOW - TO

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F2

BEFORE YOU START
Please read How-To: Lay Hardboard or Plywood Floor Overlay.

I M P O R TA N T
Read all the instructions on all the labels on all the products you are going to use before you start work.

E S T I M AT I N G
Measure the width of the room and into alcoves and door thresholds (F2) and multiply by the length to find the main area. Add to or subtract the area of any bay window or chimney breast from the main area. Each pack of tiles states the area it will cover. Divide the area of the room by the area of the tiles in a pack, rounding up to the nearest whole number. Add 5% or 1 pack for every 20 or less and this is the number of packs to buy. Buy all of the tiles at the same time.

I M P O R TA N T
Ensure tiles have the same batch number and that they are suitable for the use to which you want to put them. As a general guide, cork, vinyl and carpet tiles are suitable for living rooms, bathrooms and kitchens. Be careful in conservatories. Intense sunlight and temperature can cause some tiles to fade and shrink. Also, adhesives will soften and cause the tiles to lift.

S H U F F L E A N D A C C L I M AT I S E
When you get the tiles, check that the batch numbers are the same. Take one tile in turn from each pack. Keep doing this until the tiles are shuffled. This makes any discrepancies in colour less noticeable. Leave the tiles in the room where they are to be laid for 24-48 hours to acclimatize at the normal temperature.
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F1

PREPARATION OF WOODEN FLOORS
Remove old floor coverings. If these are tiles stuck onto hardboard or plywood, use a hammer and bolster chisel to get under the base overlay and remove it in large sheets.

PREPARATION OF CONCRETE AND ASPHALT FLOORS
On old solid floors, remove all old floor coverings except well-stuck cork, ceramic tiles or parquet. Remove old lino, vinyl and thermoplastic tiles using a hot air gun and a wide-bladed paint scraper. Remove as much adhesive as possible as you proceed.

SAFETY
To avoid burns and blisters, wear heavy-duty gardening gloves.

New concrete floors must be smooth, absolutely dry and have an integral damp-proof membrane. This is a sheet of plastic laid under the concrete to stop rising damp. The room must be warm and well ventilated in order for the concrete or screed to dry. Minimum drying times for concrete: 50mm thick takes 2 months, 75mm thick takes 4 months and 100mm thick takes 6 months. 1 2 3 4 5 Repair damaged areas and cracks and remove high spots. Chop out the damage with a bolster chisel. Paint the hole with dilute PVA adhesive (thoroughly mix one part PVA adhesive to five parts water). Fill the hole with sharp sand and cement mortar: 1 part cement to 4 parts sand, mixed with the 1:5 PVA solution. Allow it to dry thoroughly.

The floor, including ceramic or parquet, may now be covered with self-levelling latex screed, applied with a metal trowel. 1 Lay the screed 3mm thick, as smooth as possible. Most marks will disappear as the screed dries. 2 You cannot stick tiles onto an asphalt sub-floor. Use a wire brush to abrade the asphalt, giving it a ‘key’ (a crosshatch pattern that improves the bonding between surfaces). 3 Spread a self-levelling latex screed 3mm thick. Make sure the latex screed is compatible with asphalt. 4 After 24 hours lightly abrade the screed with coarse abrasive paper, wrapped round a cork sanding block, to ensure a smooth surface. 5 Vacuum the floor before laying the tiles.

The new floor may stop doors from opening and shutting properly. If so, you will have to remove some wood from the bottom of the door. Use a tile to mark a line on the bottom of the door and add on 3mm (F1) to provide adequate clearance. Remove the door. Remove surplus material with a plane or saw and re-hang the door.
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F2

ADHESIVES
Unless your chosen tiles are self-adhesive, the correct type of adhesive must be used. Take care to use the recommended adhesive and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Use the type of spreader they suggest. Carpet tiles may be stuck down using a special ‘low tack’ adhesive. This allows the tiles to be lifted, re-positioned or replaced. Alternatively, double-sided tape may be used on every third row and in door openings to stop them moving.

UNDER-FLOOR HEATING
Some products are unsuitable for laying when under-floor heating is operating. The heat must be turned off for 48 hours before and after fixing. The temperature should then be raised gradually to normal temperature over a period of 7 days.

SETTING OUT
The tiles should be laid so that, as far as the room shape allows, the border tiles are of equal size on each side. Avoid having narrow strips at the edges and especially at thresholds (F2). Very often, the most important viewpoint of a room is from the doorway, so line up the tiles to ensure they look straight from this position. This usually means they will line up with the wall next to the door.
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F3

F5

F4

F6

1 Use a chalk line (F3) to snap a line down the centre of the room (F4). 2 Mark a second line at a 90-degree angle to the first line from the centre of the doorway (F4). To do this mark equidistant arcs on each side of the line and join the intersections to give a 90-degree line in the position which has been selected. 3 Loose lay tiles along these lines to see how the borders appear (F5). 4 In order to achieve wide border tiles, it may be necessary to move one or more of the lines by half the width of a tile (F6). 5 Do not hide access traps for plumbing and electrical services with floor coverings. Find any access traps and mark them clearly with red insulating tape.

PRIMING THE FLOOR
1 Before laying the tiles, absorbent surfaces – cement, concrete, hardboard and plywood – must be primed using a dilute 1:5 solution of PVA. Follow the tile adhesive manufacturer’s instructions. 2 Before applying primer, sweep and vacuum the floor thoroughly. Even the finest particles can cause unsightly marks on laid tiles. 3 The tile adhesive should be spread and when the PVA solution has turned from white to clear and is just tacky, the tiles can be placed. This means that the room must be primed section by section of about 2-3m2.
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F8

F7

F9

LAYING THE TILES
1 Start away from the door and work back to it. This reduces traffic over the newly laid tiles and also the possibility of treading adhesive into the surfaces. 2 Lay all of the centre tiles first, avoiding floor access traps. Leave out the last full rows and the border tiles (F7). Don’t apply adhesive to these areas until you have cut the border tiles and are ready to lay them. 3 If using adhesive, spread as much as you can comfortably stretch over. 4 Damaged or odd coloured tiles should be rejected. Place each tile accurately, butting it firmly and squarely up to its neighbours (F8). The join must create a straight line. 5 Do not slide the tiles, as this tends to force adhesive into the joints and make a bad fit. Remove all surplus adhesive with a damp rag before it goes hard. 6 If the surfaces of adjacent tiles (especially cork ones) are not level, they can usually be evened out using a block of softwood and a hammer (F9). 7 If this does not work, a piece of rubbish has probably lodged under one of the tiles. Peel back the tile and remove the obstruction.

SELF-ADHESIVE TILES
These have a release paper over the back of the tile, protecting the adhesive. Peel the backing from the tile. Lightly place one edge into the correct position, then apply firm pressure all over the tile to ensure full contact.

SAFETY
The backing paper or foil is slippery. Place it into a rubbish bag as it is removed. Do not remove backing paper from border tiles until they have been cut and are ready to be laid.
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F10

F12

F11

F13

BORDER TILES
1 2 3 4 5 Cut all the border tiles for one wall. Number them and then lay them with the preceding whole row. Dry lay a whole tile (F10A). Place another tile over it with its edge touching the wall. Score the lower tile (F10). This technique is called backmarking or scribing. Bending the tile will usually complete the break, otherwise use a hook blade to finish the cut (F11). Piece A will be the border tile. 6 Cut the corners as shown (F12).

A R C H I T R AV E S
1 2 3 4 Lay a section of tile adjacent to the bottom of the architrave (decorative moulding around the door frame). Cut through the architrave with a fine-tooth, hard-point handsaw (F13). Remove the waste with a narrow chisel. Backmark the border tile to fit under the architrave.
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F14

F15

F16

FITTING ROUND PIPES
To fit tiles round rising pipes, a plug cutter can be made from a piece of pipe of similar size (F14). File the inside edge of one end to make a good clean cutting surface. Backmark the pipe’s position, line up the cutter and hit it with a hammer. Place a piece of scrap wood or tile under the point of impact (F14).

DEALING WITH TRAPS
1 When cutting and laying tiles to fit traps, the line of the joints between adjacent tiles must be continued across the trap (F15). 2 Backmark and cut the trap tiles. 3 Reduce the size of the tiles at the edge of the trap by 3mm. 4 Stick down the trap tiles. 5 Use a narrow, flat, metal threshold strip to protect the edges of the trap tiles. The metal strip should overlap the surrounding floor tiles by about 4mm (F15). 6 Measure the width of the trap and use a junior hacksaw to cut the threshold strip 8mm longer than this measurement. Mitre the corners (cut them at an angle to fit). Remove any swarf (rough burr) with a fine file. 7 Screw the strips onto the trap.

PILE DIRECTION
The tile backing incorporates directional arrows. The best overall effect is achieved by laying the tiles at right angles to each other, giving a chequerboard effect (F16). Laying all the tiles pointing the same way gives a broadloom carpet appearance. Mark the cutting line by making a nick on each edge of the tile with the knife. Turn over and line up the nicks with a steel rule or straight edge. Cut from the back on these marks.
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FINISHING
Some cork tiles need a finishing sealer. Always use the sealer recommended by the tile manufacturer. Before applying sealer, wait for the adhesive to completely dry – at least 48 hours. During this time the floor must be protected from dirt, water and condensation. Brush and vacuum the floor before sealing. Unsealed fine-sanded tiles will require a minimum of 3 coats. Sand lightly with fine abrasive paper between coats. Ready-sealed tiles generally do not require extra sealing. However, in areas of high use or where there is likelihood of standing water, an extra sealing coat is advised. Lightly abrade the ready-sealed surface before applying the seal. Self-adhesive cork tiles should be coated with at least one coat of seal to protect the joints.

THRESHOLDS
Where tiles finish in a doorway or against another type of surface, metal threshold strips can be fitted to give a neat, wear-resistant edge. Threshold strips, which may be screwed to the floor, are available in aluminium or simulated brass. They are available to suit surfaces meeting at equal or differing heights. Measure the width of the door opening and cut the metal strips using a junior hacksaw. Trim the ends with a fine file. If you need to fix threshold strips to a solid floor, mark the screw hole positions onto the floor. Use a masonry drill to bore holes to fit a suitable wall plug and then screw the strips to the floor.

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