There’s money to be saved by installing your own natural stone floors, but only if it’s done properly. In fact, because tiling is labor intensive, the installation cost often exceeds the cost of the material. Keep in mind, however, that tiles that don’t run straight or aren’t properly grouted or sealed can ruin the job.
Even if you choose to hire an installer, this natural stone floor installation guide will facilitate your discussion with the contractors as you gather bids for the work.
Removing Old Flooring
In our Vinyl Flooring Removal and Installation Guide, we explain removing that material. Here, we’ll consider that it is tile you’re taking out to make way for new tile.
This is a big, dusty job. You’ll need:
- Floor scraper to loosen tile and grout
- Chisel bit to remove old tile, grout and thinset
- Hammer gun to drive the chisel bit
- Buckets to carry out the debris
- Shop vacuum
- Safety glasses, dust mask and gloves
This isn’t rocket science. It’s demolition.
Tip for indoor air quality: You might want to turn off your home’s HVAC system during demolition to prevent dust from being circulated around the house.
If you have help, start in the middle of the room, and then you can each work from there in a different direction.
Step 1: Remove the shoe molding from around the room.
Step 2: Use the hammer gun and bit to break loose the grout on the first few tiles. From there, the hammer gun and a floor scraper can be employed depending on which is more effective. Work at a 45-degree angle to the tile edge to break it.
Step 3: Use the buckets to collect tile debris and carry it out to a dumpster or other suitable disposal container. The material is recyclable, so check with your local recycling center. Recycling the tile flooring might reduce your disposal costs, and it will keep the material out of a landfill.
Step 4: Remove the old thinset from the subfloor, because you need a very smooth base for your granite tile.
Step 5: Use the shop vacuum to get up the dust.
Installing Natural Stone Flooring
This part is a lot more like rocket science. Here is what you’ll need:
- Measuring tape for measuring tile and floor space
- Carpenter’s pencil for marking tile
- Tile saw to cut tiles to fit
- Drill to drive the mixing paddles
- Mixing paddles to mix the thinset
- 5-gallon bucket to mix thinset in
- Notched trowel for applying the thinset to the subfloor
- Tile spacers to ensure proper spacing of tiles
- Tile of your choice
- Grout to install between tiles
- Grout float to drive the grout into the spaces for it
- Grout sponge to clean up excess grout
- Penetrating sealer to seal the stone
Tip: Before you begin, plan to work from multiple boxes of tile to ensure that you get a good variety and blend. All the tile should come from the same quarry, but the tile in any given box might all be too similar to each other, and it is better to spread them around rather than concentrate them in one area. Check the look of each tile before you set it.
Step 1: Decide where to start. Begin with a line of full tiles along the most noticeable wall. Work towards the cabinets, where cut tiles will be partially obscured anyway.
Step 2: Mix the thinset according to the label or the instructions given you by the stone tile retailer
Step 3: Use the straight edge of the trowel to scoop out some thinset and apply it to the subfloor. Run the notched side over it at a 45-degree angle to remove some of it which leaves behind the appropriate amount. Work in a small area perhaps three feet wide at a time.
Step 4: Set the first tile, rotating it slightly side to side to get a good bond with the thinset. Straighten it out, and install tile spacers on the outside corners.
Tip: Keep a bucket of warm water and a sponge handy to wipe off any thinset that gets onto the face of the tile before it hardens.
Step 5: Set the next tile, apply spacers, and continue on in this fashion, row after row, until you need to start cutting tile.
Step 6: Measure tiles that need to be trimmed, and make the cuts with the right type of sawblade or grinder blade for the stone you’ve chosen. The retailer can supply you with that. Install the cut tiles.
Step 7: Clean the natural stone tiles thoroughly with a slightly damp cloth. Don’t use a lot of water! Do not use a detergent cleaner since it might stain the stone or leave behind a residue that hinders penetration of the sealer.
Step 8: Apply the penetrating sealer according to the label instructions or directions from the tile retailer. Wait the required length of time to allow the sealer to harden before proceeding.
Step 9: Mix the tile grout according to the label.
Step 10: Use the grout float to apply the grout, pushing it into the spaces to completely fill them. Remove the excess with the float.
Tip: As you complete the grout on areas several feet square, use a damp cloth to remove the grout residue, rinsing the cloth often and wringing it out each time.
Natural Stone Flooring Installation FAQ
This brief Q&A covers additional important information.
How much can be saved by removing old tile myself?
The cost for removing tile and preparing the subfloor for new tile ranges from $2 to $5 per square foot, depending on the complexity of the work.
How much to the tools cost to remove and install tile?
A good hammer drill and tile saw will each cost at least $75, and the best cost more than $200 apiece. If you enjoy DIY projects, these are tools you’ll likely use quite a bit. If not, perhaps you can borrow or rent them.
The rest of the tools will cost $75 to $200 depending on the quality you choose.
How do grout joints differ from ceramic tile?
The grout joints for natural stone are much narrower.
Can natural stone tile be installed on a wood subfloor?
It is best to install a cement backer unit (CBU) over wood first to provide support and a moisture barrier.
Can natural stone tile be installed on concrete?
Yes, but consider using a film material such as Ditra to provide stability and a moisture barrier.
Will the height of the floor be different after stone tile installation?
It depends on what was covering the floor first. You might find that doors over tile need to be trimmed slightly after installation.
What’s the best way to find a qualified natural stone tile installer?
Get estimates from at least three contractors that specialize in tile installation. Discuss the work with them, find out about their experience, check their references if you have concerns, and get their estimates.
If you’d like to simplify the process, consider using the service offered on this page. Fill out the simple form, and you’ll receive three written estimates from contractors where you live who have been prescreened for experience. There is no cost to you and no obligation.
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