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6 tips for the perfect cement tile installation

header images: ashley poskin

it's a fact: what’s under your tile is just as important as the tile itself. and for encaustic cement tiles, that means a perfectly level, clean, dry, and slightly roughed surface. don’t wait until it’s too late - take the time now to make sure that your professionals have a handle on the strength and make-up of your substrate (the support floor beneath your tiles). 

just remember to always consult your architect or engineer as everyone’s installation is unique and requires exact specification! 





floor tip #1: your installer will need to allow for 3/4" below your finished floor height (5/8" for the tiles and 1/8" for mortar). if your substrate is plywood, be sure the plywood complies with the architect’s specifications for your site and use an installation mat to insure the perfect installation. (schluter and noble are two of the best for installation mats).

floor tip #2: now that you know your concrete surface is the right height and completely level, you’ll need to make sure it is also completely dry before installing your cement tiles. also, do not lay your cement tiles directly onto fresh (uncured) concrete. note: just because your concrete surface has cured does not mean it is moisture-free. a quick way to find out is to tape a piece of clear plastic onto your slab (about the size of a piece of paper). be sure all edges are thoroughly taped down. If you see condensation of moisture, you will need to apply a waterproof membrane before proceeding with your installation!

floor tip #3: but level and dry isn’t all you’ll need on your way to a quality substrate! you will also need to add expansion joints to any larger floor or wall application in order to prevent cracking or fracturing from the possible movement of the substrate. you’ve heard that construction always settles? with expansion joints placed according to the proper guidelines (check that TCNA site again!) expansion, construction, isolation, contraction, generic and perimeter joints will ensure what’s under your tiles has plenty of the right kind of “give”! 

got wood?
assuming that your floor joists are sufficient and not flexing, you can install tile on a wood floor if you first put down a cement backer board like you would do in a shower behind the tile. Your installer can use any quality-brand dimensionally stable fiber/cement wall boards and especially the latest magnesium oxide boards.

wall tip #1: walls require just as much care under your tiles as the floor prep we’ve just outlined. however, unlike the concrete substrate required for floors, your encaustic cement tiles can be installed over drywall, plaster, cement block, and cement backer board (for moist areas). you’ll want a flat, smooth and dry surface, completely free of any loose coatings (paint). any cracked surfaces must be scraped smooth and patched. if using backer board be sure to follow the installation guidelines of the backer board manufacturer.

wall tip #2: again, be sure that a concrete substrate for your walls has gone through the same drying steps. any excessive moisture will want to escape through your cement tiles. 

wall tip #3: for areas like showers, pool surrounds, and other areas subject to moisture, the underlayment should be sealed with a waterproof membrane or other moisture resistant product. cement-fiber backer board is an ideal underlayment for tile in wet locations. again please review the manufacturer’s recommendations if using for a wet application.

now you have been equipped with all the tips and tricks needed for a perfect installation! If you have any other questions, feel free to check out our resources! AND if you found these tips helpful share it with your friends by pinning the below image. best of luck on your installation! 


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