Home Improvement

6 Things to Consider Before Installing Tile Flooring

  • Ikaria Living/Houzz

     (Ikaria Living/Houzz)

  • LDa Architecture & Interiors/Houzz

     (LDa Architecture & Interiors/Houzz)

Gearing up for tile floors? Don’t hammer away just yet. It’s important to plan for every little detail, including what you’re going to do with your baseboards and whether the tile you selected is suitable for children and pets. Make sure you answer these six questions before you get started on your tile installation.

1. Are you keeping your baseboards?

Yes: Consider whether or not you want to remove your baseboards before installing your tile. Most, if not all, flooring types require a small gap between the edge of the floor and the wall to allow room for movement. If you don’t remove your baseboards, that gap must be covered with quarter round (a convex molding whose cross section is a quarter of a circle), which will affect the trim’s aesthetics.

No: You won’t need any quarter round if you install new baseboards after your tile has been installed. This ensures a clean aesthetic and is the preferred method of many professionals.

2. Do you have foundation problems?

Yes: Think twice before you install tile. If your foundation is shifting, your tile will too. This can lead to cracks and breaks that cost money to repair and aren’t a pleasant sight. Softer, more flexible floors like vinyl or laminate will handle foundation movement better than a hard surface like tile. You won’t have to reinvest in new floors years down the road.

No: You’re in the clear. You shouldn’t have any issues with tile breaking or cracking, at least none that are due to foundation problems.

3. Are you installing tile on a second floor or in a home with a pier-and-beam construction?

Yes: Tile requires a waterproof subfloor when it’s installed on top of wood surfaces. Why? When wood gets wet, it swells. If it swells and has tile installed directly on top of its surface, your tile will break or crack. You’ll need to install cement board to ensure that this doesn’t happen. If you’re tiling a large area, installation costs can add up quickly, especially if you’re paying a pro.

No: You probably won’t need a subfloor. Added expenses to your tile installation will include grout, thinset, baseboards, quarter round and so on.

4. Are you planning to paint?

Yes: This one’s up for debate. On the one hand, you may want to roll out the new flooring before you paint. Some pros say it’s a lot easier when you don’t have to worry about splattering paint all over new floors. On the other hand, it’s possible that your walls will have a few nicks after the flooring is installed, and they’ll definitely get a little dirty. Some pros prefer to paint over any blemishes that happen during installation.

No: Keep in mind that things get dusty when you demolish old floors. You may want to have a plan for touch-ups should something happen to your walls.

5. Are you planning to refinish your staircase with your new flooring?

Yes: The most important thing about tiling a staircase is figuring out how you’re going to finish the edges of your steps. Tile rarely, if ever, has a matching stairnose piece available, so that leaves bullnose (a piece of tile with a small rounded edge), an unfinished edge or a metal finishing piece such as Schluter strip as your main options.

Metal finishing pieces can add an industrial, rustic or modern feel to your home depending on the finish, but they can stand out and may feel too commercial. Bullnose and unfinished edges will blend better with the rest of your tile. Unfinished edges can be sharp, however. Bullnose is a more traditional way to finish tile edges; some homeowners will want something more modern for their household.

No: You’re not necessarily off the hook yet. Keep an eye out for step-downs into mudrooms or living rooms. You’ll still need to decide how you want to finish these edges.

If you’re set on tile but want something more elegant for your staircase, there are a couple of options. One is to find a wood or vinyl that coordinates with your tile. These flooring types often have matching stair treads and stairnose pieces, which will give your staircase a more polished look.

You can also carpet your staircase. Although it won’t have the durability of tile, vinyl and hardwood, it’s softer on your feet and can be more affordable depending on the style you select.

6. Do you have kids or pets?

Yes: Take a look at color-body and through-body porcelain tile. Although they’re slightly different (through-body porcelain is unglazed, while color-body has a glaze), each ensures a little extra scratch resistance by having a color or glaze that runs throughout the tile’s body. In other words, if it scratches, you’re not going to see a noticeable mark. These tiles are well-equipped to survive foot and paw prints.

No: Whether your tile is color-body or through-body is less important. You’re in good hands with a porcelain or ceramic tile. Both are hard surfaces that offer better scratch resistance than hardwood and laminate floors.