Properly installed ceramic tile can be a beautiful and durable floor covering for the highest traffic areas around. Malls, airports, car dealerships, exterior areas, living areas, hotels, commercial kitchens, and restaurants routinely turn to tile for a long-lasting, low maintenance solution. The challenge is to make sure the tile is “properly installed.” Luckily, the tile industry has done an excellent job putting together product and installation standards and methods. By understanding how the standards and methods can be referenced in specifications, contracts and project drawings, building owners can bring properly installed along for the ride without being an expert on tile installation. Yes, there is a right way (or more accurately, several right ways) to install tile!
In a very general sense, tile installations start with a mortar, the tile itself, a grout, and a flexible sealant. Each of these items is covered by one or more ANSI standards. Which mortar and grout to use is dependent on variables such as the substrate to be covered, the size and thickness of the tile, and the service environment of the finished installation (wet, high traffic, freeze/thaw, submerged, chemical resistance, etc). The tile is dependent on factors such as if the installation will be walked upon when wet, the point loads to which it will be subjected, freeze/thaw considerations, and aesthetic considerations. Flexible sealants are used for movement joints to allow for expansion and contraction of the tile and at changes of plane.