How to Tile a Basement Floor [Easy Step-By-Step Guide]

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how to tile a basement floor

If your basement floor is just a blank concrete slab, you might want to spruce it up a bit. 

Installing tile is a great way to give your cement basement floor a new look. It is attractive and durable and it will be moisture-resistant just like the concrete is by itself. 

Tiling a basement floor is a job that most people can do with a little bit of preparation and some knowledge. In this guide, we have laid out all the steps you need in order to get this job done.

By choosing high-quality tile and doing the job correctly, you can end up with beautiful results. 

A tile floor can last for many years and offer you a lot of longevity and some great style.

Tiling a Basement Floor: Basic Idea

tiling a basement floor

Tiling a basement floor is fairly simple if you follow the steps and take your time. The basic steps to this job are: 

  • Prepare the floor 
  • Install an uncoupling membrane 
  • Apply thinset 
  • Install and grout the tiles 

Uncoupling Membrane vs. Cement Board

No matter what kind of condition your concrete basement slab is in, applying the tiles directly isn’t recommended. 

Depending on where you live, concrete can shift and crack as it moves. When this happens, any tiling installed directly on it will also crack. 

In order to mitigate this, some sort of underlayment is recommended. However, there are two types and people have many thoughts on both. 

An uncoupling membrane is a flexible material that is stuck between the concrete and tiles. Cement board is a more rigid, thin board that acts as an underlayment. 

While both can be effective barriers, uncoupling membrane is more pliable and easier to secure. Cement board usually needs to be screwed into the cement and uncoupling membrane can be stuck with thinset mortar. 

On top of this, an uncoupling membrane is easier to work with and install. Because of this, we recommend using it for tiling your basement floor over cement board. 

Prepare the Floor 

Before you begin anything, you will want to clear out the basement floor and be left with the concrete slab. Sweep up any debris that may get in the way and make sure it is as clean as possible. 

Check for any cracks or inconsistencies in the slab. These will need to be filled with thinset mortar when you lay down the uncoupling membrane. 

These cracks and dents can also be ground out with a grinder, but this is usually more difficult. Since you are laying down mortar anyway, it will be sufficient to fill the cracks with. 

Once you make note of any large cracks, you can move on to installing the membrane. 

Install the Uncoupling Membrane

install the uncoupling membrane

Your uncoupling membrane will not only protect the tile from cracking, it also protects from moisture. Groundwater and other water can make its way up from the slab, and this membrane shields the tile. 

Measure out the basement floor and figure out what size you should cut the membrane to. Work in quadrants to ensure that you get the membrane all the way to the edges when necessary. 

Apply thinset mortar to the flooring in those same quadrants that you used to cut the membrane. Fill in any cracks or dents when you come across them with the mortar. 

Lay down the membrane over the mortar and press it down until it is flat. Make sure you don’t end up with any bubbles or wrinkles. 

Let the mortar dry overnight to be certain that it is set and strong for the tiles. 

Apply Thinset Mortar

Depending on the size of your tiles, you should lay down more thinset mortar on top of the membrane.

If the space is small enough, you can lay thinset on the entire floor and install the tiles as you go. 

If it is a large space, it is best to work in smaller areas so the mortar doesn’t dry. This will also leave you room to walk as you work your way around the room. 

Be sure not to apply the mortar too heavily. You will be laying down grout between the tiles, so you don’t want excess mortar popping up. 

Install the Tiles

After you have applied your thinset mortar, you can start laying down your tiles. Work in areas dependent on the amount of space you are tiling. 

Once you have the entire area tiled, let it sit overnight to allow the mortar to dry. 

After the mortar has dried and cured, you can install your grout. 

While cement grout is more durable, it is not recommended for cement slabs. Epoxy grout is a great option since it is pliable and will not crack with movement or shifting. 

Apply the grout and wipe away any excess with a wet towel. This will not only get rid of extra grout, it will push it down into the cracks and get a tighter seal. 

F.A.Q.

faq how tile basement floor

  • Can you tile directly on a concrete basement floor?

While it is possible to apply tile directly onto concrete, it is not recommended. 

Concrete can shift and move, which can crack your tile. Some type of underlayment is highly recommended to add padding and protection. 

  • Does thinset stick to old concrete?

Thinset will stick to almost any surface as long as it is clean. 

Be sure to thoroughly sweep your concrete and get it as clean as possible. This will give the thinset a smooth surface on which it can stick. 

  • Does grout stick to concrete?

Cement grout will stick to concrete, but it is susceptible to cracking. 

This is why epoxy grout is recommended for concrete tiling jobs. It is pliable and will stick to anything for a long time. 

Conclusion 

Tiling your basement is a great way to get a new look out of an old room. 

It will add a touch of style and class and give your basement a more finished look. By following our guide, you can be sure your tile won’t crack and will look new for many years. 

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AUTHOR

Michael J. O’Connor is a writer and marketing specialist from the Bay Area of California. A graduate of Sonoma State’s Creative Writing program, he spent many years as a contractor and carpet layer, learning the ins and outs of flooring and general contracting. When he’s not typing away at his desk, he enjoys hiking with his dogs, woodworking and collecting rare books. See full biography here.

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