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How to Install Bathroom Floor Tile: Part 1

We’ve all seen beautiful ceramic tile floors and admired their character. Who wouldn’t want a resilient surface that can stand the test of time?

We prefer ceramic or porcelain tile in bathrooms. The floor can get wet and you don’t need to immediately worry about water ruining the surface.

In the next few posts, we share how to use tile a floor using HardieBacker and porcelain.

You should be able to just view the pictures and get the main idea of how to perform the tilling tasks we performed.

If you’re thinking of transforming your bathroom floor into something unique then this post can certainly help you do it with confidence.


Blue Carpet in the Bathroom, WHY??

We’ll never understand why carpet of any color was installed in bathrooms. If you have carpet in your bathroom please don’t be offended.

Ceramic or porcelain tiles are a better option because they aren’t a food source for mold, unlike carpet. And since bathrooms are already moist it’s rather easy for mold to start gobbling up carpet like Cheetos.

Carpet in bathrooms is a food source for mold

In order to pull up the carpet, we needed to remove the toilet and vanity.

Check the Wood Subfloor for Damage 

We looked for signs of water damage on the surface and edges of the wood bathroom subfloor. Pay attention to the areas where the vanity, toilet, and tub reside. A compromised subfloor needs to be replaced or repaired. Also, the TCNA (Tile Council of North America) has specific guidelines on deflection for tile floors, read their handbook for the details.

We highly recommend using an isolation membrane like DITRA, it waterproofs and prevents cracked tiles. But in this example we used HardieBacker.

Check the bathroom wood subfloor for damage

No bathroom remodeling project ever goes perfectly. The picture below shows how the toilet flange was resting on two shims.

Inspect the wood around the toilet flange for water damage

This is a recipe for disaster. The flange should sit on top of the floor so the wax seal between it and your toilet doesn’t compress. This compressing causes the wax ring’s seal to crack. When you flush the toilet, water will make its way to the wood subfloor. Disgusting at best 🙁

Fortunately for us, the wood around the old toilet flange space was still in good shape.

Check Wood Subfloors

Seriously, if you don’t own a pair of comfortable knee pads now is the time to buy them. Send me a thank you email later, after you install your tile.

Also, buy a 4-foot level because you’ll need it to make sure there are no peaks or valleys in the wood subfloor.

We placed it on the bathroom floor parallel to the bathtub and then moved it across the room in 1-foot increments.

Place a level on the bathroom floor parallet to the bathtub

The next step is to make the level perpendicular to the bathtub and place it on the bathroom floor.

Again, we moved the level 1 foot at a time across the floor checking for imperfections across its span.

Place a level on the bathroom floor perpendicular to the bathtub

Minor peaks in the wood subfloor may be due to a popped nail. If this is the case you can strike the nail back down into the joist below the wood subfloor. You can also use a 2 inch deck screw to secure the wood.

This is also a good time to walk on the floor and check for any flexing or squeaking in the subfloor wood panels. Again, use the 2 inch deck screws to eliminate any of these problems.

Secure squeaky and flexing wood subfloor panels

If the peak is an imperfection in the wood subfloor itself and it’s less than 1/8 of an inch you can possibly sand it down.

Valleys or depressions in the wood subfloor can be filled in with a self-leveling compound. This can be found at most home improvement centers in the flooring section where tile is sold.

Fix peaks and valleys in the wood bathroom subfloor

Bathroom Floor Tile: Prep Summary

Here’s the summary of how to prep your bathroom floor for tile

  • Check the wood subfloor for water damage around the vanity, toilet and bathtub
  • Ensure the floor is level parallel and perpendicular to the bathtub
  • Secure any loose and squeaky wood subfloor panels using 2-inch deck screws
  • Fix peaks less than 1/8 of an inch by sanding them down
  • Fill in valleys using self-leveling compound

Our next post will discuss why I chose to place HardieBacker underlayment on top of the wood subfloor.

What’s Next

If you’re doing a bathroom remodel and need help, join one of our online courses – they’ll make your bathroom renovation much easier!

Let me know if you have any questions and I’ll do my best to help.



Pre-Installation Tips