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How to lay large format floor tiles

Large format tiles have become increasingly popular over recent years and as tiling manufacturing and adhesive technology advances, designers are pushing the boundaries for what can be achieved. While large tiles look great, they can be trickier to lay. Jack Bottesch, product marketing manager for tile fixing from Saint-Gobain Weber, details the extra considerations that must be made when working with large format floor tiles.

A large tile is generally considered as anything greater than 30x30cm. Large tiles are perfect for stylish, minimalist designs as they contain fewer grout lines, creating a more seamless look. They are naturally great in large rooms and open-living plans but can also be used in smaller rooms to give the impression of more space.

Surface preparation
Given their size and weight, large tiles can be difficult to handle and should be applied by a skilled and experienced tiler. If they are not installed properly, damage can occur which can be costly to rectify.

To achieve optimum results, having a level floor is key. Large tiles are less forgiving compared to smaller tiles and are more at risk of breakage if they are not on a level floor. If necessary, a floor screed can be used to provide a flat surface to be tiled upon.

The next step is to prime the surface to regulate the porosity and ensure adequate adhesion. Always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure the correct dilution for the substrate. Once you have the correct ratio of water to primer, apply to the surface and brush in. It’s important to wait the required time for it to dry and reapply if needed.

Tiling tips
It’s always good practice to check the boxes of tiles for quality and shade and mix the boxes to create a good blend of colour and pattern. Remember to inspect each tile for damage or excessive bowing.

When mixing the tile adhesive, refer to the instructions provided and measure the correct water to be added or mix by volume. A flexible tile adhesive is recommended for large format flooring tiles so it can withstand the associated movement from foot traffic.

Apply the adhesive to the primed floor and use a notched trowel to create a ribbed adhesive layer. Butter the back of the tile before fixing, this will aid adhesion and reduce dust. Use a rubber mallet to then tap the tile down to help bed it into the adhesive.

It is advisable to lift the occasional tile to check the coverage of adhesive and ensure the tile is fully bedded. Visible ribs in the adhesive would indicate a lack of coverage while good coverage is indicated by peaks forming in the adhesive. If required, add more adhesive to ensure full coverage. It is more awkward to rectify larger tiles, so it’s wise to apply a good initial coverage of adhesive to avoid rework. To help provide a level finish, use a tile levelling system during installation.

The finishing touch
When the tiles have been laid, grout and silicone will then need to be applied. Mix the grout mechanically to form a smooth paste and don’t re-wet or put too much water in the mixture.

Apply the grout liberally with a grout float and smooth into the joints. When the grout is firmly in the joints and after about 15-30 minutes, clean the tiles being careful to not use an excessive amount of water. Applying a silicone sealant around the edges will finish the job perfectly.

While large format tiles can cost more compared to regular sized tiles, if applied correctly they can really give a room the “wow factor”.

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