How to install natural stone tiles?

Natural stone installation is an art and your mason may use many tricks to give your walls or floors a great finish. However, an improper installation makes your natural stone surfaces look ugly. If you want to install them on your own, it is sensible to know and keep the tools and materials ready which are used in the preparation. In this article we will learn about the installation process and the use of tools and materials in the order of usage.

Although natural stone tiles are fairly different compared to engineered or solid surfaces, installation is similar for both. Natural stone tiles vary in looks due to their distinct patterns, which can be challenging to achieve symmetrical finishing. However, this may not be an issue with solid surfaces (Staron, Corian, Wilsonart) or engineered surfaces such as quartz (Cosmos, Caesarstone, Silestone, Zodiaq, Hanstone) which look uniform.

Here are some generally used methods for installing natural stone surfaces.

Arrange tiles from the centre

Generally the tiles are arranged from the centre towards the walls to achieve symmetry. Arranging the tiles in the required pattern before installation gives you the flexibility of choosing your design. Using torpedo levels for the purpose helps arrange the tiles in a perfect plane so that the installation looks professional.

Prepare the surface

Prepping the surface is a must procedure for the proper installation of tiles. Remove flooring materials such as vinyl, carpet, damaged wood, etc., and dirt from the installation surface. In case the surface is cracked, fix it by applying Portland based underlayment or 4 mil poly sheet, which gives insulation against moisture and protection against cracks.

Install backer boards for support

Next comes the turn of backer boards (cement boards), which are installed on the underlay and made firm using cement board screws. Once the cement board is fixed cover the gaps between the boards with alkali-resistant mesh tape which reduces chances of cracks in the tiles. It also absorbs moisture and fastens the setting process.

Applying mortar adhesive

Before applying mortar adhesive to fix the tiles you arrange the natural stone tiles on the surface to finalize on the tile pattern. Once finalized, fix the tiles by applying thin-set mortar adhesive using U-notch or V-notch trowels, for floors or walls, respectively. But remember to use the correct notch trowel which should be ⅔ size of the tile thickness to ensure proper application of mortar adhesive.

Giving a final touch

Use tile spacers in case you want to maintain uniform distance between the wall tiles. In case of flooring tile spacers are not required as tiles are closely packed for better looks and maintenance. Fill the gap between the tiles using grout caulk which reduces the expansion of grout and protects the walls from moisture. Use tile sealers to protect the tiles from moisture, stains, and damages.

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