Choosing cement mosaic tiles for your home is an excellent choice because when installed correctly they last a lifetime. However, the installation process is slightly more complex than other finishes, so at Studio Cement Tile we recommend that you always use a professional installer with proven experience in hydraulic tile.
Either way, if you are excited about the idea of doing it yourself, or want to be sure to properly supervise the person laying it, we have prepared for you a concise installation guide focused mainly on avoiding the most common mistakes. Remember to purchase specialized products for this material: glue, grout, cleaner and sealer.
1.- Plan the mosaic tile distribution
The most common mistake in the application of any type of mosaic in a room is to start installing it without planning the design first. This causes us to arrive at the edges with the need to cut some pieces that are not symmetrical. The correct way to do it is from the center to the corners, no matter if it is a solid design or a special pattern, and the corner tiles should always be cut with a wet cutting machine.
2.- Level the surface
Hydraulic tile should never be installed over another type of floor, especially ceramic. Always remove the previous covering and then make sure that the floor is level. If this is not the case, a leveler must be applied and allowed to dry perfectly before proceeding with the installation. Sometimes it sounds cumbersome to do all this but it is worth investing a little time and effort to do it right from the beginning so that the floor will not need to be replaced for many years.
3.- Install the mortar correctly
Because of its great strength and size, it is difficult for cement mosaic tiles to break as a result of a bad installation, unlike ceramic mosaic or stone tiles. What can happen, however, is that they can be thrown away or become “loose”. To avoid this, the substrate or mortar must be applied with a very specific method, trying not to leave any point without support.
The most common mistake is to apply the mortar in spots, that is, to place a certain amount of material directly on the mosaic and then apply it on the floor, as this decreases the area of contact with the substrate and generates empty areas that when subjected to pressure cause the piece to come loose. Other techniques such as applying mortar directly to the surface with circular motions are less problematic but also cause tile adhesion failure.
The correct way to install cement tiles is to “comb” the mortar in straight lines with a 13mm trowel in one direction only, glue the back of the tile as well, and then set it with movements that collapse the grooves in the mortar. Then flatten with a rubber mallet and use a level to check that all the pieces are level before the mortar dries.
Depending on the size of the pieces and how much separation we want between one and the other, small joints can be used or fine joints can be made with a spatula, but between mosaic and mosaic there should always be a separation of at least 2 mm.
4.- Place the grout
It is very important that once the mortar and tiles have been laid, allow at least four hours for the substrate to dry so that it can breathe and release the moisture, although it is more about a full day. Before applying the grout, which should always be white cement (otherwise it will stain the tiles), you must clean the tiles perfectly and give them a first coat of sealer, which you should let dry for at least four hours.
Once it is ready, place the grout between the joints and clean all the excess as you go. Let it dry perfectly.
5.- Seal and polish
Once the grout is completely dry, it is time to apply the final sealer, which can be matte or glossy, depending on taste. It is recommended to use two coats of sealer and finally polish the floor with a coat of wax and polish.
If you want to find the perfect hydraulic mosaic for your decoration project, don’t forget to take a look at our wide catalog of handmade tiles.