Outdoor tile installation shares similarities with the process of laying indoor tiles. Still, there are some differences when it comes to working with a concrete surface in outdoor spaces like patios or alfresco areas. This article aims to guide you through the steps of installing outdoor tiles over an existing concrete bed.
Related: Can You Tile over Tile? How?
Table of Contents
Types of Outdoor Tiles Suitable for Concrete Surfaces
For High-Traffic Areas
If your patio or alfresco area is a hub for gatherings and barbecues, consider installing Granite or Bluestone Tiles. These natural stone options are known for their durability. They can withstand heat, heavy furniture movement, and general wear and tear.
For Low-Traffic Areas
Travertine or Limestone Tiles are good choices if you expect less foot traffic. While these stones are durable, Granite is more resilient. They are popular for their subtle colors and aesthetic appeal.
For a Luxurious Look
Marble tiles can bring a touch of luxury to your outdoor space. However, choose slip-resistant tiles rather than polished ones to minimize the risk of slips and falls.
Regardless of the type of tiles you choose, seal them to maintain their appearance and protect them from damage. Also, ensure that the tiles are more than 12 mm thick. Travertine tiles usually start at a thickness of 12 mm. In comparison, Granite and Marble tiles start at 15 mm. Tiles thinner than these recommendations are more likely to crack or break under pressure.
Tools Needed for Outdoor Tile Installation
- Small brush or grout sealant applicator
- Tile nippers
- Tiling sponge
- Rubber grout float
- Dremel tool (optional)
- Tile saw with appropriate blade
- Notched trowel
- Measuring tape
- Tile spacers
- Concrete primer
- Self-leveling concrete
- Anti-fracture membrane (sheets or liquid)
- Roller brush with long handle
- TSP (liquid or powder)
- Thinset mortar
- Grout sealant
- Crack filler
- Thinset mortar
Step 1: Preparing the Concrete Base
Firstly, make sure the concrete surface you’ll be working on is clean and free from any debris. Use a broom or vacuum to remove any loose material. For a deeper clean, apply TSP (trisodium phosphate) as per the guidelines provided by the manufacturer. This will help get rid of stubborn dirt and grease.
If there are any cracks in the concrete, fill them with an appropriate filler or mortar and let it dry. To finish the preparation, apply a coat of concrete primer to seal the surface.
Step 2: Make Sure the Surface is Even
Next, check the evenness of your concrete surface using a level. If you find any uneven spots, you’ll need to level them out before proceeding. Refer to the primer’s instructions to see if a specific type of self-leveling concrete is recommended.
Once you’re ready, apply the self-leveling concrete to create a smooth, even surface. Wait for it to cure fully before moving on to the next steps.
Step 3: Apply a Crack-Isolation Layer
To counteract the natural expansion and contraction of concrete, it’s advisable to install a crack-isolation layer. This will help prevent the tiles from cracking due to the movement of the concrete beneath them.
You have two options for this layer: a liquid form or a sheet form. Make sure any previously applied materials like crack fillers or leveling agents have fully dried.
If you opt for the sheet form, spread a layer of thin-set adhesive and then place the sheet on top, smoothing it out with a trowel. For the liquid form, apply a generous coat using a roller brush. In both cases, allow sufficient time for the material to dry before proceeding.
Step 4: Map Out Your Tile Placement
Now that the surface is prepared, you can start planning how your tiles will be arranged. This involves laying out the tiles without adhesive to ensure they fit well and look good.
First, find the midpoint of each wall and draw chalk lines to mark the center of the room where these midpoints intersect.
Open all tile packages and start laying them from the room’s center, following the pattern you’ve chosen. Inspect each tile for any defects or inconsistencies as you go. Make any necessary adjustments to the layout to avoid having to cut small tile pieces or make awkward cuts later on.
Mark tiles that will need cutting but don’t cut them just yet. Once you’re satisfied with the dry layout, remove the tiles and stack them in an organized manner for easy access when you start the actual installation.
Step 5: Prepare the Adhesive
Once you’ve arranged the tiles and are satisfied with the layout, it’s time to prepare the adhesive for the tiles. Follow the instructions on the adhesive package, mixing only as much as you’ll use in a short time.
Step 6: Start Tiling
Now you’re ready to start tiling. Work in manageable sections, which may vary depending on the tile size. It’s generally best to start from the center of the room and work your way out. However, in smaller spaces, starting from a corner or against a wall might be more practical.
Apply the adhesive evenly on the concrete floor using a notched trowel. Then, place your first row of tiles on it. If any tiles need to be cut, do so with the appropriate tools.
Step 7: Maintain Uniform Gaps
As you lay down the tiles, use tile spacers to keep a consistent distance between them. This space will be filled with grout later. Continue this process, cutting tiles as needed, until the entire floor is covered. Make sure each tile is level with its neighbors.
Step 8: Let the Adhesive Dry
Allow the adhesive to dry for 24 to 48 hours. During this time, keep the area free from foot traffic to prevent any shifting or damage to the tiles.
Step 9: Prepare the Grout
Once the adhesive has set, it’s time to grout the tiles. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for mixing the grout. Some grouts come pre-mixed, saving you a step.
Step 10: Apply the Grout
To fill the gaps between the tiles, use a rubber grout float to apply the grout. Use a tiling sponge and a bucket of water to remove any excess grout from the tile surfaces. Allow the grout to dry for another 48 hours.
If you notice a cloudy film on the tiles, that’s a grout haze. Wipe it off with a damp cloth as soon as you can for easier removal.
Step 11: Seal the Grout
Once the grout is completely dry, apply a grout sealer to protect it. Use a small brush to apply the sealer directly onto the grout lines, avoiding the tile surfaces as much as possible. Alternatively, you can use a spray sealer for this step. Once the sealer is dry, your new tile floor is complete and ready for use.
Depending on the surface and weather conditions, outdoor tiles may be exposed to standing water. This risk becomes even more significant in areas that experience heavy rainfall or have poor drainage systems. Therefore, it’s crucial to minimize any air gaps beneath the tiles.
Water can seep into these air pockets, weakening the adhesive and increasing the likelihood of tiles becoming dislodged. Following the guidelines outlined in this article will significantly simplify your installation process.
If you’re considering natural stone tiles like Travertine, Marble, or Slatestone, verifying their slip resistance and durability is essential. This will ensure that your outdoor tiling project is not only beautiful but also safe and long-lasting.
What is the best adhesive for attaching tiles to a concrete surface?
Thin-set mortar is commonly used for attaching tiles to concrete. Make sure to choose a mortar suitable for outdoor use and for the specific type of tile you’re using.
Related: How to Pick the Right Tile Adhesive?
How do I ensure that the tiles are level and aligned correctly?
After applying the adhesive, place the tiles on the concrete surface using a notched trowel. Insert tile spacers between the tiles to maintain uniform gaps for the grout. Check the level using a spirit level and make adjustments as needed.
How long do I need to wait for the adhesive to dry before grouting?
The drying time for adhesive can vary by brand and weather conditions, but typically you should wait at least 24 hours before applying grout.
What type of grout is recommended for outdoor tiles?
It’s advisable to use a waterproof and UV-resistant grout for outdoor applications. Sanded grout is commonly used for joints wider than 1/8 inch.
How do I seal the tiles and grout for outdoor use?
After the grout has cured (usually another 24-48 hours), you can apply a sealer to protect both the tiles and grout from moisture and stains.