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Tile laying: material selection and surface preparation

“Irrespective of the type, shape, design, and color of paving tiles, there are still hundreds of questions people, artisans, homeowners, and even sometimes engineers and builders have. With modern-day adhesive technology, it is possible to lay paving tiles onto a variety of different surfaces.

The secret is all about the preparation and use of the correct adhesive. Even if the surface you want to lay paving tiles onto is not ideal, you can overboard the surface with adhesive products to give you a perfect foundation for your paving tiles.”

What surfaces can I tile?

Tiles can be applied to many stable surfaces (often referred to as substrates), once the right preparation has taken place. Tiles are rigid and will not bend or flex. So to stop them from fracturing or becoming loose the surface needs to be firm and secure.The following surfaces can be tiled; however, the correct preparation is required.

Floor Tiling

We do not recommend fitting directly to floorboards due to the variable movement, both deflection and lateral movement. Floor boards need to be overlaid with 6mm No More Ply cement backer boards following the or overlaid with 15mm marine grade plywood (WPB Board) fixed every 300mm.

Remember to ensure the floorboards are secured as well as possible before commencing. Either S1 standard set flexible adhesive to fix the tiles, for faster drying times, or S1 standard set flexible adhesive for a slower setting time.



Due to the instability and high wax content of chipboard, it is not recommended to tile directly onto these types of boarded floors. The chipboard will need to be overlaid with 6mm no more ply boards to stabilize the floor, this should be fitted by the no more ply guidance and fitting instructions.

Tiles can then be installed using an S1 standard set flexible adhesive or an S1 standard set flexible adhesive for a slower setting time.


We recommend overlaying 6mm no more ply over plywood to stabilize the floor and provide a water-resistant surface. You can replace the ply with S1 standard set flexible adhesive.

However, when tiling direct to plywood it should conform to BS EN 636 Class 3 (exterior grade) 15mm thick and screwed down every 300mm. It is important to ensure that the floor is well-supported and free from deflection. This then needs to be primed with an acrylic primer before tiling.

Existing Tiling

Make sure any loose tiles have been removed the surface has been cleaned and is free from grease and dirt. The existing tiling must be sound and secure. The surface will need to be primed before tiling. Either an S1 rapid set flexible adhesive can be to fix the tiles, for faster drying times, or an S1 standard flexible adhesive for a slower setting time.

Concrete floors or sand and cement screed

When tiling a concrete base directly, the concrete base should be a minimum of 6 weeks old. Remove any laitance and vacuum along with any dust. Prime with 2 coats of acrylic primer. It is good practice to prime the second coat at a 90-degree angle to the first to ensure full surface coverage.

When tiling onto cement-based screed the code of practice recommends that the screed be at least 4 weeks old. However, this can vary depending on ambient room temperature, thickness, and type of screed.

A moisture test should be taken to ensure that it contains a moisture content of no more than 0.5% before tiling. When tiling on an anhydrite screed a layer of the surface will need to be sanded down and then primed twice

Wall Tiling


This will need to be primed with an acrylic primer when using a powder adhesive. Plaster can only hold 20kgm²; this must include 2-4kg for adhesive and grout. Plaster needs to be a minimum of 3 weeks old and cannot be base plaster. The plaster must be fully dry before tiling commences.


The plasterboard must be securely fixed and rigid with no protruding fixings. The plasterboard must be fixed according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. We do not recommend tiling onto plasterboard in wet areas such as bathrooms or wetrooms. Plasterboard will deteriorate when coming into contact with moisture.

Plasterboard will only hold 32kgm² so we recommend replacing the plasterboard with 12mm No More Ply. This will give you a sound water-resistant surface that can hold a weight of 65kgm².



There are many of these on the market, We recommend the No More Ply board as it has high strength, is very easy to install, and provides a water-resistant stable surface to tile onto.

Existing Tiling

Make sure any loose tiles have been removed and the surface has been cleaned and free from grease and dirt before fixing new tiles. The surface will need to be primed before tiling. Due to the nonporous nature of this background, it is best practice to leave the tiling for 48 hours before grouting to give the adhesive sufficient time to dry.

Either an S1 rapid set flexible adhesive can be used to fix the tiles or an S1 standard set flexible adhesive can be used for a slower setting time.

We do not recommend that you tile onto the following surfaces

Roofing grade asphalt

Vinyl sheets

Shuttering ply


Plywood on walls – Plywood and other wood-based sheets or boards should not be used for direct tiling of walls.


Laminate flooring

Cork Tiles

Cushioned vinyl


Plastic sheet materials

Weak surfaces

Natural lime plaster


Painted surface

Flexible surfaces

 Can all tiles be used on walls and floors?

An affirmative answer to this question is no. Wall tiles are not suitable for use on a floor. Wall tiles are produced to a specification that is deemed lower than a floor tile specification. However, recent years have witnessed improvement in technology and more and more tiles have become multi-use.

This means that the tile is produced to a floor tile specification, which is suitable for use on walls. Georgeceramic will confirm to you if a tile is suitable for use on walls floors or both. So if a tile is shown as suitable for use on the floor, there is no issue using it on walls.


What is the difference between porcelain and ceramic tiles?

The major difference between porcelain and ceramic tiles is how they are made. Both tiles are made from a clay mixture and fired in a kiln. Porcelain tiles use more refined clay and are fired at higher temperatures. This makes porcelain tiles denser and more durable. Porcelain tiles are considered to be of higher quality than ceramic tiles.

Please click to read our article:Porcelain Tiles VS Ceramic Tiles

What tiles should I use in a wet room?

It calls for careful consideration when choosing which tiles to use in a wet room. With the floor of a wet room being used like a shower tray, it is important to think about how slippery the floor could get and this could impact 

safety. With this in mind George Ceramic recommends that the tiles for the floor of a wet room should have a high anti-slip rating for increased safety.

Anti-slip ratings on floor tiles are shown as an ‘R-value. The ‘R’ stands for ‘Ramp Test’ and goes from R9 – R13. R9 has a small degree of slip resistance whereas R13 has the highest slip resistance. For wetroom floors, George Ceramic recommends tiles with an R rating of 11 or higher.

Can I install tiles on top of existing tiles?

Normally, you can if the existing tiles are sound and the substrate they are fixed to is sound. However, using the correct adhesive to achieve this is very important. Installing tiles on top of existing tiles does have its challenges though.

You will need to ensure things that the doors still have free movement, being able to open and close unhindered. Plumbing and drainage may need to be altered and light switches may need to be refitted. With this in mind, where possible, the best practice is to remove old tiles and tiles directly onto the substrate.

If you are very interested in the topic Can You Tile over Tile?, you can click here to check it out. I hope it will be helpful to you.

How hardwearing are porcelain and ceramic tiles?

Ceramic and porcelain tiles are both suitable for use around the home. Ceramic tiles can be used on walls and floors, where specified, that have low foot traffic. Porcelain tiles are denser and more durable than ceramic tiles which makes them much better for high foot traffic areas. For commercial areas, porcelain should always be used.

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