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How To Waterproof A Tile Floor

By Michael Hilton

Although tile floors may appear to be impenetrable to water, many are not. In some instances water can even work its way underneath grouted tile and the underlying cement backer board, eventually damaging the wood subfloor. A simple way to avoid this type of expensive water damage is to cover your home's subfloor with a waterproof membrane before you install the floor tile.

2 Types Of Waterproof Floor Membranes

  • Waterproof sheet membranes are usually made from layers of woven polyester fabric and are designed to be installed between the cement backer-board and the tile. The first step in the process is to cover the wood subfloor with a layer a cement backer board, which is then covered with a layer of latex thinset. The sheet membrane is then rolled down on top of the thin set and left to dry. After the thin set dries, creating the water tight barrier, the mortar and the tile are then applied.
  • Another way to protect your subfloor from leaky water is to cover it with a liquid membrane. These types of products are brushed or troweled on much like the way paint or thinset is applied. While some liquid membranes are premixed and ready to go right out of the can, others require mixing right before application.

Another advantage of using either type of waterproof membrane is that they can prevent cracks from a cement subfloor from telegraphing upwards to a finished tile floor. This is especially useful when laying tile on top of a basement floor slab, because large areas of concrete will expand and shrink, which can lead to cracking.

Consider using waterproof membranes beneath tile floors in these areas:

  • Although kitchens don't normally have standing water on their floors, a broken dishwasher or leaky sink might cause a temporary water disaster. Knowing that your floors are water-tight can offer you peace of mind while you mop up the water on the surface.
  • Bathroom floors and shower stalls which are covered in tile will undoubtedly have lots of water on them at one time or another, and a waterproof membrane should be considered essential in these areas.
  • Laundry rooms and mud rooms which have sinks and other plumbing fixtures can also benefit from the installation of either a sheet membrane or liquid membrane.

Although you would think that installing a waterproof membrane underneath tile floors is a standard practice, many how-to instructions for installing tile leave out this critical step in the process. So do it right in the first place, and you'll have no worries when your tile floors get soaked.

About the Author
Michael Hilton was the original creator of Carpet Buyers Handbook. Having owned and operated a carpet wholesale company, Hilton has a vast knowledge about all-things carpet related as well as other types of flooring.

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