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Can My Floor Support Tile?

If you’ve been considering re-flooring your home with tile, you’re not alone. Both ceramic and stone tile have become very popular flooring options over the past few years. Depending on the type of floor you have, though, you might be wondering if tile is too heavy for it.

Your floor can probably support tile, but in rare cases, it depends on the type of subflooring in your home, the amount, strength, and size of your floor joists, and whether you’re tiling a first-level or upper-level floor of your home. Tile weighs about 4-6 pounds per square foot.

Backer board floor

This article will shed a little light on some of the issues surrounding tiling weak floors. I’ll also give you a few tips on things you can do to correct those issues if you’re serious about tiling your floor.

Can My Floor Support Tile?

Man filled with question marks

The short answer is yes; your floor probably can support tile. It’s rare to have a house that can’t be repaired, remodeled, or reinforced to support tile floors.

However, just because a floor can support tile doesn’t mean you’ll be able to walk in and lay down your tile as soon as you want. Instead, you might have to put a little work into preparing your floor before it’ll be suitable to hold the kind of tile you want to lay.

Is My Floor Strong Enough for Tile?

Installing tile floors

Many factors go into deciding whether or not your floor is strong enough for tile. Luckily, there’s a great tool online to help you make that determination. It’s called The Amazing John Bridge Deflectolater, and if you answer a few simple questions, you’ll have a pretty good idea of whether or not your floor can support the weight of tile.

The Deflectolater shouldn’t be your only determining factor, however. It’s always best to have professionals come and look at your house first. They’ll be able to give you a much more precise answer on whether or not your floor can support tile and how much work you’ll have to put in beforehand to make it suitable.

Is Tile Too Heavy for My Floor?

Tile floor installation

Tile is heavy. Depending on the type of tile you buy, you could be looking at four to six pounds per square foot (ceramic tile) up to five to seven pounds per square foot (stone tile). Some decorative tiles weigh even more.

If you’re tiling a floor in an average-sized living room of 330 square feet (30.66 square meters), this could mean a weight of between 1,320 and 2,310 pounds (598.74 to 1047.8 kg). That’s a lot, and some floors can’t handle that much pressure. That’s another reason it’s so important to talk to a professional before investing a ton of time, money, and effort into tiling your floors.

If you’re someone who wants to take on this kind of project by yourself, that’s fine, but paying a fee to have an expert tell you if it’s even possible before you get started is never a bad idea.

How Thick Does the Subfloor Need To Be for Tile?

Tile floor installation

Tile is heavy, and the larger the floor you’re tiling and the thicker the tile, the heavier it’s going to be. That’s why, on average, your subfloor should be at least 1 ⅛” (2.86 cm) thick with a layer of concrete or ¾”-⅝” (1.91 to 1.59 cm) plywood or OSB underneath.

Tile Subfloor Requirements

Tile floor installation tools

There are several requirements for the subfloor of a room meant for tiling. Let’s look at each of them a little more closely.

The Subfloor Must Be 1 ⅛” Thick

As has already been mentioned, your subfloor must be at least 1 ⅛” (2.86 cm) thick to support tile. If you’re using a layer of OSB or plywood beneath the tile, it needs to be either ⅝” or ¾” (1.59 or 1.91 cm) thick as well. Anything less in either of these categories isn’t going to hold your tile well, and you’ll soon start to notice grout and tile cracking, tile chipping, and other damages. The material you use should also be non-flexible.

The Subfloor Must Be Structurally Sound

Both the subfloor and your home’s foundation should be structurally sound. Sometimes, people decide to cover up cracks and damages in their floors by adding tile. However, this is a horrible idea. If your subfloor is damaged or cracking, it won’t be long before your tiles start doing the same thing. You should always fix the damages to your subfloor before laying your tile.

The Subfloor Must Be Level

Whether you’re tiling over concrete, plywood, OSB, or something else, your subfloor must be level. You can make this a reality by sanding down plywood, adding a leveling compound, or using a Self-Leveling Underlayment before getting to work on your tile. If your floor isn’t level, you’ll have the same problems – cracking, shifting, or otherwise damaged tiles.

Copyright article owner is ReadyToDiy.com for this article. This post was first published on April 9, 2021.

Your Joists Should Be Adjusted (if Needed)

It’s also essential to inspect your floor joists before tiling your floor. Make sure they’re strong enough to support the added weight of the tile. You may need to brace or reinforce them with extra lumber, more nails, blocks, or metal rods. In the case of joists that have structural damage, you may even have to replace them entirely.

What Subfloor Is Needed for Tile?

Subfloor

There are four primary materials used for subfloors beneath tile:

  • Concrete
  • Plywood or OSB
  • Cement-based backer board
  • Mortar beds

All these materials are acceptable beneath ceramic tiles, and each has its advantages and challenges.

Concrete & Plywood/OSB

Concrete is incredibly strong and can easily support the weight of ceramic or stone tiles. However, it’s expensive, and it can be difficult to level correctly. Plywood and OSB are much more affordable options, but they aren’t as strong as concrete, and they can often require a lot of sanding to get them level.

Backer Board & Mortar Beds

Cement-based backer board is largely considered the best option for tile subfloor, and we’ll talk a little more in-depth about it in the next section. Mortar beds aren’t as commonly used these days, and it’s hard to find a professional who still uses this method. It’s also challenging and time-consuming, so it isn’t recommended for DIY’ers, even though it’s incredibly strong and holds up well under tile.

Do I Need Backer Board for Floor Tile?

Man with hands up and lots of question marks around him

Backer board isn’t an absolute must-have for tile floors; however, it’s widely considered to be the best option for them. The most common types of backer board are better known by their brand names:

  • WonderBoard
  • Hardiebacker
  • DensShield

Despite the different brands, backer board is generally made the same way. It’s a cement-like material that’s held together by a fiberglass mesh. You can buy it in ¼” or ½” thick sheets, and there are a few different sizes in terms of length and width.

If you’re a DIY’er determined to tile your floor yourself, backer board will probably be the easiest way for you to do that. It can be expensive, but it’s well worth the price, and it works better than any other type of subflooring for tile.

How To Reinforce Subfloor for Tile

Cement backer board

How you reinforce your subfloor will depend entirely on the type of subfloor you have. If you’re working with concrete, your process will be different from working with plywood or OSB.

If you can use the backer board, that’s my recommendation. If you’re working with something else, though, be sure to follow the same basic steps:

  1. Inspect your subfloor for cracks and other damages.
  2. Repair cracks and damages.
  3. Ensure your subfloor is level, and level it up if it isn’t.
  4. Check your floor joists.
  5. Reinforce or replace them if necessary.

Although the process may differ with each type of subfloor, the basic process is the same.

Related Articles

Ceramic Floor Tile Not Sticking

Can I Lay Tile Over Painted Concrete Floor?

Can You Lay Tile Over OSB Subfloor?

Can You Lay Tile on Uneven Floor?

ReadyToDIY is the owner of this article. This post was published on April 9, 2021.

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