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Can You Put Tile over Particle Board

Tiles are a long-lasting flooring alternative for your home, but have not traditionally been recommended for particle board subfloors. If you have particle board in your home but cannot replace it, you may be wondering if there is a way to install tiles over the top. This article will help you in your project, outlining how this can be made possible.

Ceramic tiles cannot be installed directly over particle board. The particle board is usually too thin and brittle, and will crack the tiles if it swells with moisture. However, tiles can be installed if a moisture barrier and cement backer board are installed over the particle board.

Tile floor installation

I will give a more detailed explanation regarding installing tiles over particle board in this article. If you have decided to keep your particle board subfloor, you can find a step-by-step guide to installing your tiles below.

Can you Lay Tile over Particle Board?

Tile floor mortar application

Laying tiles over particle board is not recommended. However, with the introduction of cement backer boards, it is possible to install tiles over almost any subfloor, including particle board.

In order for the subfloor to be strong enough to support the tiles, it should be around 1¼ inch thick. Because particle board is usually only ¾ inch thick, this usually involves a second layer of subfloor.

Having only one layer allows more movement in the floor, which can lead to cracked grout or even cracked tiles. If your particle board is around ¾ inch thick, you will only need another ½ inch of subfloor to add this strength.

This is another reason to use a cement sheet underlay for your tiles. This cement backing will add the extra ½ inch required to strengthen the subfloor, and will also provide a much more suitable material from laying tiles.

However, cement still allows moisture to seep through. Because moisture can seep through the tiled surface as well, this puts the particle board at risk of moisture absorption. If the particle board absorbs moisture and swells, this can also crack the tiled floor.

This is why you will also need to consider a moisture barrier between your particle board subfloor and cement sheets. This process is detailed below.

One thing to consider before you start your project is that the particle board, cement backing and tiles will create a relatively thick floor. You will need to make sure you have allowed for the 1 ¾ inch height when looking at door frames and bench cavities.

Should you Put Tile over Particle Board?

Particle board background

If you have the opportunity to replace a particle board subfloor, you should. Plywood is much stronger and will hold nails or screws much easier when installing the cement backing.

In saying that, any form of wooden subfloor is prone to expansion with heat and moisture, so the best subfloor for tiling is actually concrete. However, if you cannot avoid using particle board, you should keep in mind some of the issues you may face.

Firstly, particle board is the most sensitive to moisture. If there is any moisture coming up through the cavity beneath the home or the room above is humid, the particle board is at risk of swelling. This can permanently buckle the particle board and any floor covering above.

There is also the issue of strength. Particle board is one of the weakest flooring materials due to its brittle nature. Because it is made from wood shavings that have been glued together, pieces of the board can easier break or flake. This means nails don’t hold well and screws can pull out chunks of the particle board.

With these things in mind, the method below offers one of the most effective ways of installing tiles over particle board to make your flooring last as long as possible.

How to Install Tile over Particle Board

Tile floor installation

Tools Required

Tools for Subfloor and Underlayment

Vacuum cleaner

Moisture barrier

Floor adhesive

½ inch cement backer board

Thin-set mortar

Putty knife

Notched trowel

Cement sheet cutter

Pencil and ruler

1 ½ inch cement board screws

Electric drill

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Tools for Tiling

Manual tile cutter


Thin-set mortar

Notched trowel

Putty knife

Grout mix

Rubber grout float

Tile spacers

Rubber mallet

Sponge and cloth

Preparing the Subfloor and Underlayment

You should begin preparing the subfloor by clearing any dust or dirt with the vacuum cleaner. Then you will need to waterproof the particle board by spreading flooring adhesive under each sheet of moisture barrier as you are laying them.

The moisture barrier should cover the entire floor and each sheet should overlap. Most manufacturers will include an adhesive tape to connect each sheet. If not, you can use tape to tape them together; this ensures no moisture can seep through.

Once the moisture barrier is in place, you can begin to install the cement backer board. To start, you will need to measure and cut the cement boards using the pencil, ruler and cement board cutter. The cement boards should cover the entire surface where you will be laying the tiles.

Then you will need to mix some thin-set mortar and spread this over the floor with the notched trowel. You can do one section at a time as you lay each cement sheet.

For each sheet, you should also use the backer board screws to secure the sheet in place. These screws should be placed six inches apart around the perimeter of the concrete sheet, and then eight inches apart throughout the field of the board. However, for particleboard subfloor, it is best to place the screws in line with the existing screws or nails as these will be driven into the joists below.

Repeat this process for each concrete sheet. Make sure to stagger the concrete backer boards with the underlying particle board sheets to strengthen the floor for the tiles. The particle board joins should be at least eight inches apart from the joins between the cement sheets.

When placing and securing each cement sheet to the floor, you should leave ¼ inch between each backer boards. These gaps will then be filled in with caulk to seal the concrete underlayment. Once you have done this, you will be ready to install the tiles.

Installing the Tiles

Before doing anything else, you will need to plan where you will lay your tiles. Start by placing a tile in the centre of the room and continue placing tiles in line with this tile until you are as close to the wall as you can get. The tiles should be separated by the tile spacers.

Now you will need to adjust the placement of the tiles so that you don’t have any small gaps (and therefore small tiles) on the perimeter. You should also aim to have similar sized tiles around the walls. Once you are happy with the placement of the tiles, you can measure the tiles that need to be cut.

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Use the tile cutter to cut these peripheral pieces to size. A manual tile cutter is quieter than an electric cutter, but you can use whichever tool you prefer.

When you are happy with the layout of the tiles, you can mix the mortar and spread it evenly over the concrete sheets with a notched trowel. Now place the tiles over the mortar and slide each tile around into place to make as much contact with the mortar as possible.

You will need to add the tile spacers between each tile as you go and use the rubber mallet to press uneven tiles further into the mortar. The mortar will then need 24 hours to dry before you continue.

Once the mortar is dry, you can remove the spacers from between the tiles. Then you will be ready to mix the grout with water and spread it over the floor. Make sure you push as much grout into the spaces between the tiles.

When you are spreading the grout with the grout float, make sure to work in a diagonal pattern. If you spread the grout in line with the tiles, you can accidently scoop the grout out of the grooves, making the process more time consuming.

The grout will take approximately one hour to dry. Once it has, use a wet sponge to wipe of as much as you can from the surface of the tiles. Then you can use a regular cloth to polish the tiles.

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