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How to Level Wood Flooring for Tile

by Mia Carter

Wood subfloor and broken tiles

Things You Need:

  • Level
  • Chalk
  • Pry bar
  • Screwdriver
  • Water
  • Mixing tray
  • Leveling compound
  • Mixing stick
  • Mixing bucket
  • Two-by-four board
  • Spray bottle
  • Mop and bucket

Tiling over wood flooring can lead to some very poor results if done improperly, as tile placed on an uneven surface (like wood flooring) will crack due to the pressure points that form beneath the tile. Many older homes also have wood flooring serving as the sub-floor. Tiling over a wood floor can be done with great results, but it requires a few extra steps in terms of preparation.

Leveling for Tile:

  1. Remove baseboards and doors. Use a pry bar to remove all baseboard molding. Discard the baseboard molding. Remove all doors that open into the room. Use a screwdriver to remove the screws from the door hinges.

  2. Prepare the wood floor. Sweep up all dust and dirt and then wet mop the floor.

  3. Mix leveling compound powder and water in a bucket. Use a mixing stick to thoroughly mix up a lump-free compound.

  4. Dampen the floor. Use a spray bottle to dampen the area of floor where the leveling compound will be applied.

  5. Work in sections starting at the back of the room. Pour the entire bucket of leveling compound onto the floor at the point of the room that is farthest from the door. It's essential to work toward the door to avoid having to walk over wet leveling compound.

  6. Use a two-by-four board to spread the leveling compound. Spread the compound at a thickness of approximately one-third of an inch. Move quickly while performing this step, as most leveling compounds will start to set within 20 minutes.

  7. Mix up more leveling compound and repeat steps five and six. Continue working your way toward the exit until the leveling compound has been applied to the entire floor.

  8. Allow the leveling compound set. Wait 24 to 48 hours, depending on the brand of leveling compound.

  9. Make sure your surface is flat. Use a level to find any areas that require additional leveling compound. Slowly move the level over the floor's surface and mark any "dips" with chalk.

  10. Mix up additional leveling compound to apply to the areas you marked with chalk in step nine. Use a board to spread the leveling compound over the dips. Small indentations can be fixed by using a trowel to apply the compound. Wait 24 to 48 hours for the leveling compound to set.

Warnings and Tips:

  1. Avoid walking on the tiles until the mortar has set.

  2. Doors opening into the room may need to have the bottom edge planed to allow the door to move over the new tile floor, since this new floor will be higher than the original wood floor.

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