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Pointers For Homeowners - Floors
Ceramic Tiles
Marble and Granite Slabs
Vinyl Tiles
Parquet Tiles
Carpet Flooring
Floor Screeds

In home renovations, the flooring is a major work item. Each type of flooring has different requirements for materials and workmanship.

The types of flooring covered here are:-

  • ceramic tiles
  • marble and granite slabs
  • vinyl tiles
  • parquet tiles
  • carpet flooring
  • floor screeds

The pointers given below will help you check on the quality of materials and installation method.

Ceramic Tiles

Ceramic Tiles are either normal or heavy duty. They come in various sizes. Large size (at least 30 x 30 cm) heavy duty tiles are commonly used for floorings. Normal duty tiles may be used for walls.

Checks For Material Quality

Check that the ceramic tile is heavy-duty by:-

  1. sprinkling a few drops of water onto the back of the tile. The water should not be fully soaked into the tile after a period of 10 seconds.
  2. striking with your finger, the tile should give a metallic sound.
- For floors in wet areas, non-slip unglazed tiles or matt-finished tiles should be used.
Checks For Quality Work

The following laying procedures should be practised:-

  1. Remove all loose particles from existing rough floor finish. Provide a cement slurry (cement and water) for bonding a semi-dry screed to the floor.
  2. Screed the floor to the required level and compact the surface with a long wooden trowel so that no loose mortar is left on the surface.
  3. To fix the tile onto the dried screed, use either a buttering cement slurry to back of a tile or a tile adhesive.
- Tiles tend to have colour variation even from the same production batch. Check that tiles with colour variation are distributed evenly during laying (Fig. 1).

Fig. 1 Plan view of even distribution of colour variation of tiles in laying a floor


- Wherever possible, tile joint alignment with the skirting tiles of the same widths (Fig. 2) should be maintained.

Fig. 2 Good floor tile joint alignment with skirting

- All joints should be properly aligned. They should be fully grouted with white portland cement slurry and be free from residual cement stains.
- Skirting tiles particularly at the protrusion of a wall like the case of a column should be laid in a symmetrical arrangement. A mitred joint should be adopted at the external corner of a protrusion (Fig. 3 & 4).

Fig. 3 Symmetrical Arrangement of Skirting Tiles



Fig. 4 Plan view of a Mitred Joint at corner of a column


- No tile should sound hollow when tapped randomly with a metallic object.
- On an 'open' floor, tiles should be laid symmetrically with the size of edge tiles being more than half (Fig. 5).

Fig. 5 Plan view of a floor with symmetrically laid tiles at the edges


- Tiles at the entrances of doors should not be cut but be of its full original size (Fig. 6).

Fig. 6 Plan view of full size floor tiles at entrance of doors


- Cut tiles should best be used at the edges of a floor that would be hidden by any furniture (Fig. 7).

Fig. 7 Plan view of a floor with the recommended location to lay cut tiles


- The difference in level between adjacent tiles should not be more than 2mm. A long spirit level could be used during the laying to ensure that the tiles are level.
- The finished floor levels of living halls and bedrooms should be the same. Normally there is a drop in level for wet areas like the kitchen, toilet and balcony floors.
- The finished floor should be level. No appreciable depression or protrusion should be detected when a piece of string is pulled over the surface.

The surface drainage of floor graded to fall should meet the following requirements:-

  1. all water should be directed to the floor trap.
  2. no ponding should occur at any part of the floor.

Marble and Granite Slabs
  Marble and granite slabs are either natural or artificially compressed (Fig. 8). There are a number of varieties of granite and marble with the light coloured ones generally cheaper than the dark coloured ones. Terrazzo is an artificially compressed flooring material.

Fig. 8 A well laid and polished natural marble flooring

Checks For Material Quality
- There should not be any chipped corners or edges in the slabs.
- No cracks should be present on the slabs.
- Marble slabs usually come unpolished. Check some of the slabs to see if there are 'impure' patches. These will emerge after polishing is done.
Checks For Quality Work
- Marble and granite slabs should be bedded on soft semidry mortar with a layer of cement powder between bed and slab to improve bonding. Normally white cement is used for porous marble and ordinary cement for dense impervious marble. Before grinding and polishing the laid marble or granite slabs, the bedding screed should be at least a week old.
- Before grinding and polishing, the difference in level between adjacent slabs should not be more than 2mm. After grinding and polishing, it should be brought to zero. No 'kicking' feeling between two adjacent slabs should be encountered when touched with the hand.
- Joints should be free from residual mortar stains and be fully grouted with white cement or any other desired colour pigmented cement.
- All joints should be visually straight with no obvious deviation.
- The floor joint should be aligned with the skirting.
- No laid slab should sound hollow when tapped upon.
- A marble laid floor should not have any appreciable depression or protrusion when checked with a piece of string is pulled over the finished floor.
- No discolouration should occur on the slab surface. Dampness in the bonding mortar or in the slab should not exist before applying the initial coats of waxing and polishing.
- Waxing and polishing should be applied when the floor is completely dry, usually 2 to 3 days after the final grinding.
- For finishing on steps, the slab should extend to the external corner of the step. For terrazzo, a mixture of white cement and marble chips resembling closely to the composition and colour of the existing terrazzo should be used at the edge of the step. The edge of the step should also be rounded.
- For laying skirting of terrazzo flooring, enough material should be mixed in one operation for one room at a time. There should be no addition of water, cement or marble chips to the previous mix. The inside angle between the skirting and the terrazzo should be covered (Fig. 9)

Fig. 9 Coving of inside angle between skirting and terrazzo floor

Vinyl Tiles

Fig. 10 An attractive design of vinyl tile flooring
Vinly tiles come in various designs and colours. They may also be in the form of rolled sheets. The distinct advantage of vinly tiles compared with ceramic or marble flooring is that they reduce noise (Fig. 10).
Checks For Material Quality
- The tiles should be stain resistant and of high gloss finish with no-wax wearlayer.
- No crisp marks should appear on any vinly tiles and when bent at corners of the floor.
- To guard against discolouration, the vinyl tiles should be resistant to mild dew and moisture.
- Colour of the tiles should be homogeneous.
Checks For Quality Work
- As vinly tiles are only 2 or 3 mm thick, no uneveness of the underlayer should be seen on the finished tiles. Vinly tiles may be laid on a screeded floor or a concrete floor. For a screeded floor, a semidry cement-sand mortar of 1: 3.5 to 1: 4.5 levelled to a smooth finish should be used to receive the vinly tile. In the case of a concrete floor (of monolithic finish), an underlay should be provided to receive the tile. A damp-proofing course should also be provided for the ground floor slab prior to laying of vinly tiles.
- The floor must be completely dry before fixing the tiles.

This is checked by:-

  • Putting a few pieces of tiles on the floor overnight. If water droplets are subsequently formed on the back of the tiles, the floor is not completely dry.
- Wherever possible, the tiles should be arranged and laid symmetrically with the size of edge tiles being more than half.
- Joints must be tight and should not stagger more than 2mm.
- Joints should also be free from any residual adhesive stains.
- There should be no bulging or 'popping up' due to trapped air beneath any laid tiles. No curling up of any laid tiles should exist.
- The finished surface must be even as in the case of ceramic and marble laid floors.
- Cleaning of freshly laid vinyl tiled flooring should be restricted to only moist mopping and no wet washing.

Parquet Tiles

The common parquet flooring and skirting materials are oak wood and teak wood. The parquet tiles come in various sizes and patterns and should be varnished and kiln-dried.

Checks For Material Quality
- There should be mesh-grooves at the base of each tile for enhanced adhesion to the sub-floor.
- The surface of the tiles should have a heavy-duty coating like "permoglaze" to ensure that they are scratch resistant, waterproof and resistant to burnt marks.
Checks For Quality Work
- The floor must be level, smooth finished and completely dry before fixing the parquet tiles.
- The laid surface should be even in colour and tone when inspected visually.
- There should not be any loose parquet tiles.
- Joint must be tight and free from all residual adhesive.
- The finish to the skirting of an external corner should consist of a mitred joint as for the case of ceramic tiled skirting (Fig. 11).

Fig. 11 A mitred joint in the skirting to the parquet flooring


- The finished surface should exhibit no appreciable difference in height between adjacent wood pieces when felt by the hand.
- Grinding should be performed by skilled and experienced persons to avoid minor depressions or protrusions all over the floor area.

Carpet Flooring

There are different carpet fibres each with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. The carpet fibres are either natural or synthetic or a combination of both.

- Wool is now the most popular natural fibre, being hard-wearing, soft, resilient, warm, often concealing soil, easy to clean and having flame resistant characteristics.
- Nylon, Acrylics and Polyester, the most common synthetic fibres are all basically tough, resilient and hard-wearing. Nylon is the most easily cleaned. They are moderately flammable and once on fire they will melt and lead to permanent change to the carpet fibres.

Checks For Material Quality
- The use of patterned carpets which can retain a good appearance for a longer time is recommended. They can conceal stains, soiling and wear better.
- Likewise a medium toned carpet is recommended unless a special effect to be created by using light and dark colours is desired.
- The carpet should have a strong suitable backing so that it will have a longer life.
Checks For Quality Work
- Badly cut or badly fitted carpet should be removed and replaced.
- There should be no missing tufts (piles) due to mechanical problems at the mill during manufacture.
- There should be no visible faded areas or stains in the carpet.
- Too many cut pile carpets should be avoided. This is because when the surface is cut, short ends of fibres are left in the surface of the carpet. With wear and vacuuming, these gradually work loose.
- Check that all ends and corners of the carpet are properly secured onto the base, to avoid any creases occurring from movements (Fig. 12).

Fig. 12 Badly creased laid carpet which was not properly secured to the floor base


- An underlay either of rubber or urethane material should be provided before laying the carpet. It protects the wear life of the carpet by adding resilience and also protects the backing from the hard floor. It also gives a cushion effect to the human traffic on top of the carpet.

Floor Screeds
  A floor screed is the cheapest floor finish. It involves making the existing floor even, level and smooth (Fig. 13).

Fig. 13 A floor screed finish

Checks For Material Quality
- The floor screed material should be produced by mixing water with one part of cement and three to four parts of sand of volume.
- The sand should be clean and of diameter not more than 5mm. This can be achieved with the use of a sieve on site.
- The sand should not have a high content of clayey material.
- The correct amount of water should be used to give a consistent and workable mix.
Checks For Quality Work
- The floor base must be free from foreign matter before applying the screed mortar.
- If the floor base is of smooth finish, hacking of closely spaced holes may be necessary. This is to ensure proper and adequate bonding between the screed and the floor base.
- Upon mixing, the mortar is poured onto the floors spread out, levelled and screeded using steel trowels.
- For smooth floor finish, an additional coat of cement slurry is used on the dried screed. The slurry is made by mixing cement with water. The coating should not be more than 1mm thick.
- The screeded floor should be level and should not result in ponding of water anywhere. A spirit level should be used to check on levelness during screeding.
- There should be no hollowness or poor bond of screed surface with the floor base. This is checked by tapping over it with a light wooden or pvc object.
- Excessive crazing or hairline cracks should not appear on the screeded floor surface.
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