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How to Install Tile Over an Existing Concrete Patio

What’s the simplest and most cost-effective way to upgrade the look of a plain concrete patio? Installing tile over it! Tile gives the area a refined look that matches your style and adds a feeling of comfort to an otherwise drab finish. Plus it provides an extra layer of weather resistance.


Better yet, installing tile over an existing concrete patio is a straightforward job. It can be done in a matter of days by a professional contractor or even beginning DIY-er. To get started, you just need to have all the tools and materials ready to go. A few considerations as you get started:


-        Look for a slip-resistant tile, ideally rated for outdoor use.

-        Porcelain tile does not absorb as much water as ceramic, has better durability and generally lasts longer.

-        Choose a mortar rated for outdoor application.

-        A fade- and stain-resistant grout will produce the best results.


Let’s get started!


The good news is you don’t need a lot of tools. And if you need to purchase any for the job, they don’t cost a lot. They include:


  • Level
  • Tape measure
  • Industrial scrub brush
  • Tile spacers
  • Trowel
  • Rubber float
  • Sponge
  • Tile saw
  • Caulk gun
  • Utility knife
  • Bucket


For materials, you’ll need:


  • Tile
  • Thin-set
  • Grout
  • Grout sealant
  • TSP (trisodium phosphate) cleaner
  • Caulk

How to install tile over an existing concrete patio

Laying tile outside is just like laying tile inside. You start by preparing the area, laying out the tile exactly as it will look, then setting it, grouting and finishing. Here’s the step-by-step process to transform that ordinary concrete patio into something extraordinary.


Step 1: Prep the Area


If the concrete is sealed, you may need to grind the surface, so the thin-set can bond. You can rent a scarifier for this job. Always follow manufacturer’s safety instructions when using equipment.


Once you’re confident the thin-set will hold the tile to the concrete, clean with TSP solution. Use the TSP and the scrub brush to give the surface a thorough cleaning. Rinse with warm water.


Repair any cracks that may go through the concrete. To do this, cut a piece of isolation membrane to fit. Apply thin-set with trowel and set the membrane on the crack.


Step 2: Dry-Lay Tile


Set all the tile in place on the patio, using tile spacers as needed to guarantee all cuts will be correct. Using the tile saw, cut tile on ends to fit. Before making any cuts, lay out all full pieces first and adjust the design and layout. When you cut tile, you want to cut pieces that are at least 2” wide, so edges may need to be adjusted to make this work. Once all full pieces are laid out, cut tile as needed, so you have all the pieces you’ll need when it’s time to set them in place.


Step 3: Install Tile Over Your Concrete Patio


For this step, you’ll want to work area by area so the thin-set doesn’t dry before you get to it. Prepare the thin-set as instructed. Apply with the smooth edge of the trowel in the area where you’ll start. Use the grooved edges to comb the thin-set.


Set tile in place, applying gentle pressure. Set tile spacers between tile as you lay them down.


Once one area is completed, apply thin-set to the next area. Repeat until all tile has been laid. Let the tile and thin-set dry overnight.


Step 4: Apply Grout


Remove spacers. Use a utility knife to clear any excess thin-set in the gaps or on tile.


Prepare the grout as directed. Use the rubber float to apply across the tiles. With the rubber float, pack the grout into the gaps between tiles moving at a 45-degree angle to the edge of the tile. Once again, work in sections.


Once all the grout has been applied, take a damp sponge and wipe away all the excess grout. Rinse and repeat until all tiles are clean. Let dry.


Step 5: Seal Grout


Follow the directions on grout and grout sealer to identify when to apply the sealer. You may only need to wait overnight, or you may need to wait several weeks before sealing the grout. Seal grout as instructed.


Step 6: Enjoy!


Once sealed, move your patio furniture into place. Sit back and enjoy on your own or invite guests over to share your brand new patio with them!

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