Turn plain rectangular concrete into a tiled patio with clay tiles that add Southwestern character. First, clean the concrete to ensure a good bond and test the fit with two perpendicular rows of tiles spaced for grout seams. The dimensions of the chosen Mexican Saltillo tile fit the patio so well that they required only one row of tile cuts.
Clean the existing concrete patio with concrete wash to dissolve dirt and algae and ensure a good bond with the tile mortar. Let the cleaner stand for 10 minutes and work it with a stiff-bristled broom before rinsing.
Test the tile's fit on the patio by laying out two perpendicular rows of tiles spaced to allow for grout seams. Determine how you'll cut the tiles and distribute the excess for optimum design before you begin tiling.
Mix exterior-grade thin-set mortar using an acrylic fortifier rather than water. Follow manufacturer's mixing directions. Stir the mortar with an electric mixer or power driver with a paddle attachment. Allow it to slake for ten minutes.
Pick the correct trowel for your tile patio. The Saltillo tile is about 1/2-inch thick and has an irregular surface, so the trowel notches must be large to lay down an adequate mortar bed. Thinner tiles would require smaller notches.
Use the trowel's un-notched side to distribute enough mortar for several tiles, working it right up to the edge of the patio. Rake the notched side through the mortar at a steep angle to create furrows and ridges.
Butter the tile back with a thin layer of mortar to ensure a good bond with the furrows and ridges in the mortar bed. Drop the tile into position, keeping the face of the tile clean and free of mortar.
Use a piece of two-by-four and a rubber mallet to gently tap each tile's surface to seat it in the bed of mortar. Insert 1/2-inch vinyl spacers between the edges of adjacent tiles.
Take measurements for the tiles that must be cut to size for the end of the patio. Include allowances for grout seams. Cut with a tile saw, butter and set them, and let all the mortar dry overnight.
Seal the patio tile with a pre-grout sealer to keep its porous surface clean. Apply a generous coat with a paint brush to the top surface only. The edges and seams must be sealer free for a good grout bond.
Mix exterior-grade grout with a gallon of water and force it into the seams with a grout float. Work on one section at a time. Remove excess grout and avoid raking grout from seams. Clean surface with a sponge.