Cover Your Plain Concrete Patio with Mexican Saltillo Tile to Give It a Face Lift and Create a Southwestern Ambiance

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.

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brushing the concrete before rinsing the concrete wash
Step 1

Apply Concrete Wash to Dissolve Dirt and Algae

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.

testing spacing and design for the tile patio
Step 2

Determine Tile Spacing and Design for the Tile Patio

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.

mixing mortar with acrylic fortifier
Step 3

Mix Exterior-grade Thin-set Mortar to Bond the Patio Tile

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.

choosing a mortar trowel with large notches
Step 4

Pick the Correct Trowel Size for Your Patio Tile

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.

raking the mortar
Step 5

Spread and Rake the Mortar to Create Furrows and Ridges

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.

buttering the back of the tile
Step 6

Butter the Tile Backs with Mortar and Drop into Place

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.

using a rubber mallet to seat the tiles
Step 7

Tap Each Tile to Seat It in the 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.

sizing the tiles on a tile saw
Step 8

Cut the End Tiles to Size with a Tile Saw

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.

sealing the tile patio
Step 9

Apply a Coat of Pre-Grout Sealer to the Tile Faces

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.

grouting the patio tile joints
Step 10

Fill the Joints of the Tile Patio with Exterior-grade Grout

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.

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