DEAR TIM: I'm installing ceramic tile at my house and want to spice it up. Anyone can install the same pieces of tile that are the same color. I was thinking of creating designs and patterns in my floor with different colored tile. Is this a bad idea? What are the pros and cons of doing this? How would you approach this job if you were doing it? Do you have any grouting tips once I get to that point? --Lisa A., Danbury, Conn.

DEAR LISA: What you are about to do is a great idea. I have seen plenty of plain tile floors in my lifetime, but flooring that's multicolored and contains interesting design elements is always an eye catcher.

The pros of doing this are that it will make you happy and you'll get great satisfaction from doing the work. A con is that highly specialized flooring or designs that are attractive to you may turn off others -- specifically, potential buyers if you try to sell your house.

I would recommend that you keep in mind the overall look of your design and how it will work with your furniture, walls and other decorative items. Also think about how the floor will look after you put furniture back on it. You may work hard on aspects of the floor that will end up being covered.

First, plan what you want to do on paper. Draw the designs in your head to scale and then see how they will work with your furniture. Use colored pencils or markers if need be to recreate on paper what the floor may end up looking like.

If you like what you have done on paper, then buy a few sample pieces of the flooring to see how the colors work together. You'll discover you have all sorts of options with respect to ceramic tile, granite flooring and even marble. The biggest challenge, when working with these materials, is ensuring that the top surface of all the materials is in the same plane once the floor is finished.

If you have any doubt as to the final look of your floor, you might want to dry lay the pieces of flooring in place and stand back to see what it looks like. If the design you want involves cutting flooring pieces, this may not be possible.

If you don't like the look, you may be able to return the flooring for a full credit. Be sure the material is returnable if you have the slightest doubt about what it will look like in place.

You can achieve amazing results by creating simple borders around rooms with different colored flooring. Some tile and granites come in different sizes so you can create bands of color or interest by simply changing the size of the flooring in different rows.

Medallions or other large patterns are fantastic in the center of rooms where you may have a table with a glass top. The floor will show through the table.

SIDEBAR

When it's time to grout, realize that water is both your friend and foe. You need plenty of clean water to get the grout from the surface of the tile flooring. But if you put too much water on the fresh grout, you can weaken it. It will crumble and turn to powder in a short time.

The key when grouting is to make sure the grout is not too wet. You should only grout about 15 square feet of surface at a time unless you know what you're doing. If the relative humidity is low, the grout will dry quickly. You need to realize that dried grout haze on the tile or granite can be a nightmare.

You can watch a video that shows how to grout ceramic tile at http://www.AsktheBuilder.com. Simply type "tile grout video" into the search engine.

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