How to Install Ceramic Tile

Lead Image
  • 168-192 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 150-220
What You'll Need
Thin-set mortar
Notched trowel
Rubber mallet
Grout float
Grout sealer
Tape measure
Chalk line
Wet saw or tile cutter

A ceramic floor is one of the most durable, attractive, and low-maintenance floors available. Although the process can be time-consuming, installing a ceramic floor is simple and rewarding if you follow the guide below.

Step 1 – Inspecting the Floors

First, remove the old flooring and baseboard molding. Inspect the subfloor. The subfloor should be at least 1 1/8 inch thick and have no flexibility. For extra stability, install a cement board on top of the plywood subfloor before continuing.

Step 2 – Measuring the Room

Measure the square footage of the room be multiplying one side of the room by the other. For example, a 12-by-12 room is 144 square feet. Then, add 10 percent to that number to make up for tile breakage. The final number is the amount of tile needed to complete the project. In this provided example, the final number would be 158.4 square feet.

Step 3 – Finding a Starting Point

To begin tiling, start in the middle of the room so that any small, cut pieces end up on the edges of the room. To find the middle of the room, snap a chalk line from the center of opposite walls. The lines should cross in the middle of the room, creating your starting point.

Step 4 – Cutting Tile

For spaces where you must cut tiles, the most accurate way to do so it with a wet saw. A wet saw works like a table saw, but it has a water supply running on the blade to keep it cool. Use all safety precautions as provided by the saw's manufacturer. A tile cutter is also an appropriate option, but using them takes more practice.

Step 5 – Laying the Tile

Lay out a line of tile along each of the chalk lines before using mortar, and practice the pattern before committing.

Spreading Mortar

After deciding on a layout, mix the mortar per the manufacturer's directions. Using a notched trowel, spread a thin coat of mortar in a 2-by-2 foot section. A notched trowel has ridges that it produces in the mortar to suction the tile to the floor. Also, the air space between the ridges help the mortar dry quickly.

Placing the Tiles

Once you’ve spread the mortar, place the tiles carefully on the mortar and use tile spacers to keep the distance between each tile precise. To ensure that the tiles are level, use a rubber mallet and tap the tile into place. Use a level to double-check your work.

Step 6 – Grouting

Let the tile and mortar dry for at least 24 hours before grouting. Mix the grout according to the manufacturer’s directions. Apply the grout, and push the mixture into every crevice at a 45-degree angle with a grout float.

Cleaning off Excess Grout

Wipe off any excess with a tile sponge. Rinse the sponge often. Work in small sections, and try not to get too much on the tile, as grout is extremely difficult to remove once it’s dried. There may be a haze left on the tile, but you can wash this off once the grout is cured.

Step 7 – Drying and Sealing

While it may sound peculiar, grout needs some moisture to dry correctly. To cure it properly, wash the floor with a sponge mop once a day for three days. Apply the sealer after the third day to the grout only.

Step 8 – Adding Finishing Touches

Finally, put the baseboard back on. Care for and maintain your ceramic tiles properly, and your floor will look new for years to come.