How to Lay and Seal Saltillo Tile Floors

  • 8-20 hours
  • Beginner
  • 250-750
What You'll Need
Saltillo tile
Saltillo grout
Oil-based tile sealant
Wet saw
Thinset mortar
Stirring rod
Grout float

Saltillo tile comes from a place in Mexico of the same name. It is similar to terra cotta and is made entirely from natural clay which provides a rustic and cozy appearance to a home. Saltillo tile is relatively expensive compared to other kinds of tile, but it is also one of the most durable and attractive. Laying and sealing this type of floor is very similar to working with many other types of tile such as slate or ceramic. If you want a rustic and natural touch to a bathroom, kitchen or utility room, Saltillo tile is ideal.

Step 1 – Prepare the Floor

It is very important that the floor is properly prepared before you start laying the tiles. The surface should be completely flat and smooth. If there is any damage in the floor such as cracks or holes, these will need to be sealed up and smoothed down before continuing. Make sure that the floor is clean before proceeding to Step 2.

Step 2 – Lay the First Tile

Determine the layout of the tiles. You may want to start from a corner of the room to minimize the requirement to cut the tiles. Alternatively, you may want to start at the centre of the room. Use chalk to mark the lines where you are going to install the first tiles. When the floor is prepared, mix the thinset mortar in a bucket as directed to by the manufacturer. Spread a quarter inch layer of mortar onto an area of the floor, working in one small area at a time. Place a thin layer of the mortar onto the back of the tile and then put it in place, twisting it around slightly so that it sticks firmly in place.

Step 3 – Continue Laying the Tiles

Apply enough mortar each time to lay 4 tiles. Continue laying the tiles, leaving the same size spaces between them. You can use tile spacers if you prefer, though this should not be necessary if you want to achieve the more rustic look that Saltillo is famous for. Cut the tiles as needed using the wet saw. Once finished, allow the installation to dry over night before continuing.

Step 4 – Apply Sealer

Mix an oil-based sealer product as directed to by the manufacturer’s instructions. Use a clean mop to cover the floor thoroughly with the sealant. Allow this to dry as directed by the instructions. In exactly the same manner, apply a second coat once the first is dry.

Step 5 – Apply Grout

Mix the grout as directed on the product packaging. Pack the grout tightly into the joints between the tiles by using a rubber float. Be sure to wipe away any excess using a damp sponge.

Step 6 – Apply a Final Sealer

Mop a final coat of sealant over the entire surface of the floor. Leave this at least several hours to dry before using the floor.