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How to lay tile

Updated on June 9, 2014

You can do it!

You have to admit: tile looks really great in homes these days. It's durable and doesn't get ruined as easily as wood floors, and it doesn't have to be that expensive.

However, it can be an intimidating task to take on, especially without the help of a professional. What if you want to save money by doing it yourself?

Though it is one of many home improvement projects that may seem daunting, laying tile is not impossible or even very difficult. It just takes time.

You should be excited about it because, though it may cost a lot of money, you can redesign your kitchen, bathroom and/or other areas of the home and recreate it. You can choose from ceramic, stone, vinyl or even glass tile to add a new mood to the room.

Read through these instructions and tips to understand and maybe even start tackling laying down tile in your home!


Tile types

  • Glass tiles - These have become popular field and accent tiles due to recent technological breakthroughs as well as the tile’s properties, specifically to impart rich color and reflect light as well as their repulsion of water.

Glass in tile is difficult to work with because glass is more rigid than ceramic or porcelain tile, so glass tiles break more readily under the duress of substrate shifts.

  • Marble tiles - Marble is used because it imparts stiffness, impact strength, dimensional stability and thermal conductivity. It is also a good filler and extender, has high brightness and is weather resistant.
  • Mosaic tiles - Mosaic is the art of decoration with small pieces of colored glass, stone or other material.
  • Porcelain tiles - They are ceramic tiles with a water absorption rate of less than 0.5 percent and are used to cover floors and walls. They can either be unglazed or glazed.
  • Quarry tiles - They are used most for floors because they are so durable indoors and outdoors. Quarry tile is also used less often as a wall finish and is sometimes used for countertops, although the wide grout joints can make cleaning the counters difficult.

    For floors, quarry tile is usually set in a thick bed of cement-like mortar. For wall use it can be set in either a thick bed of cementitious mortar or a thin bed of mastic. For both floors and walls, the joints between tiles are usually grouted with cementitious grout.

  • Slate tiles - These are often used for both indoor and outdoor walls and floors because they are good electrical insulators and are fireproof; they also have two lines of breakability so they're easy to cut. Tiles are installed and set on mortar and grouted along the edges. Tiles are often sold gauged, meaning that the back surface is ground for easy installation. Chemical sealants can be used to prevent stains, improve durability and add smoothness.

Washroom Renovations Part A: Prepare to lay tile

What you'll need

  • Tile - There are so many sizes and patterns to choose from! The basic sizes are 4 inch x 4 inch, 8 inch x 8 inch, and 12 inch x 12 inch. Don't be afraid to get different sizes.

Tiles can also be laid in different patterns. Get as many tiles as you'll need depending on the size and pattern you want. It's a good idea for first-timers to buy extra tiles in case if tiles are damaged, cut improperly or broken... an extra pack or two of tiles is probably sufficient. When laying tile diagonally, a lot of material is wasted as cutoffs. A rule of thumb: buy 15 percent more tile than you will buy to fill the space on the floor/wall.

And, of course, there are a myriad of colors available, but make sure they go with the grout color. Typically dark grout and light tiles clash as well as light grout with dark tiles. This is based on your individual tastes. And make sure the rest of the family agrees with you... you'll hopefully have the tile for a while!

  • Tile adhesive or "mastic." Make sure you have the right kind of adhesive; you'll need a different type if you're laying tile in a kitchen or for a pool room... sometimes you'll need waterproof adhesive. Even well-fitted tiles can let some water through to the adhesive, which means it will crumble and break.
  • A notched trowel
  • A tile saw or a tile scorer
  • A diamond hole saw to cut out radiator pipes and other holes
  • Grout - This is the "filler" that goes in the spaces between tiles. Commonly grout is gray, white or terra cotta.
  • Rubber float - This is a rubber foam rectangle with metal backing and a wooden handle. (Don't use a putty knife; it will scratch the tile face of tiles)
  • Tape measure (or digital laser tape)
  • Bucket (with warm water)
  • Sponge
  • Level
  • Chalk line
  • Tile spacers
  • Silicone sealant (optional)

Washroom Renovations Part B: Laying tile

New grout
New grout | Source

Start laying tile

1. Use a tape measure or digital laser tape to measure the room's length and width. Multiply the length and width (basic area equation!) to see how many square feet the wall/floor is. Use this measurement to determine how many tiles you'll need. So, for instance, if a floor is five feet by eight feet, it is 40 square feet.

Start the layout of the tile by snapping chalk lines in quadrants. Measure where the center of the length and the width of the floor/wall is, then snap chalk lines (pulling the string of the chalk line from the center of a length/width to the opposite center of the length/width, then dropping or hitting the string on the floor/wall so it leaves a line of chalk). Do this so there is one line from the center of the length to the opposite center of the length and one from the center of the width to the opposite length of the width so you have equal quadrants. Where the two lines meet is the very center of the room.

2. To get ready for laying the tile, take off all baseboard along the floor. Makre sure that the entire surface is as smooth as possible. You'll probably need to use floor leveling compound (available at hardware stores) to float out any devits, holes or differences in surface heights; otherwise the tile will crack.

3. Begin laying tile in a dry run (without adhesive) to see how the tiles fit along the line you created with the chalk using spacers between each tile. You can purchase plastic spacers at just about any hardware or home improvement store or you can use any other object as long as the space created is the same for between each tile. Start from the center point and work your way out, keeping to the chalk lines so the tile is laid out straight.

You may need to drill holes into tile to fit over radiator or bath pipes and other obstacles. Draining the pipes may be necessary. You can use a diamond holesaw to drill perfect holes.

4. On the floor's surface, start spreading the adhesive with the notched trowel from the center point. Work in one quadrant first, applying small sections at a time. Spread the adhesive evenly with the notched edge and use a raking motion so grooves are not too deep or too shallow.

Set the first tile in the adhesive, not twisting it in but merely setting it down and pressing it softly but firmly. Set the tile spacer and continue adding tiles... add a spacer for each tile but remove them when a quadrant is done so it won't dry in the adhesive.

Make sure the tiles are even with a level. You can use a rubber mallet or hammer and wood block to tap tiles down. Also you can add more adhesive underneath. Let the tiles set overnight.

5. Mix the grout according to directions on the bag, then apply at a 45-degree angle with the rubber float to work grout into the spaces between the tiles. Don't do it too fast or the tiles might end up uneven. You may want to use caulk to get in the spaces at joints of wall and/or floor interfaces. Use a big sponge to wipe extra grout off the tops of the tiles as you go. Definitely get it soon before it dries. Let the grout and/or caulk set at least a week.

7. Go over the floor again with a damp sponge or sponge mop to clean over any remaining residue. You may want to use a silicone sealant to finish the job.

And there you have it :D

Scoring Tile With A Single Rail Ceramic Tile Cutter

You may need to cut tile, especially if you decide to lay tile out diagonally; when the tiles meet walls and/or floors pieces will have to be cut.

Try practicing a few times with scrap tile before cutting the actual tiles. Straight ceramic tile cutters are made to score (scratch the surface of) fired clay ceramic tiles with a thin porcelain coating (glaze) on their surface. Stone, fully vitrified porcelain tiles and some types of unglazed clay tiles may not cut properly with this type of cutter; in these cases you'll need a wet saw for tiles to make these types of cuts.

First mark where you want to cut the tile. Align the marked tile with the arrow on the tile cutter. Place the guide into position and tighten it so it holds tile in place. You can keep the guide in place if you need to make many cuts of the same size.

Hold the handle firmly and place the scoring wheel on the outermost edge of the tile. Push down a little and pull the handle toward you until the entire length of the tile has been scored. In other words, the ceramic tile should have an unbroken scratch from one edge to the other.

Now pull the handle forward to the top edge of tile and press down on the handle. The tile should break along the score.



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    • profile image


      6 years ago

      hi,i am the manufacturer for tile,i have studied your website,so you can take mine for your reference.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      we just bought some tile wood do you still need to use spaces?

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      The video you have shows the guy starting in a corner, which makes more sense to me than trying to start in the center of a room as stated in your writeup. Laying down chalk lines to mark the center of a room and starting there to lay tile doesn't make sense to me. In my experience, the chalk lines tend to get covered with mortar and are of dubious value. If you are careful to keep mortar off the lines and align them with the tile edges, then the edges overhang the mortar and tend to get broken off or cracked.

    • glassvisage profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Northern California

      Thanks Tile Man!

    • profile image

      Tile man 

      7 years ago

      Nice hub, but there is a little more to laying tile than just chalking lines and laying tile. Depending on the location of the job in the house, kitchen, bathroom, entry way, living room, ect.. will help you decide on the underlayment, adhesive, and tile to use.

      Before starting a tile job, I would strongly recommend that everyone consult with a prof. and have them come out to look at the job to verify the structure is sound and exactly what you will need. I have been laying tile for over 25 years, and still get a kick out of people that come to me AFTER they have screwed it all up and wondering why.

      Please talk to a prof. and let them look at your project, it could save you a ton of hassel when you find out the floor is crowned, wrong adhesive used, or the wrong tile.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      good job iv done tiling for years the only thing i saw wrong was being on the tile as u laid the others

    • happypuppy profile image


      7 years ago

      Great info. I never done it myself, but this hub might be of use when I need to do the job on my own(?). Thanks for sharing!

    • john000 profile image

      John R Wilsdon 

      7 years ago from Superior, Arizona

      This is a terrific hub. It shows a great deal of work and planning to write. Congratulations and thank you.

    • glassvisage profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Northern California

      Thank you all for your comments and for your input!

    • profile image

      Tile Contractors 

      7 years ago

      This is one of the most informative guides on tile installation I've seen. The videos really help out a lot too.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Great info and great videos!!

    • profile image

      Garage Tiles 

      8 years ago

      If you want to lay tiles in your garage, BigFloors makes easy to use tiles that snap into place - no need for glue or grout.

    • profile image

      Flooring Tiles Paint 

      8 years ago

      great information and videos will help out anyone who has never done it before.

    • profile image

      Tile Floor Layout 

      9 years ago

      Great Hub. You gave some great advice on installing tile. Job well done.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      the videos are very useful. as they help me to understand the process easily.

    • Camping Dan profile image

      Camping Dan 

      9 years ago

      Great tips here! I laid a lot of tile in my home last fall and the most important step for me was the layout. Make sure you have a plan and that you get it layed out in a way to fits the space or you will find out midway that you have wasted a lot of time and effort.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Thanx 4 some great advice.

    • glassvisage profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Northern California

      Thanks for the tip, Patricia!

    • Patricia Costanzo profile image

      Patricia Costanzo 

      10 years ago from Behind the Redwood Curtain

      glassvisge it looks like you did a lot of research on this! I think you were wise suggesting a floor as a first time project, they are the easiest. And always, always do a story-pole, I think you called it a dry run. It doesn't matter how flat and square your tile job is if its a bad layout and you have little cuts or broken tile joints (crow hops) it'll look awful.

    • glassvisage profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Northern California

      Thanks everyone! Yep, tiling is intimidating, but it's not as bad as it looks :)

    • johnr54 profile image

      Joanie Ruppel 

      10 years ago from Texas

      That is one home improvement project I've never taken on, since it usually involves the kitchen or bathroom, neither of which can be out of commission too long in our house. But great hub, very good overview.

    • RGraf profile image

      Rebecca Graf 

      10 years ago from Wisconsin

      Thanks for the info. We are looking at doing our kitchen before the end of the year and were a little nervous. I feel better. now.

    • sceptic profile image


      10 years ago from Christchurch, New Zealand

      Very informative it!

    • starrwriter profile image


      10 years ago from Cottage Grove, Wisconsin

      Great information. This was a very helpful Hub. Thank you!

    • Express profile image


      10 years ago from India

      Brilliant selection of pictures and videos...nice posts...congrats

    • glassvisage profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Northern California

      Thanks everyone! I appreciate such feedback from a professional handyman... I wouldn't exactly consider myself Bob Villa :)

    • Becks9 profile image


      10 years ago from Long Island, NY

      As a professional handyman, all I can say is great information. Very well done and I especially like the videos.

    • topstuff profile image


      10 years ago

      Now its the right one.Mustbe rated.

    • market solution profile image

      market solution 

      10 years ago from Minneapolis, MN

      Where was this when I needed it? We laid the tile (first time) and it actually turned out, but we would have been a lot more prepared having your information. I'll keep it handy for next time! Thanks.

    • Sandilyn profile image


      10 years ago from Port Orange, FL

      You have done a great job with your hub! Laying tile is not a difficult job with the correct tools and the right advice. You have given that here.

      I have laid tile before. The tile part isn't hard. It is the grouting that takes some muscle work. So to those doing it. Prepare to have some aches and pains afterwords!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      okay so I have done so much to this turn of the century old house...hired some guys to show me how on the front porch...that didn't go turn to do the back...I can see me now with grout under my nails dripping with sweat rereading this hundreds of times...forget printing it...that would be to easy!! Next will be sledge hammer to an old flew and huge cracks in the plaster walls....wait Mom says take out the tub and install shower...wait that was the first room I remodled ten years ago...I am never gonna get done!!!!!!!!!!!

    • moifah profile image


      10 years ago from United States

      This is some great information, we're about to redo our kitchen floor and living room.

    • eaglesden profile image


      10 years ago from Texas

      Thanks for the great information I am thinking about redoing some of my floors and was wanting to go with tile but didn't want to pay someone to do it. Now I think that I can do it myself.

      Please check out my blog at

    • MasonsMom profile image


      10 years ago from U.S.A.

      It's funny that I stummbled upon this Hub--my husband and I have been debating whether to give this a try ourselves or just hire someone to do it. I feel like I can make a better decision after having read this. Thanks!

    • tile made easy profile image

      tile made easy 

      10 years ago

      What a great hub! Fantastic info which gives me something to aim towards.

    • profile image

      Larry R. Miller 

      11 years ago

      I had someone who supposedly knew how to lay tile, so I watched and learned. What I learned was, in reality, he knew less than I did and when he didn't show up for work for a week, I didn't need him any more. I had a few pieces, ceramic, that had to be pulled up and that added some work to the project. Now our home and rental have floors, counters, window boxes and entryways all in tile. I built our alternative strawbale home and rental, mostly solo and mostly by hand, and we love it. We just wish we could take it with us, since we're planning a move. Don't let the job overwhelm you, you can do it.

    • Lissie profile image

      Elisabeth Sowerbutts 

      11 years ago from New Zealand

      You forgot the first step - if in doubt hire someone who knows how to do it! Too scary for me!


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