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How Tiles Are Laid

Tile is a floor covering of universal acceptance for bathrooms, kitchens, and hallways due to its superior water resistance, durability, and simplicity. One might even compare its popularity to the rise of the Glazed Porcelain Tile.

While many homeowners hire professional tile-setters and installers, ceramic floor tile installation also qualifies as a do-it-yourself project that owners can accomplish inexpensively and with relative ease.

Diligent preparation is the ultimate key to successful tile installation. Whether you are tiling the wall or the floor covering, it’s essential to consider the type of tile you’re using, be it the aforementioned glazed porcelain or the decorative Skirting Tile.

Tiling requires a backer board to level the surface and add waterproofing. With a solid substrate, a workable layout, and all of your tools and materials at hand, the process of laying tile with mortar and grout is relatively simple.


Getting Started

The tile pattern will affect the number of tiles you need to purchase. A grid pattern is simple to plan and is easy to install because fewer tiles need to be cut. Diagonal tiles help visually open up smaller spaces, but cutting tiles on a diagonal can get complicated. Measure the room’s area, and then add 15 percent to account for wastage.

If you are curious to know how-to tricks and tips on calculating how many tile is required for a certain space area of your project, read our previous informative article How Tiles are Measured.

Tools required for Laying Tile

Tile cutting tool: either a wet tile saw or a rail tile cutter, also known as a snap tile cutter

Tile nipper

Rubber tile float

Notched tile trowel

Flat margin trowel

Rubber mallet

Tile spacers

Large sponges


Tape measure

Chalk line

Bubble level

2×4 scrap lumber

Framing square

Safety glasses

Rubber gloves



Thinset mortar

Tile grout

Grout haze remover

Grout sealer

Cement backer board

Fiberglass seam tape

Stainless steel cement board screws (1.25″ to 2.75″)

How to Lay Ceramic Tile Flooring 

Step 1 Substrate Preparation

Tile is fragile on its own but gains strength when laid on top of a firm, inflexible surface free of gaps and ridges. You can generally lay ceramic tile directly on a concrete slab subfloor as long as the concrete is in good condition and free of moisture. To lay ceramic tile on plywood subfloors, the recommended substrate is a layer of cement board.

Install the cement board panels by setting them onto a layer of thin-set mortal and screwing them to the wood subfloor, with screws driven every 8 inches along the perimeters of the panels. Tape the seams with fiberglass seam tape, fill the seams with thin-set, and let it fully cure.

What Is a Cement Board?Also known as a cementitious backer unit (CBU) provides a rock-solid substrate that is perfect for tile installation.


Step 2 Dry-Fit the Tiles

When laying ceramic tile, it’s typically best to start in the middle by measuring all walls to determine the center point for each wall. Snap a chalk line between each of the two opposing walls to create a cross pattern. Without mortar or grout, lay out tiles and tile spacers in a line on each arm of the cross.

If you’re dry-fitting the design to lay ceramic tiles in a bathroom, it’s generally recommended to start at the center of the room. In smaller rooms, this ensures even cuts on both edges.

In larger areas like kitchens and living rooms, tile can be laid from the center or starting on one side depending on the size and how it fits. The idea is to avoid having small, cut tiles against a wall, as this can be visually jarring.

If needed, you can shift this cross-like assembly in any direction, so that any tile that borders a wall is as close as possible to being a half tile or larger. When you pick up the tile, carefully stack the pieces so that you can keep track of which tiles go where.

Step 3 Spread the Mortar

Pick up a small batch of thin-set mortar with your margin trowel or with the flat side of your notched trowel and deposit the thin-set on the cement board. Holding the flat side of your notched tile trowel at a 45-degree angle, spread the mortar across the surface until it covers an area extending beyond the perimeter of a tile.

Switch to the notched side of the same trowel and, again holding it at a 45-degree angle and pressing firmly to the cement board, comb the thin-set by pulling the trowel in straight lines. The notches in the trowel automatically regulate the amount of thin-set deposited on the surface.

Step 4 Lay the Tile

Gently press the tile into the wet thin-set, twisting the tile back and forth to press it deeper into the thin-set. You aim to collapse any ridges in the mortar and fill in gaps. Occasionally lift a tile and check the back to ensure full coverage.

If your tiles aren’t covered fully, you can backbutter the tiles by adding mortar to the tile itself before placing it. As you progress from one tile to the next, place tile spacers at the corners to maintain consistent spacing.Leave a 1/4-inch expansion gap along walls, cabinets, and other large room elements.

Do not add mortar to these gaps. Lay the bubble level across multiple tiles to check for both levels and to eliminate lippage from one tile to the next. Lightly tap the tiles with the rubber mallet to level them.You can also opt to use a tile leveling system, which uses clips between each tile to hold them in place with even spaces and a level surface

Step 5 Cut the Edge Tiles

For cutting only a few tiles, a rail tile cutter can inexpensively and effectively snap apart tiles. Place the uneven, snapped sides against the wall, where baseboards will cover them. Buy or rent a wet tile saw for perfectly straight cuts.

Use the tile nipper only for cutting around pipes, toilet bases, and other non-linear cuts. Always wear safety glasses with any mode of tile cutting to protect your eyes against flying shards. Allow the mortar to dry for at least 24 hours before applying grout.

You can also click here to learn more about Do you Know How to Cut the Porcelain Tile to Reduce Cracking? I hope it will be helpful to you.

Step 6 Grout the Tile

After removing the tile spacers, use the rubber float to press the grout into the tile seams. Work in small sections. Then, holding the float at a 45-degree angle, firmly draw the long edge of the float across the tile seam.

Move diagonally to avoid pulling grout out of the seam. Deposit excess grout back in the grout bucket.After a section has cured for about an hour, follow up by soaking a sponge in clean water in a bucket and lightly wiping the grout lines in a circular motion to remove excess grout.

Step 7 Remove the Grout Haze

A creamy grout haze will remain on the tile surface. Remove the grout haze after the tile has fully cured by first wiping it down with a sponge and clean water. Next, add 3 ounces of haze cleaner per gallon of water, or as directed by the product instructions, and soak the sponge in this solution. Wipe down the tile surface with this solution until the haze has disappeared.

Step 8 Seal the Grout

Cured tile grout will soak up water if it is not properly sealed. Seal the tile grout either by applying sealer to individual grout lines with a brush applicator or by spraying down the entire tile surface and wiping off the excess from the tile faces.

Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for drying/curing time before you use the tile. This can range from four hours to two days.In sum, the eight pivotal steps in laying tiles transform an ordinary space into a work of art. From substrate preparation to sealing, each phase ensures longevity and aesthetics.

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