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How To Lay Concrete Exterior Tiles?

It may be time to transform your patio or driveway if it looks old and ties. Now if you wanna know how to lay concrete exterior tiles, it’s not at all a difficult task. 

However, instead of renovating the old patio, just cover it with concrete exterior wall tiles to transform it. You can complete the project in half the time with no extra digging. You don’t even need to hire a professional for that, you can just use your skills for this project to go successful. Keep reading this blog for more information.

Why Would You Want To Put Tiles Over Concrete?

You might want to use concrete as a base for porcelain tiles for two main reasons. Firstly, it’s easier to use than other bases. You don’t need to buy cement underlay from the tile shop and dig up your slab when you want to start the process.

Secondly, a cement slab has a more solid foundation for an exterior patio. Unlike exterior tiling with an underlay, cement paving is embedded in the ground. This is great news for those wanting to install a new patio on top, your base layer is already installed. 

Which Tiles Are Best For Laying On Concrete?

If you wanna try this method, you will have to follow some instructions. The first and foremost thing to follow is getting the right materials. Typically, driveways and patios are made from ceramic tile, stone tile, porcelain tile, or composite materials. They all have pros and cons, especially if you’re gonna lay them on a proper base. 

laying tiles

If you’re laying the tile on an old slab foundation, we would recommend using porcelain. Porcelain is mostly applied on a cement underlay, but this underlay is the same as the old cement slab you already have. In some ways, your slab will be a better base. 

Will A Concrete Base Affect Drainage?

Cement is a great material to use as a base for tile installation. It is a porous material and soaks up water well. It also lets water seep back into the ground. And, it is resilient when water freezes.

So, you shouldn’t use a cement slab for your main driveway or patio, it absorbs water and at the same time makes the floor slippery to walk on. However, as a base, it works well. Cement bases are perfect for porcelain tiles as they create a strong bond with the ground. 

Shortly, your current cement patio won’t affect the drainage more than a new cement underlay. However, if your cement paving exists already, it should give sufficient drainage for your porcelain tiles. 

Laying Outdoor Tiles On A Concrete Slab: Step-By-Step Guide

Outdoor tile installation is a great way to transform any exterior living space. Tiles are affordable, durable, attractive, and easy to install. However, if you don’t install the tiles properly, it can be a huge disappointment in terms of appearance.

It will just result in a waste of time, money, and effort. But, if you want to avoid any mishaps, read the step-by-step guide to learn exactly how to lay concrete exterior tiles.

What You’ll Need?

Equipment / Tools

  • Mortar trowel
  • Grout trowel
  • Grout sponge
  • 5-gallon bucket for mortar and grout
  • 5-gallon bucket for grout sponge
  • Masonry mixer (hand trowel or masonry mixing paddle and power drill)
  • Tile saw
  • Tile spacers
  • 6-foot or longer spirit level
  • Chalk line
  • Scraping tool (masonry chisel or hard scraper)
  • Knee pads (optional)
  • Power washer (optional)


  • Tiles
  • Mortar
  • Grout
  • Self-leveling compound (SLC)
  • Masonry caulking
  • Concrete Patching Compound
  • Crack isolation membrane (optional)
  • Degreasers such as trisodium phosphate (TSP) or muriatic acid (optional)

Step 1: Clean and Prepare the Concrete

You need to make sure your concrete surface is clean and free of any oil, dirt, debris, and residues. This is important as it will let the mortar set and cure itself properly. Clean the slab thoroughly by scrubbing the surface with a hard broom and water or by spraying with a washer.

A degreaser can also be used on your surface if the stains are tough. After the first wash, use a pressure washer to spray off any residue and let the slab dry well. 

Step 2: Fill and Level the Concrete

The cracks in your slab are transferable and can shift to your tiles with time. This will lead to the unraveling of the portion and so, water pooling on the tiles.

Check the unleveled areas by placing a straight edge on the surface of your slab. Check any areas where the gap between the slab and straight edge is more than ⅛ inch, and fill these areas with concrete floor leveler.

Step 3: Measure and Dry-lay

Now before you lay the tile on the crack isolation membrane, it’s recommended to do a dry surface run beforehand. Lay the tile to see how it looks and ensure you have enough available accounts for breakages. 

Step 4: Lay Your Tiles

Now apply a proper layer of mortar under your tiles (this process is called back-buttering), and then firmly press the tile onto the mortar until it properly sticks. Continue laying the tiles, and place tile spacers between each tile to produce a constant gap for the grout in the next step. 

Make sure that the sticks are stuck to each other and at the same level throughout by resting a level over the top of the tiles at a time. Keep laying tiles, using spacers, and checking for flush and level until the whole area of mortar is covered with tiles. Once you’re done, wash your tools and clean the bucket. 

Click to read our article: How Tiles Are Laid


Also, let the mortar set for the recommended time provided by the manufacturer. This can range from 12 to 48 hours, depending on the weather conditions and the product. When dry, get rid of the spacers and use a tool to scrape off any excess mortar that is onto the surface of the tiles. 

Step 5: Grout

For the grouting process, start by mixing the grout in a bucket by using the ratio of grout mix and water recommended by the manufacturer. Make sure the consistency is smooth and clump-free.

Now, use your grout trowel to spread out the mixture into the gaps between each tile until they’re filled. You shouldn’t fill the expansion joints though as they need to be filled with a masonry caulk and not grout. 

Around 20-30 minutes later, fall back to the first tile you grouted with a bucket of clean water and a sponge. Wring out the grout sponge until it’s damp. Make sure to not use a lot of water as it causes discolorations in the grout. 

Now wipe any extra grout on the surface of your tiles in a circular motion. Don’t wipe it in the same direction as the gaps. This might result in pushing the grout out of the gap. When the sponge gets dirty, wash it again by dipping it into the bucket.

It may take you a few passes with the sponge to clean the excess grout properly. Continue the grouting and washing process until all of the tiles have been grouted. At the end, caulk in the expansion joints. 

Step 6: Seal

The last step of installation is the sealing. But, don’t seal it exactly after the grouting process is done. Let the grout cure for at least 2 weeks, and then use a water-resistant grout seal on the tiles for perfect tile installation. 

Final Words

Installing tiles can be a lengthy and intense process. Even though you can complete this project on your own, we recommend having a helper by your side to make the process quicker or easier. This is especially needed if your tiles are heavy and large. 

But, even with the smaller ones, having a helper is needed during the mortar and grout process. For example, you can spread the mortar while your helper lays the tiles behind them, and you can spread the grout while your helper cleans them. If you’d like to purchase tiles, check out our variety on George Ceramic


What Is The Best Base For Outdoor Porcelain Tile?

Porcelain tiles are laid on top of a cement underlay, so we recommend using a cement base if you have one. 

Click to learn: Which tiles are best for outdoors?

Can I Lay New Tiles Over Existing Patio Slabs?

It is recommended to do so if your base is cement. But if the base is tile, you might have to get rid of it first and use some cement underlay and isolation membranes. 

When to Install Outdoor Tiles?

You should install outdoor tiles when the temperature falls between 50-100 F. This is because colder temperatures will increase the cure time. It will also decrease the strength of how much mortar and grout hold the tiles in place. The hotter the temperature, the quicker the mortar and grout will cure and this means the bond will be poor. 

Why Is A Solid Bed Important For Patio Tiles?

A solid foundation is essential if you want your tile installation project to be even and don’t want any subsidence. However, there’s no specific requirement for a cement bed so you can use any kind that works for you.

Related reading: Tile laying: material selection and surface preparation

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