How to Install Stone Floor Tiles

Beth Asaff
Stone floor

Stone floors are a beautiful addition to any room of the home. They can be elegant, like a polished marble foyer, or rustic, like a tumbled travertine family room. No matter what they look like, however, stone floors have special needs during installation to ensure their long lasting durability and beauty.

Installing Stone Floor Tiles

In many respects, a stone floor is installed like any other tile floor. Layouts are the same or similar, and the setting and grouting procedure is deceptively similar as well. Stone has specific requirements, however, that sets it apart from the installation of other tile floors.

Materials Needed

  • Self-leveling floor compound
  • Measuring tape
  • Chalk line tool
  • Tile wet saw
  • Trowel
  • Rubber mallet
  • Level
  • Impregnating stone sealer
  • Foam paintbrush
  • Soft cloth
  • Grout
  • Grout float
  • Grout sponge
  • Color enhancing sealer (optional)
  • White, latex-additive thinset mortar

If installing a green marble, use an epoxy-based mortar instead of white to avoid warping.

Prepare the Floor

Examine the floor where you intend to install the stone. Stone is heavy, which means that it can settle oddly, causing a condition known as "lippage" where a corner of one tile sticks up higher than the others.

  • If the floor is not perfectly level to begin with, this condition is heightened. Correct an unlevel floor by pouring self-leveling floor compound over it. Let the compound dry according to the manufacturer's directions.
  • Locate the wall furthest from the door you enter by and measure it.
  • Mark the mid-point on the wall and snap a chalk line from this point across the floor to the opposite wall. You will lay your first tile on this line to bury the cut tiles on the edges of the room and provide a full row of tiles where they are most visible when you enter the room.

Prepare the Tiles

Dry layout your tiles. Dry laying your tiles means setting them down on the floor with no mortar. This allows you to be sure of your pattern, make your cuts and arrange the tiles.

  • Take the stone tiles out of several boxes at once and mix them as you lay them down. All stone tiles have some degree of variation, and some will have extreme amounts of variation. Mixing them from several boxes ensures that the variation is evenly placed throughout the floor.
    Spacing stone tiles
  • Set your first tile against the wall furthest from the door, right on the chalk line. Set your next tiles evenly out to each side. Do not butt the tiles together; even polished or honed stone requires a grout joint of at least 1/8-inch. Tumbled stone requires a joint of 1/4-inch. Use grout spacers if necessary to keep your lines straight.
  • Cut your stone tiles to fit the perimeter of the room on a tile wet saw. Double check their fit in the dry layout before installing them.
  • Examine the tiles as you set them down. Some stone tiles will have voids or holes in the back of the tile. Others will be covered with a fiberglass mesh on the back. These stone tiles will require additional support during installation.

Take up the tiles from the dry layout once you are satisfied with their look. Stack them nearby in the opposite order you laid them down in.

Mortar and Tile

  • Spread a small amount of thinset mortar onto the floor, beginning at the center of the wall furthest from the door.
  • Spread a second layer or mortar onto the backs of the stone tiles if any of the tiles have holes, voids or fiberglass mesh on their backs.
  • Press the tiles into the mortar in the same pattern you determined earlier.
  • Beat the tiles into the mortar using a rubber mallet. Set a level on top of the tiles at each completed row. Beat in further any tiles that are too high. If a tile is too low, pry it up with the edge of the trowel and add extra mortar to its back before setting it back down.
    Leveling tiles
  • Continue tiling until you work yourself backwards out of the room.

It is important to let the mortar dry for 24 hours.

Seal the Stone

  • Seal your stone with an impregnating sealer appropriate for the type of stone you have.
  • Paint the sealer onto the stone using a foam paintbrush using overlapping strokes.
  • Let the sealer dry for 10 minutes, then buff the surface of the tiles with a soft cloth to remove the excess.

Grout Steps

  • Grout the stone tiles. Use unsanded grout for polished and honed stone tiles, and sanded grout for tumbled or rustic tiles.
  • Spread the grout over the stones using a grout float. Pack the grout into the joints from multiple directions by holding the float at a 45-degree angle. If installing travertine tiles that have unfilled holes, spread the grout over the entire tile to fill the holes as well.
  • Scrape off the excess grout with the float held at a 90-degree angle to the tiles. Let the grout dry for 10 minutes.
  • Wash off the excess grout with a grout sponge.

Lightly dampen the sponge and work it in circles over the tiles to clean them. Rinse the sponge often to avoid grout haze drying on the stone. If haze develops after the tiles are dry, dust it off with a soft cloth.

Allow the grout to dry for 24 hours before moving on to the next steps in the process.

Apply Sealer

  • Apply a coat of color enhancing sealer to tumbled or rustic stone floor as desired. This sealer will not protect the floor; it will darken and deepen the color of the tiles.
  • Paint the sealer on carefully to avoid getting it on the grout joints. Color enhancer on grout will give the grout a slight sheen.
  • Allow the sealer to dry for 10 minutes, then buff away the excess with a soft cloth.

Enhance the Beauty of Your Home

A stone tile floor has character and personality that no other tile floor can match. Bring the beauty of stone to any room of your home and watch your floors take on new life.

How to Install Stone Floor Tiles