Installing Ceramic Tile Floors

Tile being back buttered

People often feel that the job of installing ceramic tile floors should be left to professionals. Ceramic tile is one of the easier tile materials to install yourself, however. Even the most amateur do-it-yourselfer can tackle a simple, straight set floor in no time.

How to Install Ceramic Tile Floors

Before you begin, make sure the substrate is level and free of any debris. Set up a tile cutting station ahead of time and make sure all materials are on hand before you begin.


  • Tiles
  • Notched trowel
  • Bucket
  • Level
  • Rubber float
  • Rubber mallet
  • Adhesive
  • Grout
  • Sponge
  • Microfiber towel


  1. Measure your floor to get the square footage. Take the measurements of the length and width of the room in inches and multiply together. Divide this by 144 to get the most accurate amount of square footage for your space. Add about 10 or 15 percent more tile than your measurement calls for; any extra tiles can be used to replace tiles that are chipped and/or broken in the future, and to accommodate cuts now.
  2. Lay out your tiles in the room itself without adhesive before you begin. This is known as a dry layout and will help you determine cuts, grout width and general tile placement.
  3. Locate the wall furthest from the door you enter from and find its centerline. Place the first tile directly on this point, up against the far wall. Lay the rest of the tiles out to either side from this point to provide a balanced installation with the cut tiles placed on either side.
  4. Cut the tiles to fit the edges of the installation, then restack them in the opposite order you placed them down in.
  5. Apply the adhesive with the notched trowel, keying the mortar until it is an even depth.
  6. Press each tile into the mortar, banging it into place with a rubber mallet until each tile is level with the next.
  7. Let the tiles set and allow the adhesive to dry overnight.
  8. Mix up the grout until it resembles the consistency of peanut butter.
  9. Apply the grout using the rubber float. Drag the float over the tiles from various directions to pack the grout between the joints. Turn the float to a 90 degree angle and scrape off any excess grout from the face of the tiles.
  10. Let the grout dry for 10 minutes, and then clean the surface of the tiles with a damp sponge. Make several passes with the sponge, rinsing it frequently in clean water.
  11. Wait an additional two hours, then buff the tiles with a microfiber towel to remove any grout haze.
  12. Let the grout dry overnight before using the floor.

Tips for Installing Your Floor

There are several easy tricks that can help you make the most of your floor installation.

  • Use a self-leveling floor compound to even out any bumps in the floor and prevent tiles from cracking in the future.
  • Spread only as much mortar as you can install tile on in a 10 minute period. Spreading more mortar than this may mean it dries too quickly, leaving your tiles inadequately installed.
  • Wear knee pads; you will be spending a lot of time on your knees and keeping yourself comfortable will help eliminate mistakes due to a rushed job at the end.
  • Lay out each row of tile before you install it. The walls of your room may not be level; make frequent adjustments and cuts to keep the pattern straight.
  • Use white colored mortar for light colored tiles and gray mortar for dark colored tiles to avoid affecting the color of your floor.
  • Use a grout that is mixed with a sealer to help prevent staining and eliminate the sealing step at the end of the job.

Enjoy Your New Floor

Ceramic floor tiles are tough, durable and unlikely to be damaged during installation. Relax, take your time and enjoy the new floor you installed yourself.

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Installing Ceramic Tile Floors