DIY: How to Install Floor Tile

Angie's List
by Angie's List
48 Hours
Laying floor tile is as much a skill as it is an art. With time and practice, a handy homeowner can master this task. Start small with a half bathroom, a mudroom or other area, rather than your entire kitchen.
Tools & Materials Needed:

Measuring tape

Carpenter's pencil


Special screws for cement board

Tile saw


Tile cement


Tile spacers


Grout float

Tile sponge

Buckets for rinse water

Clean shop towels


Small framing square

Wax pencil

Cement board or other underlayment

Saw or utility knife to cut underlayment

Large bucket to mix tile cement and grout
Prepare floor and install backer-board: Sweep the floor clean after removing the previous floor covering. Unless it's a concrete floor, you'll need to install cement board or a similar backer. Fasten screws every 5 to 6 inches. You can attach tile directly to concrete floors, but first eliminate high spots and other bumps that will create problems during installation.
Measure and layout: Measure the room's length and width. Mark the center of the room at each end and either draw the line with a straightedge or chalk line. Draw a perpendicular line the same way. Check the line to make sure it's square and adjust if necessary. You'll encounter problems later if your lines aren't at a 90-degree angle. With the lines drawn, put a few tiles into place without cement to see what size you'll need against the walls. Adjust the layout if necessary.
Mix tile cement: Follow the mixing instructions. Tile cement has a limited working time, so only mix what you plan to use. Spread the tile cement with the notched trowel, staying slightly away from the line so you can tell where to place the tile. Spread a little at a time, but only in the places you plan to install tile right away.
Start tiling: Lay two or three tiles along the line. Work them back and forth into the cement, so each piece is secure and its height matches the adjacent tiles. Place spacers in the corners. Then lay a line next to the first tiles to create a square. Continue spreading cement and laying tile with spacers. Cut to fit when necessary. Don't walk on the finished floor for 24 hours or the time listed on the tile cement. After that period, remove the spacers and clean off excess cement.
Grout and rinse: Mix the grout according to instructions. Some grouts mix with water, while others have a special additive. Read the instructions to make sure. Spread the grout over the seams with the grout float, fully filling the gaps. As sections start to dry, wipe up the excess grout with the sponge and a bucket of fresh water. The water won't stay fresh for long, so refill the bucket often. Let the floor dry slightly, then rinse it again with the sponge. Repeat this three or more times until the water stops becoming cloudy.
Seal: A hazy film usually appears as the floor dries. Wipe it away with the shop cloths. Apply the sealer according to instructions. This typically involves spraying or brushing sealer along the grout lines, then wiping up the excess. The sealer may need a second coat, but once it dries you're all done.
Frequently asked questions
Have a question about this project?
  1 question
  • Bob Bob on Mar 19, 2020

    how to "butter" the smaller pieces

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