20 Tile Flooring Tips to Help You Install Tile Floors Like a Pro!

By thewriteDuffy •  Updated: 03/20/23 •  18 min read

tile flooring is a popular and versatile option for many homeowners, offering durability, style, and easy maintenance. However, installing ceramic tiles can be a challenging process, especially for first-timers.

With these 15 tile flooring tips, you can achieve professional results and create a stunning space in your home. From choosing the right size tiles and preparing your subfloor to mastering the art of cutting, grouting, and sealing, these tips will help you navigate the installation process and ensure your tile flooring looks perfect for years to come.

1. Consider Your Tile Size

While bigger tiles aren’t always better, they can be easier to install than smaller ones. Large tiles are common for bathroom walls but can also work well in kitchens and other rooms.

Keep in mind that smaller 1×1 tiles will take longer to set, so opt for a small pattern if you want to save time.

2. Ensure a Flat Subfloor

A flat subfloor is crucial for a successful installation.

Self-leveling subfloor compounds are great for DIYers, but plywood or cement backer board can also be used.

Regardless of your choice, ensure the subfloor is at least 1″ thick and flat for a quality job.

3. Square Your Room

Squaring a room using the 3-4-5 triangle technique is a key step in getting that professional-instillation look.

By taking the time to measure and mark your room accurately, you can ensure that your tiles are laid uniformly and that the overall appearance of your floor or wall is both visually appealing and sound.

The most effective method for squaring a room is by using the 3-4-5 triangle technique, which is based on the Pythagorean theorem. This theorem states that in any right-angled triangle, the square of the length of the hypotenuse (the side opposite the right angle) is equal to the sum of the squares of the lengths of the other two sides.

To apply the 3-4-5 triangle technique to squaring your room, start by measuring 3 feet along one wall, then 4 feet into the center of the room, creating a right angle. Next, connect these two points with a line that measures exactly 5 feet. If the room is larger or smaller than the standard 3-4-5 dimensions, you can scale up or down accordingly. For instance, use 6, 8, and 10-foot lines for a larger room, or 18″, 24″, and 30″ lines for a smaller space.

Once you have marked these measurements, snap a chalk line along the lines to create a clear visual guide. This will help you position your tiles accurately and ensure that your installation remains square as you progress. Proper squaring of the room is especially important when working with patterns or designs that require precise alignment, such as herringbone, chevron, or grid patterns.

4. Plan Your Layout

While squaring your room (tip #3) is crucial for accurately aligning tiles and creating a visually appealing and professional result, planning your layout is also important to create a professional instaillation.

Planning your layout focuses on determining the overall design, pattern, and placement of the tiles within the squared room. It includes deciding on the starting point for laying tiles, the arrangement of different tile sizes or colors, and the direction in which the tiles will be laid.

During the layout planning phase, you may dry-lay tiles on the floor to visualize the final pattern, identify any potential issues, and make adjustments as needed before the actual installation begins.

This may include centering the design or using cut tiles along the edges for a balanced appearance.

5. Start from The Center

Begin laying tiles from the center of the room and work your way outwards. This ensures a balanced layout and minimizes the number of cut tiles needed.

6. Choose the Right Tile Adhesive

Different tiles may require different types of adhesive. Selecting the most suitable adhesive for your specific tile will ensure a long-lasting and strong bond.

Common types of tile adhesives include:

  1. Thin-set mortar: This is the most common choice for household floor tile. It’s great for ceramic, porcelain, and natural stone tiles. It is available in both dry mix and pre-mixed varieties, with options for modified (with added polymers for increased flexibility and bond strength) and unmodified varieties. Thin-set mortar is typically mixed with water and applied with a notched trowel to achieve a nice consistent and even layer.
  2. Mastic: Mastic is a pre-mixed adhesive that is typically used for wall tiles, especially in areas with less moisture, such as kitchen backsplashes. It has a sticky consistency and is easier to work with than thin-set mortar. Mastic is not recommended for floor installations or areas with high moisture levels, as it may not provide the necessary bond strength and durability.
  3. Epoxy adhesive: Epoxy adhesives are extremely strong and durable, making them suitable for heavy-duty installations or areas with high traffic or load-bearing requirements. They are typically used for commercial or industrial projects and may be more challenging to work with due to their fast curing time and unique mixing requirements.

7. Master the Art of Thin-Set

As we just covered, it’s most likely you’ll be using thin-set for your flooring tile job. Thin-set not only keeps tiles in place but also compensates for minor subfloor imperfections. As many professional tilers will tell you, understanding and skillfully using thin-set mortar is key to getting a good tile bond.

You can master the art of thin-set by:

  1. Choosing the right thin-set: As mentioned earlier, thin-set mortar is available in modified and unmodified varieties. Modified thin-set contains added polymers, which increase flexibility and bond strength, making it suitable for most ceramic and porcelain tile installations. Unmodified thin-set is typically used with a separate membrane or when the tile manufacturer recommends it. Always consult the tile and adhesive manufacturer’s guidelines for the most appropriate thin-set for your project.
  2. Mixing the thin-set properly: Mixing the thin-set mortar to the correct consistency is vital for a successful installation. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the appropriate water-to-mortar ratio, and mix until you achieve a smooth, peanut butter-like consistency. Avoid overmixing or adding too much water, as this can weaken the bond strength and lead to installation failures.
  3. Applying the thin-set evenly: Use a notched trowel with the correct size for your tile dimensions to apply thin-set mortar to the substrate. Hold the trowel at a 45-degree angle and use a sweeping motion to create even ridges, which helps ensure full contact between the tile and the adhesive. When applying thin-set, work in small sections to prevent the mortar from drying out before the tiles are placed.
  4. Back-buttering when needed: I’ll cover this more in tip #8 but for large tiles or tiles with an uneven back, or tiles that need to fit into tight spaces, back-buttering can improve adhesion and ensure a strong bond.
  5. Allow for proper curing time: Again, I cover this more in tip #10 but it’s worth repeating that after installing the tiles, it’s essential to allow the thin-set mortar to cure properly before grouting or applying any weight on the surface. Curing times may vary depending on the thin-set type and environmental factors, so consult the manufacturer’s guidelines for the recommended drying time.

By mastering the art of thin-set, you can ensure a strong bond between the tiles and substrate, contributing to a successful and long-lasting tile installation.

8. Back-Butter Tiles When Needed

What is back-buttering? Back-buttering is the process of applying adhesive (usually thin-set mortar) directly to the back of the tile, rather than spreading it on the subfloor or wall. This allows for better control of the adhesive application and ensures sufficient coverage in hard-to-reach areas.

While back-buttering can be used for any tile installation, it’s very useful for large tiles, tiles with uneven backs, or when working in tight spaces where a trowel might not fit.

The back-buttering technique makes sure there’s proper adhesion of your tiles to the subfloor and reduces the risk of tiles coming loose or developing hollow spots.

9. Double Apply your Adhesive

In some cases, you may need to use a combination of back-buttering and traditional troweling to achieve proper adhesion.

For example, if the subfloor or wall surface has minor imperfections or if you’re installing large-format tiles, you can apply adhesive to both the tile and the installation surface to ensure a strong bond and level installation.

By employing the back-buttering technique and the regular trowling technique when necessary, you can effectively address these challenges and ensure a successful and long-lasting tile installation.

10. Allow for Proper Drying Time

Allowing sufficient time for the adhesive and grout to cure or dry properly during a tile installation is essential to ensure the durability, stability, and longevity of your tile floor.

To ensure you don’t rush the curing process, consider the following guidelines:

  1. Adhesive curing time: After installing the tiles, it’s crucial to let the adhesive, usually thin-set mortar for tile flooring, cure before applying grout or any weight on the surface. The curing time can vary depending on the adhesive type, room temperature, and humidity levels. Generally, it takes 24 to 48 hours to fully dry, but it’s always best to consult the instructions on the package for the recommended drying time.
  2. Grout curing time: Once you’ve applied the grout between the tiles, it’s important to give it ample time to cure as well. Grout curing time can range from 24 to 72 hours, depending on the type of grout used and environmental conditions. As with the adhesive, refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for the recommended curing time.
  3. Avoid walking on the surface: During the curing period, avoid walking on or placing any heavy objects on the tiled surface. This can cause the tiles to shift or the adhesive to become compromised, leading to an unstable or uneven installation.
  4. Seal the grout: After the grout has fully cured, consider sealing it with a grout sealer to protect it from stains, moisture, and mildew. Grout sealers come in various types, including penetrating and topical sealers, so choose the one that best suits your project and follow the manufacturer’s directions for application.

By slowing down and not rushing the curing process you’ll allow your tiles to reach their maximum bond strength and durability, ensuring a beautiful tile installation that will last for years.

11. Take Your Time

Work in small areas and take your time to ensure everything is done correctly. A high-quality tile job is the result of an installer who chose not to rush.

12. Grout Diagonally

Once your ties are set down and cured, you may think that you can push in the grout any old way, but there’s actually a better way to do this as well. Grout should be spread diagonally across the tiles holding the spreader tool at a 45 degree angle; this angle gets the grout all the way into the joints.

pplying grout diagonally with a grout float allows you to apply even pressure across the joints, pressing the grout firmly into the spaces and eliminating air pockets or gaps. Working diagonally also prevents the grout float from getting caught in the joints, which can lead to uneven application or the unintentional removal of grout.

Moreover, grouting diagonally enables you to remove excess grout more efficiently. When you hold the grout float at a 90-degree angle and move it diagonally across the tile surface, you can scrape away any surplus grout without dislodging it from the joints. This method helps maintain a clean and neat appearance, reducing the amount of cleanup required after grouting.

It’s often the little things that make a big difference.

13. Use Plastic Spacers

Using plastic spacers during tile installation is an effective way to ensure consistent and precise spacing between tiles. These small, typically cross-shaped or T-shaped devices are placed at the corners where tiles meet, helping maintain uniform gaps and preventing tiles from shifting while the adhesive sets.

This consistency in spacing is vital for achieving a professional, visually appealing, and long-lasting result.

14. Use a Tile Leveling System

Instead of traditional plastic spacers, you can level things up and use a tile leveling system. We used the LASH (Level, Align, Space, and Hold) tile leveling and spacing system in our master bathroom project (which has a tile floor that runs up the shower as well) and LOVED it. We will be using it in our new home build everywhere.

The LASH system really simplifies the installation process and gives you flawless tile alignment.

The system consists of two components: reusable clips and wedges. The clips are placed under the tiles at their edges, creating even spacing and serving as a support. The wedges are then inserted into the clips and pushed tightly against the tiles, ensuring a level plane across the entire surface.

Here’s a quick explainer video since it’s a bit hard to visualize:

The LASH system not only maintains consistent spacing between tiles but also addresses potential issues with uneven substrates or tile warpage. By using the LASH system, installers can achieve a flat and level tiled surface, minimizing the risk of lippage (uneven edges) and enhancing the overall appearance and longevity of the project.

Removing the clips and wedges is simple; after the adhesive has set, the clips can be snapped off at their breaking point, leaving the wedges available for reuse in future installations.

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06/03/2023 04:44 pm GMT

A tile leveling system can help achieve a smooth, even surface and reduce lippage (height differences between adjacent tiles). This is particularly useful for large-format tiles and natural stone.

15. Rent a Wet Saw

To save time and frustration, rent a wet saw for cutting tiles.

A wet saw is a specialized power tool designed for cutting tiles, featuring a diamond-coated blade that is cooled by a stream of water during operation. The water not only prevents the blade from overheating but also reduces dust and debris, making the whole process a lot cleaner.

One of the main advantages of using a wet saw is the precision it offers. When compared to manual tile cutters or snap cutters, a wet saw allows for cleaner and more accurate cuts, minimizing the risk of chipping or cracking the tiles. This precision is going to be essential when working with intricate patterns or expensive materials, ensuring a visually appealing and professional result.

Another benefit of renting a wet saw is the ability to make various types of cuts, including straight, diagonal, and even curved cuts. This versatility is particularly helpful when installing tiles around obstacles or in irregularly shaped areas such as toilets.

Unless you’re going to be doing a lot of tile, I recommend just renting a wet saw as it’s really only for tile jobs so is often more cost-effective than purchasing one. Renting allows you to access professional-grade equipment without the need for a significant investment, providing you with the benefits of a wet saw at a fraction of the cost.

16. Save Extra Tiles

Tile floor is fairly durable, but can still be damaged from heavy impacts and everyday wear and tear. To be prepared for any future repairs, keep a supply of spare tiles on hand.

Tile designs, colors, and patterns can be discontinued or changed over time, making it difficult to find a perfect match if you need to replace a damaged tile in the future. By keeping extra tiles from the same batch, you’ll have an exact match available when needed.

Having spare tiles on hand can also help you address any damage to your flooring right away instead of having to search far and wide to find a matching tile (if one exists).

17. Clean as You Go

Wipe off excess thin-set and grout as you work to avoid it drying on the tile surface. This will save you a ton of time and effort during the final cleanup.

18. Mix Tiles from Different Boxes

Mixing tiles from different boxes is a practical approach to achieving a more uniform and visually appealing result in a tile installation project. This is because tiles, especially those made from natural materials like stone or even some ceramic and porcelain varieties, can exhibit slight variations in color, texture, and pattern from batch to batch during the manufacturing process. These variations can be more pronounced if the tiles come from different production runs or different parts of the same run.

By mixing tiles from different boxes, you can effectively blend these subtle variations, creating a more harmonious and cohesive appearance across the entire tiled surface. This approach helps distribute any discrepancies evenly throughout the installation, preventing the occurrence of noticeable color or pattern differences that might be apparent if tiles from a single box were laid together in a specific area.

In addition to improving the overall aesthetic of the project, mixing tiles from different boxes can also help minimize potential issues related to batch inconsistencies or manufacturing defects. If a problem is present in one box of tiles but you’re stuck wiht them, spreading those tiles throughout the installation can reduce the impact of that issue on the final result.

19. Waterproof Seal Wet Areas Before Tiling

Waterproof sealing wet areas before tiling is essential for ensuring the durability, integrity, and long-term performance of the tiled surface. Wet areas, such as bathrooms, showers, and laundry rooms, are prone to moisture exposure, which can lead to various problems if not adequately addressed, including mold growth, structural damage, and tile deterioration. By applying a waterproofing sealant before tiling, you create a protective barrier that prevents water from penetrating the substrate and causing these issues.

One reliable product for waterproofing wet areas before tiling is RedGard Waterproofing and Crack Prevention Membrane. Again, we used this in our master bathroom build and also our main washroom renovation and loved the results.

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This liquid-applied, elastomeric membrane forms a seamless, flexible, and watertight barrier once cured. Its easy to roll-on or brush-on, as it goes on just like paint, but once on it feels like rubber almost so you can actually feel the waterproofing. If you spray a little water on it once it’s painted on and cured you’ll also see it bead up and hold the seal, which is pretty neat.

Using RedGard as a waterproofing solution provides several benefits. First, it creates a continuous moisture barrier that ensures a long-lasting and durable tile installation, protecting the substrate from potential water damage. Second, RedGard also helps prevent the formation of cracks in the tile and stone caused by minor surface movement. This crack prevention properties help maintain the integrity and appearance of the tiled surface by minimizing the risk of cracking due to substrate movement.

Finally, by preventing moisture penetration and mold growth, RedGard contributes to a cleaner, healthier, and more hygienic environment in wet areas.

It’s truely worth the time and money investment to protect your project and your investment.

20. Clean and Seal Grout

Aside from sealing under your tile, you should also seal your grout to prevent damage to the grout and tile itself. Grout can be porous and susceptible to staining, mildew, and moisture penetration if not properly cleaned and sealed.

In this way, cleaning and sealing grout in a tile installation project is crucial for maintaining the appearance, durability, and cleanliness of the tiled surface over time.

In addition to preserving the appearance and structural integrity of the grout, cleaning and sealing also contribute to the overall cleanliness and hygiene of the tiled surface. Sealed grout is less likely to harbor bacteria or mold, making it easier to maintain a clean and healthy environment.

Bonus Tip: Practice Proper Maintenance

To keep your ceramic tile flooring looking its best, practice proper maintenance. Sweep or vacuum regularly to remove dirt and debris, and clean with a mild detergent and warm water as needed.

Avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive cleaning tools, which can damage the tile surface.

Conclusion

By incorporating these additional tips into your tile flooring installation, you’ll further enhance the final outcome and ensure a long-lasting, beautiful result.

If you’re ready to go ahead and start tiling your floor, check out our handy how to tile a floor for beginners guide here.

thewriteDuffy

At home, April is a mom, wife, and DIY darling. Among other home projects, she helped her husband Dan renovate their 1986 bungalow and is currently designing and decorating the 2023 custom home they are building themselves. Professionally, April is a writer, author, and online marketer with 15 years of experience writing for newspapers and magazines, building online authority websites, and publishing books.