Today, I’m going to teach you all about laying floor tile. Laying floor tile can be a different experience for those laying large format tile vs. smaller tile, or laying in big spaces vs. small spaces, but ultimately, the steps should be very similar. I hope it’s helpful!
First, we need to be prepared. That means having all the materials so that you don’t have to run out and get them mid project, because lets face it, that’s the worst.
Below are a few things (and resources) you’ll need for laying floor tile:
1st: Prep Your Surface & For Tile Type!
This is very important. Inspect flatness before you begin. Is your surface clean and dry? Do you need a leveling compound? Take the time to repair anything that is damaged or uneven before you start. We took out old tile, so there was some dried mortar on the floor for me. I took my chisel and mallet and chiseled it up before I started. I took a shop vac and vacuumed everything up very well.
Make sure baseboards and moulding is off, check out your door jambs to make sure that the tile has enough space under it. If not, you will need to trim. It’s always better to identify this BEFORE you start as opposed to after.
If you are laying large format tile, do research on the unique challenges you may encounter. I laid large format tile in this bathroom, so I had to buy a mortar for large format tile (any tile over 15″ on any side), I decided on a tile leveling system (awesome by the way) to prevent lippage. Click here to learn what to think about before using large format tile.
2nd: Lay it out before you lay it
To make sure your layout works, you want to do a dry layout first. This is when you lay out all your tile and you’re happy with the way that it looks, how big your grout lines will be, get an idea of where cuts will be on certain tiles, and any other issues you may encounter.
It’s important not to simply follow the walls to get a straight layout. Many walls are not level, and if you are following the wall, you could end up with a crooked first row, making all of your subsequent tile crooked as well. Mark the center point of each of the walls in the room. Next, snap chalk lines between the center points of opposite walls to pinpoint the center of the room. Make any necessary adjustments to ensure that the intersection creates perfect squares. Starting at the center point, lay a row of loose tiles along the center lines in both directions, using tile spacers as you go to for even grout joints. Once you reach the walls, you’ll need to cut tiles for a proper fit.
I didn’t take pictures of my dry layout, but it worked out very well and I was able to use this to go ahead and cut a lot of my tile!
3rd: Time to Tile
I used premixed adhesive, so I didn’t need to worry about how much I mixed going in. This is why I like it. It won’t dry up. If you run into complications and can’t finish right away, you’re not wasting. Using the flat side of your trowel (see above to make sure you’re using the right size for your tile) lay down your adhesive on the wall farthest from the door. When laying floor tile, you want to make sure you work from back of room to the front, because you will not be able to walk on the tile once it’s laid to get out of the room. This may seem like common sense, but not everyone realizes this until it’s too late!
When laying floor tile, I put adhesive down one row at a time. I make sure I come out at least an inch or two so that on my next row, I can easily see the thickness of the mortar that was used and can use the same amount. Using the notched side of our trowel, comb in the ridges. This removes excess and gives you a uniform surface. You can go ahead and make all cuts for that row based on your dry layout or cut as you go. Make sure that when cutting out for a toilet flange, you measure your toilet’s width so you know how wide your cut can be.
Make sure you “butter” the back of your tile when laying floor tile. This is rubbing a thin layer of mortar on the back of your tile in addition to the mortar on the floor. This ensures a better hold. I have made the mistake of not doing it in the past and found several loose tiles. When I use this method, they adhere. If you are using a tile leveling system (see how to video above), set them as you go from one tile to the next, along with your spacers.
Always start at the center of the row and work your way out. This gives you a better end result. If you’re doing a brick pattern, your second row should start in the center of your first row’s center tile. This gives you the perfect brick pattern! Press tiles in firmly or use your leveling block and mallet. With the tile leveling system, you don’t really have to worry about the leveling block because they are going to lock your tiles in place.
Continue your pattern of laying floor tile and move through the rest of the room in the same way, making sure each tile has spacers appropriately applied and is pressed in firmly.Lastly, allow your tile to set at least 24 hours to set before walking on it. Some people recommend more, but I like to see if there are any loose tiles right away. After 24 hours, you can still reset them fairly easily.
When laying floor tile, decide if you’re using premixed or you’re mixing yourself. If you are mixing yourself, make sure you only mix enough that you can use in a 1 hr time period. A small room such as this typically doesn’t take much time so I just mixed mine all at once. I used a grey that was very similar to my tile so that it would be lower maintenance than a white, and it would hide any minor imperfections better (grout has this amazing way of doing that). Remove tile spacers and your tile leveling system.
After you mix, make sure you have a bucket of clean water and a sponge ready. Spread grout on the tile surface, use a rubber grout float or a squeegee to force it down into the joints. I used a sanded grout from North American Adhesive because of the size of my tile and grout lines (see link above to determine yours).
Tilt the float at a 45-degree angle and with the edge of the float, remove the excess grout from the surface immediately. Now tilt the float at a 90-degree angle and scrape it diagonally across the tiles. After you’ve done an area, use your wet sponge and wipe the surface clean. See if any areas need extra grout. Rinse out sponge and repeat. Change water as needed.
Polish with a soft cloth when the grout has dried and a haze forms on the tile surface. Rinse again with sponge and clean water if necessary. Give your newly grouted floor 72 hours before any heavy use and at least three weeks before applying sealers or polishes.
Admire your new tile and give yourself a pat on the back for laying floor tile!
Builders Surplus is a full service renovation company with locations in Louisville, Kentucky, and Newport, Kentucky, which also serves Cincinnati, Ohio. We are one of the leading providers of ceramic, porcelain, and large format tiles in Louisville, Newport, and Cincinnati. We specialize in interior design, kitchen design, bathroom remodel, building materials, and home improvement. Interior Design and measurements come as a free service to our clients. We sell building materials ranging in every price point, from unfinished kitchen cabinets to top of the line Wellborn cabinets. In addition to interior design, we also offer installation services. If you have any questions or would like to set up a free design consultation with one of our interior designers, we would encourage you to do so. We love sharing our knowledge with clients & potential home renovators. We write about interior design, home decor, decorating ideas, and home improvement. We hope you’ll check back in for our next article! Happy Renovation!