How to install ceramic tile – yourself!

Do you want to learn how to install ceramic tiles? Tile installation is a step-by-step process that any helpful person can learn to do. It is like many other household projects. Professionals are fast because time is money. Additionally, a professional must handle a wide range of project situations.

But we fans can take it easy and maybe just do a room or two, so we don’t have to handle a lot of different situations. You can learn to do professional work and enjoy the satisfaction of installing ceramic tile while saving some money!

Ceramic tiles make a beautiful and practical floor. A tile floor will literally last for generations with minimal maintenance. Ceramic tile is a perfect floor surface, especially in kitchens, bathrooms, and hallways.

Ceramic tile floor … The base.

Ceramic tile can be installed over many different materials, such as old tile, vinyl flooring, and concrete. Wood is often a poor base for ceramic tiles. The displacement of the wood can cause cracks in the tile joints. The best base for floors and walls is Hardi-Backer cement board. This material is not damaged by water. Also, it is stable and quite easy to work with.

Gather your tools.

First, gather your tools. You will need the following:

  • 5 gallon plastic pails
  • Tile saw
  • Tweezers
  • Cutting board
  • Hammer
  • Screwdriver
  • Notched trowel
  • Margin trowel
  • Chalk line
  • Pencil
  • Tri square
  • Spacers
  • Measuring tape
  • Level
  • Tile sponge

Design your floor.

Usually the first floor layout step is to find the center of the room. Measure the width and length of the room and mark the lines to determine the center. Use these lines as guides for laying the tile. Continue to trace chalk lines on the floor as a guide as you go across the floor.

The appearance of the floor should be visually appealing. You may need to start along one wall, so you’ve cut tile on one side only. It depends on the room and the situation. Starting in the center is the most common method.

Lay some tiles on the dry floor spaced as you plan. Dry setting of the tiles allows you to better visualize the appearance of the finished floor before applying the adhesive.


The adhesive, or thin layer, is a mortar mix specially designed for the installation of ceramic tiles. There are various brands and types of thin layers. Different additives are used for different applications. Your dealer will help you choose the best product for your job. Thin-set also comes in different colors.

You can get a thin layer ready. Professionals use a thin layer that comes in powder form, like a mortar mix, and mixes with water. Mix using a stirrer with an electric drill.

Laying ceramic tiles.

Spread a thin layer with a trowel. You’ll want a special tile trowel with notched edges to form ridges on the thin layer. The ridges will help you measure just the right amount of thin layer. Too much adhesive will come off the top of the joint and make a mess.

Leave the chalk line guide lines uncovered and place the edge of the tile right on the line. For a floor, you will want about 3/16 inch gaps between the tiles. For consistent gaps, use regular tile spacers made for that purpose.

At the edges of the floor, you will cut pieces of ceramic tile to fit. Usually many of the trim pieces will be cut the same size. But keep checking, as many rooms aren’t exactly square.

Keep moving across the floor, drawing lines every few rows to keep you lined up in both directions.

Grouting ceramic tiles.

Let the tiles set for 24 to 48 hours, then they are ready for grouting. Use grout to fill in the spaces between the tiles.

Grout comes in many colors and is easy to apply. Mix the grout with water, making sure to mix well so that it is not lumpy. Apply the grout with a rubber trowel.

Grout is sanded or unsanded. Sanded grout contains sand to make it stronger. Use sanded grout in joints greater than 1/8 inch wide.

Clean the grout from the tile after about 30 minutes. At that point, the grout is glazed on the surface of the tile! Clean an hour later for the second time. Use clean water on a sponge to clean. Use a little vinegar in water on stubborn areas so they are perfectly clean!

After approximately 24 hours of drying time, the tiled area is ready to use … for generations!

Those are the basics of how to install ceramic tile.