DIY Tile Installation: Everything You Need to Know


 

Today, we’ll walk you through the steps of your next home renovation project, from picking the perfect tile to prep work, installation, sealing, maintenance, and more.

Don’t forget to scroll to the bottom of this blog post for an exclusive discount code!

Gather Your Materials

Stack of tiles

Before installation, you’ll need to pick out tile and ensure you have the proper tools, grout, and adhesive for the project. Here are a few helpful resources: 

  • Which Tile Material Is Right for You? - This article will help you understand whether natural stone, ceramic, porcelain, or glass tile is right for your chosen tile application. You may also want to consider luxury vinyl tile if you’re interested in a durable, cost-effective material that can mimic the look of hardwood.
  • What Type of Adhesive Should You Use for Tile Installation? - While we recommend thinset mortar for most applications, there are a few special cases that may warrant the use of premixed thinset mortar or epoxy mortar.
  • Choosing the Right Grout for Your Tile - Discover how to choose between sanded and unsanded grout and learn about the impact that the grout’s color can have on your tile’s overall appearance.
  • Tools You Need for DIY Tile Installation - This comprehensive checklist will ensure you have all the necessary tools to get the job done.

Prepare the Space

Blueprint and ruler

Now that you’ve chosen your tile and gathered your tools and materials, it’s time to prepare the space for installation. We recommend checking out our article on designing a custom tile layout before you get started:

  • Create Your Own Tile Layout (Here’s How) - Learn how to create a blueprint with graph paper to ensure your tile can be laid out in exactly the way you’ve pictured it. We recommend installing your tile in such a way that you never need to cut a tile smaller than half-size. Very small tiles are eye-catching and appear to be out of place. Aim for symmetry whenever possible to maintain a clean, uniform appearance.

If you’re planning to replace existing tile, you’ll need to remove it with a chisel and use a floor scraper to clear away the old adhesive. Be sure to wear eye protection and a safety mask while doing this, and ensure sufficient ventilation as well - this can be a very dusty part of the process!

It’s also best to remove the baseboards before tiling, as well as trimming any door casings so that the tile can slide underneath. This gives a more polished appearance than attempting to cut the tile to fit precisely around the door casings, and it’s easier as well. After tiling, you can reinstall your baseboards, and they’ll cover any small imperfections around the edges of the room.

It’s crucial never to assume that the room is square, the floor is level, or that the walls are plumb. Use a four-foot level to check for any uneven areas, which, if left unaddressed, can eventually lead to cracked tiles. 

You may need to install a cement board and underlayment to even out the surface where the tile will be installed. In some cases, a leveling compound will be enough to even out the subfloor. Plastering or back buttering (applying mortar to both the wall and the backs of tiles) can even out walls.

Another part of preparation is thoroughly cleaning the surface on which the tile will be installed, especially if you’re installing wall tile in a kitchen, where grease, oil, dirt, and dust often collect. Water and dish soap are usually enough to get the walls squeaky clean, but a paint deglosser or abrasive pad will do the trick in sticky situations.

In areas prone to moisture, like showers and bathrooms in general, installing a waterproof backer board will help installation go smoothly and increase the longevity of your tile.

General Installation Tips

Installing tile

While the rest of this article will contain general instructions that apply to most tile installation projects, we have a few blog posts explaining how to complete more specific applications.

For example, if you’re installing a kitchen backsplash, wall tile, shower tile, or outdoor tile, the following articles will be helpful:

In addition, as most of our general guidelines are aimed toward ceramic and porcelain tile installation, be sure to check out the articles below if you’re installing glass, luxury vinyl, or natural stone:

Before we jump into all of our top tips for tile installation, check out our previous blog posts for more in-depth information:

Always Buy at Least 10% More Tile Than You Need

We always recommend buying at least 10% more tile than you need to cover the square footage of the installation area. You might make a mistake when cutting tile, and tiles could crack during the shipping process. Plus, it’s always best to have extra materials handy in case you need them for future repairs. If you’re working with longer plank-style tiles, it’s wise to purchase a few more beyond the extra 10%, as their weight distribution makes them more prone to breakage.

Do a Dry Run of Your Layout Before Installation

Lay out your tile before installation to ensure it fits together as planned, remembering to leave space for grout. This can help you visualize the cuts you’ll need to make and identify any problem areas before jumping headfirst into installation.

Avoid Over-Mixing Adhesive

Always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions when you’re mixing your thinset mortar (assuming you’re not using premixed thinset). Over-mixing your adhesive can decrease its efficacy by changing its air content.

Begin in the Middle

Starting the tiling process in the middle of the room enables you to maintain symmetry.

Go Little By Little

Only install a couple of tiles at a time, as thinset tends to dry very quickly. Simply apply enough adhesive for two tiles using a notched trowel, and then install each tile, checking that it’s level and using a rubber mallet and suction cup handle to adjust it as needed.

Pull from Different Boxes

As you lay the tile, be sure to pull from different boxes, as each box may contain a different batch of tile with slight variations in color and pattern. By pulling from different boxes instead of installing one box at a time, you’ll get a good mix of color variation instead of a pooling effect.

Use Tile Spacers

As tedious as it may seem to place tile spacers in between each and every tile, this is a crucial step. Failing to use tile spacers will result in uneven grout lines and a non-uniform overall appearance.

Clean Adhesive as You Go

Keep a sponge and water bucket handy to clean any thinset mortar that squeezes up and out of the tiles. Waiting until you’ve completed installation means the thinset will be dry and much harder to remove.

Exercise Caution When Cutting Tile

Follow the age-old adage, “Measure twice, cut once,” when cutting tile down to size, and refer to your layout to ensure you have the right dimensions. Always wear safety equipment and take your time when using a tile saw or tile cutter. Remember that cut tiles are sharp, so handle them carefully.

Clean Up Before Applying Grout

Once all of your tile is in place, clean any dried mortar off of the tiles and remove the tile spacers before applying grout.

Apply Grout Carefully

Using a grout float, thoroughly fill the spaces between tiles by pressing the grout into the gaps and moving the float diagonally to remove the excess. When you’ve finished grouting, use a sponge and a bucket of water to gently remove the grout haze while ensuring the grout between tiles stays in place. You may need to clean the surface of the tiles multiple times to fully remove the grout haze. Switch out your water frequently to avoid spreading grout residue.

Seek Out Video Tutorials

Anytime you’re feeling lost or confused, look for helpful videos online. Often, watching someone else install tile can help you make sense of written instructions.

Practice Patience

It’s crucial to take your time during tile installation in order to get a professional-looking result. In fact, once you’ve estimated how long the project will take, we recommend doubling that estimate for more accuracy. You may run into unexpected hiccups or find that seemingly simple tasks take longer than expected to complete. Be sure to allow plenty of time for the adhesive to set before grouting, and give the grout time to set before walking on your new floor–or you’ll risk uneven tiles and displacement.

Look to the Manufacturer for Guidance

When in doubt regarding questions about tile, adhesive, or grout, always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions rather than deferring to general advice.

Post-Installation Advice

Cleaning tile floor

We have a few more resources for you to check out once the installation is complete:

What to Do with Leftover Tiles

It’s smart to save several tiles for potential future repairs, but if you have quite a bit of material left over, why not use it for some fun DIY projects?

In Search of the Perfect Tile? Check Out Tilezz.com!

At Tilezz.com, we have the ideal tile for any project: glass, natural stone, ceramic, porcelain, and luxury vinyl options in various shapes, sizes, colors, and patterns.

We make it easier than ever to shop for tile online by shipping within two to three business days and allowing for easy returns within 60 days of your purchase.

Check out our full product range here, or visit our blog for interior design inspiration and DIY installation tips.

You can also follow us on Pinterest!

Exclusive Discount Code

It can be challenging to pick between several flooring options without seeing how they look in your space, but we can make it easier! Just use code XJF6RNZY5BJJ to get 30% off when you purchase four or more samples.

Please note that this code does not apply to full-size tiles and can only be used with samples.

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