How to Install Ceramic Tile Flooring

by Drew Henry

If you're familiar with renovation projects, you'll know some areas are more technical than others. Sure, you need to be careful when painting a room, but it's a relatively simple task that you can undertake yourself. The same goes for wallpaper.

However, other tasks are enough to make you consider hiring someone. Tiling can be one of those things, but it’s completely possible to do it yourself.

Read on to find out exactly how to install ceramic tile flooring.

What You'll Need

Before you start your tiling renovation project, you'll need to gather all the equipment and materials you need to complete the job. Ensure you check this beforehand so you're prepared and have everything you need.


  • Tile cutting tool - wet tile saw or rail tile cutter/snap tile cutter
  • Rubber protective gloves
  • Safety glasses
  • Tile spacers
  • Tile nipper
  • Tile float - rubber
  • Scrap lumber - 2x4
  • Rubber mallet
  • Notched tile trowel
  • Flat margin trowel
  • Large sized sponges
  • Chalk line
  • Tape measure
  • Bubble level
  • Buckets
  • Framing square


  • Your chosen tiles
  • Tile-specific grout
  • Sealer
  • Thinset mortar
  • Grout haze remover
  • Cement backer board
  • Stainless steel cement board screws - 1.25 "-2. "5"
  • Fiberglass seam tape

Before You Begin

The type of tile you choose will affect how you proceed with the project. For example, the shape and size of the tiles matter. That's because before you start, you'll need to decide on the pattern you’re going with. 

The standard is the grid pattern, but other, more creative options are available. Your chosen design will also determine how many tiles you need to buy. Make sure to choose a color and design that you like when selecting your tiles!

When purchasing, make sure you go for floor-use tiles and not wall-use to ensure they are suitable and strong enough for walking on. Furthermore, if you'd like some extra waterproofing protection, you can buy that at the same time as your tiles.

How to Lay Ceramic Tile Flooring

Step 1: Prepare Your Area and Substrate

It's important to start with a completely clean and prepared area, so go ahead and remove all unnecessary objects, furniture, and materials from the room you’re tiling. Once you've done that, go around the room and thoroughly clean it. It's also a good idea to keep the windows open while working to keep the air fresh.

You then need to prepare the surface on which you’ll lay the tiles. If you’re lucky enough to have a concrete floor in good condition with no moisture, you can choose to apply the tiles directly onto that. If your subfloor is plywood, you'll need to lay cement board panels on top of it first.

Step 2: Complete a Dry-Fit With the Tiles

Since the tiles you’re laying will be semi-permanent, you want to ensure you place them down correctly. By that, we mean the pattern but also that the tiles are in order and distributed evenly.

It's ideal to start in the center point of the room and work your way out to the walls to ensure you place them down correctly. The only time when you might want to deviate from this is if the room is quite large. In that case, you can start at one side of the room and work your way across if the tile pattern makes sense to do it that way.

So, use two chalk lines to find the room's center point and then place the tiles down to see how they’ll fit. Crucially, this will allow you to understand what you need for the edge pieces.

Step 3: Spread the Thinset Mortar

When you're happy with the pattern and how the room will look, it's time to lay the mortar. Using either a margin or notched trowel (at this time, use the flat side at a 45-degree angle), spread a decent amount of mortar across an area larger than the size of one tile.

Then, take the notched trowel and hold it at a 45-degree angle as you press into the mortar you've laid, which will evenly distribute the mortar by combing it into lines. 

Step 4: Start Laying and Setting the Tiles

Now, take your tiles and start laying them as you did on the dry lay. When you do this, press the tile into the mortar and twist it gently as you do. 

The goal is to flatten the mortar underneath completely so there are no more ridges in it. If you’re unsure if you've managed that, you can lift a tile and check, and if required, add mortar directly to the tile before placing it.

As you go around the room, leave tile spacers between each one to ensure they’re evenly distributed. Also, ensure to leave a quarter-inch gap between the last tiles and walls, cabinets, or other fixed objects in the room, and don't put mortar down here.

Finally, use a bubble level on several tiles to confirm they’re level, and then lightly tap each tile with a mallet.

Step 5: Prepare and Cut the Edge Tiles

For the tricky edge, corner, and pipe tiles, use a rail tile cutter, a wet tile saw, or a tile nipper to get the required shape and cut. Whenever you use any cutting equipment, wear protective equipment such as gloves and glasses.

The rail tile cutter is best if you only need to cut a few tiles. For any more than that, opt for a wet tile saw, which will give you the most accurate lines. The tile nipper is used most efficiently for cutting around pipes, toilet bases, etc.

Leave at least 24 hours for the mortar to dry before grouting.

Step 6: Begin Grouting

Remove the tile spacers and then spread the grout diagonally using a rubber float. This process works best when working in small sections at a time and when the float is held at a 45-degree angle.

Let each area sit for around an hour before going over it with a wet sponge, and lightly remove excess grout by wiping it in a circular motion.

Step 7: Remove the Excess Grout

When the grout has fully dried, you'll see a milky haze left on the tiles. Don't panic – this is easily removable. 

Simply wipe it down with a sponge and clean water before using a specific grout haze cleaner. Follow the instructions on the package for the ratio of cleaner to water. Wipe down the surface a second time with the cleaner until all the excess has been removed.

Step 8: Seal the Grout

The final step in the project is to seal the grout. You must do this to ensure no water seeps in. Trust us: this is an important step – don’t skip it. 

Depending on the type of sealer you buy, you'll either need to use a brush applicator or spray it across the whole surface and then wipe it off each tile face.

Each sealer has different instructions on how long to leave it before the tiles are ready to be used, so ensure to check ahead of time and consider that in your project plan.

When you finish the project, don't forget to get rid of all the excess materials responsibly.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do You Need Underlay for Ceramic Floor Tiles?

If the subfloor you'd like to tile upon is made of cement and it's in good condition with no moisture, you can lay ceramic floor tiles directly onto it. However, if you have a plywood subfloor, you'll need to put down cement boards before laying the tiles.

What Kind of Subfloor Is Needed for Ceramic Tiles?

The subfloor needs to be cement to lay ceramic floor tiles. That means if your subfloor is already cement (and is in good condition with no moisture), you can tile directly onto it. However, if it's plywood, you'll need to lay a layer of cement board down first.

Looking for New Tiles? Shop LiLi Tile!

You don’t have to hire a professional to tile your floors if you don’t want to. With a little preparation and learning, you can take on this task yourself. Follow our guidance, and you should have a tiled floor you'll be proud of.

To purchase the perfect tiles for your floor, shop LiLi Tile’s collections now.

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