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How to Lay Tile: DIY Floor Tile Installation

A tile floor adds style to any room. It's also durable, easy to clean and a project you can take on with confidence. Learn how to install and grout tile.

Tools & Materials



Carpenter's Square


Rubber Grout Float

Tape Measure


Notched Trowel or Spreader


Tile Cutter or Tile Saw

Rubber Gloves

Knee Pads



Tile adhesive

Silicone Caulk

Silicone grout sealer

Cleaning cloth

Preparing to Install Floor Tile

First, make sure you have prepared the subfloor properly before you begin laying tile. Before beginning, remove tiles from the different boxes and randomly mix them to ensure that minor color differences don’t form an unwanted pattern on your new floor. Keep in mind that floor tiles should be laid with the first tile centered in the middle of the floor, working onward from that.

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Mix unmodified thin-set mortar in a bucket to the consistency recommended by the manufacturer. Starting at the reference line cross in the middle of the room, spread the mortar with the thin side of the trowel in areas about 3 feet by 3 feet. Make sure that the reference lines are not obscured. Apply the mortar using the notched side of the trowel held at a 45-degree angle. Comb the mortar in one straight direction to ensure uniform application. Remove excess mortar with the trowel and return it to the bucket. 

Installing Floor Tile

Lay the first tile square at the crossing of the reference lines. For best results, lightly press and twist the tiles to set them in the mortar. Place tile spacers at the edges of the first tile. Continue laying tiles in the same manner along the reference lines, then add spacers. Once you have completed a work section, use a rubber mallet and carpenter’s level to level the tile. Remove any excess mortar with a damp sponge. Continue applying thin-set mortar and laying the tile in work sections in the same manner. Make adjustments as needed so the tiles are aligned straight, especially along the longest dimension of the room where variations will show. Apply thin-set mortar and set the cut tile in position. Add tile spacers as needed. Allow the thin-set mortar to dry for at least 24 hours or as recommended by the manufacturer before continuing.

Cutting and Fitting the Tile

As you near cabinets, doorways, walls, and other flooring stops, trim tiles as needed for installation. Use a tile cutter for small, straight cuts. Use a tile saw (rentable) if necessary for cutting numerous or thick tiles. For making curved cuts, you can use tile nippers. If the tile is too thick for nippers, try the following method:

Mark the curve on the tile. Make relief cuts with a tile saw. Snap off the pieces with tile nippers. Use a file to smooth down the edges. Use a tile edging strip along the carpet, wood flooring and other entryways. Just spread the thin-set, then set the strip in the mortar. The tile will hold it in place.

Smoothing Breaks in Tile

Jagged Edges: Use tile nippers or pliers to nibble off the uneven edge of a broken tile.

Rough Edges: Use a round file to smooth rough edges of areas that have been nibbled away.

Cut Edges: If a straight-cut edge shows, rub it against a sheet of 80-grit aluminum oxide sandpaper to round and smooth the edge.

Grouting a Tile Floor

Remove the tile spacers from between tiles. Mix the grout following the manufacturer’s instructions. Make sure you use the proper water-to-mix ratio for a paste-like consistency. (If you have well water, purchase distilled water to mix the grout). Apply the grout into the joints, then diagonally across the joints with a rubber grout float, removing as much excess as possible. Allow the grout to dry for 20 minutes or as recommended by the manufacturer. Wipe the grout lines in a circular motion with a sponge and water to set the grout just below the tile surface. Follow up with a grout haze remover to clean the tile. Once the grout is installed, avoid heavy traffic on the floor for at least 72 hours to allow the grout to dry. Apply a grout sealer to the joints following the manufacturer’s instructions. Install any trim work or transition strips.