What are the Best Tips for Installing do-It-Yourself Tile?

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  • Written By: Scott Calonico
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 10 January 2019
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Tackling a do-it-yourself tile job can be a challenge, but it also is a project that can be completed by a DIYer with the right approach. As with any DIY project, the key to do-it-yourself tiling is careful planning. Before the first tile is put down, supplies for the entire project need to be purchased and ready. Some of the supplies needed for this project include tiles, cleaning supplies such as brooms and scrapers, tile-cutting tools, grout, tile spacers, adhesive and safety equipment.

The first step is to pick the right kind of tile for the chosen floor. There are many styles and types of floor tiles to choose from, including slate, marble and ceramic. Each of the tile choices has its pros and cons, and a person should thoroughly research each before choosing.

Once the tile style has been chosen, the amount of tile needed for the project has to be determined. Measure and multiply the width times the length of the room being tiled to get the dimension of the room in square feet (meters square). The result will be the amount of floor tiles needed to cover the space with 1-foot by 1-foot (0.3 m x 0.3 m) tiles. Add in a 10 percent overage figure to cover any broken tiles and room for error. In a room with 200 square feet (18.6 m2, for example, the overage amount would be 20 square feet (1.86 m2.


Starting work on any do-it-yourself tile project begins with an inspection of the subfloor, which should be even and free from bumps and debris. Use a putty knife or floor scraper to clear away any construction material. On concrete subfloors, use a self-leveling compound to even out any valleys that are present. In plywood subfloors, nail or screw down any high spots. Install a HardiBacker® subfloor on top of the plywood to prevent rotting if leaks develop.

After the subfloor is clear, do a dry run of the pattern, creating a cross of tiles starting from the center of the doorway and going to the farthest point of the room. Intersect this line with another going across the width of the room in the center. Lay these tiles out without adhesive and use spacers to ensure the spacing is correct. Cut and sand any tiles on the ends of the run so they fit against the wall. Once everything is correct, remove the tiles and prepare the adhesive.

Use the trowel to lay out the adhesive on the floor in the cross pattern. Start at the rear of the room and work your way toward the front. Press the tiles firmly into the adhesive as you place them. Once this cross is completed, let the tiles dry for the recommended length of time. Tap the tiles with a hammer and block of wood while they are setting to further secure in the adhesive.

After the cross is finished, begin in each quadrant and work out from the center toward the wall. Lay out the adhesive with the adhesive tool. Press the tiles into place, aligning them with the tiles in the cross and using the spacers to spread them out. Continue working until you are one tile away from the wall. Stop work here and allow the tiles to dry according the manufacturer's instructions.

Measure the border tiles by putting a loose tile on top of the last tile in the row. Set another loose tile on top of this tile and butt it against the wall with a spacer. Use the edge of the topmost tile to make a pencil line across the tile beneath to show where to cut. These tiles should be cut with a tile saw and sanded down on the edges before placement.

The final step in any do-it-yourself tile project is grouting. Remove the spacers from between the tiles with a pair of needlenose pliers. Mix the grout according to manufacturer's instructions and apply with a grout float. After the recommended amount of time, wipe up the excess grout from the tile faces with a sponge. When cured, the grout should be sealed to prevent dirt and mildew buildup, and you will have finished your first do-it-yourself tile project.



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