How to Install Tile Correctly

How to Install Tile Correctly

Intro to installing tile

Have you ever walked into someone’s house and been blown away by their gorgeous tilework in the kitchen, bathroom or basement? You, yes you can create any tile look you can dream up and it will look perfect and last forever as long as you folllow the simple steps I will lay out for you. Remember above all else. TAKE YOUR TIME.

Tools and Materials

Ok there aren’t very many tool or material requirements involved with tiling. For purposes of this hub we will stick to tiling floors. As for tools;

Tape measure


5/16″ notch trowel

5 gallon bucket

1/4″ plastic tile spacers

A drill either corded or cordless with a mixing bit sometimes called a «birdcage» or paddle

A powered tile saw or «wet saw». You can rent this from many places but honestly you can buy a new one for under $100 which will work great for all but the biggest tile jobs.

Mastic otherwise known as tile glue. NEVER buy a premixed glue for floor tile. Just use typical grey, ready to mix, just add water type bag of mastic.


Ok this step is hugely important. In almost any home improvement project the prep work determines the quality of the finish work. Just follow along its simple. What is the current floor that you want to tile made out of? If it is concrete like you would find in a basement and it is smooth then you are ready. Just vacuum and wash it.

Is it wood like a subfloor? Some people will tell you that you can tile directly over a plywood or pressboard subfloor. I would recommend against it strongly. I don’t like the way the mastic grips the plywood. Also if there is even the slightest flexibility in that subfloor it will cause problems down the road such as cracked grout lines or cracked tiles.

If your surface is wood you should go over it with a cement board. They come in 3 foot by 5 foot sheets and in either 1/4 inch or 1/2 inch thickness. I prefer a product called Hardie Backerboard. It has premarked holes on Grid pattern to show you exactly where to put screws to hold it down and they also sell specific hardie backerboard screws which makes it truly a no brainer. All you have to do is measure the piece you need, mark it on your board, draw a line, run a razor knife over it a few times and bend back and forth until it snaps. Then simply put screws where it tells you and you are all set. As far as which thickness to use; if the area is small or the floor feels very firm use the thinner 1/4″ material. If the floor is large or you feel there may some give to it use the thicker material. If you can see the direction the subfloor was laid always lay your backerboard perpendicular to maximize the strength.

If your floor is linoleum or vinyl you have a choice. You could remove it but usually it is easier to simply go right over the top of these surfaces with the backerboard as described in the previous paragraph. DO NOT EVER TILE OVER VINYL OR LINOLEUM

How to Install Tile Correctly

If the existing floor is tile and you want to redo it you will have to break out the existing tile and then use the backerboard over the subfloor.

Laying out the Tile

Here we are, ready to go. At this point you should have either a clean concrete slab or a floor covered in cement board ready and waiting. Now lets think about the room for a minute. We want to think about where the focal point in the room is so that we can use full tiles and not cuts there. For example, in a bathroom I like to have full tiles along the front of the bathtub or standing shower. In a large room I like to have full tiles at the entrance to the room.

The other thing to think about is the pattern that you want on the tiles. For example you could have straight lines or subway style which means one row is offset from the previous row by half a tile. or even a diamond pattern.

I am going to suggest subway style for a couple of reasons. If your room isn’t square the differences wont be noticeable because of the fact that you will have cut tiles along the walls and you can just accommodate your cuts to leave no gaps. Also it looks fancier and you are not worried about your corners always being perfectly square.

Based on where you want your full tiles is where you will start. Measure the room from side to side and make a line on the floor at the center point and back the width of one tile from your start point. You can lay a tile down and then mark your centerline. Now you are ready to mix mastic and start.

Mixing mastic

Ok here comes the mess. Take your 5 gallon bucket and pour around 6 inches of your ready to be mixed tile mastic in. Put your mixing bit in the drill. You are going to ad some water, mix, add more water, mix etc until you have a smooth consistency similar to cake frosting. if you pull your mixing bit out and a decent amount of glue sticks to it you are in good shape. I only had you do 6 inches of mastic because it will dry up on you if you take too long so I suggest mixing in small amounts so you don’t waste any since you can always mix more.

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