install porcelain, stone, or slate tile flooring
Gorgeous natural tile flooring takes a room or section of your home to another level. The natural properties of the different materials you can use add to a timeless, elegant look, add tremendously to the resale value, and even change the way a room feels – literally. You might do an entire room or floor in tile, or you could just add tiles as an accent piece, such as a half-circle by your front door for a grand entryway. More permanent than wood and classier than vinyl, a stone, ceramic, porcelain, slate, or travertine tile floor will be there for generations. You can DIY a tile floor, though the difficulty of matching up seams and the considerable weight of materials does cause many to seek out professional assistance.
SIMPLE AND COST EFFICIENT WAYS TO INSTALL FLOORING
- Have nothing in the room
- Have clean, even concrete subfloor or flat laminate floor
- Have rectangular room floorplan with even parallel edges
- No moulding or thin moulding where floors meet walls
MEDIUM ROOM DIFFICULTY
- Remove lightweight furniture from the room
- Clean the concrete subfloor
- Scrape old adhesive off of subfloor
- Move heavy furniture out of the room
- Remove asbestos-containing Linoleum floor
- Heavy furniture and fixtures to move
- Break down and remove integrated furniture and appliances that covers some of the floor
- Elaborate moulding and trim to remove first
- Have wooden subfloor requiring concrete-based backerboards
- Extensive cleaning and scrape old adhesives off of subfloor
- Have non-rectangular floor plan
Step-by-step guide to install porcelain, stone, or slate tile flooring
Choose Your Tile MaterialBefore you do anything, you should choose the material you’d like your floor tiles to be made of. If you’re installing them in an outdoor area, choose a less porous material that is water and frost resistant, like porcelain, terracotta or quarry. Ceramic tiles aren’t as durable as porcelain, but they are less expensive, easy to cut, and good for indoors. Natural stone tiles’ properties vary based on the stone – marble and travertine of course are luxe and soft, granite comes in a variety of colors and is very hard, and slate can vary greatly, but is very high maintenance.
Remove Existing Flooring: Linoleum or VinylIf you have linoleum or vinyl flooring, it can be used as an appropriate subfloor to handle tiling, as it is fairly rigid. Laying tile on top of this will result in a higher floor, which may require trim and moulding replacement. If you wish to remove it, cut it into parallel strips about 6 inches apart with a utility knife. Use a hammer to knock a brick chisel putty knife in-between the strips, and loosen them. You can begin removing them with a pry bar.
Remove Existing Flooring: HardwoodIf you have old beat up hardwood floors, remove them by using a circular saw to cut them into smaller 1-foot wide pieces – make sure you use a small enough saw blade so that you don’t cut into the subfloor as well. After you have some space between boards, you can hammer in a crowbar or pry bar and start prying them up. Be sure to watch out for nails and staples! You can use vice grips and a nail claw to pull up any remaining ones, and the glide a bar magnet across the floor to gather them all up.
Remove Existing Flooring: CarpetingIf you have carpeting, pry up the edges of the carpet from any trim with a pry bar, starting with the corners. If you plan to keep the carpet in one piece for use or resale, slowly work from one corner. If you don’t plan to keep it, use a utility knife to slice it into manageable strips and pry up each one. Use a flat pry bar to remove carpet tacks.
Remove Quarter Round MoldingWhile you can leave baseboard in place, you should remove quarter round molding so the tile can be easily installed up to the wall.
Prepare Your Subfloor: WoodDifferent subfloors require different prep. You can use wood, but never particle board to hold tile. To prepare a wood subfloor, check for dips by pushing a straight level around, mark them, and fill the seams of the subfloor with caulk. Roll on a layer of latex primer/sealer. After it’s sealed, pour a liquid underlayment into the dips in the floor – it will use gravity to level itself and dry to create an even subfloor. Once your wood floor is prepped, you still need a cement-based backerboard to help handle the weight of tiles. Attach the backerboard pieces to the subfloor with a polymer-modified mortar (follow the mixing instructions on the package). Spread the mixed mortar out with a trowel to cover slightly larger than one piece of your backerboard at a time, and secure while the mortar is still wet. Walk on the sheet as you work, and use backerboard screws every 8 inches – about 60 screws per sheet. Leave a 1/4th inch gap around the edges of the room, and 1/8th-inch space between the different sheets, which should be staggered. Once the mortar is dry, remove any spacers used, and reinforce the sheets with special backerboard glass fiber tape. Allow the mortar to dry for 24 hours.
Prepare Your Subfloor: ConcreteConcrete subfloor needs to penetrable by water to form a good bond, so test this by sprinkling water. If it beads, there are contaminents that must be cleaned first. Once you’ve leveled and cleaned your concrete and made sure it’s coarse enough for bonding, fill in any dips with a self-leveling liquid underlayment. Once dry, clean and level, patch up any 1/8th-inch or larger cracks with cement patching compound, then roll on a liquid latex crack-prevention membrane so the natural shifting of concrete doesn’t destroy tiles and grout later.
Plan Your Tile LayoutFind the center point of the room by measuring the four walls and finding their midpoints, then draw chalk lines from midpoint to midpoint of opposite facing walls. Starting at the middle, make marks for each tile width toward a particular wall, to find out how wide the tile which touches the wall can be. If it ends up less than 1/3rd of a tile, move your center point over, so you can have a stable tile row along the wall.
Test Your Tile LayoutLay out a full row of tile without mortar, starting from the center, and insert spacers between them. Be sure to mix the tiles a bit to spread out any undesired patterns that form from the variation in color and texture. Some tiles have arrows on the back which should all be facing the same way to ensure the pattern matches up.
Step-by-Step Guide to Installing Tiles
Mix Thin-Set MortarFollowing the instructions on the packaging, mix your mortar and let it sit for 10 minutes to fully activate. If you’re using backerboard over a wood subfloor, you must spray it down with a little water before applying the mortar. Don’t mix too much, or else it will harden before you can use it all.
Apply Thin-Set Mortar to SubfloorPlan an exit strategy so you can spread mortar and apply tiles one row at a time and then back out of the room without stepping on any tile. Use a trowel to spread your mortar one tile’s worth at a time, checking packaging to see how deeply you should use the notched-edge of the trowel. Make sure you move it in one direction – avoid circular motions or pressing too hard. You’ll start at the center where your chalk lines intersect, the way you planned earlier.
Begin Laying TilesTest the first tile in the middle spot by pressing it evenly over the mortar, and then lifting it slightly to check the underside. If it isn’t evenly covered with mortar, it might not be pressed hard enough, or the mortar might be drying because you waited too long. Correct the problem and continue. Place two spacers, one on each end of one side of the tile, and lay the next tile. Make sure they face straight up so they’re easy to remove without getting stuck in mortar. Continue laying tile this way, mortar than tile one at a time, applying even pressure into the mortar. Follow the chalk lines to keep everything even.
Level the Tiles with a MalletAfter you’ve installed 4 tiles, lay a 2x4 board over then and lightly hit it with a mallet to embed them firmly in the mortar. Throughout the installation, use a wet sponge to soak up any mortar that gets on top of the tiles before it has a chance to dry. Step up from your work area often and review how it looks from a distance, so you can correct any alignment problems before everything dries. If you take a break, scrape up any mortar that’s on a section of floor you will soon be laying tiles on.
Finish Laying TilesWork in the quadrants set up by your chalk lines one at a time, to prevent backing yourself into a corner. You’ll be left with the space between the last row of tiles and the area where you’ll have to use cut tiles. Let everything dry for 24 hours, or as long as your mortar packaging recommends.
Measure Cut Your TilesUse a manual cutter for small tiles, or purchase or rent a wet saw for large amounts of tiles – you always have to use these with natural stone tiles to prevent chipping and damage. Use a tile nipper carefully to make cuts that have to go around plumbing and other fixtures. A nipper works just a little bit at a time, so be patient. Smooth out the cut edge with an abrasive stone. Measure very carefully – for cut tiles that will touch the wall, leave an edge for the floor to expand so it doesn’t crack. To measure this, take two free tiles, stand them up against the wall. Slide a to-be-cut full tile up against them, and make a mark where the tile lines up with the edge of the closest tile to the wall.
Remove Spacers and Mix GroutOnce all the spacers are removed from the tiles, you can mix one of a number of grouts – review the types at your hardware store and use the packaging to determine the amount needed for your floor area.
Spread GroutUse a rubber grout float held at a shallow angle to make big sweeping arcs with your grout, filling in the gaps between tiles entirely, as well as covering the tiles. Avoid dipping the grout float in between your tiles. It should set in roughly 15 minutes.
Clean Grout from Tops of TilesAfter each 4’x4’ section completed, use a wet sponge to remove excess grout, using light, diagonal passes. It will take multiple passes. Use a cheesecloth to remove any cloudiness. You may have to mist the tiles with a spray bottle of water over the next few days to get them completely clean.
Apply Grout SealerUse a tube of grout sealer just along the grout in careful straight lines. These are invisible and should last about 2 years before you need to reapply.
Replace Moulding and Install ThresholdsOnce everything is set, dry and sealed, you can place new moulding along the baseboards. If your new tiled floor presses up against a different sort of floor between rooms, you can install a threshold to create even separation.
Estimated Time4+ days
- Tape measure
- Framing square
- Marking pencil / china marker
- Chalk line
- Safety glasses
- Rubber gloves
- Knee pads
- Drill and mixing paddle
- Spray bottle
- Tile trowel
- 2 x 4
- Rubber mallet
- Abrasive stone
- Manual tile cutter
- Wet tile saw
- Tile nipper
- Grout float
- Tile spacers
- Thin-set mortar
- Grout haze / film remover
- Grout sealer
- Paper towels
- Straight edge
- Drill with mixing paddle
- Self-leveling underlayment
- Latex primer / sealer
- Backerboard screws
- 16d common nails
- Backerboard cutter
- Self-adhesive glass fiber tape
- Waterproofing and crack prevention membrane
Common projects and their price
At Pro.com, we’ve helped thousands of people complete their flooring installation projects. We’ve got a pretty good idea of how much certain parts of the project should cost. Check out the most common projects we’ve seen people do, and the average cost to complete them nationwide.
Installing Ceramic Tiles Flooring
$738 - $791
Installing Slate Tile Flooring
$494 - $546
Installing Partial Accent Tile Flooring
$99 - $106
Installing Outdoor Tile Flooring
$889 - $956