How to Install Ceramic Flooring

New ceramic flooring is an affordable way to update the look of a bathroom, kitchen, hallway, or entryway. Better yet, it can be installed over many different types of subfloor, the most suitable being concrete, cement board, and plywood at least 1¼-in thick. Laying a thin synthetic lath (about 3/16-inch thick) is also a good option, as it won't raise the floor level substantially.

Difficulty level : 
Duration : 
10-12 days

How to Prepare for Your Ceramic Tile Flooring Project

There are three important steps to take before installation can begin: 

  • Choose the right floor tiles for the project 
  • Consult our ceramic tile buying guide for helpful tips 
  • Decide on a tile pattern to determine how the reference lines will need to be drawn 

Getting the Room Ready Before Installing Flooring

  • 1.1Remove all doors and baseboards.
  • 1.2If necessary, trim the door mouldings by marking the height of one tile and using a saw to cut 1/16" above the mark.

Pro tip

To get an estimate of how many tiles are required for the project, use our tile flooring calculator. 

Preparing the Subfloor for Ceramic Tiles

  • 2.1Before installing the tile, ensure that the subfloor is clean, dry, and even.
  • 2.2Plywood subfloors should be solidified with screws to prevent tile from moving and cracking. Use 1½" floor screws every 4 or 5".

Drawing the Reference Lines on the Subfloor

  • 3.1Snap chalk line vertically and horizontally across the centre of the room to create a middle cross.
  • 3.2Lay out a row of tiles from the centre, along the longer of the two lines.
  • 3.3For even joints, set spacers between each tile.
  • 3.4Lay another row of tiles along the other line.
  • 3.5Laying tiles from the centre will ensure that cut tiles are placed near the wall, where they won't be as visible.

Determining Where the First Tile Will be Installed

  • 4.1How to Prepare for Your Ceramic Tile Flooring Project
  • 4.2How to Prepare for Your Ceramic Tile Flooring Project
  • 4.3For irregular rooms, try to install the tiles in a way that limits necessary cuts.

Pro tip

How to Prepare for Your Ceramic Tile Flooring Project

Spreading the Mortar

  • 5.1Use a notched trowel to spread mortar along the layout line covering the space of two or three tiles.
  • 5.2Use the notched edge of the trowel to comb the mortar ridges in the same direction.

Laying the Ceramic Tiles

  • 6.1Use the reference lines to install two or three tiles at a time.
  • 6.2Keep the joints even with tile spacers.
  • 6.3When pressing tiles into the mortar, try to twist as little as possible.
  • 6.4Use a level to check the tile height and lightly tap uneven tiles with a rubber mallet to ensure uniformity.

Removing the Tile Spacers

  • 7.1Remove spacers as the installation progresses, before the mortar has a chance to set.
  • 7.2When tile installation is complete, allow it to dry for at least 24 hours. Prevent foot traffic during this time.

Laying the Ceramic Floor Perimeter

  • 8.1Place a tile directly on top of the last full tile near the wall.
  • 8.2Place another tile on top of the previous tiles but set one edge against the spacer.
  • 8.3Draw a cutting line on the middle tile by following the edge of the top tile.
  • 8.4

    Cut the middle tile with a tile cuttertile nippers, or a wet cutting table saw

  • 8.5Use this method to cover the rest of the perimeter and allow the tiles to dry for another 24 hours.

Applying the Grout and the Tile Joints

  • 9.1Once the mortar is dry, dampen the tiles with a sponge soaked in clean water. This will make the grout easier to spread.
  • 9.2Pour grout directly on the tiles and use a rubber float (held at a 45° angle) to work it into the joints section by section.
  • 9.3Remove excess grout with a damp sponge.
  • 9.4For best results, repeat the grouting process two to three times.
  • 9.5Let dry for 48 hours.

Applying the Grout Sealer

  • 10.1Apply grout sealer to the joints to protect the grout from staining.
  • 10.2After 30 minutes, apply a second coat.
  • 10.3Reinstall doors and mouldings.

Caulking the Expansion Joints

  • 11.110 days after installation, use a silicone sealer to caulk the expansion joints.
  • 11.2Allow the silicone to dry, then use a soft, dry cloth to clean the tiles.

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