Tiler installing ceramic floor tile

How To Lay Floor Tile

5-7 Days

Tile is a great floor option for any room, because of its durability, cleanability, and stylish appearance. Tile comes in many different shapes and sizes, with different grout options, giving you nearly endless choices to match your home and your design style. Below is a guide for homeowner’s to install basic ceramic/porcelain floor tile in their home. If you are not confident in your ability to lay tile correctly, we recommend you contact a professional tiler.

  • Make sure you prepare your subfloor properly.
  • Measure & locate the center point of the room. This is where you will lay your first floor tile. We will refer to this point as the reference line cross.
  • Set up your reference lines. These will guide you in the placement of your tiles to ensure that the tile is centered in the room and in a straight line. You may want to draw out your tile design first using grid paper.
  • Consider wearing knee pads to evenly distribute your body weight and protect your knees.
  • Remove tile from different boxes and mix together to ensure that minor color differences between boxes will not form an unwanted pattern in your new floor tile.
  • If needed, wipe tile clean from dust & dirt, as this can affect the adhesion to the mortar.


  • Tile
  • Tile Adhesive (Mortar)
  • Grout
  • Tile Spacers
  • Silicone Caulk
  • Silicone Grout Sealer
  • Grout Haze
  • Cleaning Cloth


  • Rubber Gloves
  • Goggles
  • Knee Pads (Optional)
  • Level
  • Carpenter's Square
  • Sponge
  • Rubber Grout Float
  • Tape Measure
  • Mallet
  • Notched Trowel/Spreader
  • Buckets
  • Drill with Mixing Paddle
  • Tile Cutter/Saw
  • Tile Nipper

Step 1: Mix Mortar

Put on your safety goggles and rubber gloves. Using a drill and mixing paddle, mix unmodified, thinset mortar in a bucket according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Thinset mortar is the bonding agent used to attach tile to the subfloor or backer board.

Step 2: Spread Mortar

Starting at the reference line cross in the middle of the room, spread the thinset mortar with the flat side of the trowel in small areas at a time. Be careful not to obscure your reference areas.

Apply the mortar using the notched side of the trowel, held at a 45-degree angle. Comb the mortar in one direction to ensure uniform application. Remove excess mortar and return to bucket.

Step 3: Lay First Tile

Lay the first square of tile at the reference line cross. Lightly press and twist the tile into place to ensure maximum adhesion to the mortar. For larger tiles, you may want to apply a layer of mortar to the backside of the tile before laying.

Step 4: Place Tile Spacers

Place tile spacers at edges of the first tile.

Step 5: Lay Other Tiles

Continue laying tiles along the reference lines, adding more spacers as you go. Be careful that you are laying the tile in a straight line. At some points, you may need to use a tile cutter or tile saw to cut the tile to fit.  Remember to leave a ¼” expansion gap between the last tile and the wall, to allow for the floor to expand without causing cracks.

Note: You may also need a tile nipper, which is used to cut around plumbing fixtures & pipes, as well as round corners.

Step 6: Level the Floor Tile

Once you have completed a section of floor tile, confirm that the tile is level, using a mallet if necessary to level the tile.

Step 7: Remove Excess Mortar

Remove any excess mortar with a damp sponge. Allow thin-set mortar to dry for at least 24 hours, or according to manufacturer instructions, before grouting.

Step 8: Remove Spacers

Once mortar has dried completely, remove the tile spacers from between each of the tiles.

Step 9: Mix Tile Grout

Mix grout according to manufacturer’s instructions, usually to a paste-like consistency.

Step 10: Apply Grout

Using a rubber grout float, apply the grout to the joints, then diagonally across the joints. Remove as much excess as possible. Allow approximately 20 minutes to dry, then wipe the grout lines with a clean sponge and water to set the grout just below the surface. Use a grout haze remover to clean the tile.

Step 11: Allow Grout to Dry

Allow 72 hours for the grout to dry, avoiding heavy traffic on the floor tile. Wait at least 3 weeks before sealing the grout.

Step 12: Seal the Grout

Apply a grout sealer to the joints.

Step 13: Install Trim & Transitions

Reinstall trim work and any necessary transition strips. When tiling an area that will adjoin with a different kind of flooring, like carpet or hardwood, a threshold transition is needed. Check with a Norfolk Hardware & Home Center associate prior to starting to find out which transition is right for your project.