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How to lay a tile

Laying a ceramic or porcelain tile floor can be considered a daunting task, but with adequate planning and preparation, this perception can be overcome. Laying one’s own tile is also much less expensive (and possibly more rewarding) than having it professionally installed. Cost can be minimized by careful planning and preparation.

Laying the foundation. An unpleasant question to be faced is "What is your floor made up of?" Plywood is good. But, if you have the typical 1/2" to 5/8" particle board on top of a deck made of 2x8s, you have some work to do. After removal of the base trim, the particle board should be pulled up (this is easiest if you first cut it into about 16" squares)and replaced by plywood. You will need a Skil saw, and if you're doing the kitchen, you'll need a "toe-kick saw." Replace the particle board up to where the tile will stop. While you have the particle board off, you can inspect the deck to make sure it is firmly attached to the floor joists. Now you're ready for leveling compound (if needed).

Lay the backer board. You will need to lay backerboard (fiberglass or preferably cement sheets that are usually 3 by 5 feet) as well, or the tile will pop off.

Evaluate the space to be tiled. A first phase of evaluation is to determine the size of the room to be tiled (or re-tiled).


The number of tiles you will need will depend on the size of the tile you wish to lay, as well as the tile pattern you will like on the floor.

Using a tape measure or digital laser tape, measure the room from one wall to the opposite wall, and note the distance. Let’s say the measure of this distance is 12 feet (3.7 m).

Measure the distance of the opposing walls to each other. Let’s say this distance is 7 feet (2.1 m). Multiplying these 2 distances (12 feet x 7 feet) will yield a total area of 84 square feet.

Note: These measurements are based on squared dimensions. If the room is not perfectly "squared" (or in this case “rectangle") because of an irregular floor plan (where there might be a small section off of one side, for example), do not factor this space into your measurement. While you will of course need to tile this space, factoring this space into your measurements will affect finding the "center" of the room, which will be discussed shortly. This area is important to note, since it will provide you with an estimate of the number of tiles you will need to purchase to cover the area to be tiled.


Tile comes in different sizes: 4 inch (10.2 cm) by 4 inch (10.2 cm), 8 inch (20.3 cm) by 8 inch (20.3 cm), 12 inch (30.5 cm) by 12 inch (30.5 cm), for example (there are others, too). Tiles can also be laid in different patterns.

The total number of tiles you will need will depend on the size and pattern you want. For simplicity's sake, let's assume we are going to use 12 inch (30.5 cm) by 12 inch (30.5 cm) tiles and use a traditional grid design, where tiles are simply laid in pattern like graph paper.



Pick a color. You are only limited by your imagination (and the store's stock).


Choice of color typically is a matter of individual choice. The only additional step of planning and preparation with regard to color of the tile is with the grout selection. Grout is the "filler" that goes in the spaces between tiles, the joints.

It can be grey, white, terra cotta, and so on. Typically, dark tiles with light grout really show the spaces in between tiles, and vice versa.

The selection of grout color will really depend on how you would like the floor to look to the eye. There is no hard and fast rule.