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Project Guide

How to Lay Floor Tiles

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Apply Mortar to Square-Notched Trowel
Man applying mortar using a square-notched trowel.
  • Put a little mortar on the flat side of a square-notched trowel and apply it, pushing it into the face of the backerboard as you go.
  • Then, apply more to make a layer of mortar roughly ½ inch thick.
Make Uniform Ridges
Man making uniform ridges.
  • Holding the trowel at approximately 70 degrees to the floor, push the teeth of the trowel to the floor, making ridges of uniform height.
  • The size of the trowel notches should be the same as the thickness of the tiles you are setting.
Lay the First Tile at the Intersection of the Guidelines
Man laying the first tile.
  • Twist the tile back and forth slightly to make sure it is embedded in the mortar.
  • Remove any excess mortar from the tiles with a damp sponge or cloth as you go.
  • If you place a tile down crooked, pick it up immediately and reposition it to align properly.
Place the Second Tile Alongside the First Using Spacers
Man placing the second tile alongside the first.

Continue laying the tiles until you have filled up the box. Set spacers upright near the corners where each set of tiles meet.

Level the Tiles and Bed Them Firmly in the Mortar
Man leveling the tiles in the mortar.
  • Lay a short 2 x 4 or beater block on top of the tiles and tap lightly with a rubber mallet to level the tiles and bed them firmly in the mortar.
  • Continue laying tiles, one box at a time, until your reach the wall.
  • Cut tiles to fit against the wall if necessary.

Tip: Be prepared to cut some tiles. You can either make them as you go, or install all the full tiles and wait 24 hours for them to dry and cure before cutting the tile pieces you’ll need.

Place the Tile to Be Cut Directly Over the Last Set Tile
Man cutting directly over last tile.
  • Set another tile, the “marker” tile, on top of it so it butts up against a tile set on edge at the wall.
  • Trace along the marker tile to mark the cutting line on the tile below.
Score the Tile
Man scoring tile.
  • Place the marked tile from Step 6 on the cutter and align the cutting line with the scoring tool.
  • Pull or push the cutter along the top of the tile with a single, firm stroke.
Snap the Tile in Two
Man snapping tile in two.

Wearing safety glasses, press down on the handle of the cutter to snap the tile in two.

Spread Mortar for the Other Tiles
Other tiles laid out over the mortar.

Spread mortar for the other tiles and position them accordingly.