How to Lay Out Tile

2-4 hours

Plan for a new tile floor by laying out the pattern in advance

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Before you tile any floor, you must first lay out the tiles to gauge size and fit. No matter what kind of tile you are installing, the layout procedures will generally be the same.

The secret to success in tiling is having well-established guide or layout lines. They show you where to start laying the tile and are arranged so the tile is evenly centered in the room. This guide will show you how to create layout lines for easy, successful tiling.


Establish a Layout Line
Establish Layout Line - Lay Out Floor Tiles

• Measure opposite sides of the room and mark the center of each side.
• Snap a chalk line between the marks. Measure and mark the center of the chalk line. From this point, use a framing square to establish a second line perpendicular to the first.
• Snap a second layout line across the opposite sides of the room. The intersection should be at the center point of the room.

Measure and Mark Layout Grid
Measure Mark Layout Grid - Lay Out Floor Tiles

• Measure and mark one layout line 3 feet from the center point.
• Measure and mark the perpendicular layout line 4 feet from the center point.
• Measure the distance between the marks. If the layout lines are perpendicular, the distance will be exactly 5 feet.

Tip: Layout lines must be square otherwise you will end up with odd-shaped tiles at the walls. The best way to ensure square lines is to make a floor plan by drawing the walls of the room as accurately as possible on a sheet of grid paper. Be sure to include doorways and floor obstructions such as cabinets and fixtures.

Lay First Row of Tiles and Spacers
Lay First Tiles Spacers - Lay Out Floor Tiles

• Starting at the center point, lay tiles along one line from the center to the wall. Insert tile spacers between the tiles. Do not apply grout, this is a dry layout for spacing.
• Tile spacers come in a variety of widths. The wider the spacer, the wider the grout line between the tiles. Wider grout lines with require more grout.

Tip: If the space at the wall is narrower than half a tile, move the center point back by half a tile. This will give you wider cuts of tile along both walls.

Divide Floor into Manageable Sections
Divide Manageable Sections - Lay Out Floor Tiles

• It is best to divide the floor into manageable sections, roughly 2- by 3-feet squares, for setting the tiles.
• The best way to determine the exact size of the section that is right for your tiles is to lay them out and measure. Begin by laying out the tiles in an L-shape in the center of the room. Separate the tiles with spacers. Use the chalk lines as a guide.

Determine Section Sizes
Determine Section Sizes - Lay Out Floor Tiles

• Measure both branches of the L-shape from the center point to determine the size of the sections you will lay out on the floor.
• Add the width of one spacer to each measurement. Mark the area with the marking pencil.

Finish Chalk Grid and Prepare to Apply Mortar
Finish Grid Prepare Apply Mortar - Out Floor Tiles

• Lay out a chalk-line grid, with each section the size that you measured in Step 5.
• You are now ready to set the tiles in mortar.