Porcelain & Ceramic Tile Installation

Important Note: We do not do installations directly.

Instead of having our own installers on staff as a normal retailer would have, we have chosen a more advantageous method that helps you save money on the materials as well as the actual installation.  Read the full details about installation here.


  • Level
  • Goggles
  • Glass Cutter
  • Carpenter’s Square
  • Sponge
  • Clean Rags
  • Grout Float (Rubber)
  • Pencil
  • Tape Measure
  • Hammer
  • Notched Trowel or Spreader


  • Tile (field and trim)
  • Tile Spacers (if needed)
  • Interior Spackling Compound
  • Tile Adhesive
  • Silicone Caulk
  • Silicone Grout Sealer

Preparing Your Floor for Ceramic Tile

The original flooring material should be removed before you install your new tile. The new tile installation is only as good as the underlying floor.

  • The subfloor must be sound enough to support tile. Tile can be heavy and must be installed on a flat, rigid surface. Subfloors under tile should be no less than 1 inch thick. A flexing floor will cause cracks to show up in the grout later and may cause tiles to break.
  • If your floor bounces when you walk over it, try adding rigidity by renailing the subfloor to the floor joists. Add bridging between the joists, or shim the subfloor with wooden shims driven between the top edge of the joists and the bottom face of the subfloor.
  • Uneven or damaged floors are best covered first with an underlayment as the tile base. Tile manufacturers often recommend cement-fiber board for use on floors in a moist environment.
  • If the floor is concrete, repair any holes or cracks. You can sometimes lower high spots using a coarse-grit abrasive on a belt or disc sander. Any minor bumps can be removed with a cold chisel driven by a baby sledgehammer. (Be sure to wear safety glasses.)
  • If you have linoleum flooring, you can place underlayment over the top of it.
  1. Remove all trim and clean the floor thoroughly. The surface on which you’re installing the tile must be smooth and free from debris, grease or wax.
  2. Pull out any nails in the trim from the backside. This step keeps the trim from splitting so you can use it again.
  3. For areas subjected to moisture, the underlayment should be sealed with a waterproof membrane or other moisture-resistant product. Cement-fiber board makes an ideal underlayment for tile in wet locations. These boards are often referred to as cement board. The product is composed of cement and fiber for strength and moisture resistance. It’s available in 1/4-inch and 1/2-inch thicknesses depending on the application.

Choosing Pattern for Your TileChoosing a Pattern for Your Tile

The pattern options available when laying tile are virtually endless. These are two common basic patterns:

A jack-on-jack pattern is the most common. The pattern consists of tile laid like squares on a checkerboard.

A running bond pattern has offset grout lines for each row.

Either is fairly easy to set, although the running bond pattern is the more difficult of the two.

If you’re artistic and doing a project, such as a table or countertop, you may want to create a mosaic of small tiles. Applied with artistic skill, tile mosaics can be stunning.

Mapping the Floor Area for TilesMapping the Floor Area for Floor Tiles

Floor tiles should be centered in the room for the best visual appearance. Keep this in mind when you lay out the floor tile.

  1. Measure and find the center of two opposite walls. Use these points to snap a chalk line across the length of the room in the center of the floor, dividing the room in half. Then snap another chalk line perpendicular to the first so the two lines cross in the center of the room. Check where the lines cross with a carpenter’s square to make absolutely sure the center point is square.
  2. Dry-fit a row of tiles down both lines to the width and length of the room. Leave equal spacing for the grout joints. Most floor tiles don’t come with spacers like wall tiles do, so you’ll need to approximate the appropriate spacing.
  3. By laying out the tiles in this way, you can get an idea of any adjustments that need to be made to your original reference lines. The goal is to work with as many full tiles as possible. Also, you should end up with at least half-a-tile width in the areas where the tiles meet the walls. A slight adjustment at the center point may save you lots of time and money. Adjust the reference lines as necessary to achieve a layout you’re satisfied with.

Installing the TileInstalling the Tiles

  1. Begin laying the tile from the center of the floor where your two final reference lines cross. Start by laying a tile at the intersection of the lines, and then use the lines as a guide as you work your way outward toward the walls in each quadrant.
  2. Spread the adhesive with the trowel’s notched edge, combing it out in beaded ridges. Spaces between ridges of adhesive should be almost bare.
  3. If you wish, you may insert plastic spacers between the tiles to help maintain straight grout lines if the tiles don’t have spacer lugs. Remove these after placing the tile but before they become firmly set in the adhesive.
  4. If adhesive oozes up between the tiles, clean out the excess before it dries. Immediately wipe any adhesive from the face of the tiles with a solvent-soaked sponge or rag. (Consult the manufacturer’s instructions to determine the appropriate solvent.) Adhesives begin to set firmly in 20 to 30 minutes.
  5. After you have installed several rows of tile, set them into the adhesive with the tile leveler and a mallet.
  6. After laying all the whole tiles that will fit, begin cutting and adhering the tiles to fill around the perimeter of the room.

Tip: Some ceramic tiles have spacers built into the tile itself. If you desire a wider grout line, use spacers as well. Some adhesives emit toxic and flammable fumes. Provide good ventilation  especially in confined locations such as shower stalls. Always refer to the product label for safety precautions. Also exercise caution when using tile-cutting tools.

Some adhesives emit toxic and flammable fumes. Provide good ventilation, especially in confined locations such as shower stalls. Always refer to the product label for safety precautions. Also exercise caution when using tile-cutting tools.

Cutting and Fitting the Tile

Nearly every tiling job requires trimming tiles to fit around borders or obstructions such as window frames, electrical fixtures, pipes, basins, toilets or counter tops. Straight cuts are relatively simple. Shaping tiles to fit curves is more difficult and requires practice and patience.

For small jobs, use a glass cutter or a simple tile cutter. Larger projects may warrant using a wet saw. Do-it-yourself wet-saw models are relatively inexpensive (in relation to renting). They make clean cuts with little waste.

Apply even pressure when using tools designed to score, cut and drill tiles. Pressing too hard can cause tiles to crack and break. Drilling tile requires a special bit.

To make cuts at a true right angle, use a combination square as your straightedge when scoring with a glass cutter.

When using a glass cutter or tile cutter, score the tile in one stroke to achieve smooth and even breaks. Repeated scoring will cause the tile to chip or crack.

Always wear safety glasses when working with tiles.

Snapping Tile by Hand

  1. With the scored line facing up, position the tile over a nail or a stiff piece of wire.
  2. Place your fingers flat on either side of the tile and apply firm, even pressure until the tile snaps.

Using Tile Nippers

  1. Center the cutting blade on the scored line and exert pressure by squeezing the handles together.
  2. Use your free hand to hold the side of the tile you’ll be using.

Using a Tile Cutter

  1. Measure and mark the cutting line on the tile.
  2. Align this mark with the cutting guide on the tile cutter.
  3. Supporting the tile to keep it level, lower the cutting wheel onto the edge of the tile. Push it away from you with firm pressure.
  4. When you’ve rolled the cutting wheel to the far end, push down on the handle to split the tile.

Using a Wet Saw

  1. Measure and mark the cutting line on the tile.
  2. Align this mark with the cutting guide on the tile cutter.
  3. Supporting the tile to keep it level, move it towards the blade. Move the tile slowly to avoid overheating and cracking. Let the saw do the work.

Cutting Holes in Tiles

  1. Mark the shape to be cut with a pencil.
  2. Drill a hole inside the shape with light pressure, using a 1/2-inch carbide masonry drill bit.
  3. Insert a tungsten carbide rod blade through the hole and attach the ends of the rod to a hacksaw frame.
  4. Saw along the pencil line with even pressure. Let the saw do the work. Forcing the cut too rapidly can break the tile.

Fitting Around Obstructions

  1. Using a pencil, draw the shape that needs to be removed on the tile. A compass may help you draw neater curves.
  2. Score the outline of the shape you drew with the glass cutter. Then score several crisscross lines within the outlined area.
  3. Using tile nippers (or pliers), begin taking tiny bites from the area to be removed. The idea is to nibble off chips, not chunks.
  4. An alternate method is to make several parallel cuts with a wet saw. The adjacent cuts will create several small strips of waste tile. Snap these off with tile nippers and smooth the surface.

Smoothing Breaks

  • Jagged edges — Use tile nippers or pliers to nibble off the uneven edge of a broken tile.
  • Rough edges — Use a round file to smooth rough edges of areas that have been nibbled away.
  • Cut edges — If a straight-cut edge shows, rub it against a sheet of 80-grit aluminum oxide sandpaper to round and smooth the edge.

Grouting the Joints

  1. Mix grout to the consistency of a thick paste, and apply it by forcing the grout between tiles with a rubber float held at a 45-degree angle.
  2. Hold the float almost perpendicular to the floor. Wipe away excess grout from the surface of the tiles. Take care to pack all joints. Use a toothbrush to shape the grout.
  3. After 20 minutes, wipe away all excess grout with a damp sponge. Keep your sponge clean by rinsing it often. Follow the grout manufacturer’s instructions for curing and cleaning the grout.
  4. After the grout has cured for a week, apply silicone grout sealer with a small paintbrush to help prevent grout discoloration.

Tools, products, materials, techniques, building codes and local regulations change; therefore, AAA Flooring Source assumes no liability for omissions, errors or the outcome of any project. The reader must always exercise reasonable caution, follow current codes and regulations that may apply, and is urged to consult with a licensed professional if in doubt about any procedures.