How To Install Ceramic Tile

How to install ceramic tile is simple if you have good instructions. There are so many applications that are great for tile. Some are trickier than others. But whether you’re installing ceramic tile on a backsplash or a shower floor in a tile shower, many of the processes are the same. The basic steps of ceramic tile installation could be described as: layout, cutting the tile, applying thinset, laying tile and grouting. The same steps apply for installing marble tile or granite tile also.


After measuring your tile project area and gathering the materials, you are ready to start. Make sure you have a solid surface as a foundation for your tile. Pros often use Hardibaker cement board. Cement board is rigid and not damaged by water. After your base is ready, get your measure, chalk line, square and level and construct your guide lines. Based on the type of job, decide where the cut tiles will look best. If the room is out-of-square by quite a bit, make sure any odd angles of the tile to existing surfaces are in less noticeable areas. Sometimes you may choose to run tile at a 45 degree angle to adjoining surfaces to eliminate mismatching joints. Make plenty of guide lines.

Cutting Ceramic Tile

Tile is cut with a cutter board, with nippers or with a wet saw. The cutter board scores the tile and then the tile can be easily broken. This is for straight cuts. A poor score will equal a ruined tile. Nippers are like pliers that score the tile and let you break the tile in small pieces. Nippers are used for smaller areas. The wet saw is a table saw with a table that moves to the blade. The saw is for straight cuts. Also the saw is used for cuts that must be finished with the nippers, such as in large curves.


Thinset is the adhesive used to stick tile in place. There are actually several types of popular adhesives including various latex blends, both ready-mixed and dry powder to be mixed with water. For larger jobs, the wettable powder is the way to go. Thinset is mixed to the consistency of peanut butter using a drill driven mixer. Thinset is applied with a tile trowel having notched edges. The notches determine how much thinset is on the surface…bigger notches equal more adhesive. You want just enough thinset to cover the surface, but not so much that the adhesive oozes up out of the spacing between tiles.

Laying Tile

Laying tile is an art. Tile size varies and the more variation the harder it is to keep the tile in an eye-pleasing manner. The edges should be aligned in each direction as much as possible. Also the edges of the tile should not be higher or lower than adjoining tile. Unevenness up and down is lippage. It takes time and practice to set tile evenly. Regular plastic tile spacers can help less experienced tile setters make good looking, evenly spaced joints.


Apply grout after the thinset is dry. Grout can be colored and comes sanded or unsanded depending on the width of the joint. Grout is a masonry product but also can include epoxy. Epoxy grout is waterproof and stainproof but is tough to apply because of the smell. Apply grout with a rubber faced trowel. Clean the grout from the tile surfaces before it dries using a regular tile sponge.

Let your grout dry and then apply a regular grout sealer to help resist water and staining.

Those are the basics for installing ceramic tile but the details are what get you, right?