How to Lay Tile on Stairs

Installing tile flooring on stairs is not much different than installing tiles on a level subfloor. So long as the staircase is strong enough to support the weight of the tiles, you should be able to install them without a hitch (you may need a professional to help make this determination). Stairs made out of concrete are best for tile installation as they are usually strong enough to support the weight of a variety of tile types.

Possible tile types you could install on stairs:

  • Ceramic Tile (glazed or unglazed)
  • Marble Tile
  • Encaustic Tile
  • Porcelain Tile
  • Terrazzo Tile
  • Glass Tile
  • Granite Tile

Wooden staircases are not a good fit for tile installation. Wood has a tendency to shift over time, especially under vibrations. This could loosen and dislodge the tiles and may even lead to cracking. If you have a wooden staircase, consider laying down a cement backer unit (CBU) or a mortar bed on top. This can help provide an unyielding base on which you can set the tiles.  

Before getting started, make sure that each step is flat and level. Any dip or groove will make your stair tile installation that much more difficult. Installers recommend using a carpenter or laser level for tile floor work. Make sure that the level is accurate by first testing it out on a surface that you know is flat, such as your floor or countertop.

Once you’ve assessed each step, you’re ready to get started. Professional installers recommend that you begin at the top of the step and work your way down. This way you won’t have to worry about standing on newly installed tiles while you’re working on the next step. 

Tile floor accessories are essential when installing on stairs. Riser tiles and tread tiles are examples of floor accessories that are needed to help stabilize each step. When installing, it’s important that you follow the instructions very closely so the end result is a secure and stable staircase. Since tiles can be very slippery, you may even want to consider putting non-slip nosing on the end of each step to help minimize the chance of a fall. 

Here are a few tips to follow when installing tile on stairs:

  • For added stability, make sure that the riser tile extends beyond the back edge of the tread tile.
  • Tiles should never extend over the edge of the step.
  • Start out by installing whole tiles before using the tile pieces.
  • If you’re using metal or rubber stair nosing, do no let the tile overlap the riser.
  • Always allow the tile to set according to the manufacturer’s instructions.