How to Tile a Step and Where to Put the Grout Line

Written by danny donahue
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How to Tile a Step and Where to Put the Grout Line
Grout fills the spaces between the tiles and completes the new surface. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

Tiles protect the surfaces of your home and provide a new look to the walls or floor. Installing tiles on the wall or floor is a matter of keeping them flush to create a flat surface. Once you reach a stair you must change your approach to tile installation to continue. Tiling the stairs means covering the vertical surface as well as the horizontal surface. Placement of the grout line between these two surfaces is essential if you want to get the maximum life from your tile stairs.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • Tape measure
  • Fine point marker
  • 12 inch speed square
  • Ceramic tiles
  • Wet saw
  • Caulk gun loaded with construction adhesive
  • Toothed putty knife
  • Grout
  • Water
  • Plastic bucket
  • Putty knife
  • Grout bag
  • Grout sealer
  • Work gloves
  • Safety glasses
  • Hearing protection
  • Dust mask

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  1. 1

    Measure the front, vertical surface of the stair. Subtract 1/8 inch from this measurement. Transfer the new measurement onto your tiles. Mark the tiles with a fine point marker using a speed square as a straight edge.

  2. 2

    Hook your wet saw up to a water and an electrical supply. Turn on the water and the electricity feeding the saw and let it come to full speed. Cut each of the tiles you will use for the vertical face of the stair. Turn off the electricity and the water supplies and let the saw come to a complete stop.

  3. 3

    Apply a line of adhesive 1 inch from the bottom of the vertical face, another 1 inch from the top and a third across the centre of the vertical face of the stair riser. Spread the adhesive with a toothed putty knife. Press the tiles into the adhesive. Leave 1/8 inch of space at the top and on either side of each tile. Leave them overnight to give the adhesive time to completely cure.

  4. 4

    Hold one edge of your speed square against the vertical tiles you just installed. Measure from the back of the horizontal surface to the edge of the speed square. Transfer this measurement to the tiles you will use to cover this surface. Cut the tiles along your marks with the wet saw. Dry each tile with a soft rag.

  5. 5

    Apply and spread adhesive onto the horizontal surface and press tiles into the glue. Leave 1/8 inch of space on either side of the tiles. Position each horizontal tile so that its edge is flush with the face of the vertical tile below it.

  6. 6

    Mix grout and water in your plastic bucket. Use the amount of each ingredient that is recommended on by the manufacturer. Stir the mixture with your putty knife. Fill your grout bag with grout. Squirt grout into the spaces on either side of the vertical and horizontal tiles. Place your grout into the separation grout line just under the lip of the horizontal tiles so that it will not be knocked out when the stairs are used.

  7. 7

    Wipe away excess grout with a wet sponge. Let the grout dry completely and apply grout sealer to each grout line. Let the grout sealer dry for 24 hours before using the stair.

Tips and warnings

  • When tiling multiple stairs start with the vertical surfaces, working your way down from the top step. Let the adhesive behind all of the vertical tiles dry. Apply the horizontal tiles from the top down and let that adhesive dry completely. Grout the stairs from the top down and apply sealer from the top down letting each compound dry completely before applying the next.
  • Work gloves and safety glasses are required when working with tile.
  • Hearing protection and a dust mask are required, in addition to your gloves and glasses, when using a wet saw.

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