How to Lay a Straight Tile Floor

Written by darryl brooks
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How to Lay a Straight Tile Floor
Start off straight and laying a straight floor will be manageable. (Tiled floor image by Simon Amberly from

The difficulty of laying a straight tile floor will depend a great deal on the size of the floor. But regardless of the size of the room, the most important thing is to start straight. The floor can consist of thousands of tiles, but if the first one is not straight, you will never recover. Break it down into small enough steps and perform those steps exactly right and the rest will fall into place. Laying a grid pattern, if done carefully and correctly, will ensure a perfectly straight floor, regardless of size, because you will only be working with a very small section at a time.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Measuring tape
  • Pencil
  • Nail
  • Hammer
  • Chalk line
  • Tile spacers
  • Straight edge

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  1. 1

    Measure the width of the tile. Add to that measurement the width of the desired grout joint. Multiply this number to get a distance that is easy for you to reach, approximately 2 to 3 feet. This is the distance between lines for the grid you will create.

  2. 2

    Measure out the distance you calculated from both ends of your longest wall. Pop a chalk line through these two points to span the area. Make absolutely sure that the line spans both of your points.

  3. 3

    Measure a second set of points from your first line and pop a new line through those points. Continue in this fashion until you have covered the width of the floor with chalk lines. Double check the spacing of each line and make sure they are exactly parallel and equal distances apart.

  4. 4

    Measure two points from one of the walls perpendicular to your starting wall. Try to start from a wall that is exactly 90 degrees from the first one. If not, you will need to adjust this first line to make sure it is exactly square with your first lines. Once you have the first line right, measure and pop the rest of the lines to make a grid across the floor.

  5. 5

    Start laying the tile at your long wall by placing the first tile square against the inside corner of one of your grid squares. Continue placing tiles inside each grid square, always starting against the same corner and working away from it. Care must still be taken to align the tiles within the grid squares and with the adjacent square, but if your starting lines are right, it will be impossible not to lay a straight floor.

Tips and warnings

  • To find a square corner in a room, use the 3-4-5 formula. If you measure out from the corner of one wall some unit of 3, then measure down the other wall the same unit of 4, then the distance between these two points will be exactly 5 if the corner is perfectly square. If doesn't matter whether you are using 3 inches, 3 feet or a multiple thereof. Use the longest measurements that will fit your room for the most accuracy.
  • If you are working alone, use a nail in one of your points to anchor one end of the chalk line. Before popping the line, make sure the line exactly covers both of your marks.
  • If you are using a large tile with a 1/4-inch or larger grout joint, use tile spacers to keep the joints consistent.
  • Use a straight edge to help keep the tiles lined up between grids, but never allow the tiles to get outside your grid lines.

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