How to lay ceramic tile on concrete floor

Installing your own ceramic tile is an inexpensive and simple way to update the look of your home. Ceramic tiles are versatile and durable, and they provide an attractive finish for spaces that will regularly be exposed to moisture, such as bathrooms, kitchens, basements and garages. A concrete floor is an ideal base for tile because it is sturdy and water-resistant.

Use the pressure washer to remove any stains on the concrete floor. Concentrate on oil spots or debris that is causing the floor to be out of level.

Grind down any bumps in the floor with the power sander to make the surface as smooth and level as possible. Sweep away all debris before beginning to lay the tiles. Use a level to make sure the floor is ready for tile installation.

Measure the length and width of the floor. Multiply these two numbers and you will have the area of the space.

Purchase as many tiles as you need to cover the space, plus an additional 10 per cent to account for any damage to the tiles during shipping, cutting or installation.

Snap a chalk line across the width of the room, using the T-square to ensure the line is perpendicular to the wall. Snap an intersecting chalk line running across the length of the room. Use the T-square to ensure this line is perpendicular to the first line as well as to the wall. The intersection of these lines will serve as a guide when you place your first tile.

Mix the thin-set mortar according to the instructions on the package. Only mix as much as you can spread in 30 minutes, as thin-set mortar tends to become brittle if left to dry.

Spread a layer of thin-set mortar on the concrete with the smooth edge of the notched trowel, using the intersecting chalk lines as a guide. Cover the space for several tiles. Turn the trowel to the notched edge and go over the mortar you spread mortar, making grooves. These grooves will help the tiles adhere by suction.

Set the first tile onto the mortar, using the intersecting chalk lines as a guide. Apply firm and even pressure with both hands to set the tile in place. Add plastic tile spacers on all sides of the tile. Place the next tile and add spacers.

Continue to lay tiles in the same manner, until you come to the end of a row or a fixture. This requires cutting the tiles.

Make straight cuts on tiles to fit them against the walls, using a wet tile saw. Mark the tile where you want to cut it, using a wax crayon and straightedge. Line up the mark you made on the tile with the mark on the carriage of the wet tile saw. Push the tile slowly into the rotating blade.

Mark any curved cuts that must be made with a wax crayon. Use a tile scriber to etch the curved line into the tile surface, which will serve as a guide. Use the tile nippers to carefully nip off pieces of the tile until all that remains is the curve you etched. Fit the cut tiles into the appropriate spaces, using thin-set mortar.

Allow the thin-set mortar to set, according to the package instructions. Remove the plastic tile spacers.

Mix the grout according to the package directions. Spread the grout with a rubber float, pushing it into the spaces between the tiles. Remove excess grout from the tile surfaces, using a damp cloth.

Allow grout to set according to the instructions on the package, typically 12 to 36 hours. Use a damp cloth in a circular motion to remove any grout haze left on the tile surface.


Keep foot traffic off the newly tiled floors for at least a week. This will prevent any shifting.


Always wear safety gloves and safety goggles when operating a tile saw or using a tile scriber or nippers.

Things You'll Need

  • Pressure washer
  • Power sander
  • Broom
  • Mop
  • Measuring tape
  • T-square
  • Chalk line
  • Thin-set mortar
  • Notched trowel
  • Ceramic tiles
  • Plastic tile spacers
  • Safety goggles
  • Safety gloves
  • Wet tile saw
  • Tile scriber
  • Tile nippers
  • Wax crayon
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About the Author

Sofia Rodrigues has been writing professionally for six years and has worked for various print and online magazines, including "Make" and Guttersnipe. Her field of expertise ranges from early childhood development to sports and comedy writing. She studied semiotics and English at the University of Toronto.