How to Install Ceramic Tile Butting Up to Another Tile Without an Expansion Gap

Written by cadence johansen
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How to Install Ceramic Tile Butting Up to Another Tile Without an Expansion Gap
Install ceramic tiles without an expansion gap. (Tile image by Laima Penekaite from

Ceramic tile is a good flooring alternative to carpet, wood or laminate. Ceramic tiles are designed to be installed with an expansion gap, also known as a grout joint. Although not recommended, it is possible to install ceramic tile by butting up one tile next to another without an expansion gap. Learn more before you get started.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Hammer
  • Broom and vacuum
  • Pencil
  • Tile
  • Thin-set mortar
  • Notched trowel
  • Unsanded grout
  • Rubber grout float
  • Grout sponge

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  1. 1

    Remove loose nails or protruding staples from the subfloor with a hammer. Sweep and vacuum the floor so it's free of debris and dirt.

  2. 2

    Mark the layout of the tile on the floor. There are many different types of tile layouts, so decide which layout works best for your space. Mark the layout on the floor with a pencil.

  3. 3

    Apply thin-set mortar to the floor with a notched trowel. Work in small areas, and install the tile on top of the mortar, butting it directly against surrounding pieces. Use a tile saw to cut the tiles to size. Leave approximately a ½-inch gap between the tiles and the wall. This gap will serve as expansion room for the tiles. This is especially important because the tiles won't have a gap between them to give them room to expand. Install all of the tiles and allow the mortar to dry overnight.

  4. 4

    Apply unsanded grout to the top of the tiles with a rubber grout float. The unsanded grout will fill in space between the tiles and help to protect the flooring underneath the tiles from moisture that may leak down between the tiles. Wipe away excess grout with a grout sponge. Allow the grout to dry for 24 hours before using the tile floor.

Tips and warnings

  • Installing ceramic tiles without grout joints is not recommended. Regardless of how tight you butt the tiles against one another, there will still be a slight gap where water or other moisture can seep through the tile floor. Grout serves as a barrier between the tiles to keep out moisture and dirt. You can try to install unsanded grout in the small joints between the tiles but even unsanded grout needs about 1/16 inch to be effective.

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