A step-by-step guide to creating the perfect tiled floor
Once you’ve done all your prep, it’s time to lay your new tiled flooring. And if you’re new to tiling, you may need a bit of help.
This guide’s here to take you through the steps whether you’re laying on wooden, cement or concrete floors, and whatever type of tile you’ve chosen. We want to help you complete your project with no hiccups, as well as ensuring that it will look great in your home for years to come.
Before you begin
It's important to prepare your existing floor, calculate the correct quantity of tiles to buy and position the key tile before you get started. Our guide to planning your floor tiling tells you everything you need to know.
You will need
- Floor tiles or Wall & Floor tiles
- Floor tile adhesive. Choose a flexible adhesive when tiling onto wooden sub-floors, or a strong (high bond strength) adhesive for tiling onto concrete or screed sub-floors
- Grout. Choose between powdered grout for mixing with water, or pre-mixed and ready to apply. Using pre-mixed grout allows you to skip the hassles of mixing your own, but powdered grout can be useful if you want to avoid any wastage as you can mix the exact quantity required - handy for very small or very large rooms. Look for grouts with anti-mould properties for bathrooms and kitchens - this will help to keep your floors looking good for longer.
- Silicone sealant and cartridge gun
- Notched trowel or spreader
- Tile spacers
- Tile file to remove rough edges from cut tiles
- Tile marker (or chinagraph pencil)
- Manual tile cutter or electric tile cutter
- Grout float
- Grout finisher/shaper to give a neat finish
- Spirit level
- Rubber mallet to gently level tiles
- Soft cloths
How to lay floor tiles
When tiling your room, you'll be starting from a central point and working your way out to each corner, one at a time. You'll want to be able to exit the room without walking across your freshly laid tiles, so plan ahead and work into the further corners of the room first so that you finish by the door.
If you're tiling a room you'll need to access regularly, such as a bathroom or kitchen, consider tiling one half of the room and then tiling the second half once this is dry. It'll take a little longer, but will allow the tiles to adhere properly to the floor to give a hard-wearing surface. Check whether rapid-set adhesive is suitable for your sub-floor type too - as this will allow you to walk on your tiles sooner.
Starting in the centre of the room, pour enough adhesive to cover a square metre (m) of floor – check the manufacturer’s instructions for how much is needed, as well as any specific application advice.
Spread the adhesive evenly using a notched trowel or spreader – make sure you can still see enough of the starting line to position your key tile. Use the smooth side to spread the tile adhesive on the floor, then draw the serrated edge back through the adhesive to form ridges. This will leave an even depth of adhesive to help create a level surface.
Place your key tile in position, giving it a slight twist to bed it into the adhesive. Work outwards, placing additional tiles in the row.
Fit plastic tile spacers between each tile to ensure an equal gap between each. Floor tile spacers are usually 3-5 millimetres (mm) wide - choose a wider spacer for larger tiles. Be sure to press the spacers well below the surface of the tile so that they'll be hidden once your floor is grouted.
Check that the tiles are level using a spirit level – if they’re not, tap them lightly with a rubber mallet to level them. Lay the next row of tiles out from the key tile, working at right angles to the first row, and continue working in rows in this quarter of the room.
Continue tiling the first quarter of the room, until you cannot place any more whole tiles. We'll add cut tiles to complete the edges later.
Wipe the surface of the tiles regularly with a damp sponge to remove any adhesive before it dries.
Once this first quarter of the room is complete, move round the room to complete the next quarter until the whole floor is tiled.
Be sure to remove any surplus adhesive between the tiled area and the edge of the room, as you work. A trowel will make light work of this.
Leave the floor to fully set before adding the edging tiles. Drying time can vary from just a couple of hours (with a rapid-set adhesive) up to 48 hours, so always check the instructions.
How to cut tiles and fit edging tiles
Once the tiles in the centre of the room have set, you can measure, cut and lay the tiles that will fit around the edge.
Wear safety goggles and a dust mask when cutting tiles – this is dusty work, and small tile fragments can fly up and cause injury.
To measure an edging tile, place it over the last full tile and align a third tile on top, with one edge touching the wall. Use the inside edge as a guide to draw a line on the face of the tile below using a tile marker. Cutting the tile just short of the marked line will allow space either side for the grout and sealant.
Using your tile cutter, cut along the marked line. Check the instruction manual for advice on how to get the best results using your tool, as different cutters will vary.
If any rough edges are left after cutting, smooth these using a tile file.
Apply adhesive to the back of each edging tile. Place in position, level and use tile spacers to align with the tiles you’ve already laid. Leave to set as per the instructions on the adhesive.
Top tip: Save leftover tiles
It's a good idea to save the leftover tiles from a project. It can be tricky finding an exact match if you need to replace any broken tiles in the future.
How to grout floor tiles
Once the adhesive has set, you can begin grouting.
Whichever grout you choose, make sure that you have enough for the job by measuring the area to grout and checking the packaging for coverage.
Scoop up some of the grout using a grout float, and then use the float to apply the grout to the joints between the tiles. You'll want to use the rubber surface of the float to press the grout into the joints until the grout is level with the surface of the tile, covering the spacers.
Once you've grouted several rows, smooth the joints using a grout finisher to compact the grout and leave a neat finish. Wipe away any surplus grout on the surface of tiles using a damp sponge before it begins to set.
Continue to work your way across the floor, grouting, finishing and wiping away any surplus. Once finished, avoid walking on the floor and leave the grout to harden. Check the manufacturer's instructions for how long this will take, as different grouts will vary.
Once the grout is set, wipe the floor again with a damp cloth and then with a dry one to remove any remaining traces of grout from the surface of the tiles.
Finish the floor by sealing the edges of the room with a line of silicon sealant (clear looks best) between the tiled floor and the edge of the wall or skirting board. This will help to protect against water ingress which could cause tiles to lift or allow mould to set in.