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Updated on March 7, 2023

Do it yourself

How to Lay Floor Tiles

Learn how to install ceramic tiles on your floor in just a few steps to enhance the look of your kitchen, bathroom, mudroom, or entryway, all at a reasonable cost.

Difficulty level: Pro
Duration: 3-5 days
Before You Start
Tile can be installed over various types of subfloor. The most common and suitable materials for the subfloor are concrete, plywood and cement board.

Make sure to choose floor tiles. See our buying guide on ceramic tiles for more information.

Decide on the pattern of your tiles: you will need it to draw the reference lines.

Tile selection will impact the size and type of tools needed, like the trowel, spacers, glue and more, so it’s essential to plan ahead.
Person marking a line on a door casingPerson solidifying a plywood subfloor

Prepare the Room and the Surface

  • 1.1Start by taking out all doors and baseboards.
  • 1.2Remove the old tiles if needed.
  • 1.3To shorten doorframes if needed:
    1. Place a tile against the doorframe.
    2. Mark 1/16" above with a pencil.
    3. Cut along this mark with a handsaw.
  • 1.4The surface must be clean, dry, and level. If the subfloor is made of plywood sheets, it’s preferable to solidify it by screwing the plywood into the joists:
    1. To know where to place your screws, look for existing screws or nails in the subfloor.
    2. Then add the screws next to these screws or nails. The goal is to have a screw every 6" along the edges of the boards and in the middle of the plywood.
    3. Use 1½" floor screws.
    This way, the floor won’t move, and tiles won’t crack.

Pro Tip

A plywood subfloor needs to be 1¼” thick, which is the thickness of two 5/8” panels.

How many tiles should you buy?

Use our calculator to estimate the right number of tiles to purchase.
Person cutting a flooring membranePerson spreading mortar on a subfloorPerson laying a membrane onto the floor

Add an Uncoupling Membrane

  • 2.1Start by measuring out the length and width of the room.
  • 2.2Roll out the uncoupling membrane and mark the measurements onto the membrane with a permanent marker.
  • 2.3Cut the membrane with a utility knife.
  • 2.4Lay the membrane out dry in the room to confirm the size. If there are any places to trim or cut out, like around a toilet drain, mark them with a permanent marker and cut out.
  • 2.5Remove the membrane from the room and sweep the floor, then wipe down with a lightly dampened sponge.
  • 2.6Mix up mortar in a bucket according to the instructions on the packaging.
  • 2.7With a 5/16” x 5/16” notched trowel, spread the mortar over the entire floor.
  • 2.8Lay the membrane in place in the fresh mortar.
  • 2.9Using the grout float or a block of wood, press the membrane into the mortar over the whole floor to ensure good adhesion.

Pro Tip

Once you get to the end of the room, lift a corner of the membrane to ensure that it has made good contact with the mortar and then press it firmly back in place. As soon as the membrane is installed, you can move to the next step, as it does not need to dry first.

Test the Layout

  • 3.1Set tiles down on the floor, arranging them in the desired pattern and placement—just 1-2 horizontal and vertical rows should do the trick.
  • 3.2Centre the tiles in the space to ensure equal cuts on both sides. This dry layout will help you plan what cuts you’ll have to make. Keep in mind that placing larger tiles along the edges will look better.
  • 3.3Based on the remaining space on each end of the rows, determine the shifting necessary to obtain equal spacing on each end.
  • 3.4Use a spacer between each tile to ensure even joints.
  • 3.5Using a level, create straight reference lines.


The next 3 steps should be done at the same time. Working 2-3 tiles at a time, apply mortar and make cuts while placing the tiles to avoid having to walk on freshly installed tiles. Continue until a row in almost complete, then cut the last tile to size and move on to the next row.
Person spreading mortarPerson creating mortar ridges

Spread the Mortar

  • 4.1Remove the tiles.
  • 4.2Sweep the floor well and wipe with a slightly dampened sponge.
  • 4.3Mix the mortar according to the instructions on the packaging.
  • 4.4Spread a first layer of mortar, enough to fill the indentations in the membrane.
  • 4.5Spread another layer on top. This thickness is necessary to create ridges with the trowel.
  • 4.6Holding the trowel at a 45° angle, create ridges in the mortar using the notched edge; the ridges should all be made in the same direction.

Pro Tip

If you’re working on plywood directly, apply a first layer of mortars to even out the surface, then another to create better adhesion for the tiles.

Follow these trowel size recommendations:

  • 1/4" x 1/4" trowel: 4" x 4" to 8" x 8" tiles
  • 1/4" x 3/8" trowel: 8" x 8" to 13" x 13" tiles
  • 1/2" x 1/2" trowel: 12" x 24" to 24" x 24" tiles

Person laying a ceramic tilePerson adding spacers between tiles

Lay the Tiles

  • 5.1Following the reference lines closely, gently lay down 2-3 tiles.
  • 5.2Press down the tiles, rocking gently back and forth perpendicular to the trowel lines for better adhesion.
  • 5.3Use tile spacers to ensure even joints.
  • 5.4With a level, check that the tiles are at the same height.
  • 5.5With a rubber mallet, lightly tap on uneven tiles.

Pro Tip

For tiles larger than 12" on any side, we suggest applying a thin coat of mortar on the back to keep them firmly in place.

Use a Levelling System Instead

This is one way to do it, but did you know that you can also lay down tiles with a levelling system? Follow our guide to learn how.
Person using a tape measure

Make the Cuts

  • 6.1Measure the gap between the last row and the wall. We recommend taking several measurements in case the wall isn’t perfectly straight.
  • 6.2From those measurements, subtract the width of the expansion joint and desired spacing.
  • 6.3Transfer the measurements onto the tile, then trace a line connecting the markings.
  • 6.4Cut the tile to size (see section below).
  • 6.5Repeat to cover the entire floor.

Select the Right Cutting Tool

Not sure what tool to use? Make sure to read on!

Tile Cutter
  • Pros: cheapest and easiest way to cut a straight line
  • Cons: can’t be used for round cuts or L-shaped cuts
How to Use:
  1. Align the mark on the tile with the line down the middle of the tile cutter.
  2. Starting at one end of the tile, glide the cutting wheel along the line with firm and steady pressure, then apply firm pressure at the end of the cut line with the breaker foot.
Note: If you find that the tile tends to break unevenly, try changing to a new blade.

Wet Saw
  • Pros: works on every type of tile, easy to make L shaped cuts or cuts that aren’t wide, better for rough or uneven surfaces, natural stone, or very small cuts
  • Cons: more expensive, long to set up, needs to be set up outside or in an area where water splashing isn’t a concern, personal protection equipment needed (eye protection, hearing protection, gloves)
How to Use:
  1. Align the tile with the blade, ensuring that it sits flat on the cutting table and square to the cutting fence.
  2. Turn the wet saw on, and slowly push the cutting table towards the blade, keeping your hands in the safety zone indicated on the cutting table.
  3. Make sure to go slowly through the last bit of tile to avoid chipping.
  4. Once the cut is complete, turn the wet saw off before pulling the cut table back.
  5. For an L shaped cut, repeat the same process for your next cut line.

  • Pros: best choice for round or uneven cuts, or cuts that do not connect to the outer edges of the tile
  • Cons: loud, dusty, and difficult to master, personal protection equipment needed (eye protection, hearing protection, gloves)
How to Use:
  1. Place the tile on the workbench with a scrap piece of plywood behind it and clamp it down.
  2. Use the grinder to slowly trace the line marked.
Note: For cuts with uneven shapes, like those around a pipe, use a grinder with a diamond grit blade.

Pro Tip

You should always wear personal protective equipment (such as safety goggles, a dust mask, and safety gloves) when operating power tools.

Person using pliersPerson using a putty knife

Let Dry

  • 8.1When the entire surface is tiled, allow to dry according to the instructions on the packaging (usually for 24 hours) without walking on the surface.
  • 8.2Remove the spacers, using a utility knife if needed.
  • 8.3Make sure no mortar is blocking the joints or overflowing on the sides. Remove any excess with a putty knife.
Person applying grout

Apply the Grout

  • 9.1Once the mortar is completely dry, clean the tiles with a lightly dampened sponge, making sure that there is no mortar residue on the tiles.
  • 9.2Prepare the grout following the package instructions.
  • 9.3Pour some of the grout directly onto the tiles and work it well into the joints with a rubber float. Work section by section while holding the float at a 45° angle.
  • 9.4Wipe off the excess with a damp sponge as you go, making sure to rinse the sponge frequently.
  • 9.5Wipe again at least 2-3 times to get a good result, making sure to replace the dirty water with clean water each time.
  • 9.6If you notice that there are places where grout is missing, simply add a little more.
  • 9.7Allow to fully dry. Refer to the product packaging to know how long to wait before stepping on the floor.
  • 9.8When everything is dry, clean the tiles with a dry and soft cloth.
  • 9.9Put the mouldings and doors back in place.

Pro Tip

Have 2 buckets of clean water to go from one to the other


These DIY projects are provided for informational purposes only. The information contained in RONA’s DIYs is intended to provide general guidelines to simplify jobs around the house. Because tools, products, materials, techniques, building codes, and local regulations are continually changing, RONA inc. assumes no responsibility for the accuracy of the information contained herein and disclaims any liability for the omissions, errors, or outcome of any project. RONA inc. makes no representation on the feasibility of any project and the viewer bears all risks coming with the realization of the projects. It is the responsibility of the viewer to ensure compliance with all applicable laws, rules, codes, and regulations for a project. The viewer must always take proper safety precautions and exercise caution when taking on any project. If there is any doubt in regard to any element of a project, please consult a licensed professional. 

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