DIY Tutorials: What They Don’t Tell You About Laying Your Own Tile


In the hierarchy of DIY flooring, tiling lies smack-dab in the middle in terms of ease. It’s probably not quite as low-effort as installing click-lock flooring or vinyl planks, yet not nearly as laborious as laying hardwood. Anyone who’s confident wielding a rubber mallet and knows her way around a tile cutter is a good candidate for DIY tile installation. Oh, and it also helps if the installer is precision-driven and not afraid of a little math.

Not keen on doing it yourself? Here’s a reason to reconsider: In the end, installing your own flooring can save you a ton, especially if it’s tile. According to Home Advisor, the cost of paying a professional to install tile floors is typically around $4 to $14 per square foot, which means you could save more than $2,000 on installation in your 150-square-foot kitchen if you opt to go the DIY route.

Budget-minded renovators will definitely want to consider paying in elbow grease to save a little money, especially if the home is a rental, a flip, or a part-time residence. This also means you can shoot for higher-quality materials, like hardier porcelain tile, marble, or granite, and that you can funnel your extra money into other rooms and projects.

Know Before You Begin

Of course, the best tile-layers are experienced ones, so you might want to consider starting off in a small area for practice, such as a minimally trafficked closet or a bathroom in the basement. While YouTube and other online resources are great for general reference, don’t rely on them for step-by-step guidance. Every space is unique and has its own challenges, so it’s well worth your while to keep a pro on speed dial with any questions.

  • Special Tools Are Needed — The first rule of DIY home improvement: Get to know the layout of the hardware store. Laying tile flooring does require some special floor installation supplies and tools, including a tile cutter, tile spacers, and a notched trowel. The list below is a general idea of what you’ll need to complete your first tile project.

  • Tiles
  • Tile cutter
  • Mortar
  • Caulk
  • Floor screws
  • Joint sealer
  • Grout sealer
  • Buckets
  • Tile spacers
  • Notched trowel
  • Level
  • Pencil
  • Carpenter’s square
  • Hammer
  • Pull bar
  • Tape measurer
  • Rubber float
  • Rubber mallet
  • Knee pads
  • Rubber gloves
  • Sponge
  • Cleaning cloths
  • There Will Be Hiccups — The second rule of DIY home improvement: Brace yourself for mishaps. Miscalculated cuts, not enough materials, accidental breaks—these things happen to the best of us, even seasoned pros. Enter any do-it-yourself project with room for error, both in the schedule and in the budget, in order to properly account for hiccups.

  • Precision Is Required — If you find that even the slightest imperfections gnaw at you, know that you’ll need to spend a fair amount of time plotting your tiling plan for a perfectly neat result. The truth is that tiles come in many different sizes and thicknesses, and there’s a very low chance that all of the angles in your home are a perfect 90 degrees. Get comfortable with your tile calculator and graph paper before you crack the grout bucket, and don’t skimp on perfecting essentials like tile spacers.



  • It’s Messy — Did we mention that laying tile is not for the dirt-shy? Getting your hands, clothes, and tools dirty is a requisite anytime you’re working with grout. You don’t want to compromise the finish of your beautiful floor tiles, so working quickly and constantly addressing drips, spills, stains, and splashes will help ensure that you get a flawless result when you’re done. Make sure that you don’t skimp on the cleaning supplies.

  • You Should Have a Partner — Working in pairs of two or three can seriously speed up your tile-laying endeavor. It’s a great idea to get a sort of assembly line going so that you can cover larger sections before the grout dries. You might consider having one person do the cuts while the other person lays the tile.

  • It’s a Multi-Step Process — Don’t set aside a few hours of your Saturday to lay tile, as several days are generally needed to account for setting and drying times. Many professionals start with a “dry lay,” where they cut and set the tiles in the space without grout, to ensure that everything is properly calculated and cut. Once the tile itself is actually laid, it’ll need to dry before you can apply your sealant. You’ll also want to do a deep clean after the sealer has dried, which could add a whole extra day.

  • It’s Easy to Mess Up — Yes, tile flooring is relatively easy to install. No, it’s not foolproof. It’s vital that you don’t enter your tile-laying project with the mindset that nothing can go wrong. There are tons of different variables to consider, and mistakes are common. Take it slow and think hard about every decision, deferring to an expert if you can’t come up with a sound answer.

  • But You Can Definitely Do It — With all of this in mind, plenty of novices complete successful, pro-looking tile floor installations every year, so don’t be intimidated. With the right amount of preparation and expert advice, you’ll be able to do the job yourself with minimal hiccups. Take it slow and never rush, even if you’re nearing your deadline.


Bonus: It’s Super Rewarding

At the end of the day, even if everything doesn’t go perfectly, you’ll undoubtedly feel accomplished when you install your own flooring. The feeling you get debuting your sparkly new floor to visitors is well worth all the effort, while the money saved will help you stay under budget. Like with anything, practice makes perfect when tiling, so do it as much as you can before completing a big project.

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