How to Prepare for Tile Installation

Installing tiles is easier than you think and can be accomplished by yourself! This is a two-step guide to plan and setup your tiles installation project for success.

Step 1: Prepare Materials and Tools


  • Tiles: Measure the area you want to cover and determine the total surface area for your project. You will want to purchase about 10% more than the area to cover so you have enough pieces for any cuts and accidental breakages. Also be sure to calculate for any trim tile at borders, accents, and edges to ensure you get all the types of tile you need.
  • Mortar: Mortars are used to bind one surface to another. You might spread mortar on the foundation to get your tiles to stick to the floor and stay in place. Mortar contains lime, water, sand, and cement. Typically, mortar has a thick consistency to make it spreadable.
  • Thin set: Very often, people refer to thin set as mortar. It works great with glass tiles and serves the function of getting tile to stick to a surface. You might use thin set as your adhesive if you plan to tile a shower floor or use heavier materials.
  • Grout: Applying grout is one of the last steps of the process of tiling your floor. After you have given the mortar time to cure, use grout to fill the surfaces between the tiles. Grout may also contain cement, but it’s much thinner to make it pourable. It is available in different types and many colors. The two main types of grout are sanded and un-sanded. 


  • Tape measure
  • Trowel
  • Mastic
  • Wall tile including trim
  • Bucket for water
  • Tile cutter
  • Wet tile saw
  • Tile cutter

Step 2: Get the Walls Ready for Tile

Protect the space: Turn off the power in the working area. Tape off outlets, switches, cabinets and the area where your countertops meet the walls with a drop cloth or paper and tape. It’s always a good idea to properly protect your workspace; also, it makes clean up much easier. Move freestanding appliances away from the walls.

Prepare the Walls: Clean the walls with a mixture of trisodium phosphate (TSP) and water according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Check the flatness and condition of the wall. Fill dents, dips and ripples more than 1/16 inch deep with joint compound. Let it dry and then you can sand it to smooth the surface.

Plan the Tile Layout: To ensure a symmetrical layout from end-to-end, measure and mark the center point of each area being tiled. Some tile patterns work best when centered on a focal point, such as the faucet or stove. Do a dry run to plan your layout by lining up the edge of one tile with the center mark, then place tiles side by side to determine how many tiles will be needed and the width of the end pieces. If cut tile will be too narrow, adjust the layout to allow you to cut wider pieces at both sides. Then, check the vertical layout to see where the tile will end at the top of the installation, make a jury stick. Mark a straight board using the tile and spacers for the vertical layout.

Now that you got the materials, tools, and a layout plan, you are all prepared to start installing the tiles!