How to Install Ceramic Tile on Plywood


Not only does ceramic tile add a distinct beauty to your home, it is also easy to care for and quite durable. Clean up is a snap. Floors require occasional sweeping and scrubbing, while counters and other surfaces can be washed with a mild cleaning detergent. Installing ceramic tile on a surface such as plywood is a moderately easy job for the handy do-it-yourselfer. With the right tools and a little background information, the job can be completed over a long weekend.

Things You'll Need

  • Notched trowel Tile nippers Tile saw or cutter Float Sponge Thin set mortar Bucket Grout Ceramic tile Cement fiber board Galvanized screws Level Ruler Chalk line Pencil Rubber gloves

Applying Tile

  • Screw down cement fiber board over the plywood to ensure that the surface is level.

  • Mark two intersecting lines (a plus mark) with a ruler and pencil in the middle of the room. This will help you keep your tiles even.

  • Spread a small amount of thin-set mortar in the center of the room at the intersecting lines.

  • Place a tile in the mortar flush with a corner of the intersecting lines. Give tile a slight twist to make sure it is properly embedded. Use a level to ensure it is a level surface. Place the second tile on the intersecting lines next to the first tile and put a spacer in between them. The spacer size will depend on how wide you want your grout lines. Continue working out from the center of the room, checking for level frequently.

  • When you get to a space too small to fit an entire tile, you will need to cut the tile to size. Measure the area and add a quarter inch to allow for expansion. Cut the tile to the correct size using a tile saw or tile cutter. A tile nipper can be used for odd angles or corners. Spread thin-set mortar on the back of the cut tile and set in place.

  • Remove the spacers from the grout lines and clean excess cement from the cracks. Allow 24 hours drying time before grouting.

Applying Grout

  • Read grout package directions and mix accordingly. The mixture should be the consistency of cake batter.

  • Use a float to push the grout into the cracks. Scrape excess grout from the flooring by holding the float at a 60-degree angle and scraping across the tile. Let the grout dry for a few minutes.

  • Use a bucket of clean water and a sponge to clean the grout from the tiles. Wipe the tiles until all the grout is removed.

  • Wait at least 10 days to seal the grout lines.

Tips & Warnings

  • Place cement fiber board 1/4-inch from the wall to allow for expansion. If the room is large, use a chalk line to create the bisecting lines on the floor. Depending upon the size of your room, you may need to install the tile in sections and let them dry. Cleaning the grout will require several refills of clean water. Apply silicone caulk between floor and wall to allow for expansion.
  • Never dump grout water into sink. This can permanently damage plumbing pipes.

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