How to Lay Tiles on Floor Boards


Tiling over floorboards is a job that can only be successfully undertaken if the appropriate preparation work is carried out first, and how you prep your floor will be dependent on what kind of tile you are intending to lay. For man-made tiles, including porcelain and ceramics, you first need to over-clad your floorboards with plywood sheeting of minimum 12mm thickness, while for natural products, such as marble and stone, plywood of at least 18mm is recommended for a stronger, more rigid surface. Before starting work, it is important to first calculate the increased floor height that will result from the necessary layers of ply-sheet, under-grout, add them to the depth of the proposed tile, and check that this overall raised level won't be prohibitive to the task ahead.

Things You'll Need

  • Plywood sheeting
  • 40mm wood screws with self-countersinking heads
  • Screwdriver
  • Circular saw
  • Pliers
  • Expose existing floorboards and clean thoroughly, scraping away any bonded surface material if necessary, check for protruding nails and remove with pliers. Replace or repair any badly damaged areas.

  • Select plywood of appropriate thickness for the type of tile to be used. A minimum 12mm thickness is recommended for tiles composed of man-made materials (including porcelain and ceramics), while a thicker gauge ply of at least 18mm is advised for tiles cut from natural materials such as marble, slate and stone.

  • Make sure you have sufficient plywood to cover the proposed area and cut sheets to fit, using a circular saw to avoid excessive ripping along cut edges. It is likely that more than one sheet of plywood may be required, in this instance ensure sheet edges butt flush and level to each other, and try to keep jointing to a minimum for a smoother working surface.

  • Lay pre-cut sheeting over entire surface area, ensuring that all joints between sheets run at a right angle to the direction of the floorboards.

  • Fix plywood sheets to the floorboards below using 40mm self-countersinking head wood screws at regular 150mm intervals ensuring that heads are driven into the plywood firmly enough to counter-sink flush for an entirely smooth working surface. Your chosen tile finish can now be laid in the usual manner.

Tips & Warnings

  • When laying tiles always use a flexible adhesive specified for the type of tile you're laying. Some bonding adhesives can be fast acting so ensure your tiles are pre-cut ready to fit the area before application.
  • When cutting plywood sheeting with a circular saw it is advisable to make sure the sheet is safely secured to a worktable or bench.

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  • Photo Credit Tiled floor image by Simon Amberly from
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