How to Lay Ceramic Tile on Concrete

Concrete is one of the easiest surfaces for installing ceramic floor tiles.
Concrete is one of the easiest surfaces for installing ceramic floor tiles. (Image: Jupiterimages/ Images)

Are you sick of looking at your boring concrete floor? Laying down ceramic tile will give your floor some style. Concrete is actually one of the easier flooring types on which to install ceramic tile. Most concrete floors need little to no prep work. By installing the ceramic tile yourself you will save quite a bit of money by not hiring a contractor. In addition, you can buy ceramic tile at discount flooring and home improvement stores, saving even more money.

Things You'll Need

  • Precision aluminum/magnesium straight edge
  • Flashlight
  • Leveling compound
  • Mop
  • Tri-sodium phosphate
  • Bucket
  • Scrub brush
  • Concrete-based floor leveler
  • Concrete sealer
  • Tile cutter
  • Tile
  • Water
  • Mortar
  • Grooved trowel
  • Rags
  • Grout
  • Grout float
  • Spacers
  • Chalk
  • Grout sealer

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Preparing the Floor

Check the flatness of the floor by laying a flashlight on the floor and aiming the light parallel to the edge of a precision aluminum or magnesium straight edge. This will expose any uneven spots or dips in the floor.

Fill in the uneven spots in the floor with a cement-based floor leveling compound. Pour the compound into the uneven spots and spread it with a mop.

Clean the floor after the leveling compound has dried. Use a bucket of the tri-sodium phosphate solution and a scrub brush to get rid of any dirt.

Seal the concrete according to the manufacturer's instructions. Use a brush or a sprayer, depending on which sealer you have. Apply concrete sealer only when the floor is dry.

Installing the Tiles

Mix the mortar with water according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Spread the mortar over a small area (enough for three or four tiles) using the grooved trowel.

Start at the center of the room and mark chalk lines that go out to the center of each wall. The lines form your laying guide. If you are not comfortable laying your tiles right into the mortar, lay them on the dry floor first to see if you like the layout.

Lay the tiles into the mortar, using spacers between each one.

Wipe the tiles off with a damp rag as you go.

Finish the edges. Once you reach the end of the room, cut and lay the tile to fit against the wall and around permanent objects.

Let the mortar dry for the time specified by manufacturer.

Mix the grout with water as specified on the instructions and liberally spread it over the tiles using a grout float.

Wipe excess grout using a damp rag.

Wait for the grout to dry. Repeat steps 7 and 8.

Wash the floor. After the grout has dried thoroughly, use a wet rag to wash the surface of the entire floor.

Allow the floor to dry and then wash it again with a wet rag.

Apply a grout sealer, usually found in spray form. Make sure the floor and grout have dried completely before applying the sealer.

Wipe any sealer off the ceramic tiles to avoid stains.

Tips & Warnings

  • Tiles can crack when being laid if you have hollow space between the floor and the tile. Take time to fill in the holes and uneven spots in your floor. Jumbo tiles can crack easier than 12-inch or smaller tiles.
  • Do not mix too much mortar in advance or it will set before you can use it.


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