How to Tile a Bathroom Floor


Tiling a bathroom floor can totally transform the look and feel of your bathroom. With the right tiles and proper installation, you can create a stylish, water-resistant floor that will last for decades. While tiling a floor requires some specialized tools and materials, it is a DIY project that most homeowners can tackle successfully with good preparation and by following instructions.

In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through everything you need to know to tile a bathroom floor yourself, from choosing the right tiles and laying out your design, to preparing the subfloor and installing the tiles. We’ll share tips for cutting tiles, grouting, and sealing the grout to finish off your new DIY tiled bathroom floor. Let’s get started!

Choose the Right Tile and Layout for Your Bathroom

When deciding how to tile a bathroom floor, the first step is selecting the right tiles. Ceramic, porcelain, and natural stone tiles are commonly used for bathroom floors. Consider the following when choosing your tiles:

Tile Material:

  • Ceramic – Classic option; available in myriad colors/finishes from matte to gloss. Moderate durability.
  • Porcelain – Extremely durable, low water absorption. Good for high-traffic baths. Can mimic stone, wood looks.
  • Natural Stone – Marble, travertine, slate – elegance with unique veining. Requires sealing.

Texture and Finish: Matte or textured finishes provide grip. Use small mosaic tiles on shower floors. Larger tiles expand the space.

Color/Pattern: Neutrals like white/beige work well. Add interest with muted gray, taupe tiles with variation. Patterns create visual impact.

Cost: Ceramic and porcelain tiles tend to be lower cost. Natural stone costs more.

Once you select tiles, determine your layout. Think about tile orientation, pattern, transitions between shower/floor, and borders. Plan tile layout to minimize cuts. Here are some popular bathroom floor tile layouts:

  • Grid: Simple classic layout with tiles aligned in parallel rows and columns.
  • Linear: Tiles laid in straight parallel rows but offset by half a tile each row. Creates direction.
  • Herringbone: Tiles placed in an interlocking zigzag pattern. Adds visual interest.
  • Diagonal: Tiles set on a 45-degree angle. Makes space appear larger.
  • Combination: Mixing tile orientations (e.g. herringbone shower floor with brick floor layout).

Plan tile layout on graph paper first to visualize final design and tile cuts. Having a plan makes tiling go smoothly.

Prepare the Subfloor for Tiling

Prepping the subfloor is a crucial step for a long-lasting tile floor. The subfloor must be clean, smooth, and structurally sound so tiles adhere properly. Here’s how to prepare different types of subfloors:

Plywood Subfloor

Plywood is a common bathroom subfloor material. To prepare plywood:

  • Inspect for damage/weak spots and repair as needed with replacement boards.
  • Fill any cracks or holes with floor leveler compound.
  • Sand down high spots. Scrape off adhesive, staples, or debris.
  • Ensure seams between boards are smooth. Grind down as needed.
  • Sweep and vacuum thoroughly after prep.

Concrete Slab Subfloor

For concrete subfloors:

  • Fill low spots with leveler compound so surface is smooth. Allow to fully cure per manufacturer instructions.
  • Etch concrete with muriatic acid so tile mortar bonds better. Neutralize acid.
  • Check moisture level with test strips. May need proper sealing if moisture is high.
  • Clean thoroughly and let dry fully before tiling.
  • Apply primer if needed based on tile mortar manufacturer directions.

Existing Flooring Subfloor

Applying tile over existing flooring? Follow these tips:

  • Vinyl: Remove completely as tiles won’t bond to slippery vinyl. Fill any depressions.
  • Laminate: Remove laminate planks before tiling. Inspect subfloor for needed repairs.
  • Linoleum: Can apply tile over single layer in good condition. Scuff sand surface first for adhesion.
  • Tile: Verify existing tile is in good shape and well-bonded. Scuff up glazed surfaces. Use leveler for low areas.

Take time to properly prep and assess the subfloor. This provides a stable base for long-lasting tile floor.

Gather Tiling Tools and Materials

Tiling a bathroom floor requires having the right tools and materials on hand. Here’s a checklist of tiling essentials:


  • Tile cutter – essential for straight cuts
  • Wet saw – for detailed/angled tile cutting
  • Tile spacers – keep consistent grout lines between tiles
  • Tile nippers – nip off small tile sections after cutting
  • Rubber grout float – spreads and presses grout into joints
  • Trowel – for spreading mortar evenly
  • Level – check tiles are even during installation
  • Hammer – for tapping tiles into place
  • Tape measure
  • Pencil
  • Safety gear – gloves, eye protection, knee pads


  • Tile – calculate 10% extra for cuts/breakage
  • Tile mortar – amount needed depends on tile size
  • Grout – sanded grout for joints 1/8″ or larger
  • Sealer – waterproofing protection for grout and natural stone
  • Backerboard – cement or fiber-cement board provides solid foundation
  • Screws – backerboard and cement board screws

Having the right tiling tools and prep materials makes installing bathroom floor tile easier and more efficient. Invest in quality tools and don’t take shortcuts.

Install the Tile Backer Board

Installing a tile backer board provides a sturdy subsurface for bathroom tiles, helping prevent cracks and movement. Follow these steps:

  1. Measure area and cut boards to fit with utility knife.
  2. Fasten backer board to subfloor with backer board screws every 6-8 inches.
  3. Fill any gaps larger than 1/8″ between board joints with thinset mortar.
  4. Tape board joints with alkali-resistant fiberglass mesh tape.
  5. Cover all seams and corners with mortar skim coat to reinforce.
  6. Let mortar cure fully before tiling. Grind down any high spots.

Consider installing an uncoupling membrane like Schluter DITRA over the backer board for waterproofing and to allow independent movement between subfloor and tile.

Taking the time to properly install backer board prevents cracked grout and loose tiles down the road.

Layout Tiles and Apply Mortar

Once prep work is complete, it’s time to lay the tiles! Proper planning and mortar application creates a smooth installation process. Follow these best practices:

  • Dry lay tiles first without any adhesive to ensure your planned layout fits the space as desired. Adjust layout as needed before installing.
  • Mix mortar according to manufacturer directions. Only mix amounts that can be used in 15-20 minutes.
  • Use a notched trowel at a 45-degree angle to spread a thin, even layer of mortar over a section of the floor where tiles will be immediately installed.
  • Lay tiles gently into position, using spacers to maintain even grout line width of 1/8 inch or per tile recommendations.
  • Use a level and check work periodically to ensure tiles are even. Adjust any that are slightly higher/lower.
  • Don’t walk or kneel on freshly installed tiles. Allow mortar to cure fully before grouting.

Going slowly and working in small sections ensures mortar stays workable and doesn’t dry before tiles are set. This process creates a solid tile floor.

Cutting Tiles

Cutting tiles that fit around fixtures, edges, and other boundaries of your floor is part of the process. Follow these tips for accurate cuts:

  • Always wear safety goggles when cutting tiles.
  • Use a simple tile cutter aligned over measurement marks for straight cuts. Score with cutter then snap downward evenly.
  • For detailed cuts (L-shapes, curves etc.) use a wet saw fitted with a tile blade. Go slowly for precision cuts.
  • For small final adjustments, use tile nippers to nip away sections after cutting. File edges smooth.
  • Mix tile pieces from cuts together throughout floor so spacing looks random.
  • Slide cut tiles into position gently with mortar bed to avoid shifting.

Measure carefully, go slowly, and use proper tile cutting tools for solid results. The right cuts help tiles fit perfectly.

Grouting Tiles

Once tile mortar has fully cured (usually 24-48 hours), it’s time to grout. Grouting seals the joints between tiles. Follow these best practices:

  • Sweep and damp mop tiles before grouting to remove debris.
  • Apply grout sealer to tiles beforehand if needed based on tile porosity.
  • Follow product instructions to mix grout, only preparing what can be applied in 30 minutes.
  • Holding grout float at a 45° angle, force grout deeply into joints, scraping off excess.
  • Wipe diagonally across tiles with a damp sponge to smooth grout and clean tiles. Rinse sponge frequently.
  • Once grout haze has been cleaned off tile faces, allow area to dry for 72 hours, avoiding moisture.

Take care to fully seal joints while cleaning excess grout off tile surfaces. Well-grouted floors are sanitary and built to last.

Cure and Seal Grout

Fresh grout requires curing and sealing for maximum durability and stain resistance:

  • Allow grout to air dry 72 hours before light foot traffic. Wait 7-10 days for normal use.
  • Apply grout sealer according to manufacturer directions. Two coats ensures protection.
  • Re-apply grout sealer every 1-2 years depending on traffic. Look for signs of wear.
  • Avoid chemical cleaners on sealed grout that can degrade sealer over time. Use neutral pH cleaners.
  • Re-seal natural stone tiles every 1-2 years with a stone sealer for protection.

Proper curing and sealing locks in grout strength and resists stains, cracks, and damage. This finishing step gives your new tile floor long-lasting appeal.

FAQs About Tiling a Bathroom Floor

Tiling a bathroom floor yourself can seem daunting. Here are answers to some frequently asked DIY tiling questions:

How difficult is it for a beginner to tile a bathroom floor?

With good preparation, patience, and proper technique, tiling a floor as a DIY beginner is totally doable. Have realistic expectations. Watch online tutorials. Invest in quality tools. Accept imperfections. Get experienced advice if needed. Go slowly and focus on small sections at a time.

What mistakes should I avoid when tiling a bathroom floor?

Don’t rush! Allow adequate dry times for subfloor prep and mortar curing. Carefully follow product mix and application instructions. Prevent loose tiles down the road by ensuring backer board and tiles are solidly bonded to subfloor. Prevent cracked grout by applying grout properly and sealing once cured.

How do I remove existing bathroom flooring to prepare for new tile?

Carefully pry up vinyl flooring – the backing often stays stuck down. Remove linoleum sheet flooring with a heat gun or chemical stripper. Take out existing floor trim prior for clean results. For removing ceramic tile, a rotary hammer with chisel attachment makes the job easier. Wear eye and breathing protection.

Should I hire a pro to tile my bathroom floor?

For DIYers with beginner tile skills, hiring a professional tiler is advisable for complex designs, natural stone installation, large floors, or tricky site conditions. Pros have specialized tools and experience for top results. For small floors, a handy homeowner can tackle tiling themselves with proper planning.

What’s the best grout to use on a bathroom floor?

Sanded grout is best for bathroom floors. It provides durable, water-resistant joints 1/8 inch and wider. Be sure to seal sanded grout after it cures to prevent stains. Unsanded grout is only for smaller mosaic-style tile joints.


Installing tile on a bathroom floor brings long-lasting beauty and easy-clean functionality when done properly. Following the techniques for subfloor prep, tile layout, cutting, mortar application, grouting, and sealing outlined above will help you successfully tackle tiling your bathroom floor. While it takes some investment of time and tools, the sense of accomplishment and years of enjoyment from a stylish new tiled bathroom floor make the effort worthwhile.