Tiles come in a variety of materials, the most common being ceramic. The range varies from marble to granite.


Ceramic tiles are light weight clay-based tiles. They are pressed at a lower pressure rate and fired at lower temperatures than porcelain tiles. This manufacturing process means they are always finished with a durable glaze which carries the colour and pattern. This glaze can be either gloss or matte or in some instances, there can be an additive to the glaze that gives the tile an external rating. The edge of a ceramic tile is generally not rectified which means the tiles should not be laid any closer than 3mm-5mm, depending on the quality of the substrate.

Key benefits of ceramic tiles include:

  • They are used in both wall and floor applications.
  • They are great for walls in any area of the home as they are cost effective whilst still giving a superior look.
  • They are softer and easier to cut than porcelain which makes the installation cost more affordable.
  • They usually carry a PEI ratings 1 to 5. (See tile tile ratings for more info).
  • They are suitable for light to moderate traffic.

Porcelain tiles are made using very fine, high quality materials with high silica content. Pressed at a high pressure rate and fired at high temperatures, they are typically much less porous than other tiles and do not always require sealing.

Porcelain tiles can either be glazed (with a gloss, matte or textured finish) or unglazed (with a natural, polished or textured finish).

To provide our customers with the best choice, ColorTile can offer all finishes for each range.

Typically large format porcelain tiles are rectified which means that the tiles are cut after manufacture to ensure that that they are square. This allows for the tiles to be laid with a minimal grout line of 1.5mm as per Australian standards.
As a result of manufacturers around the world embracing continuous improvements and progressive development in technologies used for unglazed porcelain, ColorTile also offers full-bodied porcelain, double-loaded porcelain and soluble salts.


This has the same surface as the body. There are two main versions, the speckled (salt and pepper) version and the micronized grain version.


This is composed of fine speckle biscuit and micronized topping. The two layers are pressed together prior to firing.


These are composed of metal oxides and water which are spread through a screen on white porcelain. This then penetrates the body of the tile and releases the colouring during firing.

Key benefits of porcelain tiles include:

  • They absorb 0.5% water or less which makes them suitable for humid areas like bathrooms, terraces or kitchens.
  • Both glazed and unglazed porcelain tiles are extremely durable making them suitable for any application, from light traffic to the heaviest residential and light commercial traffic.
  • Full-bodied and double-loaded porcelain tiles carry the colour and pattern into the tile, making it far more durable. It is suitable for any application ranging from residential to high-traffic commercial and industrial conditions.

Mosaic tiles are very small tiles, typically less than 100mm square and are most commonly known as splashback tiles due to their popularity as a finish for kitchen and bathroom splashbacks. They are available in many different materials including porcelain, ceramic, glass, natural stone and others. They also come in various finishes.

Commonly sold pre-mounted on mesh or paper sheets around 300x300mm in size, these sheets can be cut down to generate a pattern when mixed with other tiles. For example a 300x300mm sheet of 50x50mm mosaics could but cut down into narrower strips and joined together end to end to create a feature in a shower wall.

Key benefits of mosaic tiles include:

  • Mosaics are used generally as feature tiles to enhance a room.
  • They can be used as splashback tiles in kitchens and bathrooms.
  • They are bright and can add character without being over-powering.
  • They can be a bold and dynamic statement reflecting the home owner’s personality.
  • ColorTile mosaics are made from the highest quality products from around the globe.

As the name would suggest, stone is a natural product. Unlike the manufacture of porcelain and ceramic tiles (which takes a raw material and processes it into a new controlled material), the production of natural stone aims to preserve as much of its natural appearance (including naturally occurring faults) as possible.

Key benefits of natural stone include:

  • Natural stone has been a primary construction material since man first lived in a cave and painted on its stone walls.
  • Whil natural stone must be maintained to ensure that it continues to look as beautiful in the future as the day it was installed, it is possible to have stone floors resurfaced in years to come.
  • Natural stone gives any interior an element of style and refinement. The polished finish adds formality to a space while a honed finish provides a more organic look.

This is a man-made product composed of a blend of natural minerals and man-made agents such as polyester, glass, epoxy, and other similar ingredients.

Key benefits of engineered stone include:

  • This product can give the appearance of a “stone-like” surface, but it does not possess the characteristics of a natural stone.
  • It is a cheaper alternative to natural stone.

Like mosaic tiles, border tiles can be manufactured from almost any material, from glass to porcelain and ceramic. ColorTile has a range of border tiles (200mm x 60mm) which can work well with many of our wall tiles.

Key benefits of border tiles include:

  • Border tiles are a cost effective way of adding a feature to a tiled area such as a kitchen splashback or shower recess.
  • Border tiles can be used as a capping tile when only tiling part way up a wall.

Both ceramic and porcelain tiles are produced the same way, but the difference can be attributed to the pressing and firing process which renders the porcelain tile a superior product. Porcelain tiles are denser, harder wearing and less porous, with a very low absorption rate of under 0.05% compared to ceramic absorption rate of 5% or less.

Porcelain tiles are generally not glazed over and colour runs right through them to be polished, honed or produced in a natural finish. Ceramic tiles on the other hand are almost always finished with a durable glaze which carries the colour and pattern.

As porcelain tiles do not have this protective glaze, most of these tiles require special maintenance.

Porcelain tiles can be used in almost any internal and external application and are available in many finishes and sizes in the same series and colour formats. A high percentage of new home buyers and renovators will choose a porcelain tile due to its strength and beauty.

Ceramic tiles are low maintenance, are available in an endless colour range and are produced at a low cost. They are more suitable for use in domestic areas although chips may be noticeable due to the interior of the tile being coloured differently.

A hybrid option is to have a glazed porcelain tile which is popular for time-conscious builders and home owners. If you are a Sydney or NSW resident looking for ceramic tiles, contact ColorTile for service and advice.


Double-loaded porcelain is manufactured with two layers of porcelain pressed together and fired. The top layer (approx 2-5mm thick) and base porcelain are pressed together under high pressure. The top layer is made up of porcelain clays that have been randomly infused with various dyes, which create a beautiful range of colour combinations and patterns similar to natural stones.

ColorTile has a good selection of double-loaded porcelain tiles which range in colour, size, design and price.


Both ceramic and porcelain are available with a high reflection. Glazed ceramics and porcelains are referred to as gloss while full-bodied or double-loaded porcelains are referred to as polished. The name for the type of reflection indicates the method by which it is achieved.

“Gloss” refers to the type of glaze used. “Polished” refers to the mechanical polishing process which occurs after the tile is manufactured.


Glaze is made up of ground glass and colour pigments which are used to create unique designs. It is a surface covering that is vitrified by firing and strongly adhered to the ceramic or porcelain body tile.


For commercial application it is necessary that all materials comply with relevant standards (see wear resistance in the tile ratings section). Domestically, there is more scope for you, the consumer, to make up your own mind based on practical information and your own needs. However it is also wise to remember that polished porcelain or gloss glazed ceramic and porcelain tiles are more slippery than natural porcelain, or a matte glazed ceramic or porcelain tile.

Below are some of the points to consider when deciding if a polished or gloss floor tile is suitable for your project:

  • Does anyone in your home require care? Moving around and showering can be more difficult and dangerous on a reflective floor.
  • How stable are you on your feet?
  • Do you wear socks or stockings when getting yourself organised in the morning?

It is important to think about how you live and who will be living on the new floor, both now and into the future. This will help you make the right decision about the most appropriate tile finish for you.


Economy grade tiles are generally priced in the cheapest price bracket as they are a mixture of first and second quality products which are graded by the factory at the time of manufacture. In most cases people buying economy graded tiles should expect some slight colour and size variations along with some small surface imperfections. Laid using some basic knowledge the end result will still look great.


ColorTile stocks the most popular shapes of tiles which are square and rectangular but you can also find tiles that are hexagonal and octagonal.


The four most popular ways to lay your tiles are:

  • Brick pattern (not recommended for tile sizes larger than 300×600 due to the natural cupping and bowing of the tiles during firing)
  • Stacked pattern
  • Diamond pattern
  • Herringbone pattern (not recommended for tile sizes larger than 300×600 due to the natural cupping and bowing of the tiles during firing)

For most tile patterns we suggest you order 10% more tiles than you think you might use due to the wastage generated by cuts and breakages. This extra order should be increased to 15% if laying a diamond pattern of tiles.


A rectified tile is a tile that has been cut after manufacture to ensure that it is truly square. For example, a production batch of ceramic tiles which have been manufactured at 305mm x 610mm will all be re-cut to 300×600 at the same time to ensure they are all the same size and are truly square.

The reason why tilers charge more to lay a rectified tile is that typically they are laid at 1.5mm spacing (minimum allowed by Australian standards) to provide a beautiful finish. This is more difficult to lay than wider spacing as wider grout lines give more room for movement during installation. If the tiles are rectified and the grout line is 1.5mm then the tiler must ensure that the substrate is as level and perfect as possible. The thinner grout lines also mean that there is less room for error. This is time consuming work and so the installation cost reflects the extra time and care required for the job.


Vitrified means that the tile does not absorb water. Glaze vitrified means that the tile has been glazed.


A non-vitrified tile is considered non-vitreous when water absorption exceeds 7%.


Floor tiles can vary by 0.75% and still be within the Australian standard. A 400mm x 400mm floor tile can vary from 397mm to 403mm. Tile sizes are only ever given as nominal measurements.


Outdoor tiles are exposed to harsher conditions and therefore need to be resistant to the elements, such as rain and frost.

ColorTile has a wide selection of tiles designed specifically for indoor and outdoor use.


Absorption is the ability of the tile to take up liquids or vapours. Absorption plays a key role when it comes to outdoors, kitchen and bathroom tiles. Ceramic tiles absorb 5% or less while porcelain tiles normally absorb less than 0.5%.


Nano finishing is a pre-seal which eliminates the need to seal polished porcelain tiles after they are installed.

Key benefits of sealed tiles include:

  • It increases water and dirt resistance
  • The lifespan of a nano sealant lasts between 6-10 years.
  • The sealant is anti-bacterial
  • The anti-sticking technology prevents dirt from adhering to the surface and so the tile is easy to clean and stain free.
  • Tile surfaces are no longer prone to mouldy growth.
  • Sealed tiles are ideal for bathrooms, kitchens and any other wet area in the home.


Reference Resources

Cleaning tiles

Tile Maintenance & Care


While tile floors are one of the easiest to maintain they still do need some care to retain their original beauty over time. The following tips will ensure floors that will continue to be admired year after year.

  • Sweep or vacuum your glazed tile regularly.
  • Wash or mop your floors often to remove any dirt or grit. Use a mild, diluted detergent solution when cleaning.
  • Avoid ammonia-based cleaners as they may discolor some types of coloured grout.
  • After washing your floors with a mild detergent you should thoroughly rinse the tiles with clean, warm water.
  • Never wax a tile as it could affect the glazed ceramic finish.
  • Wipe spills immediately with an all-purpose cleaner and then mop. This will also prevent the grout joints from becoming discoloured.


Maintenance of Ceramic and Porcelain Tiles

Ceramic and Porcelain tiles are easy to clean using water and normal commercially available detergents. They do not require any polishing treatments or waxing, and do not easily retain dirt which, will most probably lead to the growth of bacteria.


Initial Washing

On completion of laying, the first cleaning job is carried out to eliminate the residues of mortar, adhesives, and grout from the ceramic surface. Usually, an acid base solution is used which is left to act for a short time in contact with the tiled surface. It is very important to follow the manufactures instructions carefully, keeping in mind the level of resistance to acids of the particular tile laid. It is advisable, therefore to make an initial test on a small area of the tile surface.



For routine cleaning, it is usually sufficient to pass over the tiled surface with a damp rag or mop to obtain the tiles natural sheen. Special cleaning is required for a floor that have been neglected for some time or one that has traces of stains on the tiles or the joints. For neglected floors, it is sufficient to clean the surface thoroughly with a suitable detergent used for stained floors. A special stain removal procedure must be carried out. This can be done by using physical or chemical means: in the first case, very fine abrasives are used to detach and remove stains or dirt from the tiles or joints: in the second case, there is a chemical reaction between the stain and the product, which dissolves it.

General maintenance and cleaning of porcelain tile varies depending on the surface texture and soil load. General cleaning should be performed with a neutral cleaner diluted to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Non-oil, non-acidic and non-soap based cleaners should be used. General household cleaners that meet this specification include: Mr. Clean, Windex, Lysol and Spic ‘N Span.

  • Once a suitable ceramic tile is properly installed, it is very difficult to damage. Tiles may be chipped or broken if a heavy object dropped on the floor. Structural deficiencies may lead to cracking or breaking, most commonly caused by substrate movement.
  • Do not combine ammonia and household bleaches.
  • Do not use harsh cleaning agents such as steel wool pads, which can scratch or damage the surface of the tile.
  • Use a test scouring pads in a small area first.
  • Use a silicone sealer on grout joints if continuous staining is a problem.
  • Read and follow label directions for all cleaners.
  • The sooner the cleaning is carried out, the easier the stain can be removed.
  • Protect the floor if decorating, construction or overhead work is taking place.
  • Locations which are permanently wet such as swimming pools and showers, may attract build up of blubber, oils, soap residue, hard water deposits and in humid conditions, organic growth (algae). To remove this, a more acidic cleaning material is regularly preferable. A plastic scouring pad is the most useful device for this kind of cleaning.
  • Powder cleansers should not be used as they leave stain particles which may later rust leaving brown stains.
  • Unglazed tiles should not be regularly cleaned with alkaline detergent of greater than pH9. These should be only used occasionally and then the residue should be thoroughly rinsed away with clean water, otherwise reactions can cause a glossy and potentially slippery surface.
  • The pH of a material is the measure of acidity or alkalinity. It is a logarithmic scale and pH7 is the neutral point. Below pH7 the material is more progressively more acidic, and above pH7 more alkaline (i.e. pH is ten times more alkaline than pH7).
  • The regular use of detergents and other cleaning agents which are excessively acidic or alkaline can cause irreversible damage to the tile surface.
  • Many degreasing agents which contain wax, solidum silicates or other additives which leave a sticky deposit on the floor and thus retain dirt on the surface, must also be avoided.

Initial Washing

On completion of laying, the first cleaning job is carried out to eliminate the residues of mortar, adhesives, and grout from the ceramic surface. Usually, an acid base solution is used which is left to act for a short time in contact with the tiled surface. It is very important to follow the manufactures instructions carefully, keeping in mind the level of resistance to acids of the particular tile laid. It is advisable, therefore to make an initial test on a small area of the tile surface.


Maintenance of Unpolished and Polished Tiles


No sealing is required, use natural ingredients when cleaning.


Polishing of natural stones provides a high gloss to the surfaces of the material, which already grants a protection to an extent.

In order to maintain the finish, regular cleaning is needed. Mopping with warm water regularly will help the product from being opaque. After many years, the floor can be repolished.


Polishing of natural stones provides a high gloss to the surfaces of the material, which already grants a protection to an extent.


Cleaning Recommendations

Commercial Areas

Public areas such as lobbies, malls, shopping centers and corridors can be easily cleaned by a daily mopping with warm water and all purpose liquid cleaner.

Showers and Toilets

Where hygiene is of paramount importance, such as in commercial showers and toilets, a commercial cleaner is the best application where cleaning should be performed daily.


For commercial kitchens where the grease build up is constant, approximately ½ cup (0.12 litres) of industrial cleaner up to 15 litres maybe used to clean grease and oil spills. This method of cleaning is appropriate also for dining areas in fast food cafeterias and for food and beverage spills.

Exterior Areas

Although exterior tile surfaces do not often require cleaning, they can be washed with a soapless detergent and rinsed with fresh water. Where harder grime occurs, a soft bristle brush can remove build-up.


Due to the nature of ceramic tiles, their surfaces , glazed or unglazed are perfectly hygienic. In this way, they are excellent for domestic applications where hygiene is essential and where dirt and hard water are inevitable and thus are an easy floor surface to clean. In commercial applications, this hygiene is imperative for bathrooms, kitchens, hospitals, schools, toilets and their ease of maintenance essential for lobbies, shopping malls, eating areas, and industrial areas.


Reference Resources


How to Install Wall Tiles

Preparing Your Wall and Tile

1. Make sure your wall is ready to go.Once you've removed the current wall dressings and wall items, like light switch covers, you'll want to check the base layer that you will be building on to make sure that it is structurally sound. This is important, since a rotting or weak wall can cause your tiling job to warp, crack, or even break and fall down.

  • Look for signs of mold or damage to the tiling surface. Cracks are often a sign that a wall may be weak and need to be replaced.
  • Try pressing on the wall, especially at the studs. If it gives way or feels soft, it may require work.

If you are going to be tiling a large area, remember to use tiling board as a backer and not just put the tiles directly onto drywall. Tiling board is installed just like drywall (nailed to the studs) but is made of more water resistant materials which will keep it from warping and cracking your tile work.

2. Use a level and tape to measure for your tile locations.Now, using a level and measuring tape, measure and mark for the middle lines in the area you will be tiling. You want to find both the vertical and horizontal middle, since you will use these to keep your tiles straight and divide the area into sections for tiling.

  • Never assume a fixture in the room like the tub or vanity (or even the ceiling) is perfectly level. They rarely are. It is very important to rely on the level.

3. Mark the locations on the wall using a chalk line.Using a chalk snap line, mark the mid-line and vertical lines which you just measured. If you've never used a chalk snap line before, don't worry: it's easy. Simply place a nail at one end of the space you marked, attach the string, pull it taut and snap it down. This will leave a straight line on your wall. You'll still want to check it for level but it's much more accurate than drawing a line.

  • You can use just regular string and manually chalk it to make a chalk line but using a chalk box, which are easily bought for about $5, will generally be a lot less work.

4. Dry fit and then cut tiles to size using a diamond wet saw. Dry fit your tiles to be sure that they will look the way you want them to look. Once you're comfortable with how it looks, figure out how the tiles will meet up with the corners and edges of your wall. You will probably need only a part of a tile when it comes to some of these areas, so it will be necessary to cut the tiles to size. Measure how much space you need for each row with the spaces and cut tiles to size using a diamond tipped wet saw.

  • So, for example, let's say your wall to tile is five feet long. You're putting up subway tile and the tiles are 6", with spaces of 1/4" between each of them. You'll need 9.6 tiles for each row to cover that space, meaning nine full tiles and one cut to 3.6"
  • If you don't own a diamond tipped wet saw, you can usually rent one from your local major hardware store. You can also use a tile cutter, but this is more likely to end in broken tiles so only take this option if using cheaper tiles. 
  • Dry fitting is especially important if your tiles make up a pattern, since you will need to be very comfortable creating that pattern. You don't want to make a mistake or have to spend a lot of time thinking about it once the mortar is up on your wall.

You can test your dry fit pattern by making a layout stick, which can be made from any straight and level piece of spare wood. Lay the tiles on a floor and mark the layout stick with a pencil at the joints between tiles. Use the layout stick to see how the tiles fit on the wall.

5. Install a batten to keep your first row straight.With everything else ready to go, you'll want to install a batten to help keep your tile rows straight. This is a piece of scrap wood, such as a piece of 1x4 lumber, that you use as a long straight-edge, placing the first row of tiles right against the batten. Align the top edge of the wood so that it follows exactly along the mid-level line that you marked, then screw it into the studs. Once the tiles have been placed, simply unscrew and remove the batten.

  • Double check that everything is level before installing the tiles on the batten. You'll also want to check it all the way across, since there may be dips in the wood you use for your batten.

Laying the Tiles

1. Mix the mortar.You'll need thin set mortar to lay your tiles. While you should always go by the manufacturer's instructions, a general rule of thumb is to start with the powder in a bucket and just add water slowly and mix until the consistency of the mortar becomes like peanut butter.

You should also allow it to "slake" after you first mix it up. This means you allow it to rest for 10-15 minutes and then stir it up again. Now it is ready to use.

2. Spread the mortar.Working in a roughly 2x3 area, use a tiling trowel to apply the mortar. Hold the notched trowel at a shallow angle against the wall, so that the notches on one of its long sides dig grooves into the mortar. Use long, sweeping motions to apply the mortar. The direction of the grooves doesn’t matter but the lines should all be roughly parallel.

  • Your trowel size will depend on the size and type of tile you're using. For the average small wall tiles which are currently popular, you will want to use a 1x4" square notch trowel.
  • Test a tile to make sure the mortar is mixed and spread correctly. Mortar a small spot and then place a tile. Pull the tile up and look at the pattern that is create on the back. If you see clear lines, then the mortar is too dry. If you see goopy mounds then the mortar is too wet.

3. Place your tiles on the wall.With the mortar ready to go, you can start placing your tiles. Just twist them into place, sticking to the small area that you prepared for yourself. Place your spacers between each tile as you go. These are usually cross shaped and placed at the corners but if you have unusual tiles you may have to improvise, such as by placing only one arm between tiles and letting the rest of the spacer stick out.

  • If the mortar rises up between the tiles as you place them, the bed is too thick and you will need a smaller trowel.

Check the tiles for level as you go. This is when a laser level can really come in handy.

Grouting the Tiles

1. Choose and mix your grout.You'll need to choose what grout is appropriate for your project, depending on how large the gaps are between your tiles. Once you've chosen, mix the grout according to the packaging directions, being sure to also mix any additives you want. Usually, you will start with the water in a bowl or bucket and add powder until the consistency is like toothpaste. Mix only what you can spread in about 20 minutes, since mixing any more risks the product drying out.

  • Sanded grout is used for gaps largerthan 3mm.
  • Unsanded grout is used for gaps smallerthan 3mm.

You can find all sorts of additives at your local hardware store. These can do everything from making the grout more water resistant to changing the color to match your tiles.

2. Spread the grout, using a grout float.Now, spread the grout (using a grout float) in a roughly 3x3' area, or whatever size you can grout in about 20 minutes. Hold the float at a 45° angle and push the grout into the gaps using diagonal swipes.

  • You do not want to push the grout around parallel to the lines, since this can gouge the grout back out of the gaps.
  • You can save yourself some time by using the grout float to remove as much of the excess grout off of the tiles as possible.

3. Clean the grout.After allowing the grout to cure for 20 minutes wipe the tiles with a clean, damp sponge to remove any excess grout from the tiled surface. Wipe just a small area, clean out the sponge, and then wipe some more.

It is best to do this for each small area as you complete it but you can wait until you have done two to four small areas as well. Keep in mind, however, that it will be much harder to get the grout off and the final look may not be as professional.

4. Allow it to cure.Now, allow the grout to cure for three hours or whatever amount of time is recommended on your product directions. Make sure that the area remains dry and that it gets adequate ventilation.

  • Some additives may cause the grout to cure more slowly. See the included packaging for any addendums to the curing process.
  • You can clean off any remaining residue after the grout has cured. An old sock or dry rag work well for this.

5. Seal the grout.Once you have installed all of your tile, you'll want to apply a grout sealer. This will help keep mold from growing in the gaps and will need to be reapplied usually every year (preferably every six months). Though every sealer is different, usually it is a wax which must be applied in a circular motion with a rag.

  • You can also get brush-on or spray-on tile sealer.
  • Do not put these sealers on non-glazed, unfinished tile. It will absorb into and possibly stain the tile.

How to Install Floor Tiles

Preparing like a Pro

1. Make sure your base is strong.Before you start tiling, it's important to make sure that the surface the tile is going on to is strong and stable. This is extremely important that this base is structurally sound, otherwise you will soon find cracks in your tile work....and if it's really bad your whole floor or wall could come falling down under the weight! Check your subfloor, cabinets, or wall frame, depending on what you're tiling.

  • Look for signs of mold or rot and try place weight on the boards. If they bow or seem unsteady, they might need to be replaced or reinforced.

2. Install cement board.You will need to install cement board or a similar product (like a tile backer) before laying down the tiles. Do not use plywood. Cement board will help waterproof your structure and it will also be much more resistant to warping, which helps to prevent cracks.

  • Score the cement board and then snap it cut out the pieces that you need.
  • Screw it down along the edges (every couple inches) and also at the center (3-4 evenly spaced locations should do).
  • Make sure to stagger the joints between different rows of the cement board. This will prevent large cracks from appearing over time.

If attaching the cement board to a subfloor, you will need to apply mortar before lying down each panel, and then screwing it into place. Use the method described later in the article for mortaring the tiles.

3. Check for level as you go.Use a carpenter's level to check that the cement board is flat in all directions. You should also continue to check for level as you go through the various layers of the tiling project. If the cement board is not level, you can adjust it with shims from below.

4. Reinforce the joints. Using strips of fiber mesh tape, first cover the joints in thinset mortar, lay down a strip of tape over the joint, and then lay down another skim coat of mortar. Once everything is smooth and set, you're ready to go.

5. Create the guide lines.Walls in a room are often not square or straight, and ceilings are notorious for being uneven. Use a snap chalk line, a carpenter's level, and a measuring tape to mark some truly straight lines for your tiles to follow. Measure the halfway point on each wall (or edge of a wall, if that's what you're tiling), and then snap a chalk line between opposite sides. Measure to see if the intersections at the middle of the room are square. If not, adjust. You can use this as a base to measure and draw other straight lines and perfect corners in the room.

You only need to actually mark the corners or outside edges of where the tiles will go, not mark every row.

6. Dry fit the tiles to test your pattern.Once you've figured out where your tiles are going to go, dry fit the tiles until you're comfortable with how the pattern looks and how all the tiles should fit together. This is very important if you're using different tiles in a pattern or tiles of a different size.

You'll also want to plan where you want to start the tiles, so that the edges look nice. Some tiles will almost certainly need to be cut to fit at the edges, so plan where you want the tiles to start so that the cut, edge tiles look nice and balanced.

7. Prepare your mortar.Mix up some thin set mortar according to the manufacturer's instructions for the brand you buy. Generally, you'll have a powder to which you add water. You want the texture of the mortar to be like that of peanut butter. Add the water in slowly and mix as you go, so that you don't get too much water in the mix.

You'll also want to let it "slake" or rest after you do the initial mixing. Let it sit for 10-15 minutes and then mix it up again. It's now ready to use.

Laying the Tiles

1. Spread your mortar.Spread mortar in a small area where you will begin to work. Only work with a roughly 2'x3' area at a time. You do not want the mortar to have time to set before you can lay your tile. Using a notched trowel (different sizes may be needed, 3/8" is a good starting point), spread the mortar between sections that you marked with the chalk line.

  • If the mortar rises up between the tiles (to be flush or nearly flush with the tile surface), that means it's too thick or that the ridges need to be shorter.
  • The mortar should be covering the entire tile, if you lift it up after placing it. If when you lift up the tiles you see only lines of mortar on the tile, then the mortar has dried out too much or the bed is too thin and the height of the ridges must be increased.
  • If using tile sheets, use a trowel with smaller notches. This will keep the mortar from coming up through the gaps between the tiles.

2. Lay your tiles.Lay your tiles onto the mortar, starting at the right corner you marked and following a straight line.

  • Leave gaps of 1/8" where the edge of the tile meets up with the wall or floor. This is to allow room for expansion and movement, as the material naturally changes with its environment. This gap can be covered with grout, molding, or shoe tile.

3. Insert the spacers as you go. Place tile spaces between each tile as you go, or simply use your eyes to estimate if using tile sheets. These spacers are usually places at the corners of each tile and look like the cross shapes that is formed by four tiles being next to each other.

4. Level the tiles as you go.Use a carpenter's level as you go to make sure that the tiles are level.

5. Cut tiles for the edges. Use a masonry wet saw to cut any tiles you need for the corners and edges, carefully measuring them to fit for your particular project. Don't forget to leave the 1/8" gap all around the edge.

6. Remove your spacers before doing the grout. Remove the spaces once the mortar has set and you're ready to grout!

Grouting the Tiles

1. Choose a grout.You'll need to decide between sanded and unsanded grout. Which you choose will depend on the size of the gaps between your tiles. Use sanded grout for gaps bigger than 3mm and unsanded grout for smaller gaps.

2. Mix the grout.Mix the grout according to the packaging directions. You might want to mix in additives to make it more water resistant or add color that matches better with your tile. Only mix as much as you can apply in about 20 minutes, since you don't want it drying out.

3. Spread the grout.Using a grout float, spread the grout over the area to be grouted (working in a small area at a time, again). Hold the float at a 45 degree angle and spread across the gaps at an angle as well. Spreading parallel to the grout lines can gouge out the grout.

  • Remove as much of the excess from the tile faces using the grout float as you can at this time.

4. Let the grout sit for 20 minutes.Let the grout cure for 20 minutes.

5. Clean the grout.Using a damp sponge, gently wipe down the tiles and grout lines to remove the excess. Clean just a small area, rinse, wrings, and start again. You want to keep the sponge as clean and dry as possible.

6. Let the grout cure.Leave the grout to cure for 3 hours before starting the next section.

7. Repeat until the surface is grouted. Keep repeating this process until the entire surface is done. You might want to clean off any remaining residue once the grout has cured using an old sock or dry rag.

8. Seal the grout.Seal the grout and then reseal the grout every six months. Each sealant is different but generally they are a wax-like substance which you apply to a rag or sponge and then rub into the grout in a circular motion.