How To Lay Floor and Wall Tiles

Durable, long-lasting and easy to maintain, tiling will always be a popular design choice. With various styles available and numerous patterns you can lay, wall and floor tiles can completely transform a room. In our step-by-step guide, learn how to lay floor and wall tiles with ease.  

Before you get started on any of our ‘how-to’ guides, please take a moment to read through our DIY safety tips. 

What You’ll Need: 

How to lay floor and wall tiles

Step 1: Preparation  

First, ensure your floor or wall is clean and dry. Decide on your tiling pattern to work out the easiest place to start. In a square room, this is usually in the centre, rather than one corner. 

Measure the length and width of the area you want to tile. Then, divide the length of the area by the length of the tile you want to use, and divide the width of the area by the width of that same tile. Round up the numbers, then multiply the two results to find out the number of tiles you’ll need. 

Top tip: Take into account spaces taken up by doors and windows. To allow for any breakages or incorrect cuts, add an extra 5% for wall tiles and 10% for floor tiles.  


Step 2: Make your markings and dry lay  

Floor tiling:  

Use a spirit level, tape measure and pencil to draw a guide line so that the first row of tiles you lay will be straight. Follow this to the edges of the room and lay a dry set of tiles along this line. If you cannot fit a full tile, screw a piece of wood in place until you can lay your cut tile. Check you have an equal border at both ends of the room. If not, readjust your tiles. 

Top tip: Tiling your floor will raise its level, so remove any inward opening doors before starting. You may have to adjust the door length when re-hanging.  

Wall tiling:  

When marking up, consider the level of windowsills, door heads, bath tops, and worktops. If you’re only partially tiling a wall, decide where to begin your main row. When tiling the bottom half of a wall, it’s best to have a layer of whole tiles at the top. For tiling above a worktop or bath, it’s best to have a layer of whole tiles just above.  

Make a gauge rod by laying out your tiles with spacers between them and mark the positions of the tiles on the batten. Find the centre point of the wall and make a mark using pencil or chalk. Then, using a vertical spirit level against this mark, make a line down the centre of the wall. This will be where you begin tiling.  

Hold your gauge rod horizontally against the wall, so the end aligns with the centre point mark, then mark the wall at the end of the gauge rod. Move the rod across, lining up the wall marks with the tile marks, until it reaches the edge of the area you’re tiling. If your end tiles are unequal or too narrow, you can correct this by shifting the centre point and repeat the marking process using the gauge rod and spirit level.  

Next, hold the gauge rod horizontally across the wall, aligning the top edge with the centre point mark. Using a spirit level, draw a level line across the wall. Use a pipe detector to check along the lines for pipes and cables. If there are any, adjust your start point slightly. Nail a timber batten horizontally with its top edge aligned with the line on the wall, then nail on another batten with its side edge aligned with the vertical line. 

Top tip: Try to have evenly sized tiles either side of windows and doors, but also take into account the need for evenly sized tiles at either end of the wall.  

Step 3: Cut your tiles  

Always wear safety glasses and gloves when cutting tiles. For irregular shapes and thick tiles, you’ll have to use an electric tile cutter or buy purpose-made blades for your electric jigsaw. 

Place a full tile upside down on top of the last full tile so that it overhangs and touches the wall. Mark the point where it overlaps the tile beneath, considering the width of a spacer  for the grouting. Hold the tiles straight edge on the cut line and run a tile cutter along it to score the surface. Place a small wooden batten on the floor, then hold the tile over it. Make sure the scored line lies directly in line with the batten. 

Apply pressure on either side of the tile to snap it along the line. If it’s a narrow off-cut, the snapping process will be difficult. Use a pair of pliers to gradually nip away at the tile, working slowly towards the scored line. If you’re creating a curved or L-shaped tile, score the surface along the trim line and gradually remove the excess with pliers. 

Step 4: Apply adhesive  

Whether it’s wall or floor tiling, make sure that the area is clean and dry. Ceramic tiles can be laid on both concrete and timber flooring. Before laying them on floorboards, screw down a layer of exterior grade plywood (minimum 12mm thick) first. If the concrete surface is uneven, apply a self-levelling compound and leave to dry overnight. Then smooth any ridges with a medium-grade sandpaper block. 

The type of adhesive you use will depend on where the tiles are being laid. You’ll need waterproof adhesive for bathrooms or flexible adhesive for surfaces that may move slightly. Spread your adhesive over manageable areas using a small-ridged trowel or a notched spreader to create ridges. For walls, start in the corner formed by the timber battens and work away from the corner with horizontal strokes. Work in square metre sections at one time.  

Top tip: When fixing border tiles in place, it may help to also spread adhesive on the backs rather than just the area’s surface.  


Step 5: Laying and fixing your tiles 

Floor tiling: 

Fix your tiles into place on the adhesive-covered area. Check they’re equally arranged using a spacer and spirit level. If a tile is higher than another, put a piece of wood over it and tap with a rubber hammer. If a tile is too low, lift and reapply adhesive. Use a claw hammer to remove the wood you used as a guide and replace with your cut border tiles. Leave the adhesive to set according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Drying times will vary. 

Wall tiling:  

Place your first tile into the corner, pressing it firmly against the wall. Then, add another tile above it and one next to the original tile. Use plastic spacers so gaps are consistent. 

The ridges in your adhesive will allow you to move the tiles around. Ensure the vertical lines stay straight, and each tile is flat relative to both the wall and previous tile. Leave the batten at the base in place until the adhesive has fully set – otherwise tiles may slide around. Finally, remove the batten and fill any remaining space with cut border tiles. 

Tiling above windows, basins and other fixtures: 

When tiling above fixtures, place a temporary batten to support the first few rows. Once the adhesive has set, you can then easily measure any tiles you have to cut to size to fill in the space. 

Above a window, the cut tiles have nothing underneath to stop them slipping. However, you can attach them to the fixed tiles above with masking tape to hold them in place until the adhesive dries. 


Step 6: Grouting 

Once you’ve allowed at least 24 hours for the tile adhesive to set, it’s time to start grouting. Take a look at this handy blog to learn how.  Use an all-purpose cleaner and a nylon scrub pad to clean the grout regularly. However, make sure to test your cleaner on a spare tile to make sure it won’t damage the design.  

And that’s how to lay floor and wall tiles. Don’t forget to share your transformations with us @Homebase_UK on Instagram, and discover our other tiling guides here.   




Writer and expert