Materials Needed to Tile a Floor

Ready to tackle a floor tile installation? You'll need the right materials and tools to get a secure installation. The integrity of the subfloor is one of the factors to consider when selecting materials, as is the amount of foot traffic the tiled area will receive. The materials you need also depend on whether you plan to install floor tile in a wet area, such as a bathroom, or a dry area, such as a living room. Choosing the right materials will not only make the installation go smoothly, but it will also keep your floor tile looking beautiful for years to come.

Worker Places New Tile on a Bathroom Floor
credit: BanksPhotos/E+/GettyImages
Materials Needed to Tile a Floor

Selected Tile Material

You have seemingly endless choices when it comes to tile, including different materials, colors, patterns, shapes and sizes. The style of your room and the look you're going for with the renovation helps you decide which tile to choose.

Not only do tiles come in various colors and designs, they also have different hardness ratings. Ceramic tiles receive a rating based on a hardness scale and divides them into groups. Group 0 tiles are not suitable for floor use, while Group 1 tiles will withstand light foot traffic. Group 5 tiles hold up even in areas of heavy foot traffic. Choose a tile that can handle the amount of foot traffic the area receives.

Adhesive Material

Adhesive is required to keep the tiles secured to the floor. Thin-set adhesive, also called Portland cement mortar, is a combination of cement, sand and methylcellulose. Thin-set adhesive is available as dry-set or latex-modified. Because of its water-repellent properties, latex-modified adhesive is ideal in areas with water exposure, such as bathroom floors. Although there are a few thin-set adhesive products at the ready, most require the addition of water prior to use. Mastic, or organic adhesive, is a pre-mixed tile adhesive. Type 1 mastic is suitable for floor tile installations, whereas Type 2 is not.

Sanded or Unsanded Grout

Your tile work isn't done after sticking the pieces to the floor. You'll also need grout to fill in the gaps between the tiles. Cement grout comes in sanded and unsanded varieties. Sanded grout is used in gaps larger than 1/16-inch wide. Because it's hard to work sand into small tile joints, unsanded grout is used for tiles set close together. Both sanded and unsanded grouts are available dry or pre-mixed, and they come in a wide array of colors. Latex-modified sanded grout is more water-repellent than regular sanded grout and is a common choice for bathroom floor tile. Epoxy grout is more durable and water-resistant than cement grout, but it is more difficult to work with.

Miscellaneous Materials

Although these miscellaneous tile materials are optional, they certainly make the job easier or help the finished product last longer. Spacers are small pieces of plastic that go between the tiles during installation to keep the tile spacing symmetrical. Cement board is useful for slightly uneven or unstable floors. It provides a thin, hard surface ideal for tile. You can install cement board over vinyl flooring, allowing for installation of ceramic floor tile without removing the old flooring. Grout sealer is a clear, protective finish that helps prevent water absorption and staining of the grout. Tile sealer works to coat and protect tile which is useful for sealing porous tile, such as terracotta, prior to grouting. Tile sealer is not needed for glazed ceramic tiles.

Tiling Tools

Floor tile installations require both common and tile-specific tools. You need a few easily accessible tools such as a tape measure, a chalk line and a level. Tile-specific tools include a notched trowel, a rubber grout float and grout nippers. Wear safety glasses when using a tile nipper. You may find a grout bag is helpful for getting the grout into awkward places. You will need some sort of tile cutter. A portable tile cutter works with most ceramic tile, but you may need to use a wet saw if working with marble or granite tile.

Gather all of the supplies needed before you start the tile installation process so you don't have to make an unexpected trip to the store.