Floors are often the first part of the space that people notice when they enter a room. So, a newly tiled floor is a key component of any remodeling project. Tiled floors are beautiful, practical and considerably more durable than many other types of flooring. Installing floor tile can be within the abilities of most do-it-yourselfers, as long as the substrate is properly prepared, structurally sound, solid and stable.

Calculate Materials and Supplies

Step-By-Step Guide

Step 1 Inspect the substrate.

  1. Determine if the substrate is acceptable to receive a floor tile installation. The substrate must be structurally sound, solid and stable.
  2. When appropriate, replace it with a suitable substrate material.
  3. Clean the substrate. All substrates should be clean, dry and free of dust, dirt, oil, grease, paint, tar, wax, soap, concrete curing compounds, concrete color stains, concrete sealers, clear coats, loosely bonded toppings, any primers that are not MAPEI brand, old adhesive residues (unless otherwise recommended by MAPEI), and any other substance that may prevent, reduce or affect adhesion or performance.

Step 2 Prepare the substrate to receive tile.

  1. Level entire rooms and large areas using a quality self-leveling underlayment such as MAPEI Self-Leveler Plus. Prior to applying MAPEI Self-Leveler Plus, use MAPEI Primer T to prime the substrate.
  2. Fill holes and low spots up to 1/2″ (12 mm) over concrete, cement board or plywood with MAPEI Planipatch® patching compound. For holes or low spots up to 1″ (2.5 cm), use Planiprep® SC.
  3. Fill holes and low spots up to 3″ (7.6 cm) over concrete and cement board only with MAPEI Mapecem® Quickpatch. Mapecem Quickpatch can be used for interior and exterior applications.
  4. For cement board substrates, tape and fill joints per the cement board manufacturer’s written instructions.
  5. If you are planning to tile over existing flooring such as existing ceramic tile and existing porcelain tile and existing VCT, use MAPEI ECO Prim Grip as directed. For existing non-cushion residential sheet vinyl, please contact Product Support at (800) 992-6273.

Step 3 Apply crack-isolation or waterproofing membrane if necessary.

  1. To treat concrete cracks with a width of 1/8″ (3 mm) or less, apply MAPEI Mapelastic® CI or Mapelastic AquaDefense as a crack-isolation membrane.
  2. To protect lower floors from water damage, apply MAPEI Mapelastic AquaDefense as a waterproofing membrane and crack-isolation membrane for in-plane cracks up to 1/8″ (3 mm).
  3. To treat concrete cracks with a width over 1/8″ (3 mm) and up to 3/8″ (10 mm), apply MAPEI SM Primer with Mapesonic® 2. For cracks up to 1/8″ (3 mm) maximum, apply Mapeguard® UM 35 [NA] (no primer is required).

Step 4 Plan the floor layout and make tile cuts.

  1. Measure and mark the center points of two opposite walls. Create a chalk line using a chalk line tool connecting the two points.
  2. Measure and mark the center points of the two remaining walls. Create a chalk line connecting these points. The intersection of the two lines marks the center point of the room.
  3. Check that lines are square by using a framing square and adjust as needed.
  4. Dry-fit a row of tiles by placing the tile in position with spacers along reference lines to check for accuracy and determine tile cuts. Adjust reference lines as needed.
  5. Pre-cut all tiles.

Step 5 Mix and apply the tile mortar.

  1. For tiles larger than 15″ (38.1 cm) or more on one side or more, you must use a large-format tile mortar suitable for use with your sized tiles over your specific subfloor.
  2. Measure water amounts carefully. Mix the mortar according to the instructions on the package. Refer to the current Technical Data Sheet on our product pages for detailed instructions.
  3. Select a notched trowel size that is appropriate for the size of the tile. Contact MAPEI’s Technical Services Department for guidance if needed.
  4. Using a notched trowel, spread mortar while holding the trowel at a 45-degree angle to the floor.
  5. First, using the straight (flat) side of the trowel, apply a thin and even coat to the surface. Follow immediately with more mortar and “comb” the mortar in one direction, using the notched side of the trowel to achieve an even-setting bed. Back-butter tiles before setting tile to provide uniform mortar coverage and maximum support.
  6. Only spread as much mortar as can be covered with tiles before the mortar skins over or loses transfer when touched, approximately 15-30 minutes depending on the temperature and humidity in the installation.

Step 6 Set the tile.

  1. Place the first tile at the intersection of the layout lines, making sure the tile is properly aligned with both chalk lines.
  2. Continue to place the tiles in position on the substrate and firmly apply pressure to the face of the tile while moving the tile back and forth perpendicular to the trowel ridges. This helps to ensure that the mortar transfers to the back of the tile and that the tile is in an even plane with adjacent tiles.
  3. Check several of the set tiles for adequate mortar coverage by lifting them up. On the floor, all of the ridges should be collapsed and there should be no voids or trowel lines. Mortar should also cover the entire back of the tile without voids or trowel lines.
  4. Keep a damp sponge nearby for quick cleanup in case mortar is dropped on the tiles or any other surfaces.
  5. Keep grout joints free of mortar.
  6. Place plenty of spacers in between tiles to ensure even spacing between tiles in addition to straight, uniform grout joints.
  7. Avoid walking on the tiles.

Step 7 Prepare the installation for grouting.

  1. Allow tiles to dry until a firm set. Refer to the instructions on the package or the current Technical Data Sheet on our product pages for recommended drying times.
  2. Remove the spacers.
  3. Certain types of tiles – such as heavily pitted tiles, unglazed tiles, and tiles that have textured surfaces such as some wood-look tiles – may require special preparation prior to grouting. The application of a pre-grouting sealer may be necessary to prevent grout haze and permanent staining of the tile.

Step 8 Mix and apply grout.

  1. Moisten the surface of the tile with a damp sponge.
  2. If Keracolor® U Unsanded Grout, Keracolor S Sanded Grout or Ultracolor® Plus FA grout is used, measure water amounts and do not add any extra water. Mix the grout according to the instructions on the package. Refer to current Technical Data Sheets on our product pages for detailed instructions.
  3. If MAPEI’s UltraCare® Grout Maximizer additive is used with Keracolor U Unsanded Grout or Keracolor S Sanded Grout grout, do not add any water. Mix to a smooth, creamy peanut-butter-like paste consistency.
  4. If grouting with the MAPEI Flexcolor® CQ, ready-to-use grout, read the instructions thoroughly. Refer to current Technical Data Sheets on our product pages for detailed instructions.
  5. Next, holding the grout float at a 45-degree angle, force grout into the joints to completely fill the joints with no voids.
  6. When the installation area is large, grout and clean one section at a time rather than applying grout over the entire tile area.
  7. Remove excess grout from the tile surface by moving the rubber float at a 90-degree angle across the tile in a diagonal direction.

Step 9 Clean up after grouting.

  1. Refer to the instructions on the grout package or current Technical Data Sheet on our product pages for cleaning instructions.
  2. Never allow the grout to remain on the surface of the tiles for an extended length of time before completing the initial cleaning.
  3. After each wipedown, rinse and wring out the sponge so that no excess water stays on the tile surface.
  4. Change the rinse water frequently. Having multiple buckets of clean water at hand will simplify this process.
  5. Make sure that all tiles are thoroughly cleaned before the grout dries. Note: This is especially important when using a rapid-setting cement-based grout such as MAPEI Ultracolor Plus FA.
  6. If grouting with MAPEI Keracolor S Sanded Grout or MAPEI Keracolor U Unsanded Grout grout, come back about an hour later and check the tile for any residual haze. If needed, buff the tiles with a dry terrycloth towel to remove any remaining haze. Contact MAPEI’s Technical Services Department if the grout haze persists.
  7. If using MAPEI Flexcolor CQ grout, perform a second wash and use a light-duty scrubpad (the kind that is safe for china) to remove any remaining haze. Contact MAPEI’s Technical Services Department if the grout haze persists.
  8. If grouting with MAPEI Ultracolor Plus FA, all residual grout haze must be removed from the tile surface within 30 minutes to one hour after grouting. Contact MAPEI’s Technical Services Department if the grout haze persists.

Step 10 Complete the installation and maintain as needed.

  1. Apply the MAPEI 100%-silicone Mapesil® T Plus in all changes of plane, transitions between walls and floors, where tiles meet the tub deck, inside and outside corners in niches and shower walls, seats, etc.


Use our Supply & Material Calculator and we'll give you a complete list of materials and supplies you'll need to finish your Shower Floors project successfully!

Calculate Materials and Supplies
Project Board



What can I use to fill holes in concrete?

MAPEI's Planipatch® can be used to fill holes, voids and minor irregularities in concrete up to 1/2" (12 mm). No additive or primer is required when applying Planipatch directly over clean, porous concrete. For holes, voids or minor irregularities up to 1" (2.5 cm), use Planiprep SC.


What can I use to level out areas of concrete?

MAPEI's Self-Leveler Plus is recommended to level areas of concrete and to fill in larger low spots.


Do I have to use a primer with Self-Leveler Plus?

MAPEI's Self-Leveler Plus always requires the use of a primer such as MAPEI's Primer T.


What is the advantage of using a two-component mortar with a liquid additive?

A two-component mortar – such as MAPEI's Uncoupling Membrane Mortar mixed with MAPEI's Polymer Additive – results in a high-performing mortar. Liquid additives such as MAPEI's Polymer Additive improve the overall performance of the mortar by increasing flexibility, enhancing bond strength and boosting moisture resistance.


Which grout is recommended with wood-look tile?

MAPEI Flexcolor® CQ or MAPEI's Ultracolor Plus FA grouts are great choices for grouting installations of wood-look plank tile. It is recommended to seal wood-look tiles before grouting.