Ceramic tiles are a great way to add some color and life to your floors.

They are perfect for replacing your previous flooring when you’re renovating, or simply for going over old concrete flooring, and look great both indoors and outdoors.

From your kitchen to your garden, ceramic tiles are perfect for covering up a concrete floor. 

Concrete isn’t the easiest type of flooring to install tiles on, however, and if you don’t know what you’re doing it’s easy to make a mistake.

That’s why we’ve made this handy guide to help you install the perfect ceramic tile flooring! 

In this article, we’ve gathered everything you need to know about how to install ceramic tiles on concrete.

Here, we’ll go over what you need to do to prepare your concrete floor for the tiles, as well as different methods of installing the tiles themselves.

So let’s dive right in, and see how you can install ceramic tiles on a concrete floor!

Installing Ceramic Tiles on Concrete

There are three ways to install tiles onto concrete, and each method involves slightly different steps.

These methods are: installing the tiles directly onto the concrete, installing the tiles with a cement board, and installing the tiles with an uncoupling membrane. 

There are benefits to each method, and it mostly comes down to your personal preference. We’ll cover each method separately so you know what to do whichever method suits you best.

How To Install Ceramic Tiles Directly Onto The Concrete

As you can imagine, this method involves installing the tiles without any underlay or level between the tiles and the concrete.

It is a simple and easy method that requires no additional materials, although you may have to repair the tiles after a few years if the concrete below gets damaged. Here’s how you do it.

Step 1) Gather Your Supplies

The first thing you have to do is gather the right materials and tools. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Your tiles
  • Concrete cleaner (an acid-based cleaner works best)
  • Concrete sealer 
  • Mortar 
  • Grout
  • Tile sealant
  • Grout float/Trowel
  • Tile cutter
  • Tile Spacers
  • Chalk
  • An old rag or cloth that you don’t mind getting ruined.

You’ll also need a bucket of water and another bucket to mix the mortar in.

You should also use a ruler or other measuring tool to make sure that the tiles are the right size, and a spirit level to check that the tiles are flat.

Step 2) Prepare The Concrete For The Tiles

With your tiles ready, you’ll need to get the concrete ready for installing the tiles. Using your concrete cleaner, thoroughly wash the concrete to remove any dirt.

Let the cleaner soak into the concrete and leave it to dry completely. 

After you’ve cleaned the concrete, take a close look to see if there are any cracks or gaps in the concrete; if there are, fill them in with a concrete sealer and wait for it to be patched up before you install the tiles.

You also need to make sure that the concrete is level, as any gaps or dips between the tile and the concrete can lead to the mortar cracking – and your tiles along with it!

Use the concrete sealer to level out the floor, and use your spirit level to make sure that it is completely level.

Step 3) Prepare Your Tiles

Now it’s time to measure out and cut your tiles. Using a ruler or measuring tape, check the dimensions of the floor you’ll be installing the tiles on.

Remember to account for the grout that will go between the tiles – the tiles won’t be completely flush with each other, so you’ll need to factor in some extra space for the grout to fill in. 

This will only be by about 1/4-1/2″ between each tile, so don’t overcompensate with too much space between the tiles (this is where the tile spacers will come in handy). 

When you’ve measured the room, you need to measure the tiles. Use chalk to mark out any tiles that need cutting, especially if your room has any awkward angles or corners to account for.

Use the tile cutter to get the tiles into shape. At this point, you might also want to mark out on the floor where your tiles will be going.

Step 4) Mix And Lay The Mortar

From here, you need to prepare your mortar. Follow the instructions on the mortar and mix it with water to form a thick paste.

Don’t stir it too much for now, as this will make it start to set in the bucket. When your mortar is prepared, use your trowel or grout float to start spreading it onto the concrete. 

Don’t apply it to the whole floor at once, as it will set and harden before you get the chance to lay all of your tiles down.

Only put down enough mortar for 2-3 tiles at a time. A grooved trowel works best here, as adding grooves to the mortar will give it a much better grip on the tile.

Don’t worry if you haven’t got one – you can use the edge of your trowel or grout float to add the grooves in yourself.

Step 5) Start Laying Your Tiles

Here’s the fun part – actually installing the tiles! With the mortar spread on the concrete, place the tiles on the floor and press down firmly (but not too hard or aggressively).

Keep it in line with the chalk outline you made earlier. When you place down a tile, use a tile spacer to mark out where the next tile will go and how much space will be needed for the grout.

Try to avoid moving or touching any tiles that you have already laid down. Work across the room, installing a couple of tiles at a time and laying the mortar before moving on to the next few tiles.

Step 6) Apply The Grout

Before you actually lay down your grout, you should give the tiles a wipe down with an old rag to remove any remaining mortar or dirt that you made by installing the tiles.

When that’s done, you can start putting the grout down. Don’t worry about being pretty here – add as much grout as you think is necessary, and spread it across the whole gap with the grout float.

Wipe away any excess grout and remove the tile spacers and fill in the last few pieces of tile with the leftover grout.

Clean the tiles and leave them to dry and harden. Finally, seal the grout and the tile with your tile sealant. Congratulations – you successfully installed your tiles directly onto the concrete below.

How To Install Ceramic Tiles With A Cement Board

How To Install Ceramic Tiles With A Cement Board

As mentioned earlier, installing your tiles directly onto the concrete can lead to issues down the line if the concrete/mortar cracks or shifts over time.

The inclusion of a cement board (a large sheet made out of cement and fibers) prevents this from happening and gives your tiles a much better foundation. 

Apart from the board itself, however, this method doesn’t differ much from installing the tiles directly onto the concrete. Here’s what you need to do:

Step 1) Install The Cement Board

First, you need to measure out the cement board so it fits the room. Use a ruler or some other measuring tool to get the right dimensions, and cut the board down to size.

Next, you’ll need to drill holes into the board to allow for drainage. 

You want to drill these holes close together – ideally no more than 3 inches apart. This will prevent the board from buckling under the weight of the tiles.

You also need to make holes in the cement, which align with the holes in the cement board.

From here, you can simply screw the cement board down into place. Make sure that the board is level for the same reasons as if you were installing the tiles directly onto the concrete.

Step 2) Prepare The Cement Board For The Tiles

This is similar to preparing the concrete for the tiles – you need to mix and apply mortar, leaving gaps with the tile spacers to avoid any cramped tiles.

You can also use chalk on the cement board itself to mark out placements for the tiles.

Step 3) Install The Tiles

Again, this is a similar step to what you would do if you were applying the tiles directly to the concrete; although, this time you’ll be adding them to the cement board instead of the concrete.

Follow the same instructions for placing the tiles, as well as for grouting and cleaning them.

How To Install Ceramic Tiles With An Uncoupling Membrane

Once again, there aren’t any massive changes to how you should install tiles with an uncoupling membrane as opposed to other methods like a cement board or simply applying the tiles directly onto the concrete. 

However, the biggest difference comes in the form of the uncoupling membrane.

This is a type of mat that goes between the concrete and the tile to create a protective layer that doesn’t just even out the concrete but also makes it easier to remove the tiles if need be.

Step 1) Lay Down The Uncoupling Membrane

After you’ve cleaned and prepared the cement, you need to place the uncoupling membrane where you want the tiles to be going.

This isn’t as tricky as a cement board, as the mat’s polyethylene material is flexible and can be laid directly onto the level concrete to form a barrier between it and your tiles.

Step 2) Install The Tiles

Install the tiles onto the membrane. Make sure that the membrane is completely flat and flush with the ground, as any folds or raised parts can compromise the integrity of your tiles.

Let the tiles dry, add the grout, and clean the tiles off. Once you’ve done that and followed the steps outlined for the other methods, you should be good to go!

Final Thoughts

Installing tiles onto your floor can be a daunting task, especially if you aren’t familiar with what to do.

By following the instructions in this guide, you’ll be able to successfully install your ceramic tiles onto the concrete without any issues or fuss.

Now that you’ve learned how to install your ceramic tiles onto concrete, all that’s left for you to do is to give it a try yourself!