How to Install Natural Stone Tiles

Sara Miller
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Installing natural stone tiles takes careful planning and a detailed eye. Take the time to carefully measure your floor and purchase quality stone flooring before you start your installation. Then, follow these general guidelines to install your natural stone tiles:

What you’ll need:

  • Backer board
  • Adhesive
  • Thinset mix
  • Tape measure
  • Notched trowel
  • Floater
  • Grout
  • Tile spacers
  • Masking tape or pencil
  • Sponge
  • Wet saw (if cutting your own tiles)

1. Select your dream stone: Marble, travertine, granite, limestone... Your natural stone tile options are vast. No stone tile is better than the other, they are just different and suit different tastes and price points. Consider the color, durability, size, texture, and price, then make the decision on what natural stone is right for you. Keep in mind that you can mix and match stone or ready-made patterns.


2. Measure the area: Measure the area where you will be setting the tile. This will help determine how many full tiles are needed and how many will need to be cut, while also preparing for the amount of backerboard and tile you need.


3. Prepare the subfloor: Once you have selected and purchased your tile, it’s now time to prepare the subfloor. Remove the original surface (carpet, tile or hardwood). Make sure the surface is completely dry and debris-free before starting your tile installation. If the surface is uneven, apply a backerboard to the subfloor. Backerboard is a thin layer of concrete with fiberglass mesh used for setting surface for tile.


4. Plan your layout: Once you have the dimensions of the room documented, it’s now time to plan the layout of the tile. Start at the center point of each wall, working your way out. Work towards the center of the room, making sure each row lines up perfectly. Mark the tiles that need to be cut with a pencil or masking tape.


5. Mix and spread the thinset mix: Get an empty bucket ready. Pour the thinset into the bucket and add water. Mix until the thinset is the consistency of pancake batter. Spread a good amount of thinset on the floor to make up for any irregularities. Adding or taking away thinset will ensure that all the tiles are evenly set. Apply the material, then comb through it, making ridges with the side of the trowel. Remove excess thinset.


6. Begin installing your tiles, one “grid” at a time: Install your tiles in sections and apply tile spacers in between the natural stone tiles to make room for grout and properly position the tiles. Once you’ve completed a grid, tap each tile with a mallet to secure. Do not slide tiles into place, but use a twisting motion to secure them.


7. Apply the grout: Wait 24 hours before applying your grout. Remove tile spacers and spread grout using a floater into each joint. Remove excess grout immediately, wait 20 minutes, then use a damp sponge to clean the area. Carefully read the instructions on the specific grout you will need and select a color that complements your tile selection. 


8. Let it set: Avoid traffic on your new floor for at least 12 hours.


9. Enjoy your new floor!


Again, it is important to check on the specifics of installing the type of tile you’ve purchased. Always read and follow directions carefully before starting any type of home remodeling or building project.


More resources:


DIY Network, "How to Install Natural Stone Tile"


MonkeySee, “How to Install Natural Stone