How to Lay Terracotta Tiles

large room with terracotta tile flooring
  • 15-30 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 1,000-5,000
What You'll Need
Terracotta tile
Tape measure
Chalk box
Carpenter's square
Thick-bed adhesive
Adhesive trowel
Tile spacers
4-foot level
4-foot straight edge ruler
Angle grinder
Stone cutting wheel
Safety glasses
Terracotta tile pre-sealer
Grout mix
Large bucket
Grout bag
Metal pipe12", 1" outside diameter

To say that terracotta tiles are unique would be an understatement. These hand-formed tiles have such rich variation that no two in a batch are exactly the same. This very lack of uniformity is what has endeared terracotta tiles to homeowners over the years. But if you're thinking of doing a tile install yourself, keep in mind that the project will require special treatment. Many terracotta tiles are unglazed, most are quite porous, and none are of the same thickness. So you can see how they might require special treatment and installation techniques. The instructions below will help you lay your terracotta tiles successfully.

Step 1 - Create a Squared Center Point

creating a chalk line

Mark the center point of each wall in the room where you plan to install your terracotta tile. You can do this by measuring each wall with a tape measure. Use a chalk box to make a chalk line from the center of each wall to the center of the wall across the room from it. These lines must be square with the walls with which they begin and end. Use a large carpenter’s framing square to check this. Make necessary adjustments to be sure these lines are square and you have a square center point.

Step 2 - Begin Placing the Tile

Make up a batch of thick-bed adhesive, enough to cover a 3x3-foot square area, apply adhesive to the reverse side of a tile, and place the tile on the floor in a corner where chalk lines intersect. Place a second tile with adhesive applied to its backside on another of the intersection corners. Keep an even distance between these two tiles by using spacers between them. Then, place two more tiles in the two unoccupied spaces. Use this procedure to lay more tiles until a nine-square-foot space has been covered.

Step 3 - Level the Tiles

terracotta tile flooring

Use a carpenter’s level to level the tiles you've laid, making necessary adjustments to level them.

Step 4 - Continue Laying Tile

Install more nine-square-foot tile areas as you did with the first area, cutting tile pieces as needed to fit and checking for level as you work.

Step 5 - Apply Presealer and Grout

When the adhesive has set, apply the pre-sealer and allow it to set up. Use a grout bag of mixed grout and fill the grout line, one section at a time until you've grouted the entire room. Use the metal pipe to make a concave impression in each grout line.

Step 6 - Apply Sealer

When the grout has dried and set up, apply a terracotta tile sealer. This sealer will protect the tile from stains.