One Room Challenge {Week 4}: How to Install Cement Tile

Learn how to install cement tile in Week 4 of the One Room Challenge!

How to install cement tile | how to install tile | diy cement tile | diy tile installation

I cannot believe we only have 2 weeks left in the challenge!!!  We are actually right on schedule to finish on time – I’m so relieved.

We have tackled almost all of the big projects and mostly just have finishing work to do.

Honestly, I’ve been completely slacking with some of the design elements these past two weeks and really need to pull it together.  What good is a finished room with no decorations??

If you’re just stopping by today or if you want a quick refresher on what we are doing, head over to the previous weeks to see where we started and the progress we have made so far!

Week One // Week Two // Week Three


This week was all about finishing the interior of the fireplace and installing the cement tile hearth.

I posted earlier this week about my newfound love for cement tile (and where to use it in your home).  Well, I thought I loved the tile when it was just in the box.

I’m completely blown away by how it looks installed and finished.  This little unfinished area has been bugging me since we moved in almost a year ago.  I can’t imagine a more perfect tile for the space.  I may even sleep right there on it.

Let’s back up.  Here is what we started with:

How to install cement tile | how to install tile | diy cement tile | diy tile installation

How to install cement tile | how to install tile | diy cement tile | diy tile installation

Yes, that is insulation falling out of the top.  Scary, right?

Here is what it looks like today:

How to install cement tile | how to install tile | diy cement tile | diy tile installation

ALL the heart eyes, my friends.

If you know the general process of installing tile and want to just know specific tips for installing cement tile, skip to the bottom of the post 🙂

*This post contains affiliate links.  Please see my disclosure policy for more details.  Thank you for supporting my blog!*

First, we started by creating a level surface from the hearth to the inside of the fireplace.   Since the hearth was already concrete and level, we used quikrete to level the inside of fireplace with the hearth.

I found this full guide on how to use quikrete that seems pretty extensive.  For our purposes, we poured in the concrete and used concrete tools to level the surface.

Next, we painted the interior bricks with a satin black enamel paint.  The bricks were so damaged we couldn’t clean or salvage them.  Luckily this paint only required one coat!

Lastly for the prep work, we used a piece of plywood to fill in the opening to the top of the chimney to hold up all the debris and keep the kids from trying to climb the chimney looking for Santa.  {This still needs painted black}

How to install cement tile | how to install tile | diy cement tile | diy tile installation

How to install cement tile | how to install tile | diy cement tile | diy tile installation

Already doesn’t look like it’s straight out of a horror movie anymore!

Next it was time for the tile!

We chose this gorgeous tile from The Tile Shop!  I wanted something that looked as though it could have been original to the house – so something a bit more traditional looking.

{But, if you aren’t a fan of that tile, I linked to TONS of other cement tile styles in this post to choose from}.

The tile came in and we were all set to install when we realized we needed tile edging to separate the tile from the wood.

There are several ways you can separate tile and wood but we went with an aluminum edging trim that of course had to be special ordered.

We liked this specific trim because it basically goes unnoticed.  You probably didn’t even see it in the picture from above.  They make it in different colors and different “metal” colors, too.

Once we had the trim in hand we measured hearth and cut it to the correct length. We ended up with three pieces: two short ones for the sides and one long one for the front. Make sure you cut the trim on a 45 degree angle for an interior corner so the pieces don’t interfere with each other.

How to install cement tile | how to install tile | diy cement tile | diy tile installation

We started by laying out the tile to see what arrangement looked the best and also measured which cuts we would have to make.

We used these spacers in between the tiles.

How to install cement tile | how to install tile | diy cement tile | diy tile installation

How to install cement tile | how to install tile | diy cement tile | diy tile installation

Then, we removed all the tile and used a wet tile saw to cut the tile to fit around the edges.

We marked where the middle was so we didn’t forget!

How to install cement tile | how to install tile | diy cement tile | diy tile installation

Next, we installed the tile using Thinset Mortar and a square notched trowel to spread the mortar.  Apply an even layer to both the surface and the back of the tile.

Remember to place the tile spacers back in between the tile!

We didn’t need to lay anything under the tile since it didn’t need to be waterproof and the surface was already flat.  You *may* need something if you’re using the tile in a bathroom or kitchen or on an uneven surface.

How to install cement tile | how to install tile | diy cement tile | diy tile installation

How to install cement tile | how to install tile | diy cement tile | diy tile installation

Rough idea of how much mortar to put on:

How to install cement tile | how to install tile | diy cement tile | diy tile installation

How to install cement tile | how to install tile | diy cement tile | diy tile installation

We wiped the excess mortar off the top of the tiles and let them dry!

After a few days to dry and set in place, we applied a sealer over the tile.

We followed the manufacturer’s directions using a rag – wipe on, wait 5 minutes and wipe off any excess with a dry rag, then wait 30 minutes and reapply.  We then let the sealer dry for a few days.

Finally, we grouted the tile!  We used unsanded powder grout and a rubber grout float tool to apply the grout.  Work in small sections and wipe off any excess with a wet sponge.

And …. ta da!

How to install cement tile | how to install tile | diy cement tile | diy tile installation

How to install cement tile | how to install tile | diy cement tile | diy tile installation

How to install cement tile | how to install tile | diy cement tile | diy tile installation

How to install cement tile | how to install tile | diy cement tile | diy tile installation

I. Am. Obsessed.

It came out perfectly.


So, specifically for CEMENT TILE, here are a few tips we came across to help:

  1. Cement tile is NOT presealed so make sure you seal tile before grouting
  2. Use unsanded grout with a tight joint of 1/16″ – 1/8″
  3. Use white or light-colored grout (dark grout can permanently stain the cement tile .. yikes!)
  4. Find the nearest father-in-law to help (mine’s taken so find your own!) … but seriously he helped SO SO SO much, well, basically did the whole thing  —  THANK YOU!
  5. Here’s a more detailed guide I found for using cement tile


So, let’s take a look back on that list to see how we are doing:

  • clean out room (toys,clothes, old books, etc)
  • build under-bed train table
  • build shelves for closet
  • add storage and functional design to closet – sort of can cross off??
  • repaint dresser and add new hardware
  • build reading nook tent frame
  • sew reading nook tent
  • sew reading nook floor pillows
  • make gallery wall for above dresser
  • design reading nook area (where books go, etc)
  • add lights to inside of reading nook
  • build magnet board
  • install buckets to hold magnets
  • make or buy curtain rod
  • hang curtains
  • install fireplace tile
  • finish interior of fireplace
  • make space felt board
  • make name art for each boy
  • pick sentimental pillows/decor for each of their spaces
  • paint/design letters to designate spaces
  • build craft table
  • add craft table storage
  • buy craft table chairs
  • install wire hanging to display art work
  • disassemble old bed and assemble bunk beds

I’d say we are right on track!  Which is pretty exciting.

On the plan for this week is finishing up the craft table and magnet board and start decorating!

The reading nook tent is going to be the last thing we install and I cannot wait!  Liam is already asking when it will be done so he can sit on the pillows 🙂 (not the point of the tent, kiddo!)

Remember to stop over to Calling it Home to check out the other One Room Challenge makeovers!  I’m following so many blogger friends and I’m completely amazed at what they’re doing.  Check it out!

I want to say THANK YOU again to our amazing sponsors!  We are so lucky to have teamed up with some great companies!

Wishing you a joyful day!

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69 thoughts on “One Room Challenge {Week 4}: How to Install Cement Tile

  1. Ahhh, those tiles are gorgeous! My dad is a Masonry so I am familiar with how to lay cement tiles (although I have never done it myself). Looks like your list has gotten so small now and I know that table and tent will be the bomb. I agree with your kid, pillows in a tent are the best!!

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