How to tile stairs

Mr. HowToSpecialist January 11, 2012 Comments Off
How to tile stairs

This step by step article is about how to tile stairs. Installing ceramic tile on stairs is easy, provided you use the right techniques and tools. In this article, we show you how we install tiles on concrete stairs, as to make it durable, easy to maintain and give it a nice appearance. In order to install tile on stairs, you have to pay attention to a few aspects, as to get the job done as a professional. If the stairs are not even, you have to pour a mortar bet as to make them level. Before you can tile the stairs, you should wait several days until the mortar dries out.


 

First of all, you have to make sure the stairs are perfectly level, plumb and even.  Consequently, you have to use a level and a tape measure to asses the state of the stairs, before starting the project. If the stairs are made of wood, then you should install backer boards first. Therefore, cut them to the needed dimensions and screw them both to the treads and risers. Last but not least, you have to seal the interior and outside joints by using tape and thin-set. Work with patience and make sure you lay the backer perfectly level and plumb.

Secondly, you have to purchase ceramic tile designed to be installed on stairs. Remember that you shouldn’t install regular tiles on your interior stairs, but you should choose tile stair nosing. Not only the tile nosing look better, but they are also more resistant to hits and wear over the years. Measure carefully the surface of the stairs and go to your local store to compute the need amount of floor tiles and tile nosing.

When installing ceramic tiles on stairs, you should start from the top towards the bottom, as to be able to complete the project in just one day. After you have lain the tiles on the whole surface you should’t walk on the stairs for at least 24-48 hours, according to the adhesive you have used. We recommend you to read carefully the instructions labeled on the adhesive, for accurate information. See more step by step diy tile projects HERE.

In order to install tile on stairs, you need the following:

Materials:

  • Water
  • Thinset mortar / premixed mastic
  • Ceramic tile

Tools:

  • Safety gloves, Eye protection
  • Drill machinery with mixing palette
  • Bucket, Rubber hammer
  • Notched float, Wet saw

Tips:

  • Use tile stair nosing, if you want to get a professional look
  • When installing stair tiles you have to start from left to the right

Time

  • One day

 

Stairs preparation for installing tiles

Leveling stairs

Leveling stairs

First of all, you have to make sure the stairs are level, plumb and even, otherwise you won’t be able to install tiles. Therefore, you should use a 3′ spirit level in order to make sure the base surface is level. If you notice something wrong, you have to pour a bed of mortar as to make sure the surface is perfectly level, before installing the tiles. In addition, you have to use a tape measurement as to measure the stairs and check if they are all even. In addition, if there are any irregularities on the surface, you have to remove them by using a trowel.

On the other hand, if you want to tile wooden stairs, you have two alternatives. Firstly, you could lay the tiles directly over the wood by using glue (we don’t recommend you as the wood tends to expand over the years, cracking the grout between the tiles). Secondly, you could lay backer boards to the stairs, tape the joints and then install the tiles.

Notched float for tile

Notched float for tile

In order to spread the tile adhesive, you have to use a notched float. This tool is very useful as you can spread an even layer of adhesive on the floor. Consequently, by using the comb side of the float you will lay a level bed of adhesive.

Smart tip: In order to tile stairs, you have to learn how to mix tile adhesive. Consequently, you should follow our guidelines and have patience while preparing the adhesive. It is essential to spread the adhesive on a small surface, as it gets dry quickly.

 

Spreading tile adhesive on stairs

Dripping water on floor

Dripping water on floor

 

Next, you have to start tiling the stairs from the top. Consequently, if the concrete floor is too dry, you should sprinkle a couple of drips of water, as to make sure the tile adhesive will bond with the floor.

In order to add water uniformly, you could just use a sponge. Nevertheless, you have to remember that you should not drip too much water, otherwise the adhesive won’t stick to the floor.

 

Moreover, you should prepare the ceramic tiles for the installation, making sure they aren’t scratched or don’t have any flaw. This aspect is essential, otherwise you won’t get the desired result.

 

Loading adhesive on float

Loading adhesive on float

After you have prepared the tile adhesive with the right consistency, you should load the float, by using a margin trowel. Next you have to spread the adhesive on the stairs, first with the straight side of the float.

In order to lay the adhesive in a professional manner, you should use semicircular moves , until you have an even layer on the surface (use the straight edge first to spread the material). Next, comb the adhesive by holding the trowel at 45º.

 

How to tile stairs

Spreading tile adhesive with a float

Spreading tile adhesive with a float

After you have spread the tile adhesive on the floor by using the straight side, you have to comb it with the notched side. Consequently, use the float until the layer of adhesive is even, as to make sure the tile flooring will be perfectly level.

You have to spread adhesive on a larger surface than the footprint of the tiles you are going to lay down. Consequently, you should spread adhesive at least 2” over the footprint of the ceramic tiles. After you lay the tile on stairs, you should remove the excess adhesive by using a trowel.

Spreading tile adhesive on stairs

Spreading tile adhesive on stairs

In this image you can see how you should spread the bed of adhesive on the stairs. It is not a complex job, so with a little effort you should be able do the job even better. We had a hard time with the uneven concrete surface, but it turned out nice eventually.

You should keep in mind two essential elements: the surface must be level (or plumb) and the adhesive layer must be even on the whole surface (the thinset should have the right consistency).

Installing tile stairs spacers

Installing tile stairs spacers

After you have spread the tile adhesive, you have to install the tile stair nosing. Although it might look complex, it is relatively easy to tile stairs, provided you use the right materials, tools and work with great care and patience.

Smart tip: In order to get a nice appearance, you should install spacers between the tiles, as shown in the image. In addition, you have to remove the excess thinset from the floor, until it dries out. Place spacers between the tiles, in order to get even gaps.

Tapping tile stairs

Tapping tile stairs

Last but not least, after you tile the stairs, you have to tap them gently, by using a rubber hammer (mallet). In this way, you lock the tiles into position make make them level. Therefore we recommend you to use a spirit level, to check the alignment of the tiles.

If the tiles get dirty with adhesive, you should wipe them off with a damp sponge and a little water. If you use too much water, you risk moving them from position, as the adhesive will melt down.

How to tile stair nosing

How to tile stair nosing

In this image, you can see the top of the stairs. If have succeeded in installing the stair tile nosing, then you should be able to finish the whole project without any issues.

Smart tip: If you have to cut a tile to fit into location, you have to use a wet saw. While for cutting the tiles you should use a score and snap cutter, for the tile nosing you have to use a wet saw. Consequently, for a professional job, you should buy or rent a wet saw.

Installing tile stairs

Installing tile stairs

After you have installed the tile nosing, you have to install ceramic tiles on the tread of the next stair. In this way, when you will install the stair raiser, you will hide the cut line.

Smart tip: When installing the stair raiser, you have to cut the tiles as to leave enough room for installing the spacers. Otherwise, you will have to force the tiles to fit into the location and you might move the other tile stairs from their position. Clean the excess thinset with a cloth, before it dies out.

Making sure tile stairs are plumb

Making sure tile stairs are plumb

When installing the stair raisers, you have to use a l-square, as to make sure they are plumb. This aspect is very important, as to make sure you tile the stairs properly. When checking this aspect, you have to use the l-square on both sides of the tiles.

On the other hand, you have to install tile spacers between the tiles, as to make sure they are installed evenly.

 

Tile stairs

Tile stairs

Next, you have to continue installing tiles on the stairs, by using the same techniques and tips described previously. If you work with patience, use the spirit level whenever you add a tile, install tile spacers and make the cuts in a professional manner (both with the score and snap cutter and wet saw), you will add character and style to your stairs. Make sure the tiles are aligned and in a good shape.

Smart tip: After one day, you can finish the project by grouting the tiles with an appropriate grout color.

How to tile stairs landing

How to tile stairs landing

Last but not least, the most difficult aspect when tiling a stair, is to lay them on the landing. In addition, if you have a split landing, the job is even trickier, but doable by anyone who works with great care.

Therefore, make sure you install the tiles aligned with the tile nosing. This aspect is essential if you want to get a professional look. You have to make a few complex cuts, so you would better rent a wet saw to get the job done quickly and accurately.

 

Thank you for reading our article on how to tile stairs and we recommend you to check out the rest of our projects. Please share our projects with your friends, by using the social media widgets.

 Related projects:

 How to install wall tile

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