Tile pricing is probably the most complex of all floor installation pricing. Part of that is due to tile not going solely on floors, but in showers, walls, backslpashes, ceilings, around fireplaces, inside and outside, and pretty much anywhere else you can put a flat, or even curved, surface. There is also a wider range in types of tile, sizes, installation methods, and so many variables it would be impossible to give you a comprehensive list. We will try to give you a good starting point so you can at least have an idea of the price range for your project.
If you want the straight numbers on tile installation, head down to the bottom of the article, and if you want to read more detailed information read on.
The quality will vary with the price for tile installations. This is broken down between two areas, the quality of the materials and the quality of the installation.
The mortar and grout is normally payed for by the installer, and mortar costs can vary between $20 per 100 square feet, and $500 for the same area. Grout costs vary in the same way just for the material, with standard portland cement based grouts to costly fusion/flexcolor grouts, and even epoxy grouts. That's just the basic required materials. For a quality installation you need a flat, well prepared surface, and material costs for leveling vary between very inexpensive to incredibly costly. If one installer quotes at 50% less then someone else, expect that he or she will likely be using lower quality materials, or not including prep in the quote, which may be a surprise add on.
The quality of the installation is so varied with tile setters it can be hard to compare costs. Less qualified installers often have very large grout lines to hide inconsistency in their installation, particularly if they haven't done proper surface prep and leveling and the need to hide lippage between tiles. This is not to say every single installation will be perfectly flat. Ideally, they should be, but there will be some variations, and perfectly flat installations can cost twice as much money and time as standard professional installations, and that will depend on the customers desires and budget. Industry standards for differences in height between tiles is 1/8 of an inch, plus the variance in the tile itself.
Most installers will advertise and quote a job based on professional quality, to industry standards, which will be different then a quote for a perfectly flat finished floor. These are the tile installations seen in almost every single home or business you enter. Some tiles will not allow very small grout lines or perfectly flat/smooth floors, due to variance in size from tile to tile. Rectified tiles are the best for 1/8 and under grout lines. If you require a quality above industry standards, it is important to communicate that to the installer ahead of time. Some companies don't have the experience to deliver on demanding jobs, and those that do will need to know to estimate the cost and time accurately.
There are other variables for quality as well. If you are having a shower installed, building code is lower then industry standards when it comes to waterproofing, and can lead to mold growth and structural damage unless care is taken. Having a crack isolation mat put down can help a floor last longer in areas where there may be movement in the substrate, such as in basements. Sound barriers for tile are a requirement in most condos and apartments, and the cost of these can vary, with some costing five times as much as others. Heated floors can add significant costs, but are a great luxury for those that can afford it. Patterns and different tiles in the same area should generally only be installed by highly qualified journeyman if you want it to turn out the best it can look.
Because the quality of tile setters vary so much, and the time it takes to install tile compared to most other flooring, you may have to plan farther ahead to get the installation you deserve. If you want a professional quality installation, be sure to only hire an installer who can provide it. If you want perfection, be prepared to spend some time looking for an installer with the skill set to provide that, and possibly wait longer for him or her to have time for your installation. If you desire absolute perfection, be up front with your installer, as he or she will have to schedule more time for the same job to achieve that.
Plan ahead when looking for a tile setter, so you don't end up needing to settle for a less qualified installer when your first choices aren't available. Winter months are often slower in smaller cities, although many tile setters also take that time off due to the cold weather making it harder to work with tile.
The range of costs will vary greatly. The main factors to consider are the size of the tiles, where they are being installed (floor, wall, shower, interior or exterior), they type of tile, the pattern or layout of the tile, the prep that needs to be done before installation, if the tile and/or grout needs to be sealed, if you need crack isolation or waterproofing, or additional subfloor, as well as if you want a professional quality end result or a perfection quality end result.
Standard sized tiles are 12”x12”, and the farther your tiles are from those dimensions, the more the price will increase as a general rule. Currently the 12”X24” tile is very popular, and normally costs 10-15% more to install. Mosaics will often cost twice as much, and loose lay stones will cost even more. Many companies and installers advertise a rate for installations that will be based on 12”x24” tile, which is the most commonly installed tile at the moment.
Floor tile will often be the low end of price for location of the tile, with wall tile being more expensive, and exterior tile the most expensive. Areas with many cuts, particularly showers, will cost more per square foot then a large flat feature wall. Exterior tiles require a higher quality mortar, and a higher percentage of coverage then interior tiles. Advertised prices are for interior floor tile unless otherwise specified.
Porcelain and ceramic are the low end of cost for type of tile, glass and natural stones being more expensive. The specific type of natural stone can affect the price, as some require extra work with sealing before installation, before grouting, etc. Some also require very specific considerations, such as green marble, which is highly susceptible to warping from moisture. Ledgestone generally costs around 50% more then porcelain on a wall, but looks amazing around a fireplace or on a feature wall. Advertised prices are normally based on porcelain or ceramic tile.
Patterns and layouts will add to the cost per square foot depending on the expected extra time it will take. Layout refers more to how many cuts will be required, with the areas requiring a lot of cuts costing more, and patterns being repeating, or random, patterns that will take more time to install. Advertised prices are normally based on straight or offset patterns unless otherwise specified.
The substrate needs to be flat, clean of contaminants, and of a proper bondable material for the mortar. Oil based residues will need to be removed, sealed concrete will need to be prepared so the mortar will adhere, and some wood substrates like OSB will need to be either replaced or prepared with an appropriate membrane. Standard size tiles require the normal 1/8” over 10 feet flatness requirement, and larger tiles will often require an even flatter surface for a flat finished floor. Leveling and surface prep is essential in a high quality tile installation. Surface prep is an additional cost.
Sealing is normally not necessary when dealing with man made tile, as the tile itself will normally not be porous, although the grout likely will be. Almost all natural stones will benefit from sealing, and most installers will include the cost in this in your quote, either rolled in or separately in case you would like to do the sealing yourself. Some natural stones actually benefit from sealing before installation, or after installation but before grouting. Speak to your installer during the quote to find out whether your tile needs to be sealed, and if it is included.
Crack isolation membranes and waterproofing are sometimes suggested or required. The material will often be quoted at cost, and the labor on a per job or per square foot basis. Other times it will be one cost that will include both material and labor. Showers require waterproofing, and we highly recommend you only hire someone with licensing and insurance to waterproof your shower, as it can cost tens of thousands in repairs to your house if done wrong.
Tile requires a thicker wood sub floor for structural rigidity then any other type of flooring. Most homes have a 3/4” thick sub floor when they are built, and tile requires a 1 1/8” thick sub floor. Installing on a thinner sub floor may cause tiles to come loose or crack with time. Most installers will quote per sheet of sub floor, or per square foot. They may quote per job, particularly if it is an area where there are many cuts, with little or no full sheets to install.
The transitions, and edges of wall tile, are something that needs to be considered as well. On wall tile, where there will be a visible edge of the tile, you have an option of putting a decorative and protective trim, or having the edge of the tile visible. More delicate tile benefits more from these metal trims, while ledgestone almost never has any trim. Most doorways and transitions to other types of flooring will also require trim. These are normally priced either per linear foot, per doorway, or per length purchased.
Installers will have a minimum charge for tile installation, anywhere between $100 and $1000 depending on the installer. Waterproofing labor will often have a separate minimum charge in the same range. Smaller jobs will often be quoted at a higher rate per square foot.
Stairs, trap doors, and other detailed work is normally quoted per job, although some installers will have a standard price per stair for closed or open ended stairs, and for picture frames or trap doors.
Additional Costs to Plan For
Current floor removal
Tile has strict requirements for what substrates it can be installed on. We recommend only installing on tile backer board, exterior grade plywood, properly prepared concrete, and tile specific membranes. You can install over top of other surfaces if certain conditions are met. This means that most of the time your current floor will have to be removed before tiling can take place. Most installers will offer removal/demolition of old flooring.
A new product from Ardex called Ardex UI 720 Flexbone allows for a floating tile installation, in instances where your current hard surface is not suitable for installation of tile, or is unsafe to remove, such as in the case of asbestos flooring. It is also great for commercial tile installations that may be replaced at regular intervals.
Industry standard for floor flatness tolerance in tile installation is 1/8” over 10”, though larger tiles require up to 1/16” over 10”. If the floor is not flat enough, it is possible you will have hollow spots under tiles that will cause cracks and damage in the long run, and frequently leads to lippage, which is a difference in height between tiles. Most installers offer floor preparation and leveling.
Furniture and appliance removal and replacement
Furniture moving is often charged per room, or per hour, appliance moving is often charged per appliance. If anything with gas or water lines need to be moved, you will often need someone qualified to unhook them and hook them back up. Most installers offer this service, except for the water and gas lines. Some installers will remove a toilet but not re install, some will remove and re install. Always make sure a new wax ring is used.
Baseboard removal and replacement
When any floor except carpet is installed, the baseboard needs to come off and be put back on at the new proper height. Whether you put the old baseboard back on or install new ones will change the price be a large factor. Some installers offer this service. Another option with tile is to have tile baseboard installed, which is charged per linear foot. Another option is to install up to the baseboard and put quarter round on.
Most installers get rid of the waste from installation, however, if the old flooring was removed, they may or may not include the price to take it to the landfill in their removal/demolition price. Most installers offer or include this service.
The tile itself is always separate from installation costs, unless you purchase from a supplier that does material and labor and offers one all inclusive price. Many stores offer installation packages with their product. Waterproofing and crack isolation materials is normally separate, but may be quoted included with labor. Trim pieces may or may not be included in the quote. Grout and mortar is always included, but you may inquire about the cost of going with a higher quality mortar or grout. Higher quality grouts offer benefits such as less variance in color, stain and moisture resistance.
Tile Installation Prices
Base price Porcelain floor Tile 12”x24”: $6.00 /square foot
Base price Porcelain wall tile 12”x24”: $10.00 /square foot
Base price natural stone floor Tile 12”x12”: $9.00 /square foot
Base price natural stone wall tile 12”x12”: $13.00 /square foot
Diagonal or curved walls: Additional $0.50 - $2.00 /square foot
Small areas, no large rooms: Additional $1.00 /square foot
Under 300 square feet: Additional $1.00 /square foot
Minimum Charge: $500
Inserts, borders and trim: Additional cost, often based on linear foot
Patterns: Additional cost, often based on square foot
Picture frames and trap doors: Additional cost often per item
Stairs: Additional cost per stair
Waterproofing and Crack Isolation: Additional cost, per job or square foot
Sealing: Additional cost, sometimes included with natural stone price