On this page:
- How Do Pros Price Tile Installation?
- Should I Install Tile?
- What Affects the Cost of Installing Tile?
- Why Do the Details Matter?
- Preparing for a Tile Installation
- Cost Comparisons
- Level of Difficulty
With a wide variety of materials, styles, and colors available, tile is a great choice for many applications. Whether your project involves tiling a floor, shower, backsplash, or fireplace, there are several details that will affect the cost of tile installation, from the tile you choose to the complexity of the installation.
How Do Pros Price Tile Installation?
The installation of tile, like many other floor and wall coverings, is typically priced by the square foot. In order to calculate the materials needed for the job, an installer or tile setter will measure the surface area of the space to cover and determine the requirements of the job, from materials to time and skill.
The price of tile can range from as low as $1.00 per square foot for economy ceramics to $20 or more for natural stone, so this part of the budget really comes down to your choice of materials.
In addition to the tile itself, supplies such as backer board, mortar, and grout will contribute to materials costs, and it is customary to add 10 percent to the total square footage to allow for waste and damage. Additional materials required for prep and installation could add $1.00 or more per square foot to a typical job.
The cost of tile installation is also usually based on surface area, and generally ranges from $2.00 to $5.00 per square foot. In some cases, labor may be billed on an hourly basis for some aspects of the job, such as demolition and preparation, or when the homeowner supplies materials rather than contracting with the pro to supply them.
Should I Install Tile?
Tile is typically considered an “upgraded” material, and has a greater appeal than basic finishes like vinyl, laminates, and paint. Adding tile to various spaces can take their look up a notch and help define their character.
Tile is a long-lasting material that cannot be reliably refinished though, so unless you have the resources to change it periodically, be careful to choose a material and color that you will love for a long time.
Durability and Maintenance
Once installed properly, most types of tile are extremely durable and can stand up to just about anything the average family can dish out. In order to keep tile surfaces in good shape, periodic sealing may be needed, so be sure to find out what level of maintenance will be required for the tile you have in mind.
The cost of tile is generally comparable to that of installing hardwood flooring, but is typically higher than that of paint, wallpaper, carpet, and laminates. Tile has more longevity than many other products though, so its initial cost is usually recovered by avoiding more frequent replacement that is typically necessary with other materials.
What Affects the Cost of Installing Tile?
Tile installation is a specialized trade, so the cost of labor for setting tile is often equal to or greater than the cost of materials for the job. A considerable amount of skill is required to prepare a subfloor and install tile correctly, but if you have what it takes to do the work yourself, you could save a substantial amount.
If you opt for professional installation of your tile, your location could play a part in the cost of the job. As with most professional services, the cost of labor is directly affected by the cost of living. If you live in a high-cost area, such as a large city or a coastal region, you may pay more for labor than if you live in a rural or inland location.
On the other hand, the availability of skilled pros will affect competitive pricing; if you live in a place with a limited number of professional tile setters, you may pay a premium to hire a specialist or someone from out of town.
Why Do the Details Matter?
Size and Complexity
The size of an area will naturally affect the cost of materials, since material requirements will go up with the size. However, the unit cost of labor for installing tile typically goes down as the size of the project goes up. Since it is tedious and time consuming to work in small and complex areas, it may cost more per square foot to tile the floor of a small bathroom or the surround of a fireplace than it might for the floor of a large, open family room.
Similarly, the size and layout of your tile can make a difference in the cost of the job. It can take more time, skill, and material to install tile on a diagonal, in a complex layout, or in a mosaic or custom design, and it simply takes longer to cover a surface with smaller tiles than it does larger ones. Labor for a more intricate layout could cost as much as twice what a standard job would, from $6.00 to $10.00 per square foot.
Tile and Materials
The type of tile you choose for your project may influence the cost of labor as well as materials. Porcelain, stone, and glass tiles are generally more expensive than ceramic or clay tiles, and the cost of installation typically goes up with the cost of the tiles.
It can take more time and care to cut porcelain, stone, and glass, and the extra liability carried by the installer is generally reflected in their labor charges. Similarly, the use of specialized supplies, such as polymer-modified mortar or epoxy grout, may raise the cost of installation above the cost for standard materials.
Level of Preparation
Correct preparation is essential for a successful tile job, and the level of work required to get the site ready can be a significant factor in overall costs. If existing flooring must be removed, the subfloor leveled, and new backer board or membrane installed, the costs will be higher than for a job that just requires basic cleaning or leveling, such as on concrete slab or a newly built shower or tub surround.
Sealing grout lines and unsealed tile is an important step to protect the surfaces of some types of tile and grout from staining and damage. Most tile installers will provide this service with the installation, but it may be offered at an additional charge of $1.00 to $2.00 per square foot. Be sure to find out up front what is recommended and included for the tile and services you have chosen.
Preparing for a Tile Installation
Even if you don’t plan to install tile on your own, there are some things you can do to simplify the job for a pro, and perhaps cut down on the cost of labor. If your project requires the removal of old flooring or the installation of concrete backer board, you could save a few hundred dollars by doing that prep work yourself, depending on the size of the project. Likewise, sealing grout or tile yourself after the installation is complete could shave a bit off the bottom line.
Since drying time is required for mortar and adhesives to set up before grout can be applied, most tile jobs span at least a couple of days. Be sure to plan ahead for the time your rooms or surfaces will be out of service, especially for floor projects since you won’t be able to walk across the new tile until the job is done.
|$1,500 - $2,750||$2,200 - $3,700||$4,200 - $6,500|
Since there are so many potential variables on a tile job, it can be difficult to predict the cost of your own project. Though it takes a visit from an experienced pro to get an accurate estimate, our examples show some of the potential differences on a tile installation that includes the floor of a 250 square foot area.
First Time Install: $1,500 - $2,750
- • Preparation: Installing tile in a new construction setting requires little preparation, if any. Our example assumes the tile can be laid directly atop a new concrete subfloor.
- • Tile: In order to keep the budget manageable, a 12” standard grade ceramic tile is chosen for this project.
- • Layout: A basic straight pattern keeps this project simple and quick, holding labor costs to a minimum.
Upgraded Refresher: $2,200 - $3,700
- • Preparation: Since this job is part of a remodel, the old flooring must be removed and the subfloor prepped for tile. The added work raises the bottom line by $500 to $1,000.
- • Tile: Sticking with ceramics keeps basic material costs low, though this budget allows for a higher-end material.
- • Layout: Stepping this project up with a more intricate pattern, like a pinwheel or basket weave, adds considerable time to the job, though it’s still a straightforward job for a pro.
High-end Overhaul: $4,200 - $6,500
- • Preparation: Typical preparation is required for a remodel; removal of existing tile and minor repairs and leveling add a bit to the overall budget.
- • Tile: This project takes things up a notch with a 12” granite tile, which takes the materials budget up to $10 to $16 per square foot.
- • Layout: Even though running tile on a diagonal is a relatively simple layout, this job takes more time and material than normal. Granite takes longer to cut than ceramic, and cutting for the layout results in more waste.
Level of Difficulty
Installing tile requires a few specialized skills and tools, so it’s a job suited for an intermediate to advanced do-it-yourselfer. There is no turning back once a tile has been cut or mortar has set up, so the project takes careful planning as well as the correct technique. While tiling is definitely a skill that a handy homeowner can learn and benefit from, leaving the job to a pro not only helps ensure it will be done right, but in far less time than it typically takes a beginner.