How to Lay Tile Outside

Instructions for Building Tile Patios

Image: tile patio.
Picture of an elegant tile patio. George Gutenberg/Getty Images

Laying tile outdoors to build a new patio may seem like a daunting task. Indeed, it's a project that entails many steps, and you'll be challenged to make the right decisions along the way. Make the wrong decision (e.g., in selecting product X over product Y, when shopping) at any juncture, and the whole project could be jeopardized! That's why Joe Norton, mason and tile setter, breaks the project down into nine easily-understandable steps.

Learn how to lay tile outside a step at a time -- and receive expert help on all those tricky decisions.

How to Prepare Concrete Slabs for Laying Tile Outside

Your first task in laying tile outdoors to build a patio will be to provide a solid base. The following article deals with preparing an existing concrete base, but it also links to a resource devoted to pouring a new concrete slab.

Preparing Concrete Slabs

Choosing the Right Flooring Product

Novices will have to acquaint themselves with the pros and cons of the different materials available for this patio project. Your success in laying tile outside depends on, among other things, selecting a flooring material that will stand up to the elements. Consult the following resource for advice on this critical decision:

Choosing the Right Flooring Product

Selecting and Mixing Adhesive for Laying Tile Outside

Similarly, you'll need to buy a proper adhesive, with which you can lay tile outside and have it hold tight!

Consult the following resource for help with this aspect of the patio project, including how to mix the adhesive and how much of it you'll need:

How to Select and Mix Adhesive

Laying Tile Begins With the Layout

OK, you have a solid base in place, plus the materials needed to build on that base. What now?

Well, I don't know about you, but I wouldn't trust myself to just start laying tile "by eye," hoping that the placement of each square ends up being right. In the following resource, Joe discusses how to create a grid that will serve as your visual guide in this project:

Starting With the Layout

Mark Expansion Joints As Part of Your Layout

While many joints in your new patio will be grouted (see below), others will be treated differently: namely, as "expansion joints." Expansion joints will be marked as such during the layout (see above). In the following resource, Joe explains the concept behind expansion joints and instructs us on how to handle them:

Mark Expansion Joints As Part of Your Layout

How to Lay Tile Outside

Now the process of laying tile, proper begins. If you've followed all the steps above, this step should go rather smoothly. Here's how to set your flooring onto the concrete slab, using the adhesive discussed earlier:

How to Lay Tile Outside

Making the Cut: It's Easier Than You Think

The aspect of this patio project that probably troubles novices the most is making cuts. Power saws can be scary for those not used to handling such equipment, and I would be the last one to make light of someone's healthy fear of dangerous tools: Yard safety is no joke.

But I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by what Joe has to say about using a wet saw in this article:

Making the Cut: It's Easier Than You Think

Penultimate Step: Grouting

You're almost home now! But first you have to apply the grout (and fill in those expansion joints I mentioned earlier). How to grout between the cracks is the subject of this resource, which takes you from buying to buffing:

How to Grout

Last Step: Using a Grout Sealer

We've come a long way since preparing that concrete slab! Your flooring is now bonded to the slab (using the adhesive), and the cracks between have been filled in. But after you apply the grout, you must use a grout sealer on it. Learn why this is necessary -- along with how to choose a grout sealer -- in the following article:

How to Use Grout Sealers