Layout for an Outdoor Tile Patio

How to Lay Out a Grid as a Guide

Image: tile patio.
Your tile patio does not have to be this elegant to bring value to your yard. George Gutenberg/Getty Images

Before you start setting tiles for outdoor tile patios, you need a plan of attack. A good layout is crucial to a successful outdoor tile patio installation. The layout will help you answer three questions:

  1. What type of pattern will you use for your outdoor tile patio? -- Tiles can be laid in a variety of patterns. From a simple grid pattern to intricate mosaics, there are numerous options. Choose a pattern before you begin.
  1. Where will the cut pieces go? -- Unless you have the incredibly good luck of all your tiles lining up perfectly on your concrete slab, you will need to cut tiles at some point. Do not worry, because it is easy and safe. You need to think about where the cut pieces will go. Maybe you want full pieces on one side of the outdoor tile patio and all the cuts on the other side. Maybe you want even-sized pieces around all the edges. Think about these things before you begin so that you do not have any regrets once the tiles are installed.
  2. Where will the expansion joints go? -- Believe it or not, outdoor tile patios move. And it is important that they have room to move. Expansion joints are joints that will not be grouted at the end of the installation, but instead are filled with caulk. Read this article on the importance of outdoor tile expansion joints.

Now that we know why we need to do a layout, let's do a simple one, as an example.

Follow these steps to layout 12-inch by 12-inch tiles in a simple grid pattern:

  1. Find the center of the outdoor tile patio: Measure the width of the patio and divide in half. If the outdoor tile patio is 10 feet, the center is at 5 feet. Mark the center point at both ends of the patio. Using a chalk line, make a line connecting these two points. You should now have a line running down the center of the patio. Repeat this step, this time measuring the length of the patio. You should now have two lines on your outdoor tile patio that form a cross. Where they intersect is the center of the patio.
  1. Choose a starting point: Following one of your lines, measure from the center to the edge of the patio. Make a mark at the last whole number. For example, if the measurement is 7 feet 3 inches, make a mark at 7 feet. Because we will be using 12-inch tiles, a full tile will land at this point. So, you know that you will have to cut 3-inch tiles all around this edge. Because we measured from the middle of the outdoor tile patio, there will also be 3-inch tiles around the opposite edge as well. If you do not like the size of this cut piece, experiment with starting at a different point. You can try starting at one edge with a full tile. Measure to the other side to see what size tiles you will need to cut over there. Try centering your tile on the center line and measuring to the edge to check for cut sizes. Keep moving things around until you find the layout that you think will look the best.
  2. Make a grid: Once you have chosen a starting point, chalk more lines to make a grid. If you decide to start in the center, choose one of your two center lines to be the start of your grid. At one end, measure from the line to the edge of the outdoor tile patio, making a mark every 12 inches. Repeat this process for the other end as well. Connect the corresponding points with your chalk line. You should now have a series of lines parallel to one of your center lines. Repeat this process, this time starting from the other center line. After chalking these lines, you should have a grid with 12-inch squares marked out on your outdoor tile patio.

    You can now see where each tile will go. You know what size tile you will have in front of your doorway, or steps, or other objects. You know what size cuts you will be making around the edges. You have a plan, and now you are ready to start setting tile. Return to the index, How to Lay Tile Patios, at any time, to double-check your information.