Does my Floor have to be Level to Install Tile?

by Roger

Before installing tile on your floor you must make sure your floor is properly prepared.  A properly prepared floor does not have to be level. It must, however, be flat.

The only time the levelness (is that a word?) must be taken into consideration is when drainage is an issue, such as on a porch or in a shower. In those cases you must make sure your floor is not level – it has to be angled toward a drainage area.

If your floor will not be subjected to water regularly, such as a kitchen or bathroom floor, it does not necessarily have to be level. That does not mean you can have a 45 degree angle from your door to the cabinet (although I suppose you could if you wanted), it just means if your floor is not absolutely level it will not negatively affect your tile installation.

One of the things you must make sure of, among other things, is that your floor is flat. If it is not it will be difficult to set your tiles without what we call “lippage”. That’s a ridiculous word, isn’t it? Lippage simply describes the difference in the height of two adjacent tiles. If you have a tile that sticks up higher than the tile next to it you have lippage. You don’t want that. Starting with a flat floor helps prevent it.

When prepping your floor for tile trade your level for a straight edge. Don’t be concerned with how level your floor is, be concerned with how flat it is.

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Hi Roger,
I have a customer I have done a couple of tiling jobs for, nothing spectacular. However he is very intent on hiring me to tear out some marble tile in his personal residence, a rather intimidating house, and replace it with large 24″ porcelain tile. I believe it would be around 700 – 800 sq ft. I feel overwhelmed by the prospect, and yet also would like to tackle a job of that scale. My main concern is that I have heard rumors from guy who saw the current marble installed, that the sub-floor is very uneven and needed a whole lot of building up with mud in order to keep the floor flat. I am not terribly experienced with real large tile installation and am not sure how I would address the sub-floor. Since this would be a remodel, I have other floor transitions to match. Was wondering if you run into a lot of these types of situations and appreciate any advice you could think to give me. Also, which brand of snap cutter would you recommend? I would like to purchase one for larger tile. Thanks so much.
– Dave



Hi Roger,

Thanks for your guidance, I found a deck mud that can be between 1/2″ and 1-1/2″. I don’t know if I can get it where I am, but at least I know deck mud exists.

Thanks for the guidance and the website,



Hi Adam,

If you take a bucket and mix 5 parts sand to one part cement then deck mud will exist in your bucket too. Can you get sand and cement where you are? :D


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