Tile: DIY or Go Pro?

Figure out how much your tile project will cost and then decide whether to tackle it on your own or leave it to the professionals.

Posted by Linda Merrill | Feb 14, 2010
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Installing tile in the home can be done either as a DIY project or by a professional tile installer. Either way, there are some very simple steps one can take to estimate the cost of installing the tile. Once you have a decent estimate range, you can determine whether it's a project you wish to tackle on your own or hire a pro to do.

Proper Surface

The first thing to determine is whether the substrate (plywood sub-floor, concrete floor, wallboard, etc.) is acceptable for the tile job. It is vitally important, especially for floors, that the base be level and sturdy. If the floor or walls are not level, there is sagging or any kind of movement, the likelihood of cracked and broken tiles down the road is great. Therefore, your first estimate is the cost to prepare the substrate properly. This may require laying an entirely new floor or resetting the walls and installing a proper moisture barrier, particularly on a ground floor level. A professional can easily tell you whether your surface is acceptable or needs to be redone.

Square Footage

In order to estimate the cost of materials, you will need to know both the total square footage of the space to be tiled (multiply the length times the width/height) and the linear footage of the space. The linear footage is particularly important for walls and backsplashes in order to estimate trim pieces and tile borders.

When estimating the amount of tile for the job, again, you will do this based on the total square footage of the space. For a nice square room such as a bathroom, this is relatively easy - length times height multiplied by the number of walls. But for an odd-sized space, you will need to break it into smaller chunks of area and then subtract any large open spaces such as windows on walls or center islands on the floor. One of the last things you want when doing a tile job is to run out of tile, so it's always best to round up when adding up your dimensions and then add another 10-20% onto your tile order for mistakes and breakage when installing. If the tile is standard and easy to come by, you can get away with estimating on the lower end, but if the tile is on sale or is handmade, then you will want a 20% cushion.

Regardless of tile size and shape, it is nearly always sold by the square foot. If you are buying individual tiles, you will need to calculate their square foot equivalent in order to properly estimate your job.


You will then need to estimate the cost of thinset or mortar to be used to install the tile and the grout used to fill in between the tiles. These figures are based on the simple square footage measurement per the manufacturer's instructions.

Finally, you will need to estimate in the equipment cost such as tile cutters, trowels, pins and the like. Depending on the tile and planned design, you will either need a dry cutter or a wet saw, which are usually available for rent at home improvement stores.

Once you have taken all these individual items into consideration, you will be able to determine if this is a job you wish to tackle on your own or if it makes sense to hire a professional installer. Either way, with the proper preparation and planning you are sure to have a beautiful tiled project in the end that will provide good looks and function for years to come.

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