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Laying Large Format Tiles | Tile Entryway Reveal

Do you want to learn all about laying large format tiles? Follow along as we complete our tile entryway. We are sharing tons of beginner tips for large format tile installation.

As a part of our living room renovation, we needed to replace the tile entryway near our front door. The old builder-grade tiles were damaged and, to be honest, pretty boring.

There are several considerations that need to be paid close attention to when you’re laying large format tiles. We will start with a quick large format tile frequently asked questions and then jump into the large format tile installation with a video tutorial and step-by-step guide with pictures.

There are several considerations that need to be paid close attention to when you’re laying large format tiles. We will start with a quick large format tile frequently asked questions and then jump into the large format tile installation with a video tutorial and step-by-step guide with pictures.

This laying large format tiles tutorial contains affiliate links, but nothing that I wouldn’t recommend wholeheartedly. Read my full disclosure here.

Large format tile FAQs

Before we jump into the tutorial for how to lay large format tiles, let’s start with some basic frequently asked questions!

What type of tile is best for entryway?

There are so many different types of tile, it can be overwhelming when you’re trying to choose one! If you’re considering tile for your entryway, great choice! Tile is a very durable material that is easy to clean. I would recommend a ceramic or porcelain tile for your entryway because they are popular, which means there are a lot of design options to choose from. They are also both affordable and easy to work with and install.

I would NOT recommend installing cement or natural stone tile in your entryway because they are susceptible to staining and need to be sealed and maintained. I don’t know about you but our entry sees a lot of dirt, mud and stuff getting tracked in the house. I would hate to have to worry about ruining the tile in the entryway every time we walk in the door.

Pro tip – Be sure you are choosing a tile that is designed for floors! Floor tile is made thicker harder to withstand foot traffic, hold furniture, appliances, etcetera, and usually has some added texture to prevent slips and falls.

What size tile is considered large format?

For a tile to be considered large format, at least one side of the tile must be more than 15″.

How do you lay a large format tile?

In this tutorial, we will walk you through the entire process of laying large format tiles in a step-by-step guide and video tutorial. But here’s the process outline:
1) Choose tile.
2) Prep floor for tile getting a nice flat and clean surface.
3) Mix tile mortar with water and power drill.
4) Lay large format tiles on a bed of thinset that has been notched with ridges. Don’t forget to back butter each tile before setting it into place.
5) Cut edges of the tile with a wet tile saw as needed.
6) Grout.
7) Trim out edges of tile surface if needed.
8) Seal the grout.

What size notched trowel for large format tiles?

It is recommended to use a 1/2″ square notched trowel to get the proper setting for large format tile. 

Are large tiles harder to install?

Laying large format tiles will go faster because you are covering more ground with each tile, however large format tiles are more likely to crack or have lippage (which is when the adjacent tiles aren’t even). Large format tiles are also more to be warped or have doming during production. The large format tile mortar that is required for this type of tile is a little thicker so it can be harder to trowel than more traditional mortars. For these reasons, some consider large tiles harder to install than smaller tiles. But it’s not so hard that a beginner can’t tackle large format tiles. You just do your research first – start by reading this article with everything you need to know about large format tiles!

Do I have to use large format mortar with laying large format tiles?

Large format mortar must be used when laying large tiles – no exceptions. The thinset that is designed for the large tiles is made with more coarse materials, which help prevent slumping (when the tiles sink into the mortar) and sagging (which is when the tile doesn’t stick to the mortar because it’s too heavy – specifically when you’re installing tiles on a vertical surface like for shower tile installation).

Should you back butter large format tiles?

The mortar coverage required for large format tiles is 90%+ so you want to do everything you can to help get better coverage. So if you were to pick up a tile while installing it, the back should be at least 90% or more covered in mortar. Back buttering is when you add thinset to the back of the tile using the flat side of your trowel as a bond coat before laying it down to install on the bed of mortar (which should be combed with the notched side of your trowel so it has ridges). Back buttering tiles will help the bond strength of the mortar, fill the gaps on the backside of the tile, and can help fill any warpage on the tile. In our opinion, this extra step is worth it when laying large format tiles.

How soon after setting tile can I grout?

You need to wait at least 24 hours before grouting the tiles to make sure the thinset has dried. If there is more moisture in your air, you may need to wait up to 48 hours. However, the instructions on your specific thinset may differ, so be sure to check the bag to confirm.

Before Pictures – Tile Entryway

There was nothing necessarily wrong with the flooring that was in our entryway to begin with, besides the fact that it was a bit boring and basic. Clearly the flippers we purchased this house from were just choosing builder-grade finishes.

Even though it looks like tile, this is actually peel and stick vinyl tiles that were grouted. We have the same tile floors in our guest bathroom that we ended up painting last year. Learn how to use Rust-Oluem floor tile paint here.

Once we got the old flooring removed, we were left with this subfloor as our starting point for the large format tile installation.

Laying Large Format Tiles – Video Tutorial

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Large Format Tile Installation – Step by Step Guide

Supplies for large format tile installation:

Step 1. Choose tile.

It can be seriously overwhelming to choose tile because there are so many different types of tile. Specifically for an entryway, we recommend a ceramic or porcelain tile because they are popular, which means there are a lot of design options to choose from. They are also both affordable and easy to work with and install.

I don’t know about you but our entry sees a lot of dirt, mud and stuff getting tracked inside. So one thing that I was looking for when choosing the tile for our entryway was that it would camoflauge dirt and dust.

This star pattern has a lot of variation in the color and pattern and almost looks a little worn or vintage. This helps a TON to hide dust and dirt at the entryway. I don’t want to have to sweep this area every single day.

Pro tip – Be sure you are choosing a tile that is designed for floors! Floor tile is made thicker harder to withstand foot traffic, hold furniture, appliances, etcetera.

Step 2. Prep floor for tile.

You’ll want to start by removing whatever existing flooring you have in place in your entryway. If you’re removing tile, start with this article on how to remove tile floors.

Since our living room has a concrete subfloor, we didn’t have to worry about installing a concrete backer base. If you discover wood subfloors, you’ll need to add a concrete backer before installing tiles. You can see how to do that in this post about how to tile a bathroom floor.

Man mixing tile mortar in the orange bucket

Step 3. Mix tile mortar.

First, you’ll need to mix up some thinset mortar for your tile. There’s a lot that goes into this if you’re doing it for the first time, so I broke it all down in a separate tutorial and video, so hop over here to learn how to mix thinset mortar for tile.

The consistency that you’re going for when mixing up the mortar is that of creamy peanut butter.

But the most important thing to call out in this tutorial about laying large format tiles, specifically, is that you need to use special large format tile mortar – not the regular stuff. The large format tile (“LFT”) mortar is made with slightly bigger materials so it is more coarse to prevent the heavier tiles from sinking into the mortar.

Man applying mortar on the floor with notched trowel

Step 4. Lay large format tiles.

Once the mortar is mixed you can move on to laying the tiles in your entryway.

  • Before you start, find the center of your space and mark it. Snapping a chalk line is usually easiest for this. You’ll want to line up your first tile to this line so everything nice and straight.
  • Depending on your space, you may be want to also take the time to “dry fit” your tile first. This is just the process of laying out all of the tiles with spacers to make sure there are no super tiny cuts needed at one edge. Dry fitting also allows you to cut all on your tiles beforehand, which can make it easier when you’re installing tile by yourself. You will not have time to mortar, measure, and cut tiles to fit as you go along, which can get a little stressful when you’re going back and forth to the tile saw a million times as your mortar starts to set up. The thinset is only workable for usually 20-30 minutes before it starts to harden.
  • Plop some thinset mortar on your surface and spread and level it out as flat as you can with the flat side of your trowel.
  • Change your trowel to the notched side and hold it at 45 degrees to the floor and run the trowel over the thinset to make ridges in straight lines.
Man applying mortar on cement subfloor and creating grooves with a notched trowel before laying down large format tile into place
Man applying mortar at the back of the tile with the back butter technique
Before you set tiles into place, it is recommended that you back butter large format tiles by adding a thin layer of mortar to the back of the tile

Why you should back butter large format tiles

Before you set your tiles into place, it’s recommended that you “back butter” large format tiles.

Back buttering is adding a thin layer of thinset directly to the back of the tile before setting into place. It helps the tiles bond better and improves your mortar coverage, which is important when laying large format tiles. Back buttering also helps fill in all those little ridges, texture and pores on the back of the tile.

How to back butter large format tiles

Grab a glob of thinset with your trowel and spread it onto the back of your tile with the flat side of your trowel in an even layer. It’s just little you’re putting butter on toast – that’s why they call it back buttering!

Next, gently set the large format tile straight down on top of the mortar and with even pressure, push down the tile and give it a tiny little shimmy to work out any air bubbles and flatten the mortar underneath.

These clip and wedge spacers not only give you the right spacing between your tiles, which you'll grout later - but they also help keep the tiles level with each other.
Floor tiles attached with spacers and clips on top of the floor with mortar
  • These clip and wedge spacers not only give you the right spacing between your tiles, which you’ll grout later – but they also help keep the tiles level with each other.
  • Preventing lippage (which is a fancy word for when the tiles aren’t level with each other) is always important when working with tile. But it is even MORE important when you are installing on floors to prevent tripping hazards.
  • Getting the tiles even with each other is harder when installing large format tiles because it is harder to make small adjustments due to the size of the tile. That’s why these wedge spacers are SO worth it.
The white part of the spacer goes at the end of the tile and tucks underneath the tile. Then the yellow wedge slides into the hole of the spacer and clicks into place while pushing the tiles down to ensure they are level with each other.

The white part of the spacer goes at the end of the tile and tucks underneath the tile. Then the yellow wedge slides into the hole of the spacer and clicks into place while pushing the tiles down to ensure they are level with each other.

Patches of mortar on the other half of the floor during large format tile installation

Continue working your way across your entryway surface laying the large format tiles in the same way.

Close up of mortar applied on the floor with square notched ridges

Only put down enough thinset at one time to install one or two tiles max because it starts setting up and hardening quickly.

Laying floor tile in the middle of other already attached tiles

This tile pattern is so flippin’ gorgeous, don’t you think?

Man pressing down the floor tiles into place
Man cutting floor tile with wet tile saw

Step 5. Cut edge tiles with tile saw.

When it comes time to get to the edges, you’ll need to cut down the tiles to fit along the edges of your entryway. Unless, of course, you precut your tiles beforehand if you decided to dry-fit your tile entryway before starting.

Measure the space you need to fill on the edge, subtract the amount for spacers and cut your tiles using a wet tile saw. We have a whole post in the works showing you exactly how to use a tile saw, so stay tuned for that!

After all tile has been installed, stay off of it for at least 24 hours! This gives the mortar and chance to dry.

Step 6. Grout.

After you have waited at least 24 hours for the mortar to dry, you can grout the gaps between the tiles.

Use a rubber grout float held at a 45-degree angle to push the grout into the gaps. Work in small sections and make sure you fill every joint.

Wait about 20-30 minutes (or whatever length of time your grout instructions say) and then use a damp sponge to rinse away any remaining grout left on the tile. Be sure the sponge is well squeezed so you don’t get too much water on the tile. Repeat until the tile is clean.  

Step 7. Trim out edges of large format tile entryway.

We used this 5 in 1 moulding to trim out the edges of the tile to transition from the tile to the laminate flooring. It was fairly simple to install by following the manufacturer’s instructions. I love that it matches our laminate flooring exactly.

Honestly, the hardest part about installing the moulding was screwing the track into the concrete subfloors because concrete is pretty hard to drill holes in!

Step 8. Seal grout.

Last, but certainly not least, you want to seal the grout. However, you want to be sure the grout is FULLY DRIED before doing this. We usually wait about 7 days or so and then come back to seal the grout. In the meantime, be sure the grout stays very dry.

The process of sealing grout is pretty simply. You just apply grout sealer with a foam paint brush to the grout lines, wait 3-5 minutes and wipe off the excess.

We have a whole blog post coming about this process so you can learn why you need to do it and see the process step by step, so stay tuned for that!

After Pictures – Tile Entryway

And here’s how the tile entryway turned out!!!

Ivory and brown star pattern Floor tiles laid on the floor in entryway with yellow boots on the side
Close up of the Kings Star tile by Merola tiel

Looks pretty freakin’ amazing, right? I’m OBSESSED with the pattern of this large format tile. It adds so much fun visual interest to the room, don’t you think?

Small entryway with newly installed floor tiles with boho star pattern

And because of the small grooves in the tile, it doesn’t even look like large format tile. Once you add the grout, you can’t even tell that the tiles are large. Crazy right?

I hope you guys enjoyed this detailed look at the step-by-step process of laying large format tiles.

Do you have any more questions about our tile entryway?

Let us know in the comments below!

Step by step collage of laying format tiles with text overlay that says how to lay large format tiles

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