Tile 101: How To Install Organic Terracotta Tile

A comprehensive guide for how to install our most natural tile yet

YouTube thumbnail image of organic terracotta floor that leads to clay imports organic terracotta YouTube video

Our new Organic Terracotta is our most down to earth tile yet. It sports a handmade, lived-in, distressed look that's perfect for those who deeply appreciate the natural patina of handcrafted tile. Organic Terracotta requires a special installation process, that’s why we made a comprehensive guide to make your installation a breeze.

Before You Begin

Organic Terracotta features variation in shade and color; these tiles will not be identical piece to piece. This is a result of the handmade process and the nature of terracotta. Mixing tiles from different boxes during setting is suggested to produce a beautiful and natural appearance. Details that are visible up close, will appear subtle upon full installation. If properly installed, Organic Terracotta tiles will result in a beautiful, durable, easy to maintain surface that can be enjoyed for many years to come.

THIS TILE REQUIRES SEALING. Due to the nature of Organic terracotta, it is only offered unsealed. This allows you to apply the protective coating that you feel is best for your lifestyle. To extend the lifetime of your organic terracotta tile floor and keep it VOC free, we recommend sealing with a non-toxic, low-VOC sealer we sell in our store.


Required Materials

  1. Flexible tile adhesive, suitable for natural stone
  2. Flexible grout, we recommend Mapei Ultracolor Plus FA or Organic specific gray grout Water-cooled tile saw
  3. 1/2” or 3/4” Grout trowel
  4. Large wedge tile spacers
  5. Sealant, recommend our Ultra-Low VOC Sealant

Care and Inspection

  1. Handle cases of tile with care. Keep all boxes upright. Do not drop cases of tile. Prior to installation, store material in a dry area. Moisture or dampness can cause tiles to stain.

  2. Inspect your order carefully. Clay Imports will not be responsible for material that has been cut or installed. Throughout the installation process and handling of the tile, be careful not to damage the finished surface, edges, and corners of the tiles.

  3. Organic Terracotta tile, as a product of clay and natural materials, is subjected to color and shade variations, we recommend mixing the tiles from different cases.

  4. Organic Terracotta tile is a clay-based product and may have clay residue on its surface. Before starting the installation, we highly recommend cleaning all tiles with a clean cloth to remove any residue. Please be aware that our tile is a handmade product. Due to this process, variations in size, shade, irregular edges and the appearance of fine cracks are inherent to the tile and can vary from piece to piece. The size tolerance for this product is 1/2”.


Installing Your Organic Terracotta

Step 1

Ensure that your terracotta tiles are clean of all dust and debris. Ensure that your terracotta tiles are completely dry. Do not wet your tiles prior to sealer application. Confirm your preferred method of application. We recommend using sponge, roll, spray, or brush on our Ultra-Low VOC sealer. Make sure to use a chemical-grade sponge, roller, or brush to ensure no fibers are released during sealing. DO NOT SHAKE SEALER!

Step 2

During sealer application, do not let sealer drips form or fall onto your terracotta tile.

Apply the sealer in straight lines, from one end of the tile all the way to the other end of the tile. Only seal one tile at a time. The sealer line applications should slightly overlap, leaving no lines of unsealed tile between the sections of sealed tile.

Step 3

Once the single piece of tile is completely coated with a single coat of sealer, apply sealer to the next tile. The first coat of sealer will absorb and dry quickly. As you are applying sealer, be thoughtful of any debris or footprints that may be on the surface. Do not seal over debris or prints as this will permanently stick to the tile.


Step 4

Once a single coat is applied to all tiles, allow 4 hours of dry time before applying the second coat.

Step 5

Apply second coat of sealer, the second coat of sealer will not absorb as quickly and may show some streaking. This streaking will even out as you apply more coats.

Step 6

Only 2 coats of sealer are required, if additional protection is desired, wait 4 hours before applying any subsequent coats. Confirm sealer dryness prior to applying the additional coats. If you are satisfied with the results, you have completed the preliminary seal. Prior to adhering your tile, confirm sealer dryness.

Step 7

Glue the tiles on a flat, dry surface with a high quality, flexible tile adhesive. Use a trowel with recesses of 10-20 mm (½ – ¾ in.). Ensure that the adhesive is applied to the entire back surface of the tile. Depending on the desired look, grout joint spacers up to ¾” can be used. The average grout line is ½”-¾”. This grout line accommodates the size variations from tile to tile. Remove the excess glue from between tiles quickly. Glue will require at least 24 hours to dry properly.


Step 8

Clean the tile surface with water after bonding using a sponge and/or cloth. Wring the sponge every time while cleaning the floor. Avoid getting tiles too wet as this may affect later steps. Allow the floor to dry completely.

Step 9

The tiles should be spotless prior to grouting. After the tiles are clean and dry, apply 1 to 2 coats of grout release to the tile surface.


Step 10

Grout should be applied to the tile within 1 hour of applying grout release. Always apply grout to a loose sample tile prior to full application. 

Pigments from some grouts can penetrate the surface of tile and result in permanent staining. WE ADVISE AGAINST USING BLACK GROUT

Once you have confirmed that the grout is suitable, begin applying to the surface. Only apply small sections of no greater than 6 square feet at a time. Grout should be removed from the tile surface with a damp sponge. Grout should not be allowed to dry on the tile surface for longer than 10 minutes. For best results, wipe away excess grout at an angle to the tile lines. Continue cleaning until only a mild residue remains on the surface. Caution not to remove too much grout from the surface joints. Allow 24 hour for grout to dry.


Step 11

Following grout application, clean the tile surface thoroughly with a damp cloth. Clean the surface until all grout residue has been removed.

Step 12

Once the installed tile is completely dry, 1 to 2 coats of Ultra-Low VOCs sealer can be applied to the surface. This top-seal will reduce the overall required maintenance of your surface. *DO NOT change sealer types from initial sealing and top coat sealant, Poly-based sealants and Solvent-based sealants have a negative reaction if applied together.

Step 13

Maintain your tiles periodically, recommended once a week, with soap or non-acidic cleaner and water.


Final Notes

  • Please be sure to read products usage instructions on all materials used for your installation.
  • For safety purposes, Clay Imports always recommends that you wear safety gear when installing tile. Gloves, safety glasses and close toed shoes can prevent injury.
  • Mixing tiles from different boxes leads to the best results.
  • Clean your tile occasionally with soap or a household, non-acidic cleaner.
  • If you are uncertain about what steps to take for your installation, feel free to contact Clay Imports where we can provide our expertise on next steps required. We also suggest consulting your tile installer as each project is unique.
  • Do not apply late in the day or when dew, rain, fog, or mist is likely (moisture will damage the fresh paint film). Apply at temperatures above 50 degrees F. Do not apply if temperatures below 45 degrees are expected within 24 hours. Cold weather or excess humidity or a sudden temperature drop will greatly affect any finish at the time of application. Dampness can dull the gloss. Do not paint in direct sun. Use a clean brush or roller. For maximum durability, we recommend at least two thin coats.


We hope this guide helps you install Organic Terracotta in your space without any hitches. If you have any questions feel free to email us at contact@clayimports.com or chat wish us here.

Disclaimer: since the installation of tile greatly determines the integrity of the project and the tile itself, Clay imports does not warranty this product and is not responsible for dissatisfaction of material following installation. Please inspect all tile upon receipt and notify us immediately if you have any quality concerns. This guide is meant to serve as a general resource. Because each project is unique, consult your tile installer before installing your tile.