A Complete DIY Saltillo Tile Install Guide

By Clay Imports

Saltillo tiles will vary in shade and color and size due to their handmade molding and kiln firing process. This will mean there are a few unique steps to take in the installation.

If properly installed, the variance in Saltillo terracotta tiles will result in a beautiful, durable, easy to maintain surface. We’ve compiled our best product recommendations and installation tips from our experts here to make your project a success one.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

What materials do I need to install Saltillo tile?

  • Flexible tile adhesive, suitable for natural stone
  • For a more traditional, larger grout joint style installation, consider using Saltillo specific gray grout.
  • For a more conventional installation, we recommend Mapei Ultra Color Plus FA.
  • Water-cooled tile saw
  • 3/4” Grout trowel
  • 1/8” to 1/2” thick tile spacers

How do I prep for Saltillo tile installation?

First, make sure the surface you are installing your Saltillo tile on is clean and flat. Sweep and mop and let it dry.

Next, do a quick clean and blend of your tiles:

  • Before starting installation, we highly recommend cleaning all tiles with a clean cloth to remove any residue and get a clean tile surface.
  • Due to the variance with each tile, we advise blending tiles from different boxes to create a more balanced aesthetic.
  • If any tiles have imperfections, set them aside for cuts and do not install.

    Finally, confirm that your Saltillo tiles are pre-sealed. Though pre-sealed tiles do not require further sealing, using a conventional “grout release” will increase the efficiency of grout application. If your tile is unsealed, you’ll need to seal them by following these instructions, before continuing to install.

    We also suggest to take a look a at our Clay Care products. These maintenance items have been carefully tested with our products, and they are designed to preserve your tiles' beauty, ensuring their longevity and durability. From sealers to cleaners, purchasing these maintenance items together with your tiles not only simplifies your order but also prepares you to enjoy your tiles for a long time.

    How to seal terracotta tiles

    How do I install Saltillo tile?


    • Prepare your grid. Based on your specific installation, determine how to best design your layout and draw a grid on the installation surface. If you require additional pieces, please make sure to have them before starting the installation process. Please note that any additional pieces may differ in color from your original order.
    • Ensure that the surface is well-prepared. The setting surface must be thoroughly cleaned and dried. Avoid installing over oily or polished concrete, unsecured surfaces, or excessive paint over-spray.
    • Check your cutting saw to confirm that you're using the correct blade for the material. We strongly suggest using a high-quality, continuous diamond blade wet saw.

    Adhere your Saltillo tiles:

    • Glue the tiles on a flat, dry surface with a high quality, flexible tile adhesive using a trowel with recesses of 10-20 mm (1/2 – 3/4in). Ensure that the adhesive is applied to the entire surface of the back of the tile. Remove excess glue from between tiles quickly. Glue will require at least 24 hours to dry properly.
    • Depending on the desired look, we recommend a grout joint of a minimum of 1/4" to maximum 3/4". Remove excess glue from between tiles quickly. Please note the glue will require at least 24 hours to dry properly.
    • After bonding the tile to your desired surface, clean the tile with water using a sponge or cloth. Wring the sponge every time while cleaning the floor. Avoid getting tiles too wet. Allow the floor to dry completely.

    Once the adhesive has dried, apply grout release.

    • Apply 1 to 2 coats of grout release to the tile surface, so the grout does not stick to nor stain the surface.

    After the grout release, grout the Saltillo tile.

    • Before grouting, make sure you've thought about which grout to use for your Saltillo tile.
    • Only apply grout to small sections of the tile—no greater than 6 square feet at a time. QUICKLY clean any grout from the surface with a damp sponge. Do not let grout dry on the tile surface for longer than 10 minutes. 
    • For the best results, wipe away excess grout at an angle to the tile lines without removing too much grout from the surface joints.
    • Continue cleaning until only a mild residue remains on the surface. Allow 24 hour for the grout to dry.

    After install, use a topcoat sealer for Saltillo tile.

    • Once the installed tile is completely dry, you can apply 1 to 2 topcoats of sealer with a sponge or sponge mop.
    • Applying a topcoat sealer, after Saltillo tile has been installed, protects the grout and prevents the tile from staining. It also increases the lifespan of the factory seal.
    Topcoat Sealer Options: 
    • If you are going for a traditional Saltillo tile look, you may use a water-based sealer to coat the installed tile. Water-based sealers, like the Ole Mexican Tile Sealer, will add a protective layer and create a high gloss sheen. 
    • If you prefer a matte sheen, we recommend applying 511 Porous Plus Sealer to the surface. Saltillo tiles topcoat sealed with Porous Plus will be easier to reseal than a water-based sealed tile.

      Final Thoughts on Saltillo Tile Installation

      Installation of Saltillo tile can be a unique project. Here are our final thoughts:

      • Clay Imports offers a variety of pre-sealed Saltillo tiles. Make sure you know which one you’re using before installation.
      • Variation in color, sheen, and texture for Saltillo tile is normal—it’s part of what makes the installations look so uniquely rustic and authentic. Blend the tiles beforehand.
      • Sealing is an integral part of Saltillo tile installation.
      • If you’re seeking a colorful, updated take on Saltillo tile, check out Clay Imports’ glazed terracotta tiles. 
      • As always, our Saltillo tile Pinterest board is a great place for inspiration.

      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 the next steps required. Reach us at contact@clayimports.com.


      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.