The Complete DIY Saltillo Tile Install Guide (2021 Expert Update)

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Saltillo tiles will vary slightly in shade and color and size due to their handmade molding 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:

  • - Is your Saltillo tile pre-sealed?
  • - What materials do I need to install Saltillo tile?
  • - How do I prep for Saltillo tile installation?
  • How do I install Saltillo tile?

Is your Saltillo tile pre-sealed?

At Clay Imports, we do provide Saltillo tiles that are pre-sealed with a solvent-based sealer. 

If your tile is unsealed, you’ll need to seal them. Follow the instructions linked above before continuing to the install.

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, do a quick clean and blend of your tiles.

  • - Before starting the installation, we highly recommend to clean 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 a blending of the tiles from different boxes to create a more balanced aesthetic.

Prep your installation area.

  • - Make sure that the surface you will be installing your cement tile on is clean and flat. Sweep and mop and let it dry.

How do I install Saltillo tile?

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. 
  • - Depending on the desired look, you can use grout joint spacers up to ¾.” We recommend a minimum spacing of 1/4”. Remove excess glue from between tiles quickly. And please note that glue will require at least 24 hours to dry properly.
  • - After bonding tile to the floor, clean the tile surface with water using a sponge or cloth. Wring the sponge every time while cleaning the floor. Avoid getting tiles too wet here. Then, allow the floor to dry completely.

Once the adhesive has dried, apply grout release.

  • - Clean the area and apply 1 to 2 coats of grout release to the tile surface so the grout does not stick 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. Clean grout from the surface with a damp sponge. And be quick! Don’t let grout dry on the tile surface for longer than 10 minutes. 
  • - For 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 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 pre-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 creates a high gloss sheen. 
    • - If you prefer a matte sheen, we recommend to apply 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 - as a review:

  • - Clay Imports offers pre-sealed and unsealed Saltillo tiles. Make sure you know which one you’re using before installation.
  • - Variation of Saltillo tile is normal - it’s part of what makes the installations look so uniquely rustic and authentic. Mix the tiles up beforehand.
  • - Sealing is an integral part of cement tile installation.
  • - If you’re seeking a newer take on Saltillo tile, check out Clay Imports’ glazed terracotta tiles. 

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.

As always, our Saltillo tile Pinterest board is a great place for inspiration.

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