Cost Factors to Install Ceramic and Porcelain Tile
Many variables make up the final project price, aside from the cost of materials and labor. Here are some of the most common factors.
Removing Old Tiles
If you're looking to remodel your bathroom or upgrade your kitchen, you'll likely need to replace old tiles rather than just add new ones. Ripping out old tiles and repairing any damage to the subsurface typically costs $5 per square foot. You may pay as little as $3 per square foot or as much as $7 per square foot. When you receive a quote from a contractor, ask for an itemized estimate and whether it includes the price of removing tiles and installing new ones.
If the area you're tiling has a complex layout, has extensive damage to the base layer, or is in some other way more challenging, your labor cost for installing tiles will climb rapidly, so remember to leave some wiggle room in your budget.
Make sure you order 10% to 15% more tiles than you think you need. This ensures you have enough to account for any damages during installation. Plus, if you keep your leftovers, you can have that one replaced from your existing stock when a tile gets cracked or damaged. Remember that the tiles you choose now may not still be in production in 10 years. Even if they are, it's likely the colors won't be an exact match, so having some backup tiles is smart.
Porcelain and ceramic tiles are fairly low maintenance to upkeep, but they do need regular cleaning. Plus, the grout will periodically need cleaning, whitening, or replacing, as will any seals. While all these things are individually inexpensive, they’re ongoing costs you need to be aware of, even if minimal. And, if a tile breaks or cracks beyond repair, it needs replacing immediately—particularly in a damp environment like a shower. While hiring a tiler typically costs from $15 per square foot or $120 per hour, they may charge a little more if you only have one or two tiles that need replacing, as the pro will usually have a minimum callout fee that's equal to at least a couple of hours of their time.
The amount of surface preparation required before the contractor can lay the tile significantly impacts the project price. A smooth surface that just requires adhesive takes minimal time, but a cracked, damaged, or uneven surface that requires substantial intervention to make it suitable for tile can add many hours of labor to your project price. Similarly, removing old tile, then prepping the underlying surface adds time and labor costs to your total. If you're having tile laid over a wooden subfloor, you'll need to account for backer board installation during the preparatory phase. This costs an additional $5 to $8 per square foot. Subfloor repair is costly, at around $40 to $65 per square foot. In addition, you'll pay approximately $3 to $10 per square foot on top of any repair costs for a Tile Pro to resurface a concrete subfloor.
Where you're installing tile determines how much the project costs because the tile size, type, and prep work all differ based on location. Kitchens and bathrooms cost more to tile because they require vapor barriers and impervious, or very well-sealed tiles and grout resistant to moisture damage. Floors are generally less expensive to tile than walls because floor tiles are often larger, so they take less time to lay.
Labor Cost for Installing Porcelain and Ceramic Tile
Labor is the cost of the physical work required to complete the job and can include removing old tiles, repairing and prepping the area, and adding new tiles. If you hire a local Pro, you'll pay anywhere from $10 to $20 per square foot for labor. The range is so wide because some tiles, such as mosaic and custom ones, are more challenging and time-consuming to install.
Porcelain tile pieces can range anywhere from $3 to $15 per square foot. You'll also need to account for the cost of grout, tile adhesive, filler, tile spacers, sanitary sealant, and tile trim, which can all add $6 per square foot to the project total.
How to Save on Tile Installation Costs
There are a few ways you can save money on the cost of tile installation. A top tip to potentially save money on your tiling project is to shop around for tiles. Then, if you find a great price, you can buy them independently rather than purchasing from your contractor.
Doing as much of the prep work as you can also reduces labor costs. For example, if you have the time and skill to remove old tiles and haul away the waste, you'll save $3 to $7 per square foot for the removal and between $150 and $200 for disposing of the waste.
Once the tile is installed, you can make further savings by doing some of the finish yourself, such as sealing around the edges and repainting the baseboards, walls, and any other areas marred during the installation.
DIY vs. Hiring a Tiler
You can save money by tiling yourself if you have the right tools and skills. However, the amount you save could be less than you think by the time you've hired or purchased tools and equipment, such as a tile cutter and a caulking gun.
Plus, there's the time involved. If you're not a pro, it'll likely take you much longer to complete the project, and the finish will likely not be as good. Hiring a pro is a good idea than going the DIY route if you'd rather save time and get the best possible finish.