I'm about to lay porcelain tile over backerboard in my kitchen. There are several entrances in the kitchen, and several points of visual reference that will cause even a slightly skewed line to be very, very evident.

What's the best way ensure that my first few rows form a straight line as I lay them? I don't want to lay an entire row, step back, and realize it started skewing halfway up the row.

I've tried laying out dry tiles until satisfied and snapping a chalk line along the edges in the past...but this gets covered up by the thinset very easily if I'm not painstakingly careful.

Are there any strategies or methods to make sure you're keeping a straight line as you lay a row of tile?

  • 2
    Get Mike Holmes to eyeball it for you. :)
    – BMitch
    Commented May 23, 2012 at 22:18
  • I'd be terrified of what would happen if he decided my walls weren't square :o
    – dolphy
    Commented May 25, 2012 at 17:56

3 Answers 3


Use a laser level to project a level line across the wall. Something like this is self leveling.

self leveling laser level

This won't work if you need to line them up to a non-level reference. In that case you can use a simple laser line (which is much cheaper than the self leveling models).

  • Tiling the floor, but the same concept applies. A cheap laser line projected just fine across the kitchen, and showed up very well against white thinset.
    – dolphy
    Commented May 25, 2012 at 16:15
  • You could use a long straight edge to but the first row of tiles up against. You'd have to move it out of the way fairly quickly to ensure that you didn't stick it down!

  • Pin a line of string across the room and use that to line up the tiles.

The tilers who did our hall (reproduction Victorian pattern) drew a line on the floor and used that. I think they used a long straight edge too - but only to tamp the tiles into line.

  • While the laser projection seemed to be the way to go, I also liked the idea of aligning my 48" level along the laser and tamping the tiles against it. Great idea!
    – dolphy
    Commented May 25, 2012 at 16:14

The best way is using the 3,4,5 or 6,8,10 method. Makes 2 perfectly straight lines of 90 degrees..

  • 4
    This only verifies what you have done is square, it doesn't help you put the tiles down square
    – Steven
    Commented May 21, 2015 at 23:52
  • 1
    Please improve your answer by describing the method that you're talking about.
    – Niall C.
    Commented May 22, 2015 at 20:29

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