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Can You Tile on Plywood? (Read This First!)

Are you going to start DIY protection to tile on your plywood subfloor? Plywood is not as solid as a concrete surface, so if you want to add tile, you must know the if you can or not first.

This article will explain if you can tile on plywood, which tiles can you use, the process of installing tile on plywood and other information that will be helpful for your project. Stick with us.

Tile on plywood

Tile can be installed over plywood. Plywood can expand and become unstable. A cement sheet layer can fix the issue as plywood can expand and become unstable. For installing tile 1 ¼ inch plywood surface is industry standard, and one should not choose thinner plywood for tile installation.

Tile on plywood can last forever if you do it correctly. But the project can turn into a disaster if you do it wrong. First, let’s go for a generalized explanation to familiarize you with the ideas. In the latter part of the article, we will discuss it separately.

Wood is not as hard as concrete. Wood has tiny pores and the tubes plants use to transport water and nutrients. When wood comes into contact with moisture and the environment, it expands slightly. That creates an issue when you are willing to lay tile on plywood.

The goal is to make the wood stable and strong, so it can hold tiles and weight without changing its shape. And also, ensure even if the wood expands a bit, it will not cause cracking of the tile joints.

Now lets, solve the issues one by one. Most plywood is ⅓ inch thick. Those are not suitable for installing tiles. If you install tile over ⅓-inch plywood, the plywood surface will move, which will damage the tiling. Always use exterior-grade plywood for tile installation.

The movement is not easily noticeable with eyes. You can keep a glass full of water on the floor and try walking over the floor. If the water moves, that is an indication that the plywood is not strong enough. However, a slight movement of water is acceptable sometimes.

For installing tile, it needs at least 1 ¼ inches thick plywood. It will provide the necessary strength to the floor to hold the tile and other weight.

Wood expands, and that is not suitable for tiling. To fix that, you can put a layer over the plywood surface to protect the tiles from getting uneven or cracked.

There are many ways to add a layer over plywood, but the easiest one is to add a cement sheet over the plywood before installing the tile.

Wood does not do well in holding tiles itself. But cement sheet will work similarly to the concrete surface. The cement sheet should be installed on plywood using a thin set that is flexible enough to allow the plywood to expand a bit without impacting the tile joints.

Once the cement sheet and tile are in place, they will also help the wood protect from moisture and the environment. Here is a checklist of tile installation over the plywood surfaces.


The thickness of plywood needs to be at least 1 ¼ inches. It will provide the necessary strength to hold and support the tile.

Plywood grade:

The plywood must be the exterior grade for tile installation.


A middle layer is needed to add between the plywood and the tile.  We recommend cement sheet for DIY projects as it is easier than other methods.


Add latex-based additive with thin-set so wood expanding can not damage the tile joints.

Can you put tile on these plywood surfaces?

You can put tile on plywood surfaces, and the tile installing process can vary depending on the plywood surface. Check out if you can put tile on those plywood surfaces.

Plywood wall:

You can install tiles on plywood walls, but a suitable type of thin-set is necessary for installation. The thin-set that has higher latex content is ideal for installing plywood walls.

Plywood floor or subfloor:

You can install tile on plywood floors or subfloors, but the thickness of the plywood is essential for the installing process. 1 ¼ inch subfloor is suitable for installing tiles.

If you have a regular ⅓ inches subfloor in your house, you can add a ½-inch plywood board over it, which will be suitable for the tiling.

Plywood table top or countertop:

One can use tile on plywood countertops and tables. Tiling is a great way to make a plywood table attractive, but you should maintain proper steps to install the tiles over plywood.

Plywood backlash:

Tiles can be used over plywood backlash by following the proper steps.

Can you put these tiles over plywood?

There are also different types of tiles in the market, but they are not equally suitable for installing over plywood. The installation process can also be different.

Peel and stick tile on plywood:

Peel and stick tiles can be quickly and easily installed over plywood. It will save you a lot of time and money, but it is not a suitable replacement for actual tiles.

Genuine tiles are a lot more durable and long-lasting. However, many times you may need some short-term solutions. Peel and stick tiles can work great for them.

Vinyl tile on plywood:

Vinyl tiles are made of different layers of high-quality PVC vinyl that can last 10-20 years, depending on the usage. You can use them over wooden plywood without any issues.

Ceramic tile on plywood:

Ceramic tiles on plywood are the hardest and the best options overall. The installation process of ceramic tiles is time-consuming and needs a bit of experience, but once you install the tiles properly, you can get the best results and longevity.

Porcelain tile on plywood:

Porcelain is similar to ceramic tiles, but they are lighter, making it slightly better than ceramic tiles.

Can I put tile directly on plywood? What do you put on plywood before tiling?

You should not put it directly on plywood, especially on the floors or subfloors. Wood is not sturdy like concrete, and if you directly use tiles on the wooden floor, that may cause cracks in the tiles when you walk or apply pressure.

You need to apply some intervening layer to balance the weight on the wood. The layer can be made of many things, but a cement sheet is the easiest option.

However, if you are considering installing tiles on plywood walls, you can ignore intervening layers as walls will not have to carry much pressure. However, adding latex mixture in the thin-set is vital for installing tiles on plywood walls.

How to install tile on plywood?

Installing tiles on plywood is not as hard as it seems. You just need to go slow at first and follow the proper steps. Once you get the process, you can speed up a bit.

But as the tiles will serve you for a big part of your life, try to install them as perfectly as you can. Here is a basic guide on installing tile on plywood.

Prepare the plywood floor:

First, measure the plywood’s thickness and ensure the thickness is equal to over 1 ¼ inch. If the thickness is lower, get other plywood boards and add them to the floor with nails. To complete the preparation stage, clean the plywood floor nicely.

Add cement sheet:

Now it’s time to add cement board to the plywood. Mesure the surface and lay down the cement boards perfectly.

Then use chalk strings to make 6 inches squire all over the cement sheets. Then use nails to attach the cement sheets to the plyboard. Use the squires to nail the plywood every 6 inches.

Mesure the tiles:

Then make a layout with the tiles and arrange them in a way you want them to set. Cut the tiles if needed, but remember that the look you choose is not changeable. After measuring and layout, it’s time to add tile mortar.

Add mortar and install the tiles:

This is the most challenging and crucial stage of installing tiles, and if you make a mistake, that will be permanent. Use spaces to ensure proper spacing between the tiles.

The mortar should be ⅓ inch high, and the tiles should be 1/16 inch far from the other tiles. Watch some tutorials to get a clear idea about the step.


After the tiles are installed and thoroughly dried, remove the spacers and start applying grouts on the tiles.

Final thoughts

Tiles can be installed over plywood, but there are some regulations to avoid the issues with plywood as a base for tiles. Wood expands and can cause cracks in the tiles. Cement boards or similar types of layers can be used to avoid issues related to the expansion of the wood.