When I started writing about home improvement in Hawaii, I attended a photo shoot at a lovely home in Nuuanu. Upon entering the residence, I couldn’t help but notice an exquisite wood compass inlay design, which blended seamlessly as a part of the flooring. Capturing the homeowner’s love of sailing, the design pointed to true north and commanded more attention and intrigue than any rug could ever do.

Over the next few weeks, I saw more and more homes with inlay designs. While some of these homeowners had the designs installed professionally, I couldn’t help but wonder, how would homeowners apply this same type of idea on their own? To answer this question, I began exploring how to create a tile rug inlay and found that it’s a lot simpler than I originally thought.


It can be easy for you, too.

First, decide what kind of a design you want and how big you want it to be. Lay the tile out in the desired pattern on a large work surface. Remember to leave some space between each tile for grout. You may need to cut the tile to fit. For straight cuts, use a score-and-snap tile cutter. Measure the finished product.

Before you start putting the tile down, make sure you have the proper subfloor. Cement often works well. The experts at Wayne’s Flooring say the important thing is to make sure you have a clean, dry and level surface that is free of damage. If you have a plywood subfloor, Wayne’s Flooring recommends using a cement backer board over it.


Next, mark out the design on the floor using a chalk snap line. Apply a thinset to the floor using a notched trowel, and work your way around, starting at the perimeter. Use a level as you go. If the tile sits too high, gently tap it down. Add tile spacers as you move along to keep things in place.

Once the tile is set, usually about 24 hours later, you’ll be ready to seal and grout. Not all tile needs to be sealed, but if yours does, this is the time to do it. After sealing, remove the tile spacers and start grouting. Use diagonal movements and clean excess grout off the tile face as you work.

Creating an inlay tile rug can be as simple as adding a few extra steps to regular tiling basics. As always, only take on jobs you know you can do, and consult professionals, such as those at Wayne’s Flooring, whenever needed.