Straight or staggered tiles for your kitchen?

Straight or staggered for flooring. now that is a good question indeed.

After deciding on the tile for your kitchen floor the next decision you need to make is how to lay the tile- straight or staggered? If it’s a straight answer you are looking for then my go-to is straight. Laying tiles in a straight pattern makes for a clean, current look that will stand the test of time when it comes to design.
But don’t worry if it’s staggered that you prefer, there is no right or wrong, nor is there a “tile-laying police” (maybe there should be). Sometimes staggering the tile is the right choice due to either a technical reason or an esthetic preference. I will explain later.

Kitchen tiles- endless possibilities

Choosing the right tile for your kitchen can be a challenging task. Other than the style of tile and its look there are many other things to consider when selecting it. Characteristics like man-made or natural (porcelain and ceramic vs marble for example) texture- smooth or rough, finish – polished or matte, size – small, large (think grout lines) the natural and artificial light sources in your kitchen that may affect the look of the tile, how much traffic your kitchen has, are just a few of the things that need to be taken into consideration when selecting tiles for the kitchen.

How your kitchen tiles should be laid?

What most people don’t think about when shopping for their tiles is how they should be laid.

Many times it is a decision that is made on-site but is best made in the planning process.
Why? Because the tiles’ shape, size, and finish will have an effect on the final result and understanding how to pick a tile will make for a better result. Also, making decisions ahead makes for a smoother renovation process.

Tiles laid straight : striving for the least amount of cut tiles in the exposed area

As I mentioned before my personal preference for tile lying style is straight. Laying tiles this way makes for a clean look ,easy on the eye and that can save you on the amount of tiles you need to buy if the tile is the right size for the room . In order to do that consider your kitchen dimensions when shopping for your flooring. Let’s say your kitchen is L-shaped and you have an island.
What you need to know is where your cabinetry starts and ends in order to see how many full tiles you will be able to fit in the exposed floor area (you do need to tile under your cabinets). So, if the exposed floor is 12’ x 18’ (not including the island ) you might want to look at tiles that evenly divide into this space such as 36”x36” or 24”x48”. Of course, life isn’t always perfect, and sometimes no matter how much we plan things don’t always work out the way we intended them to and this absolutely applies to renovating kitchens, so if you need to have a half or part tile somewhere in the kitchen try to have it in the furthest point (so it’s more out of site) or just under the cabinets that way you end up with a more continuous look.


Tiles vary in sizes. Your kitchen style be it modern, transitional or traditional may guide the tile size such as large or over-sized in a modern kitchen, or mosaic in a 1920’s style kitchen. I personally love the clean look of a large (24”x48”, 36”x36” and larger) straight (or stacked) tile. I find that it stands the test of time visually speaking and opens up the space. I also prefer less grout (which has the advantage of less maintenance- grout can be more challenging to clean – more on this later ) But before you rush out and select a large tile you need to confirm a few important things.

Is your floor properly leveled?

If the floor is not completely straight the tiles can not be installed in a proper way and you will end up with an uneven floor or worse, they will crack. Neither one is what we strive for.
So make sure that your contractor took the time and proper steps to level your floor before installation. There are a few options on the market like self-leveling cement or by hand with extra mortar.

Is the tile actually straight?

depending on the manufacturer some tiles may not be completely straight and may “bow” in the middle. You can check this by taking a tile and simply placing it on a straight leveled surface and seeing for yourself if it lays flat or showing it to your contractor to examine it.
– If you skipped the above step and you purchased tiles that are not completely straight speak to your installer – they may still be able to lay the tile but most likely in a staggered manner, and most likely with a larger grout line. Doing this there is more play with the tile and the result will be tidier than if you try to line the tiles up.

Staggering tiles

Staggering tiles can give a room visual movement which may be just what your kitchen needs.  As well, if it’s a more rustic design that you are after, staggered tiles may just be the design choice to help achieve this look. 

Grout lines

Typically on a contemporary or modern kitchen floor, a small grout line  (1/8”) is what we are looking for.  

A small grout line means less visible grout and a cohesive look, and if you got to know me by now you know that for me it also means less maintenance.

This is because the grout is where the hard-to-get-out dirt gets stuck.  This is also one of the main reasons I usually use epoxy-based stain-resistant grout.  It is more expensive than other grouts and is challenging to install so I don’t suggest a DIY here, but it means cleaner grout lines that are easy to maintain that will last for a long time. Money well spent. And- you can thank me later when you realize that you don’t need to get down and scrub clean the grout only to ruin your freshly manicured nails because the epoxy grout is working- or is it just me?


Straight or staggered ? Which is right? Which is wrong? I know I am biased and as mentioned above prefer a straight tile laying style but neither is right or wrong. What you need to take into consideration is your kitchen style- modern or contemporary lend themselves to a straight tile setting continuing on with a clean streamed-lined aesthetic while laying tiles in a staggered way gives a room movement, may be more in line with a traditional, or country-style kitchen and may also be a solution for tile that is not perfectly straight and has been purchased. Whatever your style may be, my advise to you is take a couple of tiles home, show them to your contractor, place them in a couple of different ways, in a few area of the space to see how they feel in the space. That should help with the big decision.


My name is Adi and I have been an interior designer for 17 years and loving it. Over the years I have designed many kitchens. Finding smart and easy to take care of materials, sourcing appliances, lighting, flooring and customizing the kitchen gives me joy. DOKITCH.COM is my way of passing my knowledge on. Feel free to explore..

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