Step 1 Mix the Mortar
Use the latex-modified thinset mortar specified for your tile. If you're installing porcelain tile, buy mortar made specifically for porcelain. It mixes and goes on like other mortar but sticks better to porcelain's nonporous surface. Pour about three-quarters of the recommended amount of water into a plastic mixing bucket, and have a helper slowly add the mortar. While the helper is pouring, mix with a mortar paddle (a paint paddle will break) driven by a 1/2-inch drill. Add water as you mix until the mortar has a smooth, pastelike consistency. Wear safety glasses, a dust mask, and rubber gloves to protect your skin from the mortar, which is caustic. Test the mortar. Put some mortar on a scrap piece of plywood or on the floor, and use your trowel to form a peak. If the peak holds its shape, the mortar contains the right amount of water. If the peak slumps, add mortar to the mix; if it crumbles, add water. Continue adding, mixing, and testing until you achieve the right consistency.