Tile Installation Tips | 8 Step Guide
We are SOOO excited to be out at Junk Bonanza again this year leading 5 DIY workshops! Two of which are talking tile, so we wanted to create a convenient post for everyone coming to the show to reference or for those that couldn’t make it and share our tile installation tips with you as well.
Step One: Decide Your Layout
Before you even go get your materials for your tile installation project, figure out what design and layout you’re wanting for your backsplash, shower surround, or floor. This will determine how many tiles you’ll need and how you prep your space as well.
Think about the space, shapes that can play off one another with other elements within the room, color options, mixing, matching, different layouts, etc.
Subway tile is always a favorite and timeless look so we also put together a full guide on 12 Different Ways to Lay Subway Tile.
Our friends over at Mercury Mosaics also have a guide on their 6 most creative tile patterns that we use for inspiration.
Step Two: Buy Tools and Materials
- Tape Measure
- Tile Saw or Cutter
- Notched Trowel
- Rubber Grout Float
- Latex Gloves
- Tile Spacers
- Flexible Caulk
- Tile Adhesive (mortar or mastic)
Download this PDF list for the tools and materials –> HERE <– and print it for your run to the store, so you don’t forget a single thing!
Step Three: Prep Your Space
Even though prep is not the most fun part of the tile installation process, it’s an important step. Make sure to demo all old tiles before starting on laying new and clear the room, so that you have a blank space to work with.
Ensure your surface is as flat as possible. If you’re installing a backsplash, remove your switch plate covers, tape off cabinetry, move free-standing appliances away from walls, etc. Make sure the room is clean and get ready to get messy!
Step Four: Inspect Tile
Depending on the type of tile you’re using in your space, there may be slight imperfections or barely noticeable differences in size. We like using handmade tile because of the unique and custom look, but it’s always good to inspect the tile and ensure that none are broken or chipped before installing.
Step Five: Dry Layout
Before going straight to tile installation on the wall or floor, we like to do a dry layout with the tile. This step will allow you to have a smoother process as you’ll make sure your measurements are right and your focal point is in the right spot.
It’s also a good time to confirm the layout you’re going with whether that’s herringbone, subway, or something else, and have it laid out how you want before installing. Measure the backsplash area you’re starting, then measure that same amount on the floor, and then tape off.
For pattern tile installation on the floor, find the center of the room where you are going to start with the focal point of the design. For a central rug-like design, measure the area to be tiled, and find the center of two opposite walls or sides.
Use these points to snap a chalk line across the length of the area, in the center of the floor, dividing the room or area in half. Then snap another chalk line perpendicular to the first, so the two lines cross in the center of the room.
Check where the lines intersect with a carpenter’s square to make absolutely sure the center point has a 90-degree angled quadrant. Start by laying a tile at the intersection of the lines, and then use the lines as a guide, as you work your way outward toward the walls in each quadrant.
Step Six: Lay Mortar + Tile
Select a thin-set mortar at your local hardware shop. Make sure you have a good mixing paddle to prepare it and just follow the mixing instructions on the packaging.
Your mixture should be the consistency of cake batter. A tip to make sure that your mortar doesn’t dry out too quickly, we never mix more mortar than we can get onto the wall and tile at a time.
If you’re working solo, you’ll probably only want to make enough for 30 minutes of work. Otherwise, it will dry, and you won’t be able to spread it on the wall and the tiles won’t adhere to the dry glue.
Once it’s all mixed up, use the flat side of your trowel and spread your mortar onto the backer board. Then flip your trowel over and use the notched edge to make the nice little ridges.
For this particular job we used a 1/4″ x 1/4″ notched trowel. Once you have a good area covered in mortar, you can pick your tiles up from your dry run and start putting them into place with the mortar.
When getting close to the edges, we always wait to cut the tiles until we are actually setting them, to ensure accuracy, and then do a handful at a time. Because I am throwing them all up on the wall within minutes while Jamie is cutting more. Use a tile installation pen, and mark the spots on the tile where you need the clean cut lines.
Step Seven: Grout
Before you begin with the grout, make sure that your mortar and tile have had long enough to dry and set before grouting. We recommend at least 24 hours because if it’s not set completely, you increase the chance of your tile shifting.
When you’re ready to mix, follow the instructions on the back of grout packaging. Apply enough grout that you fill in all the small areas.
While using a rubber towel, make a sweeping motion over your tiles at a 45-degree angle to make sure it’s completely packed in. Move along your wall and floor and make sure there aren’t any air bubbles in the grouted areas.
If you’re working solo, move quickly since the grout dries fast. To make the process move more quickly, work in a team of two.
One is grouting as the other is following not too far behind cleaning the grout off of the tiles. If the grout dried on the tiles, you are in trouble since it’s very hard to get dried grout off of tiles.
To wipe off the grout, we have a five-gallon bucket of water and a large sponge. Use the sponge to wipe the tiles down and lightly brush over the grouted areas.
Typically, you’ll want to wipe the tiles off a minimum of two to three times, followed by a dry rag to get the dried grout dust off.
Grout can be a trick thing to decide, so if you’re not sure what grout color to use, we put together a guide on How to Choose the Perfect Grout Color, with the top 5 grout colors we recommend.
Step Eight: Seal
A few days after you’ve grouted your backsplash, it’s time for the sealer. Check your grout packaging for instructions on how long to wait before sealing.
Sealing helps to protect your grout from staining and will make it easier to clean in the future. The sealer we use always has a nice little paint brush for the top of the bottle and you just simply paint all the grout lines.
Tile Installation Tips to Remember:
- Remember that preparation is 75% of a successful design and renovation job
- Always order 10% more tile than you think you need
- Lay all of the tiles out before installing them
- Have a helper cut the tiles for you
- Always make sure to use your level periodically to ensure each row is straight.
- Let the tile dry for 24 hours before grouting
Hope you enjoyed our 8 Step Guide for Tile Installation, filled with tile installation tips and a special thank you to our friends at Mercury Mosaics