How To Tile Like A Pro

Step-by-step to ceramic tiling

– Fix a batten horizontally to the wall, parallel with the skirting

– Mark a vertical line on the wall at right-angles, down the centre

– Press first tile in place. Start at lowest row, on centre line and work out

– Mark tile to fit gap when batten is removed

– Break by scoring and snapping over a straight edge, another tile or matchstick

– ’Nibble’ away an area of tile to fit awkward angles or corner

Probably you will already have some of the necessary tools for this work in your tool kit and others can be hired from do-it-yourself hire shops, or bought if you prefer.

– A scriber. This is a type of knife, used for cutting the tile across the glazed surface.

– Tile ‘nippers’, which are rather like pincers and are used to ‘nibble away’ at unnecessary edges to make a tile fit.

– Notched adhesive spreader.

– Spreader with rubber blade, for applying grout to the tiled area once the tiles are stuck in position.

– Ordinary decorators’ sponge, to clean off excess grouting.

– Spirit level.

– Try-square or set-square to check right-angles.

– Plumb line and bob.

Ceramic tiles

It is essential to prepare the surface properly first; make sure the wall is even and free from dirt. If the wall is brick or concrete, scrub to remove loose material and screed if necessary. New plaster or plasterboard must be allowed to dry out thoroughly before you add tiling. It is wise also to give the wall a coat of all-purpose primer so that it does not absorb the adhesive. If the wall is old plaster, and very uneven, it may have to be sanded down. Rake out any loose plaster and fill cracks and holes just as you would before re-papering a wall.

Previously painted or papered walls should be washed down, and the paint ‘keyed’ with sandpaper if it is a gloss finish. Any flaking paint should be scraped or burnt off, and if necessary, apply a coat of stabilizing primer to prevent further flaking under the tiles, otherwise this could ‘break through’ the adhesive, causing the new tiles to become loose. Always strip off old wallpaper, and prepare the surface as previously described. Tiling over old tiles is possible, if you use the new thin do-it-yourself tiles but, ideally, it is better to remove old tiles and repair the plaster. If you do decide to tile over existing ones, first wash down thoroughly with detergent and repair any cracks or stick back any loose tiles.

Work out how many tiles you need following the Tile Quantities chart.

To tile a wall using ceramic tiles

Start at the bottom and work up. Place the first tile in position on top of the skirting and mark the top edge, then draw a horizontal line along the wall at this height, checking with straightedge/spirit level to ensure that the line is absolutely level, then tack a batten into place along the line. Centre a tile on the batten -making sure it is at right-angles with a plumb line, and mark widths of tiles outwards, from end to end. Then mark a vertical line on the wall. Try the first line of tiles ‘dry’ to check they are going to fit. Then, using the notched spreader, apply tile adhesive or cement to an area about 1 m square – press the tiles securely into position on this adhesive, in the angle of the flat batten and vertical line. Check each row with a spirit level.

If you have to cut tiles to fit at the ends of each row, cut the tiles as described previously. Use pincers to ‘nibble’ any tiles where necessary. Mix the grouting according to instructions and spread across the tiles with the special spreader, or a sponge. Wipe off excess grouting with a damp sponge before it dries. Before grouting ‘sets’, smooth joints with a rounded stick.

NOTE: if you are tiling round a corner make sure that the edging aligns with the edge of the adjacent tile.

Mirror tiles

These are very popular because they are easy to fix, mostly being self-adhesive , and do not need grouting. They also increase the apparent size of a room because of their reflective quality. However, they do need to go onto a perfectly flat surface, or they can present a distorted image. Also, this type of tile is not always perfectly right-angled, so butting the tiles up together can present problems. Most of these comments are also applicable to metallic tiles.

To tile a wall using mirror tiles. First test the tiles for square corners — lay them out on a perfectly flat surface, and move them round until you get the best arrangement. Number each tile with a felt-tip pen when you get as good a match as possible.

If the wall is not perfectly flat, cover it with chipboard or insulation board, fixed to the wall by means of battens. Give this a coat of emulsion paint, so that the adhesive pads on the back of the mirror tiles will adhere firmly. ‘Square-up’ the area with a plumb line, straightedge or T-square and pencil or chalk, drawing a central vertical line, and crossing a central horizontal line. Fix the tiles one by one, following the pack instructions and using the adhesive pads, starting with the central 4 tiles, and working outwards towards the edges. Follow the numbers you previously marked on the tiles. Press each tile firmly into position, making sure it is accurately aligned with its neighbours.

Cut any tiles to fit the gaps round the edges, using a glass cutter to score the surface of the tile and snapping over a matchstick for a clean break. Fix in position. Extra self-adhesive pads can be used it necessary -buy these at do-it-yourself shops.

Cork tiles

Most cork tiles, or cork panels, are fixed to the wall by means of a contact adhesive , so they are likely to be with you for a long time once they are in position! If you think you are likely to tire of them, it might be better to fix them on panels of hardboard or chipboard , fixed to the wall on battens, so you can remove the whole panel if you want a change of scene.

As with mirror tiles, it is best to start at a central point and work outwards towards the edges, so any small in-fill pieces come at the edge of the wall area.

Mark the wall surface using a plumb line etc. as previously described for mirror tiles. Spread the contact adhesive on the back of the first 4 tiles and on the wall area, or panel of board. Leave for the recommended time, usually until the adhesive is touch-dry.

Align one edge of the first tile with the central mark on the wall, taking care not to let the two adhesive-covered surfaces touch until you are sure the tile is correctly positioned, then press into place. You will find it is firmly fixed to the wall at once, and cannot be moved, so it is important to be sure that it is correctly positioned before pressing home. Repeat with the remaining 3 central tiles, aligning and butting them up as closely as possible to their neighbours. Complete cork-tiling the wall this way, cutting tiles as necessary to fit round the edges.

If the tiles are to be sealed, leave for about 24 hours, to let the adhesive dry completely, then dust the surface of the tiles and apply two coats of clear poly-urcthane varnish. If you want to colour cork tiles you can use one of the coloured wood sealers/stainers.

How To Tile Like A Pro

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