Installing Tile Walls

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Basically, a wall of tiles consists of an area of full-size field tiles and a border of the same or different tiles. Be cause it is rare for tiles to fit a space exactly, you need to figure out how many full tiles will fit and what you’re going to do with the odd spaces that are left. To make these decisions you need to plot your pattern on the wall. Start by measuring the height and width of each wall you plan to cover, and the size of the tiles you’re going to use. Using these measurements, determine the approximate number of tiles you’ll need. Measure trim pieces separately. To plot a tile pattern, professional tile setters often use a pair of compass dividers and a pair of layout rods. These rods are strips of 1 by 1, one cut to the length of your wall and the other to its height. The steps that follow use this method.

1. Measure the width of your wall. At the center, drop a plumb line from the ceiling to the floor, and use it to draw a straight vertical line. Drop two more plumb lines close to the edges of the wall. Mea sure the height of your wall, and draw an exact horizontal line across the wall at the center. Check the angles it makes with your vertical lines. They should be exactly 9Q0 Draw two more horizontal lines as close to the floor and ceiling as possible. Check their angles. If the outside lines show that your floor, ceiling, or walls are uneven, plan to fill in these wedge-like spaces.

Tools: plumb line; straightedge; compass dividers; two layout rods; tile cutter; tile nippers; level; notched trowel; rubber trowel.

Supplies: field and border tiles; mastic; grout; wet rag or sponge; buff cloth; grout sealer,

2. Next, set the points of your compass divider at the width of your tile. If the tile has a small protruding lip on the bottom, it has been preformed to include a grout space. If it has no such lip, add no less than 1/16 inch and no more than 3/16 inch to your measurement to accommodate grout. Then walk your compass along the height layout rod, marking as you go. Chances are, the last space on the rod will not be the exact width of a full tile. You can leave that space and put a cut tile at the top or bottom of your wall, or you can adjust all your tiles so you’ll have cut tiles of equal size at both top and bottom (see Step 3).

3. If you want equal-size cut tiles at top and bottom, measure the last space, add the width of a full tile, and divide that measurement in half. Turn your layout rod over and mark that distance on each end. Then reset your compass dividers to the full width of tile and grout lines, and walk them along the rod again. The measurements should fit exactly between the ends. Hold the rod beside two of your plumb lines, and transfer your markings to the wall.


84b Layout rod; Last space; Last tile; Grout space; One-half of space

4. If you’re using special border tiles or trim pieces, start by measuring their width (including space for grout) on one or both ends of your layout rod, according to your de sign. Then measure off the full tiles between your border markings. If they don’t come out even, which they probably won’t, decide how you want to adjust the tiles. You can widen the border and add a cut border tile; you can cut one or two of your field tiles; or you can make your grout lines a little wider or narrower. Whatever you decide, mark the measurements on your layout rod and transfer them to two of your vertical lines on the wall. Follow Steps 2-4 for your horizontal layout rod. Transfer the marks to two of the horizontal lines on the wall. If you want, draw a complete grid on the wall, following the hatchmarks you’ve made.

85a Border tile

5. When your measurements are complete, begin to set your tiles. Start with the first horizontal row of full tiles, leaving the borders, trim pieces, or cut tiles for the end. Use a notched trowel and whatever mastic the tile manufacturer recommends. Mastic sets quickly and will not accept tiles once it begins to harden, so cover only small areas at a time. Do not apply any mastic over your first plumb or horizontal lines—you can use these as guides. Lay the tiles down one at a time, twisting each one slightly to embed it in the mastic, and remove excess mastic from the face of the tiles. Check each row with a level, and proceed up the wall one row at a time until the wall is tiled.

6. To work around any irregularity such as a faucet, cut a tile into two pieces. Use a glass cutter to score the glazed side of the tile. Lay the unglazed side on a nail placed directly under the score, press firmly on the edges of the tile, and break it. Mark both parts of your cutout with a grease pencil, trim with tile nippers, and set the pieces in place.

85b Scored tile; Back of tile; Space left over

7. When your field tiles are in place, set your border, trim, and cut tiles. For any cut tiles, place a full tile upside down over the gap to be filled. Leaving space for grout lines on both sides, mark the edge to be cut, and cut as de scribed in Step 6. Spread the cut tile with adhesive, and set it in place, cut side out.

8. Allow the mastic to dry as long as the manufacturer recommends. Then spread grout over the wall with a rubber trowel. Press the grout into the crevices with the rounded end of a stick or tooth brush. Clean off the excess grout with a wet rag or sponge. When the grout is dry, buff the tile with a dry cloth. When the grout has cured completely, apply a grout sealer to keep it clean and mildew-free.

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Updated: Monday, 2011-07-11 5:45