I am an amateur at tiling. I, am passing on tips I have learned over time…many times researching on the internet myself. Sometimes I think the pros take for granted we know information we do not know so I will pass along some of those Tiling for Dummies points. Don’t be insulted, please. I learned to tile from my sister, Pat, who has done a number of projects herself. We started with the backsplash in my kitchen. I had recently had Corian countertops installed and wanted to finish with a tile backsplash.
When figuring out the layout, we laid the tile out on the countertop to figure out the fit, not leaving any small cuts at each end. Then we laid out several options for the area over the range. Here are the options, we took pictures of each and loaded them to the computer screen…it helped to be able to flip between the pictures quickly and to get some perspective.
The last is the option we chose after lots of picture flipping.
The project itself was pretty straightforward. She taught me to use a wet saw which is much easier than it looks, just take your time and do it outside if possible. Whatever you do, DO NOT allow the water from the saw to splash on something valuable (walls, cars, etc.)…the stone dust is hard, if not impossible to remove later. (By the way, I did not learn this by personal experience, thank goodness!). The field tiles were in sheets so putting the mastic on the walls worked fine. For the individual tiles, we back buttered them and wiggled them into place. This helped to avoid mastic filling the voids between tiles. If you have thinset filling the voids, you need to remove it while it is wet to make room for the grout you will be putting in the next day. So, tile can be placed on the wall one day. Grout the next and then the area can be sealed in 48 hours. Read the directions on your specific mastic/ thinset, grout and sealer in case it has different requirements. I bought this tile at Lowes, it was very reasonable.
Next I tackled a bathroom. Here is the before picture:
I live in small town Ohio and solid granite is beautiful but too pricey for a renovation. So, I chose granite tile. I bought the tile at The Tile Shop and took a refresher course in tile laying since it had been several months since the kitchen backsplash tiling. I also wanted to make sure that granite did not need any special handling.
First, demolition of the old countertop. I removed the sink to be reused with new fixtures. I also reused the old vanity, building a shelving unit at the right end. I used oak plywood stained to match the old vanity.
Then I added 3/4 inch plywood and 1/2 inch cement board. Plywood cuts easily with a circular saw…cement board is a pain. They say to cut it with a utility knife and snap it like drywall….easier said then done, especially with 1/2 inch board. Expect any power tool you use to get blunt very quickly! You have to use a jigsaw to cut the hole for the sink and the blade had to be replaced after making this cut.
You have to put a thin layer of thinset on the plywood, under the cementboard and then use backboard screws every few inches around the edges and across the field. I found it best to drill pilot holes for the screws…again cementboard IS made of cement!
I cut the hole for the sink in the plywood before installing it. I then laid the cementboard on the plywood and traced the sink hole through the plywood onto the underside of the cementboard. I took it outside to cut the hole with a jigsaw. Cutting cementboard is a dusty process.
Again, lay out your tile in advance to make sure your cuts at the ends are even…or do not leave you with any small cut tiles. Also look at how the tile will fall around the sink area…again no small bits. I purchased edge tiles at The Tile Shop. These edge tiles were attached to the counter with construction adhesive the day before I tiled the surface. I laid out the tiles using spacers and made the needed cuts in advance. On the day of tiling, I spread thinset across the surface and tiled easily.
The part I was most worried about was cutting the curve for the sink. It is no problem though. Merely make a series of cuts about 1/2 inch apart up to the curved line. These slivers will either break off on their own as you cut or break off with a bit of persuasion (I hit them with the nippers). You can then clean up the curve with the saw blade…although it will be hidden under the sink so it is not necessary to be too precise.
Next, the floor. The floor was vinyl sheet goods over plywood. I laid out two options…
Definitely, diagonal! Okay. This part was kind of tricky. I measured for the center of the floor but going from the center there were going to be some small tile bits at the edges of the bathroom. It is particularly important that the pattern is square to the doorway and the size of the tiles at the edges are fairly even on opposite sides of the room. My bathroom was a bit out of square so I squared to the doorway and made sure that it was not going to go wonky along the bathtub which runs perpendicular to the door. The line of tiles that falls under the kickplate of the vanity varies slightly in size due to the out of square condition of that wall but is hidden by the vanity overhang.
I took out the toilet. I installed 1/4″ cement backerboard over the plywood floor. Again, this entails a layer of thinset then screw down around the edges and throughout the field with backboard screws. I drilled pilot holes for the screws. My hand was sore from the process by the end of putting in all those screws! It helped having two drills, one to drill the holes and one to drive the screws.
The cracks between the backerboard sheets need to be covered with drywall tape…I used the self adhesive kind. I also filled the cracks with thinset. Some say this is unnecessary.
I did my layout with spacers, then laid all the full tiles using thinset.
The next day, I cut and laid the edge tiles. The advantage of this two day approach is that you can kneel on the full tiles as you work without fear of them moving about. BE CAREFUL THOUGH. You MUST remove the thinset that is not covered by the full tiles before it dries. Otherwise you will not have an even surface under your edge tiles.
Now begin cutting the edge tiles. To measure for the edge tile, place a full tile exactly on top of the first full tile…
Measure a tile from tip to tip, add the width of one grout line(spacer) plus the amount of space you intend to leave around the edge of the tiles for expansion and contraction (I left 1/4″ around the edge which was later caulked or covered with baseboard). In my case the total of the three was 16 7/8 inch…your total will be different.
Okay. This sounds more complex than it is.
There are more cuts to be made when doing a diagonal layout. So take that into consideration when picking it for your project and when buying materials.
Use the same process as in the countertop project for cutting curves. You will need a special bit to cut any holes for pipes. My tile store offered to make any of these cuts for me, but my pipe fell at the edge of a tile.
Let the thinset dry the required time. then grout.
After grout has dried the required time, replace the toilet and other fixtures! Woohoo! Be amazed!