Tackling a tile project may seem like a stressful job, but once you know the basics, you’ll see that installing tile yourself isn’t that difficult. Here’s an overview of the different products, tools, and techniques you may need, depending on the look you want to achieve.
What You’ll Need
Not all tiles are created equal, so select the type that will work best for your space and last the longest. As a general rule, all tile can go on a wall, but wall tiles cannot go on a floor. Here are a few popular types:
Adhesives are what stick tile to a surface, and different adhesives will work for different uses. Here are the two most common types:
- Thin-set is a mix of fine sand, water, and cement. You may see this under other names such as thin-set cement, thin-set mortar, drybond mortar, or dryset mortar, but they’re are all the same thing. This adhesive can be used for nearly all tiles. Thin-set is ideal for areas of moisture because it isn’t water soluble and it will remain hard-textured when wet.
- Mastic is an acrylic adhesive and should only be used for ceramic and some porcelain tiles. It’s not suitable for use in bathrooms because it’s organic, so it can harbor mold in high-moisture areas. Mastic will also liquefy when submerged in water, and it can expand or contract due to changes in temperature.
Grout goes into the spaces between the tile and keeps any moisture away from the adhesive on the back. There are several options, but only two most commonly used:
- Sanded grout is better for large grout lines. This grout should be used for flooring and wide wall tile joints because it resists cracking and shrinkage. It is possible to use sanded grout in thinner joints, but it isn’t recommended.
- Unsanded grout is better for thin grout lines—less than ⅛”. It is smooth in texture and sticks well to vertical surfaces; making it useful for grouting ceramic wall tiles.
Sealing the tile and grout after installation will provide a polished look while also keeping out moisture. Natural stone is especially important to seal because it’s porous. If you choose a glazed tile, it’s already stain proof so a sealer isn’t needed. However, the grout joints between the tiles are usually porous, so they will typically need to be sealed to prevent stains and discoloration.
All-purpose sealer is sufficient for general applications, but always double check the label to make sure it’s compatible with your tile and grout types.
Here are the tools you’ll need for installing tile:
- Wet saw for precise cutting of larger tiles.
- Tile nipper for cutting small ceramic or glass tiles.
- Notched trowel for spreading adhesive.
- Spacers for spacing out tile evenly to achieve consistent grout lines.
- Grout float for pressing grout into the cracks.
- Eye protection for safety while using the saw.
Steps for Installing Tile
- Measure the space before you buy the tile. For a floor project, measure the length of both sides of the room. If it is wall project, measure the length of each wall running up and down. Multiply the length by the width; this will provide you with the square footage of the area. To allow for breakage, waste and cut tiles, a good rule of thumb is to buy about 10% more tile than you need.
- Prep your surface by cleaning the area.
- Lay out the tile before you start. Start in the middle of the area and work your way out. You can either pre-cut pieces now, or lay the whole tiles first and cut the remaining tiles later.
- Start laying your tiles by using the notched trowel to spread adhesive on both the tile back and the surface you’re tiling. Press the tile into the adhesive firmly, then use spacers to properly align them.
- Once your tile is laid, let it dry for 24 hours before grouting. Use a grout float to get the grout in all the cracks.
- Remove excess grout with sponge, then let it dry overnight and wipe everything down with a soft, dry cloth the next day to remove grout haze.
- For large grout lines, mist the grout with water every hour to help minimize shrinkage cracks.
- Seal the grout and tile, if needed.
Looking for supplies for your tile project? Farha’s Carpet and Building Supply has a wide variety of tile in-stock every day. We can also special order tile from many different manufacturers. Call us today at 316-263-1649 and tell us what you’re looking for, or stop in and see us at at 808 W. Harry in Wichita.