Transform a kitchen or bathroom with stylish new wall tiles. With the right tools and little DIY know-how, you can create a beautiful feature that’s practical too.
- Your chosen tiles
- Protective floor covering
- Small bucket
- Large bucket
- Clean sponge
- Sugar soap
- Tape measure
- Spirit level
- Protective gloves
- Tile spacers
- Grout float
- Notched trowel
- Tile cutters
- Timber baton
- Drill and mixer attachment (if using)
- Silicone sealant and caulking gun
1. Protect the area
Begin by laying a protective cover on the floor and secure this with masking tape. Then, using a clean, damp cloth, wipe down your wall surface, or use a suitable degreasing agent, such as sugar soap, and wash this away with water before leaving the wall to dry completely. If you find any cracks in the wall or any areas that need repair, it’s a good idea to fix these before you begin to tile. It’s important to make sure the surface is flat, too, so make sure to sand away any lumps and bumps at this stage.
2. Prime the surface
Depending on the tiles chosen, you may need to prime the wall, but check with the adhesive manufacturer to see if this is recommended. Remember that in wet areas, such as a bathroom or near a kitchen sink, apply a specialist waterproofing product, such as BAL Waterproof Plus. Depending on the tile size and substrate cement, Hardiebacker boards may be required to ensure the wall will hold the weight of the tiles. It’s best to check with the tile manufacturer to see what’s recommended.
3. Work out how many tiles you need
To work out how many tiles we need, measure the wall height and width and multiplied the two measurements to calculate the metre-squared value. Make sure to measure each wall separately and add together the values to get a total coverage. It’s a good idea to include a 10 per cent contingency for off-cuts and any mistakes or breakages. This is particularly important if you’re creating a more decorative laying pattern, such as herringbone.
4. Find your starting point
To find your starting point, locate the centre of your wall and mark a pencil line. Then, using a tile measure, or tile staff, mark the width and length or the tiles so you can see where they will lay. Where the bottom tile is less than about half a tile, re-arrange the layout slightly by raising the tile so you have at least half a tile and mark the wall once you are happy.
On the mark nearest the floor, use a spirit level and draw a straight line horizontally across the wall and fix a timber baton into the surface – you’ll use this as a guide and tile up from this point. Remember, the baton will need to be removed later.
5. Prepare the adhesive
Mix the adhesive in a bucket according to the packet instructions. For smaller tiles, it is fine to use a pre-mixed adhesive, but for larger designs, a cement-based type, which you mix yourself is recommended. Follow the packet instructions to ensure the mix is right. To apply the adhesive, use a notched trowel held at a 45 degree angle, to spread the adhesive on the wall.
Drag it across the surface to ensure an even coverage right up to the timber baton and pencil outline. Make grooves in the same direction and only cover enough to suit your application without the adhesive going off, meaning it will harden, before the tiles are fixed – around one square metre.
6. Begin to tile
Place the first tile onto the wall and push gently, twisting and sliding it, to make sure it sticks. Put a tile spacer along each edge and use a cloth to wipe away any excess adhesive as you go. Carry on the above steps until you’ve covered the whole area.
7. Cut some tiles
When you come to the edges, you may need to cut some of the tiles to fit. To do this, use either a manual cutter, which is best for straight cuts; a tile scribe for thin tiles; or an electric cutter for right angles or curved edges and for thicker tiles such as those made from porcelain or natural stone.
How to cut tiles with…
A manual cutter:
• A manual cutter is used for straight cuts.
• To measure where the tile needs to be cut, place a tile on top of the last full tile, and mark with a pencil where the overlap is, this is where you need to cut.
• Make sure you leave enough room for the grout joint and movement joint. Movement joints must not be grouted, the use of a sealant would be recommended.
• Place the tile in the tile cutter, square it up to the plate and get the cutter and pencil mark in line.
• Press down firmly on the handle of the cutter, and push forward across the tile to score a line.
• Press and apply pressure on each side of the tile and it will snap into two pieces. Some cutters will have an all in one breaker built in, just put the clamp part on the tile and push down on the handle to snap the tile.
• If the cut isn’t clean and the edges are slightly rough, use a file or rubbing stone to smooth the edges.
• For smaller or curved pieces, use tile nippers to cut small pieces off to achieve the correct size or shape required.
A tile scribe:
• This method can be used on thinner tiles.
• Measure where the tile needs to be cut using a pencil alongside a metal ruler, draw a straight line across.
• Hold the metal ruler on the cut line to ensure a straight cut. Holding at a 45° angle, use the tile scribe against the side of the ruler, apply pressure and cut across into the glaze.
• Use a long thin object underneath the scored tile, such as a pencil, and apply pressure either end of the tile and break into two.
• Be careful of the sharp edges after cutting. If the cut isn’t clean and the edges are slightly rough, use a file to smooth the edges.
An electric cutter:
• Electric cutters are used for right angles, curved edges and thicker tiles such as porcelain and natural stone.
• Make sure the electric cutter has water in the tray as the blade will overheat; it also reduces the amount of dust produced when cutting.
• For curved edges, mark with a pencil the area that needs to be cut, and mark several lines up to the curved mark. This is because a tile can’t be turned whilst being cut.
• Using the electric cutter, cut the number of lines up to the curved mark so it looks like a comb.
• Draw round the curved mark with a tile scribe to score and cut into the glaze.
• Using a tile nipper, break away small bits at a time up to the curve, and file down until smooth.
8. Finish the edges
Then, follow the same steps to secure the edge sections of tiles to the wall. Adhesive drying times vary by substrate and type so check guidance on the adhesive packet. Once dry, remove the spacers and any remaining excess adhesive then prepare your grout.
9. Prepare and apply the grout
Mix the grout powder and water in a bucket, but don’t mix too much at once, as this too will set quickly. Using a grout float, push the grout into the gaps and wipe away any excess with a damp sponge. You’ll need to wipe the wall again after around an hour to get rid of any residue and use a grout profiler to smooth the grout lines. Avoid over wetting the grout while removing as this will weaken the finished grout.
10. Seal the edges
Finally, use a silicone sealant to seal the edges of the wall, ensuring a watertight finish. Use a caulking gun to squeeze it from the tube and a sealant profiler or your finger to take away any excess, but make sure to wear rubber gloves. Leave the sealant for 24 hours to fully cure and then your newly tiled wall is complete – with a perfect professional-style result.