Home renovations can be an expensive business, so anything you can do yourself is going to mean more money saved on labour to spend on materials. Most competent DIYers can take on a tiling job, so if you are attempting to tile for the first time, read our advice from experienced renovator Sian Astley, and watch our how to videos.
Remember, like any DIY task, preparation is key for a good result.
What equipment do I need?
Any tiler will tell you that using the correct equipment will make the job a lot easier. The essential tiling toolkit includes:
- Tape measure
- Spirit level
- Tile cutter or jigsaw
- Tile file
- Adhesive trowel
- Sealant gun
- Grout spreader
- Tile spacer
How to tile a wall
How to tile a floor
How many tiles do I need?
To calculate the approximate number of tiles you will need, measure the length of the area you’re planning to tile and divide that by the length of each tile; then do the same with the width. Round up both of these numbers and multiply them together to give you the amount of tiles needed. Include extra tiles to account for breakages.
Top 10 tips for tiling
1. Know your limits
Don’t bite off more than you can chew. I’ve had shoddy tiling done by people who are meant to be experts — it’s not an ‘easy’ job and should be approached with care, and the right tools. Tiling a splashback is a different story from tiling a floor in large-format planks, so don’t think that because you’ve done one type of tiling, you’ve done them all.
2. Prep and level
Always start with the most flat and level surface you can possibly get, whether on the floor or on the walls. If you try the lazy way of building up using adhesive, you will come a cropper and won’t get a perfectly level finish.
If you have uneven walls, it’s worth removing old plaster and creating a flat surface with plasterboard. If a fireplace hearth or floor that you are tiling slopes off, use a frame and self-levelling compound. This is available from good DIY stores, and can be mixed, poured and left to set to ensure a flat surface before starting to tile.
3. Mess slows you down
A good tiler is a clean tiler so try and have two of three buckets of clean warm water to hand, plus cloths and sponges.
4. Use the right adhesive for the job
Some of the pricier adhesives are easier to work with: less sticky, more ‘grab’ and more time for an amateur to work. Rapid set is for experts who are able to tile at speed.
5. Work on a waterproof base in showers and around baths
The smart choice in shower areas are waterproof boards, and there are lots of makes out there. Rigid and water-resistant, they form the back or sides of the cubicle. The tray is fitted, levelled and siliconed in place, then tiling starts as close to the tray as possible. Don’t simply rely on tiles and adhesive to prevent water escaping, but seal joints and corners before tiling as well as after.
6. Don’t ‘dot and dab’ under large format tiles
Don’t skimp with large-format tiles and ‘dot and dab’ the adhesive. Spread it properly, slightly buttering the back of each tile, then wiping each edge of adhesive so it won’t leak into the grout line.
Poor tiling jobs have thick adhesive beads, with levels built up due to random blobs. The gaps between blobs are weak spots which can cause the tiles to crack.
7. Take extra care with mosaic tiles
With smaller mosaics, a flat surface is essential. Many are on sheets, which gives the DIYer confidence, however, the adhesive bed needs to be super thin so it doesn’t squeeze up through the grout lines.
8. Plan your pattern
Think through your pattern and grout line size, making sure you have all the spacers you need. A good tiler knows where every tile and cut meets before they start.
9. Marble maintenance
If you’re set on real marble, you must seal and protect it. However, you can now get a luxe bathroom in stone such as marble by faking it with porcelain imitations. These are easy to fit, with no maintenance required.
10. Don’t be phased by brick patterns
Contemporary tiled walls with staggered chevrons and herringbones patterns might look complex, but with steady progress you can achieve great results. Print off the pattern, pencil it on the walls, measure using a sample tile and get stuck in.