March 18, 2021

5 Tile installation issues you want to avoid

Installing tile yourself is no easy task. For our Do It Yourselfers, however, wall or flooring tile installation is a project that will give you a huge sense of accomplishment.

Unfortunately, there are plenty of ways to make your tiling job look like an unprofessional DIY project, so we’re here to help. Construct a tile floor or wall project you’re proud of by reading about the 5 tile installation issues you want to avoid.

1. Plan it out.

One of the best ways to avoid issues later in your tiling project is by spending the time now to plan out the look of the final product.

Start by measuring your room or wall dimensions and decide where your initial starting point will be. Often, this may be the back of a room, but you’ll also want to ensure you hit a particular line or center point. Use a standard chalk line – or more advanced digital technology – to create this line (or lines) that you can follow.

Then, when purchasing the tile for your project, always buy 10% more square footage than you need to account for cracked or broken tiles, mistakes, and extra tile for the future. Design will also be important during the planning stage, as you’ll need to determine what pattern your tile will have.

2. Prep your surface.

Whether you’re installing tile to the wall or the floor, it’s critical that proper steps are taken to prepare the surface.

First, clean the surface thoroughly. Flooring shouldn’t have any bumps from old tile or subflooring and walls should be free of grease and dirt. All surfaces should be clear of any debris.

Take the proper steps to prepare the surface for tile, depending on what you’re adhering to (for instance, tiling over existing tile vs. to wood subfloor vs. to cement foundation will all have slightly different steps). In general, you’ll need to ensure that the floor or wall is completely level (by sanding/grinding or using leveler), you may need to apply a waterproof membrane (for bathrooms) and/or backer/cement board, and follow with the thinset or adhesive.

3. Choose the right thinset.

Not all tile adhesives or mastics are created equally. It’s critical that you choose the right thinset for the job, and that takes a little research and preparation based on your project. For example, just as special waterproof membranes are necessary for water-prone rooms, so to will a mildew/mold resistant thinset.

In addition, thinset needs to be mixed properly to a nearly “butter-like” consistency, so be sure to follow the instructions on the bag carefully. Then, when laying your thinset, choose the right size trowel (based on your tile size) to achieve the proper thickness.

4. Lay your tile based on your plan.

Remember that plan you created in Step 1? Here’s where it becomes so important. Though nothing is perfect when it comes to home renovation projects, you want to get as close to those lines you drew as possible, so starting from them is your best bet. Part of this stage includes cutting your tiles based on precise measurements, so take the time to measure and cut correctly for the best outcome.

When laying your tile, press into place with a slight bit of pressure – but not so much to allow your thinset to bubble up on either side. Tap tiles into place to remove any air pockets with a rubber mallet, ensure they are level, and use tile spacers to ensure perfect spaces between them every time.

(Pro tip: For larger tiles, “back butter” the back of the tile to ensure the best thinset bond.)

5. Choose the right grout.

From choosing the wrong grout to mixing the grout poorly to bad installation, there’s a lot that can go wrong with this final important step in the tiling process.

Again, spend the time planning in choosing the right color and right type of grout for your project. Here are some additional considerations to make when grouting.

When it’s time to grout your tiling project, spend the time to properly mix, apply, and clean the floor or wall for the best final product. For a complete guide to DIY grouting, check out this post.

By keeping this five major issues in mind for your next DIY tile project, you’ll end up with the tile wall or floor of your dreams.

What other tile installation issues have you had or come across?

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