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DIY Tiling Tips and Tricks: Mastering the Art of Tiling

Tiling is a popular and cost-effective way to change the look and feel of your home. And it’s one project you can do yourself with a little learning and elbow grease.

Person spreading mortar to lay tiles

These DIY tiling tips and tricks will help you on your way. Whether you’re considering a bathroom renovation, kitchen backsplash, or a whole new floor, learning to do your own tiling can be super useful. 

Tools and Materials

There are a few tools you’re going to use, some of which you may already have.

  • Tile cutter: A tile cutter is essential for cutting tiles to fit around corners, edges, or outlets.
  • Notched trowel: This tool allows you to spread adhesive evenly on the surface before laying tiles.
  • Grout float: A grout float helps you apply grout smoothly and evenly.
  • Spirit level: Use a spirit level to ensure your tiles are laid straight and level.
  • Tile spacers: These small plastic pieces help maintain consistent spacing between tiles. (Unless you plan to lay the tiles right up against each other.)
  • Safety gear: Don’t forget safety goggles, gloves, and knee pads to protect yourself during the tiling process.

Choosing the Right Tiles

The tiles you pick can make or break your tiling project. Consider the following factors before making a decision:

Tile material: Common options include ceramic, porcelain, natural stone, and glass. Each material has its own unique characteristics, so choose one one that fits your style, budget and project needs.

Tile size and shape: Larger tiles can create a sleek and modern look, while smaller tiles are better suited for intricate patterns. Consider the size of the area you’re tiling and the overall aesthetic you want to achieve. (Also keep in mind: more tiles = more work.)

Tile finish: Choose between matte, glossy, or textured finishes depending on the style you’re going for and the level of maintenance you’re willing to commit to.

Tile color: Consider the color scheme of the room and how the tiles will complement the overall design.

Preparing the Surface

Proper surface preparation is essential for achieving a flawless tile installation. Follow these steps:

Clean the surface:

Remove any dirt, grease, or old adhesive from the surface. Make sure the surface is completely dry before moving on to the next step.

Patch any cracks or holes:

Use a self-leveling underlayment filler to repair any big cracks or holes in the substrate. Smooth out the surface and allow it to dry as per the manufacturer’s instructions.

For small cracks, you can use the thin-set mortar you’ll be using in the next stage.

Prime the surface:

Apply a primer to the surface, especially if you’re tiling over a porous material like concrete or plywood. This helps improve adhesion and prevents moisture damage.

Laying the Tiles

Now that your surface is prepared, it’s time to start laying the tiles. Follow these steps for a professional-looking tile installation:

Plan your layout:

Start by measuring the area and deciding on the best layout for your tiles. Use tile spacers to visualize the spacing between each tile.

Apply mortar:

Using a notched trowel, spread thin-set mortar on a small section of the surface. Make sure to work in small sections to prevent the adhesive from drying out before you lay the tiles.

Lay the tiles:

Place each tile onto the mortar, pressing firmly to ensure a good bond. Use a spirit level to make sure they’re straight and level with each other.

Cut tiles as needed:

Use your tile cutter to trim tiles that need to fit around corners, edges, or outlets. Measure twice and cut once to avoid mistakes.

Continue tiling:

Repeat the process, working in small sections until the entire area is covered. Remember to use tile spacers to maintain consistent spacing between each tile.

Grouting and Sealing

Grouting and sealing are the final steps to complete your tiling project and ensure its longevity. Follow these steps:

Mix grout: Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to mix grout to the desired consistency. This step is optional if you laid the tiles edge to edge with no room for grout in between.

Apply grout: Use a grout float to apply grout diagonally across the tiles, pressing it into the gaps. Remove excess grout using a damp sponge.

Let it dry: Allow the grout to dry for the recommended time before wiping away any remaining haze with a clean cloth.

Seal the tiles: Depending on the type of tiles you’ve chosen, consider applying a sealant to protect them from stains and moisture. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper application.