It wasn’t long ago that I was a tiling beginner. In fact, I’m just finishing up tiling my shower walls right now, which was the first and only time I’ve ever tiled a wall. I have tiled two floors this year, the hex tiles in the guest bathroom and the herringbone pattern in the family room. I tiled a small bathroom floor in our last house, but that was 2 kids and 10 years ago and I don’t even remember it. So anyway, my point is that you can do a lot even if you’re new to tiling.
So here are my random tiling tips for beginners:
- Make sure you have the right thinset for your tile (I learned this the hard way when I used the wrong stuff for my mosaic hex tiles, ugh!)
- Use similar color thinset and grout, which is not as stupid or anal as it sounds. Thinset gets squished when you apply tile and it squeezes out through the spaces between the tiles. It is a pain in the butt to wipe the thinset off completely. It’s even more of a pain to scrape it out after it dries. If you can’t get all the thinset out, it will be more easily covered by a grout that is the same color. It doesn’t have to be a perfect color match, just the same family; white, light gray, dark gray, etc.
- Do a dry run with your tile first. Please for the love of Pete! If you’re going to put all the time and energy into tiling, please, PLEASE make sure it’s going to look good.
- Take tile height into consideration. I am OCD about floor transitions. Thresholds, reducers, and T-moldings are my enemies. I like everything to be nice and level. Well this takes planning. You may, gasp, have to use an underlayment to get your tile to the desired height. You can be brave and try self-leveler like I did here and, more successfully, here. Or you can use an underlayment like Schluter Ditra. Just please make it look good.
- Cut your tiles before, during or after? Once you have a layout planned, you’ll see which tiles need to be cut. You can either cut them all before you start (**but dude, be ready to make adjustments**) or do the full pieces first then come back later and add all the pieces that need to be cut. Or if you’re lucky, and you trust your spouse, have him or her cut the tiles as you go. Just don’t let it slow you down too much. If you’re using mosaic tiles on a mesh backing you should definitely cut the mesh before you start. Maybe come back later with the tiles that need to be snipped/cut.
- Mix only as much thinset as you can use in a timely manner. Thinset doesn’t stay nice and moist forever, otherwise our tile would always be moving around. Once it starts to glaze over, you’re screwed. Actually you can remix it as long as you don’t add any more water, but the best thing to do is only mix what you can use in a 15-20 minute period.
- Always add powder to water. Not the other way around. So fill bucket with correct amount of water, then add the mortar, grout, leveler to the bucket of water.
- Use a mixing paddle attached to a drill. Don’t try mixing thinset or grout by hand. For bigger batches I use a bigger paddle and stronger 1/2″ corded drill. For smaller jobs I use a cheap plastic paddle and a cordless Ryobi drill. Heck, sometimes I use a big paddle in a small bucket.
- Wear a mask when mixing. It’s most important when you’re adding the powder to the water in your bucket. Powder will fly everywhere. This goes for thinset mortar, grout, self-leveler or any concrete. This stuff goes from powder to solid when you add moisture, so it’s definitely not something you want to break in.
- Mix outside. Unless it’s freezing and you’re super annoyed that you aren’t finished tiling and you now feel like you could mix thinset in your sleep. Even then make sure you pour the thinset or grout into your bucket of water outside because, guess what, powder will go everywhere. The best place for me to mix is on my gravel patio. There is nothing to clean up afterwards. It’s just not that conveniently located to all my tiling projects.
- Use the right size notched trowel. It seriously makes a difference! Check your tile for specifics, it usually says right on the box.
- Buy cheap trowels. Unless you are super compulsive about keeping your tools clean. Anything you’re using a trowel to spread is going to dry on your trowel. Eventually it gets too hard to clean it all off. Until I get better at keeping them clean, I’m going to continue to ruin cheap trowels and just replace them. Bad for the environment I know, I’ll work on it. I’m also not really sure what the performance difference is between a $2 trowel and a $20 trowel. More comfortable handle? Not going to matter to me because I don’t use it that much.
- Don’t buy cheap spacers. Apparently only us DIY-ers use those tiny white x-shaped spacers. Don’t embarrass yourself — buy better spacers. Of course it doesn’t really have anything to do with being cool, there are just a lot more user-friendly versions out there. I really liked the t-shaped ones I used to subway tile my shower walls. There are also spacers that help with leveling, and wedge spacers, like these. I would skip the big box stores all together and go to a dedicated tile store for your tile spacers, just not The Tile Shop. I hate that place.
- Don’t bite off more than you can chew. If you’re a beginner don’t get crazy and try something complete out of your skill level. This picture is from my friend Cindy who told me her brain hurt last night while she and her dad tried to get the spacing figured out. I’m so glad I like the plain look. Lol
OMG. Class dismissed. Apparently I stink at giving quick tips because this was supposed to be Quick Tip Tuesday. Please help a girl out… do you have any ideas for genuinely short quick tips? Something you’d like to know how to do but it’s so simple you felt stupid asking. That is exactly what I’m looking for! Leave your question/idea in the comments below. Thanks!