How To Tile A Wall: A Step by Step Guide
First time DIY tiler? Not to worry, you're in good hands! Here's our step by step tutorial on How to Tile A Wall...
A DIY Guide for How to tile a Wall - Arranging the Tile Layout
Walls and Floors have joined forces with our friends at BAL to bring you a comprehensive, easy-to-follow and step-by-step guide on how to tile a wall. In part 1 of 3, we look at how to create a fantastic tile layout.
1) Working out the tile layout
So you’re at the point where you’re about to start tiling. It’s now time to sort of the layout. This is very important, because you want to ensure you get as much of the full tiles on the wall as possible, whilst avoiding any small little cuts, which can look unsightly. Inevitably in some rooms, you will have to have a small cut – but by working out the layout before you start tiling, you can minimise that chance, and also put it in a part of the room where you can’t see it.
Firstly, you need to find the centre of the wall. Using a tape measure, take the width of the wall, and divide that by two to find the centre. Make a mark on wall. Then, using a vertical spirit level, line it up with the mark, and draw a line down the centre of the wall. This is your centreline – the line you will tile from.
Now you can work out the best layout of tiles. As shown in the video, holding a tile in your hand, place it on the centreline, and then, taking another tile in your other hand, place this next to the first tile, with a small gap to allow for a groutline. Then, move the first tile to the other side of the second tile, and so on – counting as you go. This will tell you how many tiles will fit in. Because you started from the centreline, whatever cut piece you’ll end up with at the end will be exactly the same at the other edge.
2) Fixing a tiling baton
If you’re not starting from the skirting board, it’s a good idea to tile from a wooden baton, screwed into the wall. It’s now time to attach your baton to the wall. Use as many screws as you need to make it feel sturdy, as it will need to support the tiles. Check it’s level, by using a spirit level. You’re now ready to start tiling.
3) Applying the tile adhesive
So the baton’s on the wall and you’ve marked out your start point. Now it’s time to apply some wall tile adhesive, and start putting tiles on the wall. It’s important to wear protective gloves, to help protect your hands from the adhesive, which can be irritant. It’s also advisable to wear goggles, to stop any adhesive from splashing into your eyes. In the video, because the tile is ceramic, the tiler is using BAL White Star readymix adhesive.
Mark your starting line onto your baton, as your wall is about to become covered in adhesive, and the line is going to disappear.
Use a bucket trowel to give the adhesive a slight mix - just to loosen it up, so that it’s more workable when you’re putting it on the wall. Get a small amount on your bucket trowel, and apply it to your notched tiling trowel. Then you ease it gently onto the wall. It doesn’t matter how thick it is at the moment, or how consistent it is, you just need to get some onto the wall. Repeat this once or twice, but keep in mind the rule of not covering too much of an area at once – as you don’t want parts of the adhesive to start to dry before you’ve had a chance to tile up to them. As a general rule of thumb, you’d cover inwards of a square metre, or enough adhesive as you could suitably work with in twenty minutes.
Start to spread the adhesive around the wall. Again, it doesn’t have to be too even or uniform at the moment. Just gently push it around the wall.
4) Creating your adhesive bed
Now it’s time to form the ribs – a process which will make your adhesive even, and adequate for applying your tiles to. Holding your trowel at a 45 degree angle, push the notched edge of your trowel into the wall, and drag it across the surface – pressing the defined prongs against the wall. This will create a stretch of little troughs, called ‘ribs’. Work from your baton. It doesn’t matter which direction the ribs go in - vertically or horizontally – as long as they’re all going in the same direction. Don’t worry if you’re got a build up along the baton. Simply use your bucket trowel to collect this, and put it back into the tub – being careful not to disturb the ribs.
Get rid of any excess adhesive from your trowels by scraping it off, and putting it back in your bucket. You want to them as clean as possible when you put them down to start tiling, so that any excess adhesive doesn’t set on them. It’s a lot harder to get off once dry. Always keep a bucket of water and a sponge handy when tiling – ready to wipe into action.
5) Adding the wall tiles
Put your newly-cleaned trowels to one side, and pick up your first tile. Line it up with the marks on your baton, and push it into the adhesive. Use firm pressure and a slight side-to-side jigging motion to ensure a good, tight grip.
Take your next tile and put it directly next to the first tile initially, with no gap. Again, use firm pressure and a slight jigging motion – then, with a finger, slide it slightly apart from the first tile. Just enough to fit your tile spacer in. Open your bag of tile spacers, take one out, and place it between the two tiles you’ve just applied.
Carry on with the process of adding tiles, and using the spacers as pegs, to keep the gap.
6) Tiling around a focal point
When it comes to tiling a room, you need to look at a focal point. In the bathroom, it will be either the bath or the window. When it comes to tiling around a window, for example, you want to make sure that you have a nice cut of tiles around it, to make it look aesthetically square. Windows are rarely square, so an art will come into it, to try to make the window look square.
The window the tiler is working to in the video is wider at the top than it is at the bottom. By being clever with his tiling, he can make this look square.
Mark the centre of the window on the wall above. Working to the left and right of that centreline, mark out where your row of tiles will sit, above the window. Focusing on where the tile will sit to the left of the window, the tiler can see that if he was to cut the tiles vertically, in a perfectly straight column that was cut against the window’s edge, the tiles would get smaller and smaller as the column went down, since the window is wider at the top than it is at the bottom. This wouldn’t look very good. So, instead, the tiler is going to measure the widest point (which is at the top), and cut the row of tiles to sit at that width. Therefore, as the column goes downwards, the tiles stay the same width in a nice, straight column, even though the window is moving inwards behind them. Repeat this same process on the opposite side, and on the top and bottom.
7) Adding tile trims to your window or recess
Now you need to finish off the tiled edge. You’ll have the smooth edge of the outward-facing set of tiles exposed, which can look unprofessionally. So therefore, you want a nice transition into the sideward-facing tiles inside the recess of the window. To achieve this, you’ll need to use something like a tile trim. Our tiler has chosen a chrome trim, in the video. Pick a colour that will blend in with the rest of the furniture in the bathroom. They come in white, and various colours.
Attach the tiling trim before tiling inside the recess. Cut the tile trim to length. You want to create a frame of tile trim, to sit around the window’s lip. So, when you’re cutting your lengths of trim, you should cut the corners at a 45 degree angle so the separate pieces fit together nicely (imagine the corners of a picture frame).
To cut your angles, use a mitre block and a junior hacksaw. Make sure you place the trim standing upright. Line your mark up with the angle groove in the mitre block, and draw your blade backwards across the trim a few times – to help start it off. And then carry on sawing, until you’re gone through the whole trim.
Use you’ve got your cut piece, with a nice 45 degree mitre, offer it up against your window’s edge, to check you’ve got your measurements right.
If it’s an area that is likely to get wet, you want to ensure that there is a 2mm gap between the mitre joint, and a 2mm gap between the trim and the tiled edge. This is to ensure you can fit some tile grout into the gap, which is more watertight than having the metal trim pressed against another hard surface.
Once you’ve applied your trim, the next step is to then tile inside the recess. Obviously, it won’t be easy to get your trowel into the recess to apply your adhesive. So, instead, apply the adhesive to the back of the tile instead, before tiling onto the tile trim. Remember to leave that 2mm gap between the tile’s edge and the flat lip of the trim.
8) How To Grout Your Wall Tiles: Mixing the grout
The type of tile grout to be used, like the adhesive, is dependent on the type of tile used, the environment that is being tiled – i.e. a wet area, like a wet room or a power shower, as well as the background substrate of the wall. Expert staff at Walls and Floors can advise you of the grout that is most applicable, but the grout is likely to be cement-based powder.
So you’ve finished tiling your wall, you’ve observed the manufacturer’s drying times for the adhesive, and you’ve left it an adequate amount of time to dry. You’re now ready to mix up some grout. Before you start to grout, just make sure your tiles are nice and clean, and that your grout joints are clean, and that there’s no adhesive that’s loose and can contaminate the grout. And then you’re ready to start applying the grout.
9) Applying the grout to the wall tiles
Start to apply grout from the bucket onto the grout float using a bucket trowel. Once you’ve got a fair amount on the grout float, simply press it against the tiled surface, and start working it outwards. Our tiler in the video usually works left to right, and then up and down. Holding the float at a 45 degree angle, push the grout around. Don’t worry about it smearing across the surface of the tile – we’ll clean that up later. As you’re pushing it around the tiles, push it into the joints. Collect large amounts of grout from the tile surfaces onto your float, and smear this elsewhere – constantly re-using it, and applying it into the grout joints. Once you’ve finished one area, give the tiles a quick wipe down with a sponge and clean, cold water, before moving on to the next area.
10) Cleaning up and finishing off
Wait between five and fifteen minutes to allow the grout in the joins to dry a little more, before further wiping down the tiles with your sponge and cold water, at a 45 degree angle, to remove the haze from the tile face. Remember to clean the sponge to avoid it from becoming too dirty and to avoid just moving the grout around.
To finish the job, use a clean, soft cloth to polish the tile faces, once the grout is dry.
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