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1/5/2012 6:59:35 PM

How to install wall tile(1)

Ceramic Tile
Installing Wall Tile(1)

Article Content
You will need tools specific to laying ceramic tile. Be sure to review the tools and materials list and have everything on hand before beginning the project. If your project involves tiling both walls and the floor, do the walls first.

These basic principles apply whether you have chosen ceramic, slate, marble or granite tiles. After you have finished estimating and purchasing your tile, materials and tools your are ready to begin.

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Tools & Materials
  • Level
  • Goggles
  • Glass cutter
  • Carpenter's square
  • Sponge
  • Clean rags
  • Grout float (rubber)
  • Pencil
  • Tape measure
  • Hammer
  • Notched trowel or spreader
  • Tile (field and trim)
  • Tile spacers (if needed)
  • Spackling compound
  • Tile adhesive
  • Silicone caulk
  • Silicone grout sealer
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Preparing Walls for Tile
Tile adhesive sticks to a wide variety of surfaces. The installation surface must be clean, dry and structurally sound. As with most projects, special consideration must be made for wet locations. In a shower or other high-moisture location, use cement-fiber board as the tile substrate.

When preparing new drywall, you do not need to tape the joints. Seal the walls first with a thin coat of adhesive.

When preparing existing walls to receive tile:

  • Strip off flexible coverings such as wallpaper and scrape away loose paint.

  • Knock the sheen off glossy finishes with a light sanding.

  • Patch any holes or wide cracks in drywall with spackling compound. Sand smooth when the patch dries.

  • Tile in bathroom.
    Tile in wet areas requires special backing.
    The recommended underlayment for bathroom walls is cement-fiber board, often referred to as "cement board". The product is composed of cement and fiber for strength and moisture resistance. It is available in 1/4" and 1/2" thicknesses depending on the application.

When installing wall tile in a bathroom, leave an 1/8" space along the area where the wall meets the top of a tub or shower base. This area will be caulked later with silicon caulk. Caulk is flexible enough to allow movement!settling or expansion and contraction!without cracking.

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What Kind of Pattern Do I Use?
Tile Patterns.
Two examples of tile patterns

The pattern options available when laying tile are virtually endless. However, there are two basic patterns:

  • A "jack-on-jack" pattern is the most common. The pattern consists of tile laid like squares on a checkerboard.

  • A "running bond" pattern has offset grout lines for each row.

Either is fairly easy to set, although the running bond pattern is the more difficult of the two.

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Layout of the Wall Area
Walls in most houses are not square. The instructions below establish guidelines for an installation that starts in the center of a wall and proceeds toward the edges. This method gives you equally sized cut tiles at each corner.
Layout Tool.
  1. Make a layout tool. Lay out a row of tiles on the floor. (Consider both the width of the tile and the grout lines. If you plan to use tile spacers when doing the job, include them as well.) Align a straight stick (1x2) with an edge against or on top of the row of tiles. Mark the tile and grout spacing on the stick. This tool will be used in combination with a level to accurately lay out the tile spacing on the walls.

  2. Mark the planned location of any cabinets or accessories which you expect to hang on the wall.

  3. If you are tiling a bathroom, measure up one tile width plus 1/8" from the lowest spot where the top of the tub or shower base meets the wall and make a mark. If you are tiling a room with no tub or other obstruction, make a mark one tile width from the floor's lowest point. With this mark as a beginning reference, use the layout tool to get an estimate of how the tiles will lay in a vertical line. If necessary, adjust the reference mark and try again. (For example, if you discover that your layout will leave an unacceptably narrow band of tile along the ceiling, shift the reference mark down about 1/2 a tile.)

  4. Use a level to extend your final reference mark into a horizontal line. This line will be where you begin laying the tile.

    Reference marks.
    Use reference marks to line up tiles in the corners.

  5. Place another reference mark on the horizontal line near the center of the room. Now use your guide to see what will happen at the corners of the room. Shift the reference mark to the side to get the tiles in the corners to line up as you wish. When you have established the desired final placement of this reference mark, use your level to draw a plumb vertical line.

  6. You will begin laying the tile where the two reference lines meet. They should cross at perfect 90 degree angles. The first tile row must be as close to centered as possible. The appearance of the whole wall will depend upon it. Any error you make here will compound itself as the tiles are laid. Use the level and layout tool to mark a grid on the wall to help with the placement of tiles.
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Installing Wall Tile
  1. Attach a support strip to the bottom of your base horizontal reference line. This board will serve both as a guide and as support for the tiles until the adhesive has a chance to set.

  2. Spread the adhesive with the trowel's notched edge, combing it out in beaded ridges. Spaces between ridges of adhesive should be almost bare. Apply in 2 to 3 sq. ft. sections. Increase the coverage after you get a feel for setting the tiles. Spread adhesive up to, but not covering, any reference lines or marks on the wall used for positioning tiles.

  3. spacers.
    Spacers leave room for straight grout lines.
    Press the first few full tiles in place above the support strip with a slight twisting motion. Do not slide them.

  4. Insert plastic spacers between the tiles if they do not have spacer lugs. This helps maintain straight grout lines. Remove spacers prior to grouting.

    Good idea: Some ceramic tiles have spacers built into the tile itself. If you desire a wider grout line, use spacers as well.

  5. Continue aligning and adhering tiles. Work in a pyramid shape from your crossed reference lines!outward and upward.

  6. If adhesive oozes up between the tiles, clean out the excess before it dries. Immediately wipe off any adhesive on the face of the tiles with a solvent-soaked sponge or rag. (Consult the manufacturer's instructions to determine the appropriate solvent). Adhesives begin to firmly set in 20 to 30 minutes.
    Some adhesives emit toxic and flammable fumes. Provide good ventilation, especially in confined locations such as shower stalls. Always refer to the product label for safety precautions.

    Exercise caution when using tile-cutting tools.

  7. After you have installed several rows of tile, set them into the adhesive with the tile leveler and a mallet.

  8. Tile the wall up and across to the edges where trimming will be required, then remove the support strip and install the tiles that go beneath it.

  9. Repeat this process on the rest of the walls.

  10. Measure the area along the edges and carefully cut tiles to fit. Install the edges and trim.

  11. When the job is complete, seal the joints between the tub and tile with silicon caulk.
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Cutting and Fitting Ceramic Tile
Nearly every tiling job requires trimming tiles to fit around borders or obstructions such as window frames, electrical fixtures, pipes, basins, toilets or countertops. Straight cuts are relatively simple. Shaping tiles to fit curves is more difficult and requires practice and patience.

For small jobs, use a glass cutter or a simple tile cutter. Larger projects may warrant using a wet saw. Do-it-yourself wet saw models are relatively inexpensive (in relation to renting). They make clean cuts with little waste.

Apply even pressure when using tools designed to score, cut and drill tiles. Pressing too hard can cause tiles to crack and break. Drilling tile requires a special bit.

To make cuts at a true right angle, use a combination square as your straightedge when scoring with a glass cutter.

When using a glass cutter or tile cutter, score the tile in one stroke to achieve smooth and even breaks. Repeated scoring will cause the tile to chip or crack.

Always wear safety glasses when working with tiles.

Snapping tile by hand

  1. With the scored line facing up, position the tile over a nail or a stiff piece of wire.

  2. Lay your fingers flat on either side of the tile and apply firm, even pressure until the tile snaps.

Using tile nippers

  1. Center the cutting blade on the scored line and exert pressure by squeezing the handles together.

  2. Use your free hand to hold the side of the tile you will be using.

Using a tile cutter

  1. Measure and mark the cutting line on the tile.

  2. Align this mark with the cutting guide on the tile cutter.

  3. Supporting the tile to keep it level, lower the cutting wheel onto the edge of the tile. Push it away from you with firm pressure.

  4. When you've rolled the cutting wheel to the far end, push down on the handle to split the tile.

Using a wet saw

  1. Measure and mark the cutting line on the tile.

  2. Align this mark with the cutting guide on the tile cutter.

  3. Supporting the tile to keep it level, move it towards the blade. Move the tile slowly to avoid overheating and cracking. Let the saw do the work.

Cutting Holes in Tiles

  1. Mark the shape to be cut with a pencil.

  2. Drill a hole inside the shape with light pressure, using a 1/2" carbide masonry drill bit.

  3. Insert a tungsten carbide rod blade through the hole and attach the ends of the rod to a hacksaw frame.

  4. Saw along the pencil line with even pressure. Let the saw do the work. Forcing the cut too rapidly can break the tile.

Fitting Around Obstructions

  1. Using a pencil, draw the shape that needs to be removed on the tile. A compass may help you draw neater curves.

  2. Score the outline of the shape you drew with the glass cutter. Then score several crisscross lines within the outlined area.

  3. Using tile nippers (or pliers), begin taking tiny bites from the area to be removed. The idea is to "nibble" off chips, not chunks.

  4. An alternate method is to make several parallel cuts with a wet saw. The adjacent cuts will create several small strips of waste tile. snap these off with tile nippers and smooth the surface.
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Smoothing Rough and Jagged Breaks
Jagged edges ! Use tile nippers or pliers to nibble off the uneven edge of a broken tile.

Rough edges ! Use a round file to smooth rough edges of areas that have been nibbled away.

Cut edges ! If a straight-cut edge shows, rub it against a sheet of 80-grit aluminum oxide sandpaper to round and smooth the edge.

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Grouting the Joints
  1. Mix grout to the consistency of a thick paste (like peanut butter) and apply it by forcing the grout between tiles with a rubber float held at a 45 degree angle.

  2. Hold the float almost perpendicular to the floor. Wipe away excess grout from the surface of the tiles.Take care to pack all joints. Use a toothbrush to shape the grout.

  3. After 20 minutes, wipe away all excess grout with a damp sponge. Keep your sponge clean by rinsing it often. Follow the grout manufacturer's instructions for curing and cleaning the grout.

  4. Fill seams with a bead of flexible water-soluble silicone caulking where tiles meet the counter. Smooth with a sponge or your finger. (Wearing a thin latex glove would be a good idea if you are using your finger.)

  5. After the grout has cured for a week, silicone grout sealer may be applied with a small paintbrush to help prevent grout discoloration.

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