DIY Tile Tips - Sutton — Canadian Real Estate Listings & Agents |

DIY Tile Tips

07 November 2018

Are you an ambitious do-it-yourselfer planning to tile one or more rooms in your home? Laying your own tile can save money and allow you to begin immediately rather than waiting for professionals, who often have more work than time. On the other hand, you will likely need to rent, borrow, or purchase tools and develop new skills.

Start by measuring your space, then order approximately 10 per cent more than you think you will need. Chances are that you will break a few tiles and occasionally cut the wrong edge. Having extra available saves you the time of reordering and the possibility that your chosen tile may be out of stock or discontinued.

Visit multiple stores to compare products and prices. Showrooms are also a great source of design ideas. Tap into the knowledge of sales staff to help you narrow down the extensive array of floor and wall tile options. Once you have found a few products that you like, ask for samples that you can take home and view next to your cabinetry, carpeting, etc.

In preparation for laying tile, view online videos to find free, step-by-step demonstrations on how to configure tile, make precise cuts, grout, etc. What may not be immediately apparent from the online videos is the physically demanding nature of this work. For example, you will need to mix and lift heavy buckets of mortar and grout and carry tiles that can weigh several pounds each. If you are tiling a floor, you will spend hours crouched over and move up and down often as you measure, cut and lay tile.

At this point, if you are still determined to go the DIY route, kudos. You are ready to invest in the proper tools:

  • protection for hearing, vision and breathing
  • tape measure and pencil
  • trowel with one smooth edge and one square-toothed edge
  • bucket and sponge
  • small crowbar
  • level
  • spacers
  • rubber mallet
  • rubber grout float
  • tile scorer
  • handheld saw to cut out holes
  • wet saw 

The last three items on this list can sometimes be rented from hardware and tool supply stores. You might also borrow tools or find used items through your local classified listings. It is a good idea to bring a few scrap tiles to test out the functionality of used equipment before you buy.

Prep the wall or floor to ensure it is flat and smooth.

When working on a wall, begin at the bottom and go up. If you are tiling a bath enclosure, begin at the bottom of the back wall. Protect the shower floor or bathtub with layers of cardboard. Use a level to ensure that each row is even and each column is straight. A level relies on very simple, yet effective technology: an air bubble is suspended in liquid and when the level is straight, the air bubble rests in the middle of the indicator.

A handheld, diamond-tipped saw is best to cut out holes for plumbing, electrical outlets, etc. A tile scorer is a quick way to make a straight cut when that cut is at least several centimetres from the edge of the tile. A wet saw can be used for any straight cut, including narrow cuts near the edge.

Mix mortar according to the manufacturer’s directions and spread a thin layer on the wall or floor in a section roughly equivalent to half an hour’s work; the mortar should remain damp as you lay tile. Spread a thick layer of mortar on the back of one tile using a trowel, then lay the tile and tap it gently with a rubber mallet. Ensure that each tile is correctly positioned before proceeding to the next. Use a mallet or crowbar to make adjustments.

Spacers are a handy, inexpensive way to ensure a uniform layout. Spacers come in a variety of styles including a ‘plus sign’ to wrap four corners, or a clip and wedge system that creates uniform gaps as well as a level surface.

Grouting is an art in itself. Prepare the grout following the manufacturer’s instructions, but adjust the consistency, if needed. The mixture should fill the gaps without leaking any liquid. As online videos will demonstrate, use firm, quick strokes with a rubber grout float to fill the gaps, then a soft touch to smooth the surface. When you are finished, wipe off the excess, including any film on the tiles, using a damp sponge. When the grout is dry, apply a sealer.

A successfully completed tile project is an achievement you will enjoy for years to come.