Planning & preparation
- Here we will show you how to find your starting position, lay floor tiles, cut tiles, fit around obstacles, grout and apply finishing touches such as sealant
- Thorough preparation is key to achieving a long-lasting and high quality finish. Before you start laying tiles you must ensure that the floor is solid, level, clean and dry
- Depending on the type of flooring in your bathroom, you may need to install a subfloor. For this project, we used exterior-grade plywood as our subfloor
- Bear in mind that plywood, and other types of porous surface, will need to be primed and allowed to dry before you can start tiling
- Some existing surfaces, such as a level concrete floor, don’t require a subfloor and you can lay tiles straight on top of it as long as any old adhesive has been removed
- The surface you are laying onto will determine the type of tile adhesive you need to use, so be sure to check the manufacturer’s instructions. Normally you’d pick a flexible adhesive if tiling onto plywood, or a strong, high bond adhesive for concrete floors
- To work out how many packs of tiles you need, calculate the size of the area in m² (length x width = number of metres squared) and then check the coverage of the pack. It’s best to add at least 10% to allow for wastage
- We’d recommend buying tiles from the same batch to achieve colour matching; the batch number will be on the packaging
- As most rooms are not perfectly square, it’s a good idea to plan the position of your tiles before laying them down
- If possible, try to avoid having to fill small gaps as they are fiddly and can look untidy
- Be sure to thoroughly examine tiles prior to installation
Do it right
- If you are using tile adhesive or grout that is left over from another project, check the use-by date and replace it if necessary. Some adhesives and grouts can be very fast drying, so be mindful of this when deciding how much to mix up
- Normally, natural stone tiles like limestone, marble and slate need sealing, but most ceramic and glazed porcelain tiles do not. Sealing is usually done after laying the tiles but before grouting. Always check the tile manufacturer’s instructions to see whether your tiles need sealing, when you are advised to do this, and what sealant to use
- In a new bathroom, it’s best to tile the floor before installing the toilet, sink pedestal and bath (if it’s a freestanding design), then fit them on top of the tiles
- It is always a good idea to keep some spare tiles in case any need replacing in the future
- Using an anti-mould grout is best for bathrooms. Bear in mind that grout is available in various shades, so pick the colour that looks best with your tiles
- Take care not to apply pressure or walk on the tiles until the adhesive has completely dried
- Use a pipe and cable detector to check the areas where you plan to drill for hidden pipes and cables
- Wear safety goggles and gloves when cutting tiles and be sure to clear up any tile fragments
- Wear a dust mask and safety glasses when mixing a powder adhesive
- Whilst not essential, we’d recommend wearing knee pads as a lot of kneeling is involved
- Using a grout protector spray will extend the life of your tiles and will make the grout easier to clean. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the product
- When cleaning tiles, only use products that are suitable for the material of the tile, as using the wrong product could cause permanent damage
Finding the starting position
Measure the width of your room and then mark the centre point onto the floor with a pencil. Then, starting from this midpoint, position tiles towards one of the side walls, inserting spacers between each tile.
If the gap between the last full tile and the wall is less than half of the width of a tile, move all the tiles and spacers away from the wall by half a tile’s width.
Once the gap is more than half a tile’s width, mark the position of the last full tile onto the floor using a pencil. This will form part of the fitting line.
Measure the distance from this mark back to the centre of the room and note it down.
Move further down the room and find the midpoint of the width of the room again. Then, using the distance you noted down, make another fitting line mark on the floor.
Use a detector to check for hidden pipes and cables around the fitting line marks. Connect the marks with a timber batten and screw it into position. If you are installing onto a concrete floor then use a straight edge and pencil to join up the fitting marks.
Repeat all the above steps for the length of the room so that you have two fitting marks to work to. As before, the last whole tile before a wall or obstacle will be your starting point.
Join the new fixing marks with another batten, or straight edge and pencil line, at a right angle to the first. The corner where the two battens meet is where you will start tiling.
Laying Whole Tiles
We are using a rapid set tile adhesive. However, the type of floor you have will determine which adhesive you should use, so be sure to check manufacturer’s instructions.
Add the correct amounts of water and powder to a bucket and mix with a drill and mixing paddle until you have a thick, lump-free paste.
Starting from where your battens meet, use a notched adhesive spreader to apply adhesive to about 1m² of the floor.
Press the first tile firmly in position, against both battens, with a slight twisting action.
Position and press down the adjacent tiles, separating them using floor tile spacers to ensure all the gaps are consistent.
Use a spirit level to regularly check that the tiles are flat and level. If a tile is too low or too high, gently lift it out and add or remove adhesive as required.
Remove adhesive from the tile surface with a damp sponge and clear out any excessive amounts of adhesive from the grout lines. Continue until all the tiles have been laid, then allow to dry completely before removing the battens.
Measure the gap between each whole tile and the wall, allowing 5mm for the spacer. Walls are often not straight so don’t assume the gaps are all the same.
Using a metal ruler and a pencil, mark the measurement onto a tile and draw a cutting guideline.
Firmly hold the metal ruler against the pencil mark and use a tile scriber to score the pencil line several times. Make sure the tile is scored along its full length to ensure a clean edge.
Place your pencil directly underneath the scored line and press down firmly on the tile to split it.
Place each cut tile into position to check it fits properly, remembering to allow for the spacers. Then apply adhesive to the floor and fix the cut tiles. Once the tiles are laid, leave the adhesive to dry completely before continuing.
Tiling around an obstacle
Cut a piece of paper to the same size as a whole tile, then cut a series of 5-10 mm wide slits where the paper ‘tile’ touches the base of the toilet or obstacle.
Place the paper ‘tile’ into position but remember to allow a 5mm gap for the spacers. Press the paper down and fold back the slits, pressing them against the obstacle.
Use a pencil to mark the shape of the obstruction onto the paper. Remove the ‘tile’ and cut along the line to give you a paper template.
Check the paper ‘tile’ is a good fit, then tape it to a real tile and carefully mark the intended cut line. Remove the paper and tape. Use a tile scribe to score along the pencil line several times.
Use a tile nipper to cut away the unwanted part of the tile. Only remove small chunks and take great care when close to the scribed line.
When you reach the line, smooth off the edge using a tile file or fine sandpaper. Then, wipe the tile with a damp cloth to remove any dust and tile fragments.
Fit the cut tiles. Check the manufacturer’s instructions on drying time and then leave to dry before continuing.
Grouting & Finishing Touches
Once the tile adhesive is completely dry, mix up the grout and place a small amount onto the tiles. Use a grout float to work the grout into the tile joints, working swiftly and moving the float diagonally to fill the grout lines.
Use a slightly damp sponge to wipe any excess grout from the tile surface before it hardens.
When the grout starts to harden, run a grout finishing tool along the joints to create a smooth finish.
Once the grout has dried, wipe down the tile surface with a clean, soft cloth to remove any powdery residue. Then spray on a grout protector.
Place strips of masking tape around the edge of the floor, and the base of the wall, then seal the joint between them using a silicone sealant. Use a sealant shaping tool to give a smooth finish and remove excess sealant.