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Top 10 Tiling Tips & Why You Might Want To Consider A Professional Fitter...

1. Surface Preparation – So you’ve spent a small fortune on your lovely new tiles and you can’t wait to get them laid and looking fantastic. STOP! The first thing to consider when tiling is what surface you’re laying them onto. You might be tiling onto a concrete base, wooden floor boards, fresh plasterboard or newly plastered walls. All of these surfaces require different preparation to ensure your tiles will still be perfect years down the line. Poor surface preparation can lead to tiles lifting, cracking or the grout joints crumbling which isn’t going to look very pretty. Ensure the area you are tiling is as flat as possible with as little flex as possible too. For floors, this might entail ply-boarding the floor on top of your floor boards with screws at 30cm intervals to one another, or crack-isolation matting. Walls are never 100% flat and straight, but make sure the walls a free of any old adhesive if you have removed some old tiles and ensure it is a flat as possible. Once you’re happy you have a flat area to tile onto free of dust, debris & dirt you can move onto the next stage.

3. Priming – To ensure you have a solid bond between your tiles, adhesive and the wall/floor, make sure you apply a water resistant bonding agent. A well primed surface not only helps when it comes to laying the tiles, but will also protect the fabric of the building should there be any leaks or moisture that makes its way through the tiles.

5. Obstacles – As mentioned above with measuring up, you need to take into account all of the obstacles in the room. Small cuts into tiles could mean you have a weak tile once laid which could ultimately break. You want to try and ensure you have nice cuts into your tiles to avoid this. Invest in a profile gauge for those tricky areas (such as tiling around a basin pedestal) although I would recommend all bathroom furniture be removed prior to tiling as you get a much neater professional finish.

7. How To Cut Your Tiles – There are two main ways to cut your tiles. A manual scoring cutter, and a circular wet saw. Marking your tile with a pencil and ruler, you can use either method to score & break the tile, or wet saw. For either method make sure you wear protective goggles at the very least. Small shards to fly off and one in the eye will be unpleasant. Be very careful when using a wet saw as cutting your finger on one of these will result in a trip to A&E! 

9. Polishing – Using a brand new sponge, and a bucket of fresh water, put your sponge in the water and then squeeze it out completely so you have next to no water in the sponge. Then use the sponge at 45 degree angles across all the grout joints to ensure the grout inside is smooth and this will also take the excess grout off the tiles. Repeat this process 3 or 4 times until you are happy all the grout excess has been removed.

2. Choose The Right Adhesive & Grout – There are many manufacturers out there supplying all different kinds of adhesive and grout. Ask your local tiling depot for advice if you’re unsure, they’re usually very helpful and will point you in the right direction. As a rule of thumb if you’re tiling onto wooden floors (floorboards or ply) you’ll need a flexible rapid set adhesive and for stone/concrete floors you’ll need a non-flexible rapid set. Stay away from pre-mixed adhesives for floors, although for walls it is an option. For your walls, make sure you have a high grab adhesive (especially for heavier natural stone tiles) and if you’re using a Travertine or Marble make sure you use a white adhesive to prevent surface staining. Grout is now available in hundreds of different colours, I prefer however to keep things simple enabling the tiles to look their best! A flexible grout is recommended so that it can withstand slight movement.

4. Measuring Up – This step is vitally important!! When you look at the area you want to tile you need to take into consideration how the job will end up. Will there be a tiny unsightly slither of a tile at one end of the room? Will you have a difficult tile cut around an object? Generally start from the centre point of your wall or floor, and work out how the tiles will end up. If you’re left with a slither at one end, then re-locate your start point accordingly. Spending time here is well worth the effort and will ensure your tiles look their best!

6. Batten Up (Wall Tiling) – It might be tempting to start tiling from the floor up as to the eye it looks straight and true. 99.9% there will be a slight gradient which will become visible to the eye the higher you tile and look extremely poor. To ensure you have a perfect level, fix a batten to the wall (leaving less than one tiles height to the floor) and use this as your starting point. Once the wall is complete, you can remove the batten and tile the final row of tiles cut precisely to the profile of the wall/floor.

8. Application Of Tiles (Inc Adhesive & Grout) – So you’ve got your surface prepared, chosen the correct adhesive & grout, primed the area you’re tiling, measured up taking into account any obstacles, applied your batten (if tiling a wall), and worked out how best to cut your tiles... you’re now ready to start tiling!! You can either apply a coat of adhesive to each individual tile (ensuring your trowel is at a 45 degree angle), or you can apply a coat of adhesive straight to the wall (in manageable sections). Use tile spacers between each tile to ensure the gaps remain constant and your perfect level remains level! Once all your tiles are on generally you’ll need to leave them to set & harden for a minimum of 24 hours. You can then mix your grout and using a grout float apply it into the gaps. Don’t worry that the grout is going all over you’re lovely new tiles; we’ll get to that bit on the point below...

10. Silicone & Sealers – Natural tiles such as Travertine will require a sealant applying to them to keep them water-tight. Two coats are advisable to be sure no water can permeate the tile. It’s better to be safe than sorry! Areas such as round the bath, basin, kitchen basin, splash back etc that come into contact with water, will need a bead of silicone applying. Prior to siliconing, using a spray bottle mix up a little washing up liquid with water and have it to hand. Mask up the area in question leaving a 3mm gap where you are going to apply the silicone, apply the silicone using a silicone gun, and then spray the area with your mixture of washing up liquid & water. This will enable you to smooth the silicone with your finger and help stop the silicone sticking to your fingers and lifting off the area you want to have sealed!!

As you can see detailed above, there are many stages to a succesful tiling job. No one job is the same and as such must be treated in that way. You've invested your time and money choosing the correct tiles, you may have even bought a new bathroom or kitchen, and to let it down at the final hurdle would be a shame. I hope you find the above pointers useful if you do intend on having a go yourself, and for one final piece of advice... take your time! You can't rush a quality finish, and it'll be worthwhile when you stand back and see the final product!

Your Local Harrogate Tiler, Marc

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