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What To Consider For DIY Tile Installation - Do's And Don’ts

12 October

So your project is now ready to tile and you're considering completing the installation tile yourself – I say 'completing' the project but often DIYers end up getting the professionals in half way through as they haven't considered all that the task involves.

If you fancy taking on the challenge, and need help making a decision, here are some things you need to consider:

  • Cost and capability
  • Type of tile and 'setting out'
  • Tools needed for tiling and equipment
  • Surfaces & fixing products

Cost And Capability

You may be considering tiling yourself to save on money as your project has eaten through your budget. There are considerable variations in what tilers charge to fix tiles based on the type of tile, surface preparation, whether it's a kitchen floor or bathroom project, and the unique challenges of each room. You can expect to pay between £25 and £40 per square meter – prices tend to be lower for fixing porcelain kitchen tiles than for fixing natural marble stone tiles. Consider the installation cost against the investment you'll need to make in buying the correct equipment and tools to complete the job yourself.

Are you capable? Not just from a physically fit perspective, but skill and time wise. Being on your knees for a couple of days fixing kitchen floor tiles, or stretching to fix the highest bathroom wall tile, is tiring and can play havoc with already bad knees and backs. There is skill in cutting tiles to fit awkward doorways or windows, whether it's a porcelain bathroom tile or limestone kitchen floor tile, I'd advise doing a few practice cuts beforehand. It varies greatly, but a professional tiler would expect to complete a 20m bathroom walls and floor in three days, so if you're planning to tile over the weekend it's unlikely you'll complete the project in one weekend, which may mean your bathroom may be out of action for longer than you, or your partner had anticipated.

Make sure you know what you are capable of before starting, as if you do need to resort to calling in a professional they'll often want to start over which means new tiles and possibly replacing damaged substrate.

Type Of Tile And 'Setting Out'

Before installing tiles of any kind, whether they are porcelain or stone tiles, certain considerations should be taken into account. For example, cutting marble tiles successfully requires a 'wet wheel' cutting machine, trying to make a precise neat cut with a 'dry cutter' or angle grinder will not work. We quite often get calls when a DIY installation goes wrong and somebody’s marble tiles are crumbling in their hands when they are trying to cut them incorrectly with inappropriate equipment. The quality of the tiles is always the first thing people blame saying they are faulty or substandard, when 99% of the time it’s down to how they are being cut and handled. Tiling is a skilled trade after all.

'Setting out' is a dry run – take time to consider the optimum layout that's most aesthetically pleasing, whilst minimising waste. For example, when installing bathroom walls tiles, unless your walls are perfectly straight don't start in the corner, the best option is to start in the middle, but adjustments may be required to make sure you aren't left with 'slithers' at the end of wall. Kitchen floor tiles should be laid so that where possible full tiles are in doorways, but again adjustments on layout may be needed ensure tiles fit neatly under plinths.

Tools, Equipment, And Fixing Products

“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail” said Benjamin Franklin – never more appropriate when achieving a quality tiling installation. You'll need a quality cutter – be sure to consider the size, thickness, and type of tile you have. Make sure the 'cutting bed' of a wet wheel diamond cutter will support the weight and size of your tile, and that the surface you have to cut on is solid and steady.

It's likely when installing bathroom wall tiles you'll have drill holes for water pipes, so you'll need a set of hole cutters suitable for material you're cutting. If the cut isn't accurate you can purchase 'hole covers' to hide the problem but drilling holes for some shower valves require precision cutting to within a couple of millimetres. When 'setting out' be sure to consider where any cuts will fall within tiles – trying to cut on the edge of two adjoining tiles can be troublesome.

Surfaces And Fixing Products

The best bathroom wall surface to tile onto is a 'tile backer board' as it's designed to be fit for purpose and is flat and smooth. If your walls are of plasterboard construction, save money and give yourself a better surface by not plastering the board, as tile adhesive bonds better to board than bare plaster.

Consider where fixture and fittings will sit before you start tiling, so that if needs be, appropriate wood frames can be put in place to support furniture such as wall hung vanity units. The flatter and smoother the surface the better overall result will be achieved, working with an uneven poorly prepared surface is time-consuming and frustrating, particularity if you're fitting bathroom wall tiles in a 'brick-bond' design as 'lippage' occurs as the tiles overlap.

Kitchen floor tiles can be fixed to screed, concrete or wood surfaces. Fixing directly onto floorboards should be avoided - overboarding with 12mm plywood or suitable 'tile backer board' is required. All surfaces should be dust and debris free, and generally using a SBR primer or specially formulated product such as Kerakoll Primer A is advised to strengthen the bond between tile and substrate.

Fixing products - It’s better to be safe than sorry on this one. Fixing products vary depending on the tile material and substrate. Always speak with whoever is supplying the fixing products and discuss the installation with them. They will be able to advise on exactly what is required. Typically problems arise when unsuitable adhesive is used with porcelain tiles, or where underfloor heating is used. If in doubt, call the manufacturer's helpline on the bag and discuss with them. If you get an adhesive failure after using the wrong product, you will have to rip the whole lot up and start from scratch! Not much fun I can assure you.

StoneStore can offer help and advice on all aspects of natural stone and porcelain tile installation. Feel free to call and discuss your project with us even if you haven’t ordered anything yet.