Top 10 Tiling tips & advice

Setting Out Tiles

Measure the length of the wall and find the half way mark. Do the same for the height. Use a spirit level to mark a vertical and horizontal base line at this point. Work out your tile layout from here so that you can assess the size of cut tiles at the ends. If these are going to be less than half a tile, offset the start point by half a tile to eliminate small tile slithers. Make up a simple gauge rod to help with this – a length of timber marked at intervals to represent the tiles.

Mixing Adhesive

When mixing powder type adhesives, always use clean cold water. Dirty water can have an adverse effect on setting times. Always add powder to the water – if you do it the other way round, it’s far more difficult to get the consistency right and you’ll likely end up with lumps in the mix. When mixing with a power mixer, use at low speed. And while we’re on the subject of adhesive, cheap adhesives are usually so for a reason – they’re probably not as good!

Check and Blend Tiles

Check the tiles you've bought straight away - it's possible for boxes to have been dropped and contain lots of broken tiles. The sooner you notify the supplier the better. Tiles, particularly those made of natural materials, will have shade variations. Unpack the tiles and mix them so that these variations will be less obvious. Order extra tiles to allow for breakage and wastage from cutting. This will also mean you should have a few tiles left over so that if any need replacing at a later date you’ll have some handy.   Finding replacements a few years on is likely to be impossible.

Wet Areas

When tiling wet areas such as wet rooms or shower areas, the background that you’re going to fix the tiles to should be waterproof. Surfaces such as sand and cement render and specialist tile backing boards are fine. Plaster, plasterboard, plywood and the like will need to be treated with a waterproofing product otherwise the absorbent nature of the material will give problems later. For these areas you must use a water resistant adhesive.

Spreading Adhesive

Use a good quality notched trowel of a size suited to the particular job. Spread the adhesive only over an area that you can comfortably manage to tile in 20 minutes or so. Lift one edge of the trowel so that it’s at 450 to the surface to create an even ribbed bed. The ribs should all run in the same direction to ensure proper drying of the adhesive.

Tile Spacing

Most people will lay the second tile a little away from the first then adjust to get the correct spacing. This can often lead to a build up of adhesive in the joint. A better way is to lay each tile butting up to its neighbour, then to slide it away to create the correct gap. This slight sliding action also helps to ensure the tile is fully bedded into the adhesive.

Tile Cutters

Use the right tool for the job. A simple rail type cutter will do a great job of ordinary ceramic tiles. Make sure the blade is in good condition – worn blades should be replaced. Note: you should only score the surface once. A wet saw should be used for cutting natural stone and textured porcelain tiles – rail cutters are likely to damage them and leave a ragged cut. Wet saws with diamond tipped blades are also great for cutting accurate right angle cut-outs in most tiles. Remember to wear suitable protective gear including goggles when cutting tiles.

Shaped Cuts

If you have awkward or complicated shapes to cut out of the tile, make up a stiff paper or card template first. You can shape the paper as you would when trimming wallpaper around an awkward shape. You can then copy the outline direct onto the tile. Curved cuts can be done with a tile hand saw. You can also buy specialist jig saw blades which will make light work of shaped cuts but remember to support the tile fully or else the vibration may crack it.


Allow the adhesive to dry properly. This will usually be 24 hours but may be longer on non porous surfaces such as old tiling. Use a grout float for grouting the tiles. Work the grout fully into the joints and clean off the excess before it dries. Tiles can be polished up with a clean cloth to remove any powdery residue.

Keep Tools Clean

Make sure that you keep all your tools clean. When you’ve finished or if you’re taking a break, clean off all adhesive or grout straight away. Hardened adhesive on trowels and the like can be a real pain to get off.