Learn the basics of how to tile walls and floors here on TilersForums.co.uk, the UK’s largest tile advice website, for free.
Every day our one and only job is to help people to install wall tiles or floor tiles in their kitchens, bathrooms, conservatories and even living spaces and bedrooms.
We learn how to tile to all kinds of surfaces these days, and with all types of tiles. And getting the right products and using them correctly is paramount if you don’t want your tiles to fall off the wall, or sound crunchy and loose when you walk on them.
Top 4 Tips for Tiling Floors
Most tiling tips relate to where to start tiling, or which tile to place first. But the following tips will show you that it’s also about the planning and preparation stages too.
- Flat not level: You can’t always make floors level, you can run into all sorts of problems trying to do that. So if your floor it a hallway and is running up or down and you raised it at one of the ends to be level, you could end up with small steps at doorways where there wasn’t any before. So put the level away and get the straight edge out. You need to know how to tile the floor flat, not level. There will be some instances where a square room like a conservatory can be perfectly levelled off, even if it means raising an area 20 or so mm, and it doesn’t cause an issue anywhere. Usually due to the large door strips and things like. Providing it doesn’t make the brickwork then look, go for it.
- Correct adhesive and grout: If you’re tiling with Victorian floor tiles and will be taking some time in setting the tiles, you perhaps want a slow setting adhesive. If you’re tiling with 300mm square tiles and the floor is flat and you can put a lot down in a day, you perhaps want a fast setting adhesive. Then there are the different tile adhesive classifications to consider.
- Is the substrate correct? There are lots of instances these days where MDF or HDF is used in first floor structures and often they’re not thick enough or suitable for the area (a wetroom would need waterproofing for example). This area is quite a minefield so it’s perhaps best to ask in the tile forum and share some pictures of your setup.
- Dry-laying tiles: If you’ve never tiled before and don’t know how to make a gauge-staff or gauge-rod (like a plasterers yard stick) then it might be wise to dry lay the tiles down first to find the best setting out pattern. You want the largest amount of cuts in the largest amount if areas. So no thin cuts near your door or around the perimeter.
Various Tiling Tips
There are many variables to take into account when you choose grout. Here are a few of them:
- Substrate stiffness – The stiffer the substrate is, the less important the flexibility of the grout becomes. On substrates made from board materials, the grout should be flexible.
- Tile density – Make sure to pick a grout suitable for the density of the tiles you’re using. Grout meant for regular soft ceramics might not stick to porcelain, glass, or other really dense materials.
- Tile sensitivity – Natural stone tiles tend to be sensitive to water disoloration. Use a grout which binds water chemically, rapidly, to prevent that. Same goes for the adhesive. You might even need to preseal the tiles before grouting. Do not do that on unfilled natural stone tiles, as the sealant will prevent the grout from getting a proper grip. Opinions differ on this though.
- Exposure – Make sure to choose a grout suitable for the mechanical and chemical wear the surface is going to be exposed to. In certain situations, you might need epoxy grout.
- Adhesive color – If you use a light colored grout, it is preferable to choose a light colored adhesive as well, to prevent discolouration and minimize visibility of any excess grout which wasn’t noticable before grouting.
You generally don’t want to use white grout where there’s risk for staining, ie in showers, on floors, and on kitchen splashbacks directly behind the cooking unit.
If you do, you risk getting a very noticable yellowish discoloration.
If the tiling job isn’t spot on, choosing a grout which is close to the tiles in color makes any flaws much harder to see.
Only grout and clean one surface at a time, and if it is large, you may want to divide it into sections. Doing this ensures the grout doesn’t dry up too much. Bear in mind that you don’t want the grout to be too fresh/wet either. If it is too wet, the additional water on the sponge will weaken the grout. You have to find a compromise between ease of cleaning, and the amount of time you wait before cleaning, up to a certain point. Wait to long after application and the job will be botched. Wait to little, and the grout will crumble after a few months.
Do consider, that though the manufacturers usually recommend you leave the grout to set for ten to fifteen minutes, it really depends on the nature of the tiles. If they’re very porous, they absorb alot of the water from the grout very quickly. If they’re very dense and absorb very little moisture, you need to leave it to set for a bit longer, which allows you to grout larger sections at a time. You’ll get a feel for it after a few times.
ALWAYS, and I cannot stress this enough, use clean tools. Old adhesive or grout residue will accelerate the curing of the grout, and that’ll compromise the quality of the end result. Any dirt might cause discolouration of the grout as well.
If you don’t measure the amount of water and powder you use, you generally want the grout to be about the consistency of mayonaise. This depends on the type and brand of grout you use. It’s easier to measure if you’ve got a graded scoop and bucket or similar, and it’s also recommended you do.
Know this: mixing by hand is pretty useless unless it’s a really small batch. Those who say you can’t get a proper result using an electrical mixer, probably used a regular high-RPM drill and some cheap paddle, instead of a proper low-RPM mortar mixer and a proper grout paddle.
In fact, you’re more likely to get a bad result when you mix by hand, than you are when using a proper mixer. The grout is supposed to be completely homogenous, and there can’t be any lumps. By using a proper grout paddle and a low-RPM mortar mixer, you’ll avoid mixing air into it.
Before you start grouting, let the grout “rest” for about two minutes in the bucket, and then mix it once more. This produces a perfect consistency if you’ve done everything else right.
Pick some grout up with a bucket trowel or similar, and put it onto your grout float.
If you’re grouting a wall, always begin from the top. This is because you want to start from the top when washing too, or you’ll have to go over the entire thing again just to clean away drippage. Also, where you started grouting, will have had the longest time to set when you start washing, so it’s only logical to start there.
Put the grout onto the wall, begining high, with a vertical motion. Don’t press hard.
Start going over the grout with firm 45 degree motions. This works the grout into the grout lines, and avoids “digging” grout out.
You want there to be as little grout as possible left on the tiles themselves when you start washing off.
If you’re grouting a floor, put the grout directly onto it from the bucket or the trowel. “Push” it infront of the grout float using an “S”-like motion.
I tend to begin in the corners, both on walls and floors. Make sure to not grout the corner grout lines if you intend to silicone them.
Fill the washboy with cold, clean water, so that it covers the grating by around 2-3 cm.
Wet/clean the sponge. If the float is dirty, you’ll remove the “muck” by pressing against the grating.
Remove the excess water. Do this by going over the rollers with the sponge float once, then stopping with one end “flat” against the rollers, and then “squeese” the end dry by tilting the float up to an angle of about 45 degrees. Repeat on the other end, and go over the rollers with the entire float again. If the sponge leaks water when going over the roller the last time, you need to repeat. You want the sponge float to be as clean as possible, and damp, not wet. Too much water can damage the grouting mortar, making it brittle and unevenly coloured.
Go over the tiles in a circular motion with the sponge float. Your objective in this stage isn’t cleaning, but to even out the grout. The need for this movement depends on the nature of the tiles, how long the grout has had to set, and how well you applied the grout in the first place.
The circular motion also cleans away the worst excess, but leaves enough to work with when cleaning. Clean the sponge as needed, but not too often. This stage can also be done with a polishing float (large scotch brite pad), which allows you to let the grout cure more before the final cleaning.
Fill out any gaps in the grouting as needed. Often, you just need to use a finger.
When the grout is fairly even, you can start removing the excess grout. Do this by pressing the float firmly against the surface, and going slooowly in a horisontal motion. Start from the top. Clean just as you start noting the float leaving as “track”.
Any dirty excess water drips downwards, and by keeping the motion horisontal, you clean the drip up as you go.
If there is a “film” on the tiles, wait a few minutes for the grout to become a little bit dryer to the touch, and go over the surface lightly with the float. Make sure it is just damp with clean water. To much water may weaken the grout; dirty water is counterproductive. After a few hours, you can go over the grouted surfaces with a clean piece of cloth in order to clean away any residue on the tiles. You can also use a polishing float to polish.
Cleaning grout is about finding a good compromise between speed and the quality of the result, which works for you and your way of working. Some techniques require loads of time, but produce perfect results, and vice versa.
As you get more experienced, you’ll need less time to produce a good result.
Please add your tiling tips via the comments to let us know what helped you guys!
We’re always looking to add more tips to help others, so let us know by replying and we’ll seek out the good ones!