Tiling is an ancient process used to create beautiful, protective and durable surfaces throughout the centuries. Today the process of tiling continues to provide homeowners with both functional and decorative spaces.
When a homeowner starts down the path of a home renovation or extension project, the question of tiling will inevitably be raised. To help you navigate the complexity of a tiling project, here are 5 tiling tips to help you get started.
1. What area are you planning to tile?
Bathrooms, showers and wet-rooms are the most common tiled areas of the home however, tiles are frequently also being used in hallways, as feature walls and outdoors.
Whatever your tiling project, it’s important to note that tiling is a more permanent feature than other materials like a hardwood floor or wallpaper. It's a lot more difficult to change tiles than to update wallpaper or to refinish a wooden floor for a different look.
Tiles have the potential to make a small space brighter and appear larger. The amount of natural light available in a room should also play a role in colour, style and layout of the tiles you choose. You will also want to coordinate other elements of the room when choosing your tiles, such as kitchen or bathroom fixtures and fittings.
If your budget is tight, tiling can still create a dramatic transformation however, the key to keeping costs contained is uniformity for your tiling project. For example, ceramic white subway tiles will often be cheaper both to buy and to fit, than a patterned style.
When you tile both the floor and walls in the same colour it will make the room appear larger, transforming your bathroom from dull to dramatic with minimal effort and cost.
2. How to calculate how many tiles you need
Estimating the number of tiles required for your job can be calculated as follows:
Wall tiles: Measure the total length of the wall by the height of the wall. Then measure the areas which will not be tiled like windows and entrances separately - add all measurements and then subtract the non-tiled areas from the total.
Floor tiles: To measure floors, especially uneven floor areas, calculate by measuring areas individually and then add the total of all areas measured.
If you are seeking to calculate the number of tiles required for a border effect, measure the boundary of the room and divide by the length of the border.
Boxes of tiles will usually be labelled with the number of tiles. To calculate how many boxes you will need for your job, divide your measurements by the box total.
NOTE: You will always need to order extra tiles for wastage and possible breakage. In the case of standard-sized tiles allow for an extra 10%, but for larger styles or tiles with complicated patterns you should allow for up to 20% or more than what you have measured, because cutting waste is typically higher.
3. Is the floor or wall surface right for tiling?
To ensure your tiled project lasts and to avoid complication, the surface to be tiled needs to be suitably prepared.
- The wall will need to be reasonably level or tile adhesive could lose its grip over time.
- If the wall has been recently plastered, then you should typically allow 30 days drying period before tiling starts
- If you are tiling over old plaster, then the age and condition of the wall may require fresh plasterboard
- Plywood can be used for tiling your floor but is useless for tiling walls as it contains oils that are sensitive to temperature changes and will eventually loosen tile adhesive.
- Don't be fooled into thinking you can tile on wallpaper. The best way to remove wallpaper without excessive water damage is to soak the wall with warm water and scrape it off.
- Tiling over existing floor tiles can be done but in many cases it's best to remove existing tiles and start with a stripped back surface
- Wooden floors will require tiling backing boards to create a rigid flat surface, perfect for tiling
- A concrete floor base will require a suitable primer to ensure the tiles will bond
- To ensure a bathroom’s tiled surface is waterproof, the room will need to be sealed with either a membrane glued directly to the wall or a liquid sealant applied before tiling starts.
4. Have you organised a tiler?
If DIY tiling sounds like a great idea and you think that you’re a dab hand at most things, think again when it comes to tiling.
Tiling is a specialist trade and removing a botched tiling project can be a costly mistake – not to mention time-consuming too.
A tiling specialist will have the knowledge to prepare surfaces and have the skills necessary to navigate odd spaces as well as sealing showers and the know-how of such techniques like up-tiling (bringing the wall to the tile).
However, you will need to ensure you have communicated your tiling requirements clearly with your tiler. If your tiles have a pattern or need to be placed in a specific direction, then make sure you have provided appropriate instruction before tiling starts.
Also ensure that you have ordered enough tiles, including the calculated extra required for wastage. You should also have selected a grout colour and have these supplies on hand before the job starts.
If you are coordinating other trades, you will need to ensure that each trade is aware of the requirement of the other and all have agreed on a schedule of activity. Also, make sure that this schedule aligns to your own expectations. Communication is crucial in any home improvement project, as unexpected delays will cause disappointment and frustration.
Before hiring your tiler, ask to call or visit previous jobs. Along with negotiating the cost of the job, also make sure you have discussed payment terms, date of completion and project duration. Always make sure you are satisfied with the work before final payment is made. This sample contract is a guide to help you define and agree on the scope of the project, costs and payment.
5. Choosing tile style and colour
Ceramic wall & floor tiles are ideal if you are sticking to a budget. They are available in a wide range of colour and designs, which you can spruce up with borders or ‘tile rugs’. Ceramic tiles are also the easiest tiles to work with, which will mean lower labour costs.
When choosing your tile colour, beware that colour or shades can vary with different tile batches. This is why it’s important to order in one batch, making sure you have enough tiles in the batch to complete your job. Ordering additional batches at a later date may result in colour variations. Upon receipt of your order always check you have received the correct batch or shade before tiling starts.
A larger tile will create fewer grout lines and therefore make the room look more spacious. However, consult with your tiler before purchasing, as a larger tile will be heavier and can bow or slightly curve if not bonded correctly.
Finally, remember you can never use a wall tile on the floor as they are lighter and not suitable to be walked on.
Further reader tips can be found at our guide to planning a bathroom renovation.