My husband and I have tiled five spaces before and, let me be honest, I just grout and don’t help with anything else. Until now! I’ve been helping a lot on this bathroom and am SO proud with how it’s turning out. I’ve learned a bunch this past week and thought I’d pass on some of my beginner tiling tips. Plus read to the end to see how it’s looking!
BEGINNER TILING TIPS
- tabletop wet saw
- square notch trowels
- margin trowel
- pre-mixed mastic
- unmixed grout in Rolling Fog
- Tile Sponge
- Grout float
- Microfiber cleaning cloth
- Laser Level
Before you slap up a first tile, carefully think through where the top of the wall, the sides, and the bottom will end. You don’t want to have to cut tiny slivers of tile. So draw it out with a pencil and make sure you’re happy with how the tile lays out.
You can see in the picture above how my husband drew out how the rainbow tiles would go up.
2. use a wet saw for cutting the tile
To get straight cuts and avoid cracked tiles, use a wet saw. They aren’t too expensive, ours is less than $100. With DIY, having the right tool makes the job so much easier!
To begin the first row, use a laser level to make sure it’ll be straight. Don’t trust the walls- they’re rarely straight. We put our laser on a tripod and use that to line up the tiles. Then, as we go up rows, we use the vertical line to keep the lines uniform up the tile.
4. set up the wet saw near the work area
We set up the wet saw on our front porch. The bathroom we’re working on is close to the porch and so this limited how much time my husband had to spend walking back and forth to the saw.
5. wear gloves
When you’re tiling you’re using tile motar or grout. Both of those harden up and will really dry out your hands. Wear gloves while tiling to protect your hands.
6. make sure to really set the tile
Wiggle the tile and press it firmly to get it to really hold. Obviously, if you’re going to the trouble of laying tile, you want it to stick so put all your weight behind it until it’s flush with the other tiles around it.
When tiling, we like to start in the middle with the tile. Then we work our way down to the floor. By starting in the middle, it’s easier to position it so the top and bottom of the wall tile aren’t too small to work with.
8. order extra tile
Measure the walls and figure out the square footage. Before you tile, make sure to buy 20% extra tile. You’ll need it for corners, breakage, and mistakes. We were tight on one row of rainbow tile and it was super stressful- we had one tile extra. Don’t cut it short. It’s better to return tile than run out in the middle of a project.
9. Keep a toothpick handy
Use a toothpick to clean out any tile mortar as you tile. If the tile adhesive seeps through the sides of the tile, it needs to be cleaned up before grouting. If I left this mortar, the grout wouldn’t cover it. Small details like this are how you make the project look more professional.
10. If tiling where a drain is, cover it
In our tub, we kept a towel in the bottom. That keeps the tub from getting damaged, but also, it keeps debris from going down the drain. Dried tile adhesive, spacers, grout can all go down the drain and block it.
11. back butter the tile in smaller areas
If you’re tiling a smaller area (or are a beginner), use a tile trowel to back butter tile mortar onto the back of each piece of tile before putting it on the wall. This is a little slower than putting the tile adhesive directly on the wall, but it’s less messy and easier to slowly and meticulously put up the tile.
12. buy pre-mixed mortar in tight areas
Pre-mixed mastic is not as expensive as pre-mixed grout. And it is SO worth the convenience of not having to mix it. However, unmixed grout isn’t that hard to deal with, but is much less money.
13. put tile mortar directly on the wall in larger areas
For areas where there’s less cuts, put the tile adhesive directly on the wall with a trowel. Then pull the square notched trowel across the mortar to create grooves. Then you can quickly put up a bunch of tile on the wall. Make sure to not put more mortar than you can add tile to in less than 25 minutes.
14. use non-sanded grout in small spaces
On walls, where the spaces are usually less than 1/8″, use non-sanded grout. On the floors, where the space are usually more than 1/8″ use sanded grout.
15. tile spacers
As you lay tile, add tile spacers between the tiles to make for even rows and lines across the whole wall. Some tiles have built in spacers and it saves a TON of time because you don’t have to manually put in and take out spacers.
16. microfiber towel
Have a microfiber towel ready for tiling. After I grout and clean off the excess grout, I like to use a microfiber towel to remove any excess grout. This helps prevent grout haze on the surface of the new tile.
17. keep a large towel handy
By your work area, you’ll want a towel ready that can get dirty. Why? After the corner tiles are cut with the tile saw, you’ll want a quick way to dry the tiles or the mortar won’t stick to it.
18. mix your own grout
Mixing grout can sound intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. Start with some of the grout powder in a bucket you don’t mind ruining (I bought one just for grouting that I use whenever I tile). Then mix in a little water and slowly add more. I use the tiling trowel to mix the grout until it’s the consistency of pancake batter.
19. clean up mortar at the end of the day
After a day of tiling, make sure to use a wet rag and clean off the tile. If any mortar got on the front, scrub it off. This is not a fun job, but the sooner it’s done the better. Again, the details make a difference!
20. Do small sections of grout at a time
Grouting can be a massive arm workout. To keep from getting too tired and overwhelming myself, I do small sections of grout at a time. Mix the grout, wait 5 minutes for it to set, mix it again, put it on the wall, wait 10 minutes for it to partially dry, and then remove the excess grout with a sponge.
I’ve done huge sections and by the last part of tile the grout has really dried on. I’m tired because I grouted too much and then the last bit is so hard to get off. Keep it easy for yourself.
21. tile in teams
My husband and I had our own jobs when tiling. I stayed inside and put up the full size tiles. Meanwhile, he went outside to cut the corner tiles. With us both working on it, it went much more quickly than one person.
22. buy matching caulk to the grout
When grouting, sometimes areas will crack or when tile hits millwork sometimes it makes more sense to caulk. On the tiling aisle, there’s bottles of caulk that matches the grout. Buy one bottle to touch up cracks and get into areas by the wood trim.
23. Remove tile spacers after the tile has set for a few hours
When tiling with spacers, it’s important to not remove the spacers until the tile has really set. Why? The tiles can shift down the wall and the perfect lines will get ruined. After 2-4 hours though, the tiles should be secure and the spacers can be removed.
24. caulk the corners
Grouting the corners can be super tricky to get the grout into the tight spaces. Instead of worrying about that, you can just use the matching caulk in the corners. It saves time and prevents the grout from cracking (which it’s prone to do in the corners).
25. rinse out grouting buckets outside
Grout when it hardens turns hard. For that reason, I don’t like to dump a bucket full of grout water down the drain. Instead, I take my bucket to our garden and dump it there. Then I use a garden hose to remove any grout residue.
Alice Tile / Rose Tile / Blush Tile / Flamingo Tile / Dijon Tile / Golden Coast Tile / Lima da Persia Tile / Aquamarine Tile / Monaco Tile / Auckland Tile / Serena Tile / Wonderland Tile / Iridescent wall tile / Bullnose tile / Laura Ashley Dove Floor Tile /
Ready to see how the tile is looking now?! All the wall tile is up. The rainbow wall is grouted. And we started installing the fixtures like the medicine cabinet and the shower and bath hardware! We’re super happy with how the medicine cabinet sits flush on top of the tile.
It was really exciting seeing the rainbow tile come together! All the colors are SO fun! I love it.
This view is one of my favorites. The iridescent tile is SO pretty and I love how it plays off the mint door. When just looking at the rainbow tile wall it seems overwhelming, but in the space most of the walls are a neutral tile so it balances everything out.
Isn’t this corner so pretty?! You can see where I started grouting in the bottom of the wall next to the door. Since I’m using a light gray grout (the color Rolling Fog), it tones down the spaces between the tile and it’ll be a nice calm look.
I’m still really loving the new bigger window that we put in here. It’s a foot wider and taller and now this room gets flooded in natural light! I’m planning on hanging art in this corner. I actually just bought this $12 book to cut art out of. It arrived and it’s PERFECT! This room is definitely coming together nicely.
What do you think? Do you like the tile? Are you excited to see the rest of the pictures come in here like I am?! Thanks for following along. I’m not sure if I’ll have another update or if the next post will be the reveal!!!
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