How To

How To Measure For And Fit Wall Tiles


14th February 2014

What will you need?

  • An internal measuring tape measure (the Stanley Powerlock Top Reader is ideal)
  • A spirit level (ideally try to avoid using a smartphone spirit level app – these can sometimes deliver inaccurate results)
  • Claw hammer
  • Tile cutter
  • Grout spreader
  • Tile spacers
  • Tile adhesive trowel
  • Tile edge nipper
  • Tile file
  • Sealant gun (optional but may be necessary if adding sealant between tiles and bathroom appliances – ensure that you use high quality, mould resistant sealant and do not apply until the grout is completely dry)

Step 1 - Measuring up

Grab your tape measure and measure the height of the wall that you are fitting the tiles on. Then calculate how many tiles will fit from floor to ceiling taking into account the size of the tiles you are going to buy.

Tip: Count half or part of a tile as a whole one and do the same for width.

Multiply the number needed for the height by the number needed for width. You will then have the amount of tiles that you need to buy.

Then calculate: Number of tiles x 1.05 = 5% more than you actually need. This is a good idea to allow for breakages and so that you retain a few as spares for the future.

Tip: Don't forget to allow for doors and windows!

Step 2 - Making a tile rod

This is used to mark out vertical guidelines for laying your tiles. If you are unsure what one of these looks like, it's essentially long wooden stick with markings on.

Lay out several tiles on the floor, spaced as they would be fitted when they vertically on the wall (including spacers between each line).

Place the rod next to them and mark carefully the line of each joint. Your tile rod is now complete!

Step 3 - Marking out walls

Calculate: Height of the wall (or area that you are tiling) divided by two. Mark this on the wall. Using the rod, lightly mark the tile joints from this line all the way down.

If the result means that the last tile will be less than half a tile, move the original starting point up or down by half a tile.

This is when the spirit level comes in. Use it to draw a horizontal line across the wall for the bottom of the lowest row of tiles. Then secure a batten to this line horizontally - you have your base to start tiling.

Repeat for vertical lines.

Step 4 - Planning your walls

If only part of the wall is being tiled, plan the position and size of the edge tiles. So, if you are tiling half a wall, it's best to have a whole tile at the top and a half at the bottom. There are different schools of thought on what looks best here so make sure you’ve decided what you think best before taking our word for it. Alternatively, consult an online DIY or tiling forum.

Step 5 - Planning for windows and doors

Again, think about starting points here. It will be better to have evenly sized tiles either side of the window, but essentially it's whatever you think looks best.

Step 6 - Planning tile layout

When you are doing a whole room, plan the layout before putting any tiles in place.

Mark up one wall at a time ensuring that the base line is identical on each wall.

Tip: Consider the levels of windowsills, door heads, bath tops and worktop levels (amongst other things).

Step 7 - Measuring and marking the tiles

Here is a quick way to do this on square walls (or near to square walls). Hold the tile back to front, one edge against the wall, and mark it with a grout line width from the adjacent whole tile. 

When cutting tiles, allow for the grout line between it and the next tile.

Step 8 - Cutting tiles

Use the tile cutter along the cut line. Hold a straight edge on the cut line when doing this, then snap it at this line along a small wooden batten.

If this proves difficult use pliers to gradually nibble away the off-cut.

Tip: Wear safety glasses and gloves at all times. Tiles are generally made from ceramics or glass. Both can shatter into very sharp and potentially dangerous shards which can lead to injury or even blindness.

Step 9 - Using adhesives

These will vary depending on where the tiles are being laid. For example, use waterproof adhesives for around showers and baths. We would recommend always using a high quality adhesive wherever possible. Cheaper alternatives may be more attractive but frequently lead to less positive results.

Spread adhesive slowly a small ridged towel to create raised ridges (like lines).

Step 10 - Fixing the tiles

Fix the first tile against the horizontal batten at the bottom. Line up its side with the vertical mark set earlier as your starting point.

Press down firmly.

Take the next tile, allowing for grouting gap.

Tip: Use tile spacers to fix the gaps. Some people prefer to use matchsticks but, with the very low cost of spacers these days, it doesn’t make sense not to use the product specifically designed for this purpose.

Make sure each tile is flat and relative to the wall and the previous tile.

Step 11 - After tiling the room

Leave the batten at the bottom in place until fully set so that the tiles do not slide out of place. Do this around windows and basins too.

Step 12 - Grouting tiles

Make sure that the adhesive is set before filling the gaps with grout.

Spread the grout with a squeegee, working on small areas at a time, working the grout into every direction.

Use a trowel over each joint to ensure that the grout is smooth and to remove any excess.

At the end, run a rag over tiles that may have a thin film of grout over them. 

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