Planning to tile walls and floors

If you are thinking about tiling walls or floors you will first need to plan the task properly. There are several things to be taken into account, such as the dimensions of the area to be tiled, the size of the tiles to be used any regulations that may be applicable and something that should not be overlooked, safety.

Tile size

Planning a tiling project should begin by selecting the size of the tiles to be used. Tiles come in a variety of sizes and are typically square or rectangular. They can be as small as 100 x 100 mm or as large as 600 x 600 mm.

The size of each individual tile will determine how many you have to order; it will also determine the effect to be created in the newly tiled room. In general, the larger the area the larger the tiles should be. However, large tiles can also be used to make a small room look bigger than it really is; when large tiles are used in a big kitchen they will make it look much less cluttered.

Planning and preparation for wall tiling

Once the tiles have been brought home or delivered it is time to plan how to fix them to the wall.

  • You start by marking the positions of the tiles and create guides using a wooden batten. The batten should be laid on the floor with a row of tiles alongside it. Mark the position of each tile on the batten, not forgetting to use spacers between each one.
  • Position the batten vertically against the wall. This will help you gauge the number of tiles that need to be fixed and the space left between the last row of full tiles and the ceiling.
  • Make a mark on the wall where you want the tiles on the bottom row to start. The first row of tiles being fixed should start at the wall’s centre line. This enables you to check if the tiles at the edges need to be cut and that they are trimmed evenly.
  • Fix a batten to the wall horizontally and use a spirit level to ensure it is level. Never use the skirting board as a guide; it may not be horizontal. Traditionally, timber battens have been used but these are difficult to fix level, often sag or warp and damage can be caused to pipes, cables and dampproof membranes by drilling, screwing or nailing. A number of easy to use alternatives are becoming popular and one of the best is the Tiletracker from Suretile. It is a strong aluminium section on fully adjustable legs and is free-standing, requiring no fixing. It is very strong and quick to set up.
  • A spirit level should then be used to verify the tiles are vertically aligned.
  • If old tiles are to be removed from the wall to enable new tiling, the floor and any furnishings and fittings should be covered to protect them.

Planning and preparation for floor tiling

As much planning and preparation should be put into floor tiling as there is for tiling a wall.

  • Ensure the floor is clean, dry and flat. If necessary repair any holes or cracks with filler.
  • Remove any doors that open inwards.
  • If tiling on plaster ensure it is dry. It may also need a coat of primer.
  • If the floor is concrete, ensure it is dry. It also needs to be smooth and clean.
  • If a wooden floor is to be tiled, the boards must be securely fixed and have adequate ventilation beneath them. It is recommended that wooden floors are overlaid with ply before tiling commences.
  • With careful planning, when tiling a floor, the job will be made much simpler. The first thing to do is work out where the centre of the floor area is. This can be done by marking the centre of each wall and drawing two lines, which join at the middle of the floor. The best layout can be gauged by placing loose tiles along the lines, working out towards the four walls.

This method will reduce the number of tiles that need to be cut. The cut tiles will always be located along the edge of wall.

Other tips

Whether you are tiling a floor or a wall you need to carefully plan the position of patterned tiles and borders. When cutting tiles to fit around difficult shapes, it is best make a template out of cardboard first. The template is then positioned over the tile and cut around to form the required shape. It is important that the bottom row of tiles are always cut down to the floor, skirting, bath or shower tray edge and that the top row of the the tiles are cut to meet the ceiling. Never tile off the floor, skirting, bath or shower tray edge or down from the ceiling, as these surfaces are not guaranteed to be level. 

Safety when tiling

Safety should be paramount when tiling, especially when cutting tiles. Check out the following steps:

  • When cutting tiles always wear safety goggles to protect your eyes.
  • When laying ceramic tiles a facemask, rubber gloves, kneepads and goggles. should be worn.
  • If you are removing existing tiles you should wear protective clothing and goggles.

Building regulations

Ordinarily, wall and floor tiling are not subject to building regulations. However, there are times when regulations do apply. An example is when a tradesman, such as an electrician or plumber, is also going to do the tiling when working on your bathroom. Building regulations insist that they must have certain qualifications or be registered to carry out specialist plumbing or electrical work. That means they must hold the current registration as plumbers or electricians, even if they are going to tile your bathroom.

If in any doubt over building regulations or any other legal requirements, it is always advisable to contact your local authority before any work is started.

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