Helping you plan your home improvement project, from start to finish

10 Expert Tiling Tips

Flooring & Tiles
By on Apr 1, 2014
10 Expert Tiling Tips

One of the first surprises our clients have when they make the decision to use tile or stone for their home renovation projects is the cost. But installed correctly, tile will last as long as you are in your house. And with proper maintenance, it will stay as beautiful as the day it was installed. And let's face it, it's hard to find anything else that can take so much abuse and keep on going.

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Another surprise people have is how messy we are. By the time the tile masons arrive it's mostly finish work time, and the last thing a homeowner wants to see is another mess. But have no fear; a good mason always cleans up after him or herself.

Once we have finished our mud (mortar) work and the mortar mess is cleaned up, we are ready to lay the tile. At this point, homeowners always say, "That looks like fun." They stand back and observe, thinking to themselves, "How come I hired them? I could do that myself. Looks pretty easy. Just slap it on the wall and up it goes, right?"


It might look easy, but anyone who does his job professionally should make it look easy. If you slap tile up on the wall, that's the look you'll get—slapped up on the wall. People we know who have tried to do it themselves say to us, "It started off okay, but then it started to get away from me and turned ugly. I'll never lay tile myself again."

Last comes the grout. Your beautiful tile has been laid, vacuumed, and cleaned, and you are so happy with your tile choice. Then the masons smear grout all over the tile, and if it's a dark-colored grout, it can look really bad. But by the end of the day all will be clean again, your tile and grout will be beautiful, and the mess will be gone for good. Your plumber can come now and set your fixtures.

As you wave good-bye to your friendly tile contractor, let's hope you feel good about your tile choice. After all, you will have to look at it for at least the next 20 years. Which leads to our last piece of advice: Take your time and make sure that you are happy with your choices. Give yourself at least a couple of days to make your choices, and remember that you will have to live with your decision for a very long time.

Frequently Asked Questions

Our top 10 list might not be as good as Letterman's, but here goes:

10. What kind of sealer and cleaner can I use?
We prefer the Glaze and Seal brands of both. For an area that gets a lot of water, like a shower or a tub surround, you want to use a penetrating sealer. For other areas, like a floor or a kitchen counter, you should use an acrylic water-based sealer. Apply often—usually four times a year. Make sure the area is clean and dry before reapplying a sealer. For a cleaner, don't buy over-the-counter products. These products clean primarily by acid and are eating your grout every time you use them. Instead, go to your local tile store and buy a neutral cleaner. There is a certain amount of maintenance with tile, but if you keep it clean it will look beautiful for many years.

9. What's the difference between cement board and mortar bed application?
Cement board is made from aggregated slurry with a layer of fiberglass mesh embedded into each side. It acts like a single unit and is screwed or nailed down. If the walls or the floor it's being attached to are uneven or out of level or plumb, then the tile work will be out of line by the same amount. A mortar bed application is a solid unit of sand and cement mix that allows you to level out floors or plumb up walls so you can install the tile on a flat, true surface. A mortar bed is a far superior application.

8. What's the difference between sanded and nonsanded grout?
Nonsanded grout is a cement cream used for tight joints not bigger than 1/8 inch. Sanded grout has an aggregate added to it for larger joints, usually 1/8 inch to 3/8 inch.

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7. How can I drill a hole in ceramic tile?
You need to use a masonry bit on your drill. Make sure to triple check where you want the hole because should you misplace it, it will be difficult to reinstall the tile.

6. Is ceramic tile very cold?
Ceramic tile reflects the room temperature and holds on to that temperature for a long time. At times it can be cold. There are products out there that can be installed prior to tile installation that can warm up a floor.

5. Is ceramic tile waterproof?
This is a HUGE misconception. Tile itself is water tolerant and does not decay in water. The glaze on a tile is waterproof. However, the grout joints connecting the tile do allow water transmission. This is where an improper installation can result in a structural problem and a costly replacement. The best thing to do for the grout is to seal it and keep any cracks caulked. Simple maintenance will give your tile long life.

4. Is gloss tile very slippery?
Yes, most anything that is glossy is slippery when wet. You need to bear that in mind if you are putting gloss tile in your bathroom. Also, most gloss tile scratches, so it's not a good choice for counters or for kitchen or bathroom floors.

3. Do you like my choice of tile and grout?
People ask us this question when they are not quite sure of the choices they made. Remember, you will be looking at the tile for many years to come. If it is already purchased before we get to the job, of course we love it!

2. How much money will it cost?
That depends on several factors: type of installation, type of tile, layout of tile, and type of grout used.

1. When can you start and when will you be done?
If your job is the only job we are doing this year, then right away. But in the real life of construction, there are many factors that affect a job before we even get to the site. Time frames are in constant adjustment. Patience with your tile contractor will make your job go more smoothly.

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