Is it time to update your kitchen floor? How about a sturdy but sleek look of ceramic tiles? In this 3 part series you will be guided to how you can install ceramic tiles to give your kitchen a new look!

Part 1

Some of the hottest tiles are being used for other places besides your floor! In today’s remodels and even new homes ceramic tiles are being used for counters and walls as well. Today we are going to learn how turn your ordinary kitchen wall into a work of art.

Before you can start any project you must always prepare the area, if you fail to do this you can expect hiccups and loose tiles. Always make sure you have the correct adhesive for the surface and the wall, that the area is clean and dry and that the wall can support the added weight of the materials. As a side not is you are going to use new drywall you don’t need to tape the joints but you will need to seal the wall with a light coat of adhesive. If you are using an existing wall make sure you remove wallpaper and scrape all loose paint. If your existing paint is high gloss lightly sand the wall to rough up the area, patch holes or cracks and sand smooth.

Once you have chosen your ceramic tile and created the pattern you want you will need to lay out the area for your tile. You will need to start in the center of your wall and work your way to the edges because more houses are not square, this will give you equally sized cut tiles at your corners.

  • Make a layout tool with a row of tiles on the floor. (Consider both the width of the tile and the grout lines, include tile spacers if you are using.) Align a 1 x 2 straight stick with an edge against and mark the stick for the tile and grout spacing. You will use this along with a level to lay out the tile spacing on the walls.
  • If you are hanging cabinets or any other accessories make sure you mark those on the wall. Mark one-tile width from the floor’s lowest point as your beginning reference. You will now use your layout tool in a vertical line to get an estimate of how the tiles will lay. You might have to adjust the reference mark and try again, adjusting by half a tile
  • Take your level and extend your final reference mark horizontally. Another reference mark on the horizontal line near the center of the room will need to be added. This is will your starting point to begin laying your tile. Use this as your guide to see what how the corners of the room will turn out. If the corners don’t line up like you want them to shift the reference mark to the side. Once you have a established final placement of the tiles make a final reference mark using your level to draw a plumb vertical line.

Now you can begin to lay your tiles on the two meeting reference lines. Make sure they cross at perfect 90-degree angles with the first tile row as close to centered as you can make it. This is the critical part of the process if you don’t get this right it will only compound and throw all the tiles off as you lay the rest down. Always use your level and layout tool to make a grid pattern on the wall this will help with the placement of the help with the placement of tiles.

Installing the Tile

Step 1

Attach a support strip to the bottom of your base horizontal reference line. This board will serve as a guide and support for the tiles until the adhesive has a chance to set.

Step 2

Spread the adhesive with the trowel’s notched edge, combing it out in beaded ridges. Spaces between ridges of adhesive should be almost bare. Apply in 2- to 3-square-feet sections. Increase the coverage after you get a feel for setting the tiles. Spread adhesive up to, but not covering, any reference lines or marks on the wall used for positioning tiles.

Step 3

Press the first few full tiles in place above the support strip with a slight twisting motion. Don’t slide them.

Step 4

Insert plastic spacers between the tiles if they don’t have spacer lugs. This helps maintain straight grout lines. Remove spacers prior to grouting.

Some ceramic tiles have spacers built into the tile itself.

Step 5

Continue aligning and adhering tiles. Work in a pyramid shape from your crossed reference lines outward and upward.

Step 6

If adhesive oozes up between the tiles, clean out the excess before it dries. Immediately wipe off any adhesive on the face of the tiles with a solvent-soaked sponge or rag. (Consult the manufacturer’s instructions to determine the appropriate solvent). Adhesives begin to firmly set in 20 to 30 minutes.

Some adhesives emit toxic and flammable fumes. Provide good ventilation, especially in confined locations such as shower stalls. Always refer to the product label for safety precautions.

Step 7

After you’ve installed several rows of tile, set them into the adhesive with the tile leveler and a mallet.

Step 8

Tile the wall up and across to the edges where trimming will be required, then remove the support strip and install the tiles that go beneath it.

Step 9

Repeat Step 8 on the rest of the walls.

Step 10

Measure the area along the edges and carefully cut tiles to fit. Install the edges and trim.

Step 11

When the job is complete, seal the joints between the tub and tile with silicone caulk.

Cutting and Fitting the Tile

Nearly every tiling job requires trimming tiles to fit around borders or obstructions, such as window frames, electrical fixtures, pipes, basins, toilets or countertops. Straight cuts are relatively simple. Shaping tiles to fit curves is more difficult and requires practice and patience.

For small jobs, use a glass cutter or a simple tile cutter. Larger projects may warrant using a wet saw. Do-it-yourself wet saw models are relatively inexpensive (in relation to renting). They make clean cuts with little waste.

Apply even pressure when using tools designed to score, cut and drill tiles. Pressing too hard can cause tiles to crack and break. Drilling tile requires a special bit.

To make cuts at a true right angle, use a combination square as your straightedge when scoring with a glass cutter.

When using a glass cutter or tile cutter, score the tile in one stroke to achieve smooth and even breaks. Repeated scoring will cause the tile to chip or crack.

Always wear safety glasses when working with ceramic tiles.

Snapping Tile by Hand

  1. With the scored line facing up, position the tile over a nail or a stiff piece of wire.
  2. Lay your fingers flat on either side of the tile and apply firm, even pressure until the tile snaps.

Using Tile Nippers

  1. Center the cutting blade on the scored line and exert pressure by squeezing the handles together.
  2. Use your free hand to hold the side of the tile you’ll be using.

Using a Tile Cutter

  1. Measure and mark the cutting line on the tile.
  2. Align this mark with the cutting guide on the tile cutter.
  3. Supporting the tile to keep it level, lower the cutting wheel onto the edge of the tile. Push it away from you with firm pressure.
  4. When you’ve rolled the cutting wheel to the far end, push down on the handle to split the tile.

Using a Wet Saw

  1. Measure and mark the cutting line on the tile.
  2. Align this mark with the cutting guide on the tile cutter.
  3. Supporting the tile to keep it level, move it towards the blade. Move the tile slowly to avoid overheating and cracking. Let the saw do the work.

Cutting Holes in Tiles

  1. Use a pencil to mark the shape to be cut.
  2. Drill a hole inside the shape with light pressure, using a ½-inch carbide masonry drill bit.
  3. Insert a tungsten carbide rod blade through the hole and attach the ends of the rod to a hacksaw frame.
  4. Saw along the pencil line with even pressure. Let the saw do the work. Forcing the cut too rapidly can break the tile.

Fitting Around Obstructions

  1. Using a pencil, draw the shape that needs to be removed on the tile. A compass may help you draw neater curves.
  2. Score the outline of the shape you drew with the glass cutter. Then score several crisscross lines within the outlined area.
  3. Using tile nippers (or pliers), begin taking tiny bites from the area to be removed. The idea is to nibble off chips, not chunks.
  4. An alternate method is to make several parallel cuts with a wet saw. The adjacent cuts will create several small strips of waste tile. Snap these off with tile nippers and smooth the surface.

Smoothing Breaks

Jagged Edges: Use tile nippers or pliers to nibble off the uneven edge of a broken tile.

Rough Edges: Use a round file to smooth rough edges of areas that have been nibbled away.

Cut Edges: If a straight-cut edge shows, rub it against a sheet of 80-grit aluminum oxide sandpaper to round and smooth the edge.

Grouting the Joints

Step 1

Mix the grout to the consistency of a thick paste (like peanut butter), and apply it by forcing the grout between tiles with a rubber float held at a 45-degree angle.

Step 2

Hold the float almost perpendicular to the floor. Wipe away excess grout from the surface of the tiles. Take care to pack all joints. Use a toothbrush to shape the grout.

Step 3

After 20 minutes, wipe away all excess grout with a damp sponge. Keep your sponge clean by rinsing it often. Follow the grout manufacturer’s instructions for curing and cleaning the grout.

Step 4

Fill seams with a bead of flexible water-soluble silicone caulking where tiles meet the counter. Smooth with a sponge or your finger. (Wear a thin latex glove if you’re using your finger.)

Step 5

After the grout has cured for a week, apply silicone grout sealer with a small paintbrush to help prevent grout discoloration.

Come back next week for Part 2 of the series!

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