Tiling is a skilled job, but if you take plenty of care, there’s no reason why you can’t do it for yourself and get great results too. Firstly, you’ll need to ensure that the wall you’re tiling is clean, dry and flat. You should also strip your wallpaper right back to the plaster and fill any holes. It’s important to let new plaster dry out (this can take at least two months).
Always wear heavy-duty gloves when tiling a wall, as this will protect your hands when removing any broken tiles. You should also wear safety goggles along with a dust mask to protect your face from flying fragments when cutting tiles.
To work out how many packs of tiles you will need, you simply need to measure the height and width of the area that needs tiling, and then multiply the figures to get the area in square metres. More information about this can be found in our tile-measuring guide.
It’s a good idea to allow 5-10% extra for cutting and in case of breakages. If your wall has obstacles that don’t require tiling, such as doors, windows or cupboards, you’ll need to work out their area and subtract this from the total area that you will be tiling.
Next, you’ll need to set our your tiles. It’s important to find the best starting point for your first row. Don’t simply start in one corner and work your way across the wall. The corner may not be totally vertical and this means that you could end up with tiny slivers of tile to cut. A better idea is to centre your grid on the wall. In doing this, you will have cut tiles of equal size at the ends of your rows and the tiling will be symmetrical.
Create Vertical Rows when Tiling
You’ll firstly need to establish the position of the vertical rows. This will help you to find your starting point. It should be near to the centre of the wall you’re tiling. With a tape measure, find the width of the area and mark its mid-point using a pencil.
The first thing you’ll need to do is to establish the position of the vertical rows. This will help you find your starting point, which should be near the centre of the area you’re tiling. Measure the width of the area and mark its mid-point with a pencil.
Obtain a gauge rod (a wooden batten of around 50mm x 25mm is fine), and hold it so that one of its marks lines up with your centre-point on the wall. Step off the tile positions across the wall.
Once you come to a corner, you will see if you’ll need to cut the last tile to fit. If the gap is less than half a tile wide, it’s a good idea to reposition the starting tile.
If you need to reposition your starting point, line up the batten with the centre point as you did before. Then draw a brand new mark on the wall so that it’s an equal distance between two tile marks on the rod. As your starting point, this will help you to make sure that your cut tiles at each end are greater than half a tile wide.
Next, hold the gauge rod against the new wall mark and make sure it’s straight using a spirit level. Draw a line from top to bottom.
Create Horizontal Rows when Tiling
Once you’ve established the positions of the vertical rows, you can work out where the horizontal rows will fall. This will tell you where your first row should be.
When you’ve worked out the positions of your vertical rows, you can check where the horizontal rows will fall – and see where your first row should be. It can be useful to use wooden battens nailed to the walls when positioning your tiles. They’ll also provide them with support while the adhesive sets, ensuring that they don’t slide down the wall. Keep in mind that you can tile over old ceramic tiles, rather than removing them. You must make sure that they’re firmly in place, re-gluing any that are loose.
Place the gauge rod against the vertical pencil line on the wall, with the end touching the skirting board. Then make a mark on the wall in line with the top tile mark on the rod. Hopefully, the pencil mark on the wall will line up with one of the marks on the gauge rod. This will mean you don’t need to cut any tiles for the top or bottom rows. On the other hand, if the marks fail to line up, you will need to have to look at the mark on the rod below the wall mark. Just as with the vertical rows, it’s better if these are a minimum of half a tile deep. Should they be narrower than this, mark the wall in line with the next mark down on the rod.
Measure the distance between the two marks that you’ve made on the wall, then make a third mark halfway between them.
Hold the gauge rod so that the end of it is just clear of the skirting board. Then move it until one of the marks lines up with the one you’ve just made. You’ll then need to make another mark on the wall, which is level with the foot of the rod. This will serve as the starting point for your initial horizontal row of tiles. Use a long, straight edge as well as a spirit level to raw a level line across the wall at this point.
Once you’ve checked for any pipes or cables behind the wall, nail in a batten (50mm x 25mm), with its top edge in line with the horizontal pencil mark. Make sure that you double check its straightness using a spirit level. Next, nail on another batten in line with the vertical line. It’s a good idea to leave the nail heads sticking out slightly, as this will ensure that the battens are easy to remove later.
Fix Whole Tiles to a Wall
When the time comes to lay the field tiles, it’s essential that you lay them so that their faces are level. If they aren’t even, it will spoil the effect that you’re trying to achieve. Lift any of the tiles that are too high or low and add or scrape away the adhesive as you do this.
Start in the corner that’s formed by the two battens. Using a trowel, scoop up some adhesive and press it onto the wall. Spread it with a spreader, working away from the vertical batten using horizontal strokes. You will need to hold it at an angle of roughly 45 degrees. Try not to work on one than a single square metre at once, as this could lead to the adhesive hardening before you’ve put the tiles in place.
Now it’s time to place the first tile between the two battens. Press the tile firmly against the wall and its edges against the battens. Then add the tile above it and the one next to it. Space them by eye and push them securely into the adhesive.
Plastic tile spacers make it a lot easier to get even joints, so put them into the angles between the tiles. Adjust the tile positions as and when you need to. Make sure you push them in firmly enough so that you can grout over them.
Carry on doing this until you have tiled the area, which you have spread adhesive on. Add more adhesive and tiles to the wall until you need to finish off with cut tiles. It’s a good idea to wipe away any splashed of adhesive with a damp cloth as you go. If you let it dry, it will be hard to take off.
Prise the nails out of the vertical batten to remove it. You may need to take of the hardened adhesive that’s escaped from under the titles. You’ll find that you can do this easily with the edge of a scraper. Carry on adding tiles to the rest of the wall. Then you’ll need to finish the job off with cut tiles.