Of all the wall covering materials available for bathrooms, ceramic tiles are at the top of the charts, offering a wide range of colours, patterns and sizes. The finish that they provide is excellent for such an environment, providing a waterproof hardwearing durable surface that is easy to keep clean. The good news is that they are relatively simple to install, and only a basic tool kit is required for fitting them.
As regards the surface to be tiled, it is essential that it is flat with no lumps and depressions. It should also be sound, with no perished or loose plaster or flaking paint. Before making a start, examine the wall surface to ensure that it is suitable for tiling, if not, either repair or refinish.
Calculating how many tiles in five easy steps
- Measure the height of the wall to be tiled.
- Divide the wall height by the size of the tile height.
- Measure the width of the wall to be tiled.
- Divide the wall width by the size of the tile width.
- Multiply the result of 2 and 4 together to give the total number of tiles required.
If there is a window opening in the same wall, perform the same calculation as above, applying it to the opening size, and subtract the result from the total number of tiles required for the whole area. You should also take into account the window returns (reveals) that are to be tiled.
With the total amount of tiles calculated add about another 10 percent for tiles that will be classed as wastage; that is; any breakages that may occur, errors and cut tiles.
Wall Tile Adhesive
It is now possible to purchase bathroom wall tiles adhesive in a ready mixed paste form, so it is a simple matter of using it straight out of the tub. However, before you make the purchase, read the manufacturers specification and product limitations, and make sure that it is waterproof for bathroom and shower area use.
Depending on the wall type and finish, always make sure that the adhesive that you choose is suitable for your particular application.
The secret of successful wall tiling is preparation, which means working out beforehand the exact layout of the tiles, that way, you will not encounter problems. This procedure is known as ‘setting-out’.
Setting-out determines where rows of tiles start and finish, avoiding difficul, and narrow cuts. In this tutorial I will show the procedure of setting-out a wall to be tiled, from floor to ceiling.
The very first thing you should be aware of is that wall tiles need to start from a perfectly level, flat base. Do not assume that the floor or skirting board that you intend working from will meet these two vital requirements.
The first step is to measure and mark the wall from the floor the height of one tile, (see fig 1) and using a spirit level, draw a level pencil line along the wall from this mark. This line is referred to as the ‘baseline’. Now, using the same tile, check that the distance between the floor and the pencil line does not exceed the tile height anywhere along this line. If you find that this does occur, it confirms that the floor is running out of level and a new line will be required lower down, to correct it.
Now divide the width of the wall by two to determine the centre location, and draw a vertical line from floor to ceiling at this point. This can be done using a spirit level or a plumb line (fig 2).
The next step is to make a gauge rod. A gauge rod is a length of 50x25 mm PAR timber with a series of marks on it that show the position of the tiles and the grouting gaps, so that in use it represents tile position. If the tiles are square, then a single rod will suffice for both vertical and horizontal gauging. However, if the tiles are rectangular, then two rods will be needed.
Lay the timber batten onto a flat surface such as the floor, and lay the tiles along it to its full length. Next, place tile spacers in each tile joint and adjust the batten so that the left side end is flush with the first tile, creating the ‘start point’ position. Before marking each tile position (and spaces) onto the batten, make sure that all the tiles and spacers are tight up to each other. You now have a gauge rod that can be used to show exactly where the tiles will end in relation to the baseline and room width.
By placing the gauge rod onto the vertical centre line with the start point onto the baseline, it will show the tile layout from floor to ceiling, in particular where the last full uncut tile will be in relation to the ceiling (fig 3). If the gap between the proposed edge of this tile and ceiling is less than half a tile in height, then the layout will need to be adjusted so that the gap is at least half a tile. To do this, simply slide the gauge rod down the vertical line so by increasing the gap at the top, and at the same time decreasing the gap at the bottom, (so that it travels below the baseline). Ideally, both top and bottom cuts should be similar in size. Now that the overall layout of these tiles has been determined, the baseline may need to be adjusted accordingly, as shown by the lower red line at fig 4.
With the final baseline determined, fix a straight batten to the width of the wall, ensuring that its top edge follows the baseline exactly. Now place the gauge rod onto the fixed baseline batten and using the centre vertical line as the guide, adjust the rod sideways to determine the position of the last whole tile adjacent to the wall. Again, if the remaining gap between this tile and the wall is less than half a tile, reposition the gauge rod by half a tile, as the centre location for the tile can either be the joint, or the tile centre (fig 5).
Draw a mark onto the baseline batten indication the position of the first whole tile position. From this mark, draw a vertical line up to the ceiling, and to this line fix a timber batten ensuring that it too is perfectly straight and plumb (fig 6).
Fitting the Tiles
Working from the corner created by the baseline and vertical battens, spread out the wall tile adhesive using the toothed edge spreader in a horizontal pattern, and start fitting the tiles along the baseline (not forgetting the spacers). The grooves formed in the adhesive by the spreader, allows for the tile to be pressed in slightly, into the correct position, so that with a bit of practice, you will find that applying this same amount of pressure to each tile will help create a uniform surface that is flat. This can be checked as you go along, by placing a straight-edge or spirit level across the surface of the tiles horizontally, vertically and diagonally. It’s not recommended that too much adhesive is spread at any one time, as it could dry out by the time you reach the furthest point, especially if this is your first attempt at tiling. Try an area of about a meter square at first and see how you progress, working from left to right, completing the full width at one level before proceeding to the next. Always have a sponge, and water to hand, as a light wipe over the tiled area as you progress, will remove any traces of adhesive from the surface, which would otherwise be very difficult to remove, if allowed to dry.
When the whole area of uncut tiles is complete, and the adhesive completely dry, (check manufacturers recommendations) carefully remove both timber battens, and proceed to fit the surrounding cut tiles around the perimeter, ensuring that they are quite a loose fit, thus allowing movement for alignment, and the spacers. Because space can be tight around the edges, you will probably find it easier to spread the adhesive onto the back of the cut tile rather than trying having to spreading adhesive into the narrow channel between the wall and tile edge. When complete, and the adhesive dry, the joints can be grouted.
Grout is produced in a variety of colours to match the tiles, though white is the most popular colour used. Again, always ensure that the grout is waterproof and suitable for bathrooms and shower area use. Use a rubber bladed squeegee to spread the grout, and press it into the joints making sure that all the gaps are completely filled. Before the grout is left to harden, use a damp sponge to clean any remnants of grout left on the tile surface, and run your finger along the joints to leave the joints to a smooth finish.