Beautiful Ceramic Tile Work is Possible For the Beginner

Anyone with a little care and patience can install beautiful peel and stick backsplash herringbone tile or glass tile work. You will find that with a little care in layout of the tile, choosing the right color combinations and sizes of your tile and then carefully installing the tile can result in work that you will be proud to show off to your friends and you can save large sums of cash as an extra bonus.

TOOLS AND MATERIALS REQUIRED – Paper pad, pencil, measuring tape, 2″ level, chalk line, tile cutter (you may rent one by the day at most rental stores or buy an inexpensive one for less than $25), sponges, bucket for clean water, bucket for mixing grout, grout, pre-mix tile adhesive, latex (rubber) gloves and a sponge float or two and a water bucket.

LAYOUT – Start with a small project. Perhaps a countertop or backsplash in the kitchen or perhaps a sink backsplash in the bathroom. Using a pad and pencil sketch the surface you are going to apply tile to and measuring each dimension of the work. A typical area sketch will show all dimensions from wall to wall, floor to ceiling for whatever surface where you are going to install tile. Keep your measurements accurate. Tile is expensive so limit your waste.

COUNTERTOP – The countertop must be very stable and solid. A double layer of ¾ plywood or ceramic tile cement backer board and a layer of ¾” plywood is a minimum. Cement backer board is available under different trade names but is especially made for ceramic tile. Make sure it is secured properly. Cutting can be done with a power saw and carbide blade but causes a great deal of dust so cut it outside and use safety glasses and a dust mask. Backer board in sink areas is recommended.

For this example, we are going to install tile on a kitchen countertop. When we measure the countertop area, we find it is 2′-0″ (24″) deep or wide and 10′-0″ (120″) long. A little math tells us we have 20 square feet (SF) of surface to work with. (2’x10’=20′). Now we pick out our tile. The most common kitchen countertop ceramic tile size is 4 1/4″ x 4 ¼” but you may use any size tile you would like. Tile comes in 12″ x 12″, 1″ x1″ (mosaic), 6″ x 6″, 8″ x8″ and even larger tiles are available. Some countertops are done in broken tile pieces to create a really different design of your own. Off to the store we go. You will find dozens of sizes and colors to choose from at most tile stores, and large retail home stores. Making this choice can sometimes be the hardest part of this job. Purchase the tile you like and get 20SF plus 2SF extra for special cuts. If you have chosen a stock tile, you can always go back and get a few more pieces to finish. If you have chosen a close-out or special sale tile, get plenty (perhaps 30SF) as there may not be any left when you go back. Purchase all the other supplies at this time. The salesperson can help you figure out the amount of adhesive and grout you need but all packages have approximate square footage of coverage on them.

INSTALLATION – Start by dry laying the tile on the countertop. Place full pieces at the front edge and working to the back of the counter. If you find you have a very small piece at the back, say ½” wide, try spreading out the tile a little to increase the grout joint width to take up this space. You do not want to try and install these tiny pieces of tile. Do the same for the length of the top. If you find you have approximately a ½ tile or more at the back of the top that’s great. It is the least seen part of the countertop. Once you set your toaster, blender, bread box and can opener on the counter, the back edge almost disappears. Using your 2′ level as a straightedge, make a pencil line from front to back and square to the front edge of the counter. If you have a 2′ framing square this is the time to use it. Just place one leg against the front of the counter and the other leg will be square. Make sure the trim along the front edge of the counter is nailed tightly and is level with the top of the tile. Front trims are usually wood but counter edge tiles are available if you like that look. Purchase enough lineal footage of edge tile to go end to end of the counter top. If you are using edge tile, these will be the first pieces installed. Edge pieces come in 6″, 8″ and custom lengths but is not recommended to try and line them up with the countertop tiles. Starting with a ½ tile, install the edge tiles from one end to the other. A support ledger should be installed under the bottom leg of the tile as a temporary support until the adhesive dries. Spread some adhesive along side the pencil mark you made for the square line. Spread only a little at first until you get used to the time it takes to install the tile and the setting time for the adhesive. You don’t want to try and remove dried adhesive. As you place the tile, twist the tile slightly to assure you have full contact with the adhesive below.

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