10 Mistakes To Avoid When Laying Bathroom Tiles

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Whether you're tiling your bathroom shower or your bathroom floor, don't fall into the common pitfalls of tiling. Keep the following common mistakes in mind when working to make the process easier and your results professional.

Choosing the Wrong Adhesive

Use a waterproof adhesive for any tiles that are around a bathtub or shower. Even the best-fitted tiles can let some water leak through to the adhesive, and the non-waterproof adhesive will decay and crumble, eventually causing your tiles to crack and break. Don’t forget that water can get to the adhesive in the form of condensation.

Buying Too Few Tiles

You should buy more tiles than you think you need. The best compromise between cost and practicality is to get 15 to 20% more than you expect to use. This ensures against breakages, miscalculations, and difficulties in cutting to size. You can keep spare tiles in reserve in case any tiles become cracked in the future. Alternatively, some retailers may allow you to return unused tiles for a refund.

Skipping Preparation

You must thoroughly clean and smooth the surface on which you are laying the tiles, whether it's a floor or shower wall. Otherwise, you increase the difficulty of laying them evenly. If you're tiling on a wall, remove any wallpaper. Use a light sander on the surface. An exception to this is if you are laying new tiles on top of existing tiles or different flooring. This can be done, but you should clean the old tiles and dry them first, and then scour them lightly to give a better grip.

Forgetting Battens

A batten is a thin rod of wood temporarily attached to the wall during the tile-laying. You should use 2 battens, 1 vertical and 1 horizontal, to make sure the tiles are laid out in straight lines. Battens can also be used for spacing and measuring: you can lay out your tiles on a floor to check how much space you will need, and then mark each tile's position on the batten. These markings will help you catch any mistakes with positioning as you lay tiles.

Spreading Adhesive Too Smoothly

Before placing the tiles, make sure the adhesive has horizontal ridges. This ensures you can level the tiles easily by flattening the ridges. Your trowel should have a ridged surface to do this with, but an old fork will do if necessary.

Dotting Corners

You may think adding dots of adhesive to the corners of tiles makes a stronger bond, but this actually increases the likelihood of tiles cracking because of the adhesive shrinking as it dries. If the adhesive is thicker in some areas, such as the corners, the shrinking will put added pressure on the tile.

Spacing Unevenly

If you do not space your tiles evenly, you will make some tiles more liable to loosen. After laying each tile, you should measure an even gap using a spacer. This can be a professionally made plastic rod, or something as simple as a thick edge of cardboard or a large matchstick.

Grouting Too Quickly

Once you've finished laying the tiles, you should wait until the adhesive is fully set, which is usually around 24 hours, before grouting.

Grouting Unevenly

Spread the grout evenly using a squeegee, working on a small area at a time. Otherwise, it may dry before you have it firmly in place. Remove any excess grout before it sets, as it will be much more difficult to remove when it is dry. Also, make sure the grout is pushed all the way into each gap by lightly running a dowel over it.

Sealing Bath Tops

If you don't firmly seal the gap in a shower between the bottom row of tiles and the bath top, water may leak into it as it runs down the tiles. With most sealants, it’s best to fill the bath before application. Bathtubs move a surprising amount when filled with water and this can strain and crack sealant if you don't plan for it.

For more information on bathroom design and improvements, visit our Bathrooms page.