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5 Common Tile Installation Mistakes (And How to Avoid Them)


Paint chips and tile samples

If you’ve decided to DIY your tile installation rather than hire a professional, then this blog post is for you! Installing your own tile can definitely save you money, but there are several all-too-common mistakes you’ll need to do your best to avoid. This blog post will cover five of those mistakes and explain how to prevent them.

Mistake #1: Running Out of Tile

Man installing kitchen backsplash

Something that happens all too frequently is simply not having enough tile to complete the project. Even if you measure the room and calculate the necessary amount of tile accordingly, you may still run out. This is because tiles can break during the shipping process, grout can spill and render tiles unusable, and cuts aren’t always smooth. Therefore, a good rule of thumb is to buy at least 10% more tile than you need for the space. Another benefit of buying more than you think you need is having additional tile for minor repairs down the line.

If you’re working with wood-look tiles or other longer plank-style tiles, you’ll want to purchase even more than an additional 10%. Since these types of tiles are so long, their weight distribution is different, making them more susceptible to breaking.

Mistake #2: Insufficient Preparation

 Workers cleaning a floor

The next mistake that commonly takes place is insufficient preparation. In reality, preparation isn’t just one step–it’s several. The first step is accurately measuring the room and determining its layout before creating a design or purchasing tile. In general, we assume that all walls in a room are square and that the floor is level. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. A four-foot level is a highly useful tool to check the walls and floors for any uneven areas or waves. Although uneven floors don’t impact the room’s look, they can eventually lead to cracked tile. In addition, a wavy wall surface won’t allow tiles to lay flat.

There are several ways to fix uneven walls, but when it comes to uneven flooring, you’ll need to correctly install underlayment to prevent tiles from cracking. A cement board beneath the underlayment can help build up underlayment that isn’t in good shape.

Another thing to note is that you’ll want to draw out your tile design before starting the project. As with any creative endeavor, a rough draft helps put all the pieces into place. It also allows you to have a visual representation of your desired pattern, making the tile installation process simpler. If you’re not great at sketching out designs, there are plenty of websites and free apps that can help you visualize the finished product. Many of them also calculate the amount of tile you’ll need for the project (but remember to purchase at least an additional 10%).

Another essential part of preparation is cleaning the surface the tile will rest on. This involves removing all dirt, oil, grease, and dust from the floor or wall. Failing to clean the surface thoroughly can cause problems with adhesion later on. If you’re installing tile in a shower or another area with lots of water, be sure to first install a waterproof backer board to keep everything stiff and prevent water from seeping into cracks.

Mistake #3: Incorrect Equipment

Trowel and grout 

To succeed with DIY flooring, you’ll need the right tools for the project. Using the wrong tools is a common mistake that can end in disaster and frustration. Luckily, most of the tools required are affordable and can be found at your local hardware store. In most cases, you’ll need tile cutters, tile nippers, a rubber mallet, tile spacers, a cleaning sponge, a tile leveling system, mixing buckets, and a few trowels. Be sure to do proper research regarding the type of tile you’re installing so that you know exactly what you need.

A diamond wet saw is typically the best choice for cutting tile, and it can often be rented from hardware stores rather than purchased. Depending on the tile you’re installing, you may need a larger or smaller trowel to get the job done; large tiles require bigger trowels, and vice versa.

You’ll also want to use battens to ensure the tile is laid in straight lines. Battens are thin rods of wood that can help you get the positioning right the first time. You can also use other long, straight objects to fulfill this purpose.

Mistake #4: Poor Grouting

 Brick with uneven grout

You must spread grout evenly with the proper tools and remove the excess before it hardens. Grout that is spread unevenly can ruin the look of your tile, and so can grout that is applied too soon. Tools like squeegees can help you spread the grout slowly and efficiently. You’ll also want to give some thought to the color of grout you choose, as the grout has a significant impact on the final look of the tile.

Mistake #5: Problems with Adhesive

Cracked tile 

The final common mistake when discussing tile installation is incorrectly applying adhesive. First, make sure to choose the right adhesive for the project. For example, you’ll need waterproof adhesive to install the tile in a humid area like a swimming pool or bathroom. In addition, always follow the manufacturer’s recommendation regarding the correct adhesive based on the type of substrate and tile.

Next, avoid dotting the corners of the tiles with adhesive. While it may seem like this would promote a stronger bond, it actually increases the chances of cracking. This is because adhesive tends to shrink as it dries. Therefore, if the adhesive is thicker in the corners of the tiles, it will put pressure on the tile as it dries and shrinks.

Be sure to spread the adhesive evenly and uniformly underneath the tile. You don’t want to not use enough adhesive or to apply it unevenly. A general rule is that residential tile should adhere to at least 80% of the contact service, and commercial tile’s contact surface should have 95% adhesion.

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