HOW TO FIX CERAMIC WALL AND FLOOR TILES
For many years ceramic tiles have, been popular
as a means of covering walls and, to a lesser extent,
floors and work surfaces.
They provide a maintenance free, long lasting, and
tough decorative surface finish which cannot be matched
by any other form of covering.
If they have any drawback it is purely that they are
so durable that they cannot be stripped off at will
like wallpaper or paint to suit changing decorative
Although the use of ceramic tiles, and quarry tiles,
is on the increase there are still many people who hesitate
to tackle a major tiling project believing that it is
too complicated so this leaflet is aimed to dispel many
of the doubts and worries which exist and to make tiling
an easier and more enjoyable task.
CHOOSING TILES FOR WALLS
Ceramic wall tiles are made in an enormous variety
of colours, designs and sizes. Nobody can choose the
colour and design that suits your taste other than you
so you will need to spend some time looking at our displays
to find the tiles which appeal most.
Keep an eye open for 'combination' tiles. These
are basically tiles with the same background colour
with the majority used being plain but with decorated
tiles in singles or sets of two or three which are used
almost like pictures on a wall being interspaced with
the plain tiles. Many of these decorative tiles are
hand painted before being glazed and can bring a tiled
wall to life.
Look out also for tiles which are a colour match
for modern sanitary ware. You'll find these available
plain or decorated in some way.
If you plan to tile the floor as well it is
important to remember that wall tiles cannot be used
on the floor. They are not tough enough.
So choosing colour and design is purely a question
of looking at what is available. Wall tile sizes are
most commonly 15 x 15cm (6 x 6"), 20 x 20cm (8
x 8"), 20 x 25cm (8 x 10") and 20 x 30cm (8
As a general rule, and assuming it suits your
colour scheming, aim for large tiles in a large room
and small tiles in a small room. This is partly for
aesthetic reasons and partly because in a large room
tiling can proceed more quickly when large tiles are
Once you have chosen your tiles you'll need
to work out how many you need to purchase. Probably
the easiest method is to measure the height of the wall
and calculate how many of your chosen tile size will
be needed to fit from floor to ceiling. Count a half
or part of a tile as whole one. Do the same for the
wall width. Multiply the number required for the height
by the number for the width and this will give you the
total number for the wall. Repeat the process on the
other walls. Make adjustments to allow for doors and
windows, and for the inclusion of any decorated tiles.
When you have a final total for the whole room add on
a further 10%. There are two reasons for this, the first
being that inevitably some breakages will occur, and
the second that if, in the future, tiles are damaged
you will have replacements available.
You should purchase all your tile requirements at the
same time to avoid colour variation which may occur
in different batches from the manufacturer. It is also
worth 'shuffling' the tiles you purchase to again ensure
that colour variations are spread over the entire wall
area and are not laid in noticeable blocks.
Note that no claims for colour variations can be considered
after the tiles have been fixed.
If the wall tiles you choose do not have built in spacer
lugs or are not of the so called universal type with
chamfered edges which act as spaces then you should
also purchase proper tile spacers. These plastic spacers
are of uniform size and are far better than matches
at achieving regular spacing between tiles.
Ceramic floor tiles, quarry, terracotta, marble and
slate are also available in a variety of styles so again
you'll need to look around to find the ones which suit
Sizes are generally from 20cm square upwards to 33cm
square. Floor tiles are thicker than wall tiles and
some can be used indoors or outside. Look out for guidance
on the packaging which indicates suitable areas for
their use. Some are suitable for use on worktops as
well as the floor. These are strong enough to resist
harsh wear, impact, heat and cold but marble, for example,
would not retain its appearance for long if regularly
used as a chopping board!
To work out the number of tiles you need for a floor
use the same method described previously for wall tiles,
not forgetting to add on 10% for breakages and future
repairs. Floor tiles are harder to cut than wall tiles
and even the most experienced tiler will break one or
two. Ceramic floor tiles can be cut with a Floor Tile
Cutters but marble, terracotta, granite and slate are
best cut with a 'wet' diamond tipped cutting wheel.
ADHESIVES AND GROUTS
The long term success of your tiling depends to a large
extent on the adhesives you use to bond the tiles to
the surface behind and you must select the correct adhesive
for any particular situation.
For wall tiling work you need either a ready mixed standard
wall tile adhesive or a water resistant variety. The
standard and less expensive type is suitable for use
in basically dry areas. It can cope with the occasional
splashing or a little condensation so is generally satisfactory
in a well ventilated kitchen or bathroom, even around
the bath or basin if the family tends not to saturate
Where condensation is a problem or in shower areas
then a Water Resistant Wall Tile adhesive must be used.
Since this is a slightly more expensive adhesive there
is no reason why it should not be used in those frequently
wet locations and the standard wall tile adhesive used
in dryer parts of the same room. You do not have to
stick to the same adhesive on all walls. If in doubt
always go for the water resistant type.
An All Purpose Tile Adhesive and Grout is designed
as a product for both tile bonding and grouting.
For floor tiling work, exterior tiling, and tiling
worktops an entirely different adhesive must be used
and we offer a choice. Use a Rapid Set Floor Tile Adhesive
where an excellent bond and quick setting is needed.
The alternative is a Ceramic Floor Tile Adhesive. Supplied
in powder form for mixing with water, this cement based
adhesive is water resistant when dry and can even be
used in swimming pools, which is what many kitchen floors
seem to be like when the washing machine goes wrong,
or elsewhere when the bath or basin overflows!
All ceramic tile adhesives have full usage instructions
on their containers and these instructions should be
The spaces between tiles are filled in with a grouting
compound. For wall tiles purchase our ready mixed water
resistant grout or our powdered water resistant grout
which is ready for mixing with water. Where a water
resistant tile adhesive has been used you must use a
water resistant grout.
For floor tiling the grout again must be a water resistant
one specially formulated for flooring use. This is again
cement based and available in grey, white or brown,
in 5kg or 12.5kg containers. It is simply called Floor
TILE CARE & MAINTENANCE
Suppliers stock a range of product for cleaning and
maintaining your tiles. Details of these are listed
here together with an easy to follow table on their
uses on specific products.
Cement Grout Film Remover is a concentrated,
biodegradable, powerful but safe cleaner. It removes
cement film, grout bloom residues from Wickes glazed
floor tiles, quarry tiles and natural slate and it will
not damage the grout or harm the tiles. This product
can also be used to neutralise efflorescence, white
salt stains from brick, slabs or terracotta tiles and
remove rust and oxide stains from other surfaces such
as chrome and stainless steel. DO NOT USE ON MARBLE.
Marble Gloss Finish is a protective self-shining
coat that provides a tough but removable finish that
helps protect natural stone floors against staining
from liquids and scratching and dulling caused by foot
traffic. It also deepens the colour and texture and
is effective against damage from acidic substances which
can attack marble or other calcareous natural stone.
Particularly recommended for treating internal polished
floor surfaces such as a Marble Tiles or as a gloss
seal for Natural Slate.
Satin Tile Polish is a sophist-icated water
based sealer which provides a hard wearing protective
sheen finish to unglazed tiles, such as Wickes quarry
tiles or natural slate. Porous materials, such as slate,
or other natural stone or brick must first be treated
with Tile & Stone Stain Protector. Satin Tile Polish
provides a finish that resists dirt penetration and
staining by liquids, ensuring ease of cleaning. The
sheen finish enhances natural colours without darkening.
It has a non- slippery finish.
Tile & Stone Stain Protector is a solvent
based "undercoat" sealer. Dust proofs and
reduces the water absorption of porous surfaces such
as Wickes marble and natural slate. For interior and
exterior use. Helps to protect against staining and
deep stubborn marking by forming a matt internal seal
that does not contain silicones and allows surfaces
to 'breathe'. Enhances colour and makes cleaning considerably
easier when applied thinly to a clean, dry surface so
that it is fully absorbed. For additional surface protection
on porous floor tiles, particularly those in the kitchen
or hallway, Satin Tile Polish (slate, quarry
tiles etc.) or Marble Gloss Finish (marble tiles)
should also be applied.
Tile & Stone Renovator is a highly concentrated
powerful cleaner that is biodegradable and environmentally
safe. This product will remove old layers of wax and
polishes, such as Satin Tile Polish and Marble
Gloss Finish. Ingrained dirt that has built up over
time, most oil and grease marks and other stubborn stains
can also be scrubbed away. The ideal spring cleaner
to revive unglazed floor tiles, quarry tiles, natural
slate and marble tiles, allowing a new fresh Satin or
Gloss coating to be applied.
CALCULATING WALL TILE
PROJECT SHOPPING LIST
An example of calculating tile requirement follows,
given a wall measuring 2.7 metres long by 2.2 metres
high; to be tiled using 15cm x 15cm mixed plain and
patterned tiles but no borders.
Divide wall height by tile height. 220cm - 15cm = 14.67,
say 15. Divide wall length by tile width. 270cm - 15cm
= 18 Tiles required: 15 x 18 = 270
Add 10% for breakages = 297 total. 15cm square tiles
are usually packed in boxes of 43, so 297 - 43 = 6.9,
say 7 boxes. To use a mix of tiles purchase, for example,
5 boxes of plain and 2 patterned. Matching borders if
needed are 7.5cm high by 15cm wide and are available
usually in packs of 10 or 12. You will further require
Wall Tile Adhesive plus grout. Packs have coverage stated
SPECIAL TOOLS REQUIRED
You must have a plumb bob and line, a tile cutter and
a tile saw for cutting to fit around door and window
BEFORE YOU START
Tiles can be bonded to virtually any surface, including
old tiles so long as those surfaces are dry, clean,
basically in sound condition and properly prepared.
Thoroughly clean the walls to remove all traces of
dirt, grease, soapy deposits, etc. Make good major defects
like loose plaster. Remove any old wallpaper. If the
walls are gloss painted they should be well sanded down
to provide a good key for the adhesive. Ensure that
old emulsion paint is not peeling away from the walls.
If it is then it should be removed to leave a sound
secure base for the adhesive.
New plaster should not be tiled over until it is completely
dry and this can take up to three months in some instances.
Old tiles do not have to be removed. So long as they
are still securely attached to the wall they need only
be cleaned. Any loose tiles should be stuck back into
Make sure the wall is dry. If there is a damp problem
this must be cured before any tiling is done.
Absorbent surfaces such as new or bare plaster, timber,
ply, blockboard or chipboard must be primed with a PVA
Building Adhesive diluted 1 part adhesive to 5 parts
water. This priming prevents the moisture in the tile
adhesive being absorbed too quickly by the wall, and
provides a much better key for the adhesive. Commence
tiling only when the primer/sealer is dry.
Concrete floors must be clean and dry. There should
be a damp proof membrane below the surface to prevent
rising damp. Since the floor tile adhesive can be applied
as a thin bed or a thick bed, the floor does not have
to be perfectly level, although this is preferable.
If the concrete is very uneven or it is damaged use
our floor levelling compound to make it level.
Suspended wooden floors can be successfully tiled but
you must be sure that they are sufficiently strong to
carry the very considerable extra weight of tiles, that
they are rigid and that the area below the floorboards
is well ventilated.
If the floor is weak and shows any sign of movement
you must strengthen it. Use a sheet material such as
our exterior grade plywood building up to a minimum
18mm thick covering screwing it into place at no more
than 200mm centres. It is absolutely essential that
a suspended timber floor is made 100% rigid. Any
movement will first cause the grout to break up allowing
moisture ingress and, subsequently, the tiles will break
or lift. 'Loose' floor coverings such as vinyl sheeting
should be completely removed. Any covering like old
ceramic tiles must be thoroughly scrubbed clean and
all traces of old polish removed.
Bare wood or ply covered floors should be primed with
Floor Tile Primer before tiling commences. Usage instructions
are on the container.
1. Make a measuring gauge.
2. Determine a starting point for tiling.
3. Commence tiling.
4. Cutting tiles.
1. MAKE A MEASURING GAUGE
Start by making yourself a measuring gauge. This is
simply a length of 18mm x 44mm PSE timber about 1.8
or 2.4 metres long marked out in exact tile widths including
spacers between. You will be able to use this gauge
to determine where lines of tiles start and finish and
will be able to avoid difficult cutting.
2. DETERMINE A STARTING POINT FOR TILING
Fix a perfectly straight length of timber to the wall
horizontally with the top edge just over one tile height
above the highest floor or skirting board level. Use
a spirit level to check that the batten is truly horizontal.
This batten going the full width of the wall will provide
the level at which tiling commences and will ensure
that tiling lines are straight even though the floor
may be uneven. Don't drive the masonry nails fully home.
They have to be removed later. See
Use your measuring gauge vertically from the fixed
batten to check that at the top of the wall you are
not left with a narrow strip to be tiled. Narrow tile
strips are difficult to cut. If this situation arises
then drop the horizontal fixed batten to leave roughly
equal spacing at the top and bottom of the wall for
By measurement find the centre point of the fixed batten
(the centre point along the width of the wall). Mark
this point on the batten. Use your measuring gauge horizontally
along the batten to determine where the last whole tile
will be fixed close to the end of the wall. Mark this
point on the fixed batten.
Drop a plumb line down the wall so that the string
touches the last mark on the horizontal batten. Make
several pencil marks on the wall behind the string line
then fix another straight batten vertically to the wall
along the marks. Check that the batten is truly vertical
with a spirit level. Loose lay a few tiles into the
corner formed by the battens to check that they sit
Tiling commences in the corner. Follow the instructions
supplied with the adhesive, spreading this over an area
of about 1 square metre at a time then comb it out.
Place the tiles firmly onto the ribbed adhesive with
spacers set in between.
Working sideways and upwards complete the fixing of
all whole tiles then leave for about 24 hours to dry.
Remove the battens carefully then cut tiles to fit
around the perimeter. Where space is limited the adhesive
can be applied to the back of the cut tiles instead
of onto the wall.
4. CUTTING WALL TILES
The simplest method of doing this is to mark the glazed
tile surface, where it is to be cut, then, with the
help of a straight edge, score the surface with the
tile cutter to break the glaze.
Place the scored tile over a couple of matchsticks,
then press down gently either side to snap the tile.
Pincers, pliers or a tile saw can be used to cut corners
or curves out of tiles to fit around projections. Again
the surface should be scored before the waste area is
When all tiling is complete and has dried for about
24 hours, the spaces between them should be filled with
Joins between tiles and horizontal surfaces such as
baths, basins, sinks, worktops etc., should be sealed
with our silicone sealant to prevent moisture penetrating
behind such fixtures.
Tiling commences in the corner of the room furthest
from the door but as with wall tiling you cannot rely
upon existing wall corners to be square or walls to
be straight so again battening must be used to provide
the starting point.
Using a measure and a chalked string line mark the
centre line of the room from the door end to the far
end. Find and mark the centre of this line.
Loose lay tiles complete with spacers from the centre
point alongside the line to the far wall. Fix a straight
batten to the floor at 90° to the line of tiles
where the edge of the last whole tile is.
Loose lay further tiles towards the corner of the room
and fix another batten at 90° to the first alongside
the last whole tile. Check that the corner produced
is exactly square, and that the positioning of neither
line of tiles will result in narrow tiles having to
be cut to fill in around the perimeter once the battening
has been removed.
Tiling commences on the prepared corner following the
instructions on the adhesive container. Any inward opening
door will have to be removed and reduced in height to
open again over the tiles.
A heavy duty floor tile cutter will be needed to cut
ceramic tiles to fit around the perimeter once all whole
tiles are laid and the adhesive has set. A hired diamond
tipped wet cutter will be needed for terracotta, granite,
marble and slate tiles.
Grouting is only done after all tiling is complete.