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Installing Ceramic Wall Tiles

Ceramic Wall Tile Installation

Installing ceramic wall tiles is easier than you may think. With a bit of patience, planning and time, your home will look like a showcase home with all of the expensive upgrades. Instead of hiring a professional and spending a fortune, do what many savvy homeowners do and install it yourself.

Things to Consider

When planning your home improvement project, there are a few things to consider. First, and probably most important, is budget. Determine how much you are willing to spend and stick to it. It is better to scale back a project and do a simpler version than to overextend your wallet and regret it later. Second, decide whether the project is intended for increased property value only or also for your own enjoyment.

If you plan to move in the next couple of years, it is typically better to choose a more neutral color palette that will appeal to more potential buyers. If, on the other hand, you plan to live in your house for many years, then choose something that you love. Just remember, however, it is easier to switch out things like paint color or window treatments as trends change so you may still want to opt for tile that can coordinate with many different styles.

Materials and Supplies

When shopping for supplies, do your homework before buying. Based on the size of the room, the area you need to tile, and your budget, it may be better to choose a stock item over a custom or special order. Most home improvement stores like Lowe's and Home Depot carry several styles and sizes of ceramic tile. Choosing a standard size such as four, six, or eight inch squares make it less expensive as well. For smaller size tiles such as one inch squares, purchase those on a mesh backing for easier installation.

Purchase tile suitable for the area. Since not all ceramic tile is water resistant, make sure to purchase semi-vitreous or impervious tiles for areas like bathrooms or kitchens. Though ceramic tiles can be placed directly onto walls, a smarter option would be to use drywall intended for areas that may get wet, such as backsplashes. Known as "green" drywall, this eco-friendly option is available at most building supplies stores. If the area is not subject to moisture, standard cement backer board is suitable. It is typically sold with a grid imprinted on one side to make measuring easier.

Other items you need for installation include:

  • Fiberglass tape
  • Level
  • Tile adhesive
  • Notched trowel
  • Rubber float
  • Sponge
  • Bucket of water
  • Grout
  • Utility knife
  • Plastic tile spacers
  • Tile nippers or tile saw
  • Tape measure
  • Caulk

How to Install Ceramic Wall Tiles

  1. Prepare the wall by removing any dirt or grease with a towel if you do not plan to use backing. Otherwise, install the drywall or cement backer board over the area you wish to tile, taking care to line up the grids evenly so you can use them to place your tiles straight later. Screw the backing into the available wall studs until the screw head is flat and does not protrude above the backing.
  2. Mark the center of the wall area you plan to tile both vertically and horizontally using your level as a guide. It is extremely important to find the center because the tile design will start from this point and be worked outwards.
  3. Spread a thin amount of tile adhesive onto the wall in an approximate two to three foot square, making sure you are still able to see your center mark. With the notched side of the trowel, create grooves in the adhesive. This is so when the tile is placed, a strong bond is made between the adhesive and the tile.
  4. Place the first tile, pressing firmly so it remains in place. Continue placing each tile until the area you had applied adhesive to is covered. Remember to place the plastic tile spacers on each side of the tiles as you go so that the spacing between the tiles is even.
  5. For large jobs or areas that have many outlets, you may want to rent a tile saw. The tile saw is electric and water is poured into a basin below to keep the blade from getting too hot. Measure the amount you need to cut off tiles to accommodate a wall edge or outlet, then feed the tile through the tile saw table. Make sure you wear safety glasses when operating the saw because water and debris may fly in your face and eye injuries can occur without protection. For small jobs or ones that do not require much cutting, tile nippers are acceptable. This hand held tool clamps to snip off small pieces of tile. Simply snip off the amount you need and press the tile in place.
  6. After the tiles have dried overnight, remove the plastic tile spacers and mix your grout according to the manufacturer's instructions. Spread the grout into the spaces between the tiles using the rubber float. Press firmly at a 45-degree angle so the grout fills the spaces completely. Take care not to leave grout in clumps on the face of the tiles because once it dries it is extremely hard to remove. After each section, wipe down the tiles with a damp sponge to remove the excess and any haze that may have formed.

Final Tips

Let the grout dry for a couple of days then fill in edges along the bottom of walls or tubs and sinks with silicon caulk. This is to prevent water from leaking under the edge of the tiles and mildew or mold forming. You may need to use a towel to buff any haze that still exists on the front of the tiles. Once complete you should tell your friends how easy installing ceramic tiles was and invite them over to look at your new room!

Installing Ceramic Wall Tiles