A guide to tiling like a pro

Tiling…yawn. Hardly the most interesting subject but there’s a lot more to tiling that needs to be considered beyond the tile itself. Now this is not a post about choosing the right tile for your kitchen/bathroom/floor/whatever. Maybe I’ll do that another day. Apparently I have a lot to say about tiling which, by the way, makes me a very interesting person when I’m banging on about it. No, this is a post about what comes next and all the things to think about when tiling a room or area.

So anyway, you’ve found the perfect tile for your project so you just hand it over to your builder and let him get on with it right? Wrong! Here’s your checklist:


There are countless ways you can layout your tiles. If you don’t provide any instructions the tiler may just tile them straight, and maybe that’s what you want…but maybe not. Don’t rely on being asked before they do it. Tile ’em straight, offset, horizontal, vertical, diagonal, herringbone…the possibilities are endless!

Make sure you explain what you want clearly and leave instructions in writing, preferably with a diagram. These beautiful Aurora glass tiles from Fired Earth have been tiled in the slightly less conventional vertical format adding height and elegance.

Aurora tiles from Fired Earth

You’ve bought the tiles but don’t forget the accessories. You can buy these with the tiles from your supplier  or ask your tiler to provide them – just don’t forget to provide a detailed specification of what you want. Again, don’t assume you will be asked.

Grout colours from Reed Harris
  • Grout – if you don’t want white grout, you better say something! Coloured grout can be more subtle, easier to keep (looking) clean or can be used as a contrasting feature.
  • Silicone mastic – you’ll need this where the tiles meet another surface (e.g. kitchen worktop or shower tray) to seal the gap and make it watertight. You can match it to the grout colour or pick a tone that blends with the adjoining surface (white for around the edge of a bath). Don’t use clear as you’ll just highlight the gap. You will also need silicone along any corners in wet areas like in a shower. Again, you can match it to the grout or use clear if the grouting beneath it is neat enough.
  • Adhesive – generally speaking it doesn’t matter what colour the adhesive is unless you’re using glass or very thin, pale tiles. Also don’t forget to check whether or not you need a special type depending on the tile materials.
  • Tile edges – there are several ways to finish off a tiling edge, most of which I hate. Where possible, I prefer to leave the tile edge visible and seal the gap between the tiles and the wall with decorators caulk. Alternatively, a decorative pencil edge can work for a more traditional look or contemporary spaces can get away with a thin chrome edge. Again, if you don’t specify what you want you may end up with a thick, white plastic trim. Eek!

Unless you’re incredibly lucky, chances are that some of the tiles will need to be cut. Whip out your trusty tape measure and check you’re not going to end up with a skinny slither of a tile down one side of the room. If this is the case then ask your tiler to start with half a tile. You may also want to think about where the joins will be positioned if they line up with other features in the room.

Most rooms don’t have perfectly straight walls so if you start from one side and line it up, your tiles may not line up with the opposite/adjoining wall and the result can look wonky. Consider which part of the room would be best to line up with or to start tiling from, then ask your tiler to begin from that point. In some cases, you may start from the centre of a wall or in the middle of the room.

These Kensington tiles from Reed Harris look incredibly smart but a wonky line would ruin the look. Precision is key!

Kensington Jade tiles from Reed Harris

Once you’ve decided all of this you should have it written down clearly for your contractor or tiler, preferably before the work is quoted for. Include drawings with measurements and every tiny detail. If it’s all in black and white there are less chances for mistakes and disputes over what was agreed. Plus, I find if you come across as the pedantic type, they’re more likely to ask questions rather than make assumptions.

These Barcelona tiles from Fired Earth have been used to create a stunning effect but could you imagine trying to explain this without a diagram?!

Barcelona Brick tiles from Fired Earth

Are you still yawning? Ok fine, maybe tiling isn’t that interesting but it is important. Can’t be bothered? Hire a project manager! You know where to find me…

J x

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