How to Tile a Wall

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kitchen builder tiling a wall

One of the common home renovation projects includes tiling walls, whether for your kitchen or bathroom. For a DIY-er, tiling can be a bit tricky, to say the least. Even though the job is challenging, it can be successful as long as you are armed with the right tools and a bit of know-how.

This article is going to lay out the steps for applying wall tiles, everything from prepping the surface to measuring the tiles, and sealing the material. Hopefully, this will give you the confidence to complete your project.

Key Takeaways

  • Before you start tiling your kitchen floor or wall, you have to prepare the surface you are going to work on
  • Measuring the whole wall and all the tiles is another key thing to remember; find the natural focal point of the surface
  • In order to calculate the number of tiles you need, multiply the length and width of the surface you want to tile using metres
  • Using a gauge rod, you can position the tiles more effectively
  • Tiling corners are one of the hardest jobs to do but with the right tools and preparation, you can get the job done successfully; cutting tiles is inevitable here; you also need a tile trim
  • An edge tile should be at least half the width of a whole tile; an internal edge tile will be hidden by an adjacent tile
  • At the end of the job, you should clean the tiles with a wet sponge to get rid of any excess material and adhesive

How Do I Prepare a Wall for Tiling?

No tiling project can be successful if the surface lacks preparation. For starters, you have to thoroughly remove the old wallpaper or tiles. Next, you have to make sure the wall is smooth, even, and clean. Not to mention, it has to be dry.

If you have to work on ply, timber, or bare plaster, the surface needs to be sealed before tiling directly onto it. You need to obtain a quality primer like a SBR or BAL primer. Do not use PVA. It’s especially unsuitable for bathrooms and wet areas.

The reason you need a primer to tile a wall is that without it, the tile glue will lose moisture. This way the tiles might loosen.

Keep in mind that some porcelain types and natural stone require to be sealed after they are applied to the wall. Just read the recommendations provided by the manufacturer.

If you are dealing with plasterboard, it’s worth noting the new cost of plaster has to sit on for a week in order to dry. After that, you can proceed to the kitchen tiling process - check out our guide on how to tile a kitchen. When it comes to cement render or sand, wait at least two weeks before you finish the process.

There are different types of tile materials. You can choose from mosaic tiles, porcelain tiles, ceramic tiles, marble tiles, patterned tiles, granites tiles, and more. For mosaic tiles, you should tap hold a piece of board over them once they are laid out. Tap it with a rubber mallet to make sure the tiles are even.

How Many Tiles Are Needed on Your Tile Surface?

Before you order your kitchen wall tiles or kitchen floor tiles, you need to know how many packs you’ll need. To calculate that, multiply the length and width of the surface you want to tile using metres.

For irregular-shaped rooms, you have to divide the area into chunks and add everything together to get the total.

Account for wastage

Something to keep in mind is that you need to account for offcuts and wastage that will inevitably happen. Add an additional 10%. And finally, remember to get the same batch of tiles to ensure the colours match. Just track down the bath number on the package to do the trick.

To understand how many tiles you will need, divide the surface area by the size of your tiles.

How to Measure Your Tiles with a Gauge Rod and Tile Spacers?

measuring and tiling kitchen tiles on wall

Now, you need to make a gauge tod that will help you determine how many tiles you need per row. In addition to that, it will help you find the best position for the tiles.

Cut some wood

Cut a wooden batten or timber that is longer than half the width of the wall you want to tile. Attach it to the wall. Find the horizontal midpoint and mark it with a pencil line.

Place a tile

Place a tile on it making sure it’s flush with the edge of the timber. Mark the material at the tile edge (on both sides) and add a spacer. Then, place a second tile next to the spacer. Don’t forget to mark the timber as you do. Repeat until you reach the end of the timber. This is your gauge rod.

Take care of edge tiles

Having done that, check to ensure that one of the tile marks you just did aligns with the centre point. It’s essential to take your time with the edge tiles. They have to be at least half the length x width of a whole tile. If that’s not the case, the edge will look weird and untidy.

Make corrections as necessary

Thus, when you finish marking your tile positions, if you notice the gap between the last tile and the wall is smaller than what we just explained, you have to make corrections. And the solution is to move the centre point to the right by half a tile’s width.

As you do this, you have to mark a vertical line on the wall, starting at the top and working your way to the bottom. Now find the midpoint and mark it accordingly. You need to repeat the procedure for the edges, this time for the tile height.

Calculating How Much Grout and Tile Adhesive to Order

Needless to say, the amount of adhesive and grout depends on the size of your project and the number of tiles you’ll use. The general rule of thumb is, you should use a 20kg bag of glue for about 5-6 square metre of tiles. The same rule applies for the tile grout. Don’t forget to buy a little bit more to allow for unexpected gasp and wastage.

What Tile Adhesive Do I Need to Use?

This will depend on the tile type and the surface itself. Applying adhesive will be great if you want to lay out tiles on plastered walls. But natural stone, on the other hand, will need a different type of adhesive that is more flexible. If you don’t know which one to purchase, consult a clerk from the store. They will surely give you more information. While you are at it, remember to get a grout float if you don't own any.

How to Tile Corners

Tiling corners is one of the many tricky parts of tiling a wall. With a bit of practice, you’ll probably figure it out. One thing to take into account is that there are two types of corners, internal and external. They require a different approach. You still need to measure and cut your tiles to fit the gap between the last whole tile and the wall.

How to tile external corners

External corners tend to face outward and they usually protrude from a window recess, a feature wall, or a door frame. Because your external tiles will be prone to chipping, you have to trim them to protect the edges. You will also need a tile trim, so make sure it’s the same size as your edge length. The tile trim will give a professional look to the tiles.

How to tile internal corners

The internal corner is the one where two kitchen walls meet. If you need to cut tile here, measure the space between the last tile you placed and the wall corner to see how big your corner tile should be. Cut wall tiles at a 45-degree angle.

If adjustments are needed, resort to a tile file. Don’t worry too much about the edges since they will be hidden by the other whole tiles. Total accuracy is not required, that is.

Apply ready-mixed adhesive or powder adhesive on the back of the tile you just cut and position it into place. Press the tile firmly to make sure it’s level with the other tiles. It may be a good idea to use spacers. Repeat this for all the cut tiles until you tile the whole wall. Move on to the next one.

Sealing the Gap between a Kitchen Worktop and Wall Tiles

Sealing the gap between wall tiles and the kitchen worktop is a cinch. Get a mould-resistant silicone sealant that matches the colour of the grout. With a calking gun, apply the sealant and smooth it out with a smoothing tool. You might also use your wet fingers.

How to Tile a Bathroom

Before you begin work, you have to remove any objects or furniture that may get in the way. Clear up your stuff so you can take some measurements. You need to find the centre of the wall and mark it.

Make a horizontal line

Since some kitchen floors and walls are uneven, you should draw a straight horizontal line from one end of the wall to the next with a tape measure to a spirit level. This will be your reference point. It’s called a datum line. It’s best to go with a datum line than to wonder whether the kitchen floor is even.

Start laying tiles

Grab a tile and place it on the wall for a few seconds just to mark the area. Then move your tile along the wall, marking the point where it meets the surface. This will give you an idea of how many whole tiles you are going to need and how they are going to be positioned, especially that tile at the end, which usually has to be cut down.

Add more tile adhesive

The next step is to mix the adhesive powder with water into a bucket and stir well until fully combined. Grab the first tile and apply the mixture onto it evenly, then place it on the untiled wall. You’re going to do this for the first row of whole tiles.

After that, you can put a narrow strip of glue directly onto the wall and lay down the next layer of tiles. Be as fast as you can, though, because the adhesive will dry quickly.

Apply grout with a grout float

After you lay tiles and the adhesive dries, you need to apply grout. Once the adhesive sets on, you should also remove the tile spacers (about 30 minutes after application). Don't forget the tile edges.

Clean the tiles and tile joints with a damp sponge

When you complete the task, don't forget to clean the tile surface and the grout lines from excess adhesive. If there is excess grout, get rid of it too. A damp sponge will do the trick.

We hope this has been useful for you. Let us know if you have any questions or if you're looking for someone to build a custom kitchen for your home in Surrey. We also specialize in making bespoke kitchens. We've also written a guide on how to update your kitchen tiles without removing them, if you're not willing to swap them out completely with brand new ones.

FAQ on How to Tile a Kitchen Wall

What materials and tools do I need to tile a wall?

You need the following tools and materials to tile a wall:

  • Damp sponge
  • Tape measure or spirit level
  • Tile file to cut tile to fit
  • Rubber mallet
  • Tile trim
  • Wooden batten
  • Tile spacers
  • Grout float
  • Adhesive
  • Mixing bucket
  • Notched trowel
  • Caulking gun
  • Safety wear for cutting tiles

Where do you start when tiling a wall?

You should start from the middle and work your way outwards.

Is it easy to tile a wall yourself?

It depends on your skills and determination. With the right equipment and knowledge, you will be able to do an effective job. But you should be patient. It’s also essential that you prepare the surface in advance.

Can I tile directly onto a wall?

Before you start tiling, it’s vital to prepare the wall or kitchen floor. This means getting rid of the old tiles or any existing wallpaper, cleaning the wall and smoothening the surface so it’s level.

Do you need to prepare the wall before wall tiling?

Yes, this is a key step to a successful project. This is what ensures that the tiles adhere properly to the wall and serve you in the years to come. It will give the project a professional look too.

How do you prepare a wall for tiling?

The preparation process involves filling gaps, removing old tiles, removing dust and dirt from the wall, and smoothening everything out. This should be done for the adjacent wall as well.

Do you wet the wall before tiling to ensure the tile adhesive sticks better?

No. In fact, it’s important that the untiled wall is dry before you get started.

Do I need to prime before wall tiling?

While it depends on the surface, priming should be a part of the plan since it allows the wall tiles to stick better to the tile adhesive. This makes them more durable and adds a nice finish. However, it may not always be necessary.

Is it harder to tile with large tiles?

While large tiles tend to cover a bigger area, they are more challenging to install.