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12 Top tips to lay tiles perfectly every time


1st Jan 2015 Home & Garden

12 Top tips to lay tiles perfectly every time

This guide contains all the tips you need to start tiling. Including how to prepare surfaces, match the batch, and get your pattern design straight. We've also thrown in a few tiling patterns for inspiration.

The keys to a strong tiling bond

Before preparing to tile these three tips ensure a great bond:

1. Test the paintwork

Stick test strips of adhesive tape onto a painted wall before tiling it. Leave the tape overnight; if the paint pulls away with the tape, you’ll need to strip the wall before tiling. If the paint bond is strong, with no paint coming away with the tape, sand the wall surface with a coarse abrasive paper to provide a good key for the tile adhesive.


2. Plywood is perfect

Use 12mm exterior grade plywood for the walls of a tiled shower cubicle. Mount it on a firm timber framework and seal it with a wood primer. Unlike plasterboard, chipboard and MDF, the plywood won’t distort if it gets wet, and because it is very stable, tiles stuck to it are unlikely to crack.


3. Primed plaster

Tiles can be stuck straight onto bare plaster or plasterboard, but seal the surface with a plaster primer first. This makes it less absorbent so that the adhesive does not dry too quickly.


Preparing to lay tiles

(Click image to enlarge)

How to lay tiles step by step


Visual effect

Large tiles are quicker to lay than small ones. However, they make a small space look even smaller, especially if a lot of cut tiles are required to cope with corners and features.


Tiling over tiles

As long as old tiles are firmly fixed, new ones can be stuck on top of them. This is easier than removing the old tiles, which normally results in damage to the plaster that has to be made good. Wash the old tiles with sugar soap, then use double-sided adhesive pads to fix a starting batten to them.

Arrange the new tiles so that the joints are not directly above those of the old ones. Then if the old grouting cracks, the new grouting won’t.


Make yourself a gauge

Tile gauge

Use a straight batten to make a tiling gauge for positioning the first row of tiles. Draw evenly spaced marks on the batten—each one representing the combined width of a tile and one joint.


Ensuring symmetry

Using a tiling gauge to lay out tiles from the midpoint of a wall ensures equal-size cut tiles in the room corners.

If the wall has a major feature such as a window, tile out from its midpoint, using the gauge to equalise the size of the cut tiles on each side of the window.


Design preview

To envisage what a tiling pattern will look like once it is on the wall, set out the tiles on the floor or a table first. This will give you the opportunity to work out exactly how many of each tile are needed, as well as to make changes to the design.

Take a look at some inspiring patterns below 


Match the batch

Try to buy boxes of tiles with the same batch number to reduce the possibility of colour variation. Then shuffle the tiles to disperse and hide any slight differences in colour. If there is a marked variation, try grading the tiles by shade, so that the differences in colour are ‘lost’ across the wall.


Edging options

The edge of a tiled area can be finished off with a coloured plastic edging trim, tiles with glazed edges (sometimes the box contains a quantity of these), slim border tiles or a hardwood moulding.


Tiling patterns to try out yourself

Harlequin pattern

Harlequin pattern

Pinwheel Pattern

Pinwheel pattern


Saint Simon pattern

Saint Simon Pattern



Charleston pattern

Charleston tiling pattern


Coronado pattern

Coronando pattern


Brunswick pattern

Brunswick pattern


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