- Frequently asked questions
- Fixing ceramic wall tiles
- Fixing man-made tiles onto concrete floors
- Fixing man-made tiles onto timber floors
Frequently asked questions
How many tiles do I order?
We would normally recommend ordering around 5-10% extra for smaller tiles, a little more for larger tiles. This allows for cutting wastage and breakages. It is wise to keep a few spares anyway.
Why do tile prices vary so much when I look around?
Prices vary hugely dependent on what the tiles are made of, their quality, how they are made and their country of origin. The better factories have their own laboratories to test and create effects and glazes. They tend to invest heavily in new machinery to produce these effects which of course is reflected in the finished price. Tiles can sometimes be hand made or hand painted. Quality control and transportation costs can also be a factor.
Do I get the adhesive & grout or let the tiler sort it out?
We know what tiles you are having, have the right products in stock & take into account any particularly quirky things about the tiles in question. We can always do you a better deal if the materials are involved - we have more to play with. We always supply the correct materials and they are not expensive; for example the adhesive & grout for kitchen walls is not normally more than £20 to £25. Our aim is to supply the right products for your particular project.
How do I know how many tiles I need?
Don't worry, bring in your measurements in either cm/metres or feet/inches and we will work out what you need. For bathrooms just the floor width x length and ceiling height is often all we need.
What happens if I have any tiles left over?
Special order tiles can not be returned, however stock tiles can be returned with the receipt within 14 days of purchase. It's always a good idea to keep a few spares should you have any alterations in the future (new plug socket, different shower, new windows fitted etc).
Can you arrange a tiler to fit my tiles?
Yes, we have several experienced tilers whom we can arrange to tile for you, they do not work for us but come highly recommended. They know our tiles and materials and so you have continuity. See our Need a tiler page for more details.
What about shade variation?
Most tiles do vary in shade and in size in some cases. The process's used to make tiles use large amounts of heat and pressure, which causes variations but nothing major.
What kind of adhesive and grout do I need?
We can advise on this when you come into the shop. We keep a wide variety in stock depending what type of tiles you buy and what the substrate is. We can of course only supply the correct materials based on the information you give to us. All adhesives, grouts, primers, trims, chemicals are in stock at all times.
What about if I can't find the tiles I am looking for?
Feel free to ask. We can usually source most things given a little time.
How long does it take after I order my tiles before I can collect them?
Usually no more than a week unless they are being made or painted for you.
We check your tiles before you collect them but please check them yourself prior to tiling. Do not install without checking your order. We can always sort out problems before they are laid but afterwards is very difficult.
Most wall tiles are ceramic and are assumed to be suitable for fixing onto plastered walls or plasterboard. If fixing floor tiles onto the wall make sure the walls are solid and suitable to take the extra weight involved, unless we are told otherwise we will assume your walls are solid. Unplastered plasterboard will take 50% more weight than plaster - once primed or "tanked" it is superb to tile onto.
Remove old tiles, loose plaster and any emulsion paint and wall paper. If you have trouble removing emulsion paint then score the area to be tiled with a screwdriver to give a key. If the walls are very uneven it might be worth considering having them skimmed with plaster or overboarded to get a nice finish prior to tiling. Plaster & plaster board will usually require priming first with an acrylic primer diluted 1:3 or 1:4 with clean water, PVA is not suitable and should not be used. If tiling onto existing tiles make sure they are solid, clean and dry, then prime using a primer, specifically formulated as a tile on tile primer or make up a slurry coat of neat standard primer and adhesive powder. If tiling with glass tiles it is always recommended that you use a White or light coloured polymer modified adhesive. Some of our wall tile adhesives are self priming, please ask.
Before starting to tile, use 2 tiles to "hand them across the wall" to see where they will fall for cuts and position of window sills and any obstructions. You are looking to make sure that for whatever starting point left to right you do not end up with very slim cuts to make. Decide on the best start point and mark the wall, do the same for the vertical start point. Starting off the bath if level is ideal but not always necessarily best. If possible centre the window from left to right. Think where borders or vertical strips will need to be.
Although most adhesives grip tiles well it can help to nail a wooden batten to the wall and tile up from that. Tile the walls spreading the adhesive on the wall with a notched trowel, spacing the tiles with the appropriate sized spacers. Some modern tiles look better with a tighter joint. Some need a wide joint especially if you have to accommodate the variation in size some tiles have from tile to tile. Large tiles can bow - bear this in mind if you intend brick-bonding the tiling.If fixing tiles that are larger than 50x25cm it is always advisable to use a cement based adhesive (powdered) rather than a ready mixed bucketed adhesive. We keep a wide range of tiling tools and tile drills for drilling holes for pipes etc in all tiles including hard porcelain.
Work cleanly, cleaning off excess adhesive and keeping the joints between tiles free of adhesive as you go. Most wall tiles will cut with a hand operated bar cutter but electric water cooled cutters can be hired at a daily rate. When all walls are tiled and dry mix the grout to a thick consistency (slightly thicker than sand & cement mortar) and grout using a squeegee or grout float, pushing the grout into the joints. When you have grouted several square metres clean off grout from the tiles face before it dries and using a sponge smooth the grout evenly along the joints. In room temperatures grout should not be left more than half an hour before cleaning off otherwise the grout will be difficult to remove. In cold rooms the time may be extended. Keep cleaning off the grout with a well wrung out sponge using clean water until only a slight powder residue is left on the tile faces. Once dry you can polish the face of the tiles clean using a soft cloth. If grouting with metal tiles or delicate materials be careful not to scratch the tiles with the grout.
Most man-made floor tiles we sell are now made of porcelain so for this guide we will assume the tiles are porcelain, if they are ceramic it will not make any difference for the purpose of this guide.
Concrete floors need to be swept clean first and any loose concrete removed. If there are high patches these will need chopping down to the same level as the rest of the floor using a hammer and bolster chisel, any holes or large low points can be filled with the adhesive the day before, providing the holes are not more than 2" deep and not too wide. If the holes are large or deep, fill them with a mixture of sand and cement. We supply fibre reinforced self levelling compound that will level from 3-50mm. If the floor to be tiled is freshly laid concrete the general rule of thumb is to allow at least a week per inch depth of concrete laid; if your floor is 4" thick then allow at least 4 weeks for it to dry before tiling. Prime the concrete with primer diluted 1:3 with clean water - do not use PVA.
Existing tiled floors need to be swept clean of loose dust, mopped clean and allowed to dry. These then require priming with a specifically formulated primer which is designed to be used neat and painted or rollered over the existing tiles and allowed to dry. In some circumstances it is advisable to prime the floor with neat primer mixed with adhesive powder to make a slurry coat (2 parts adhesive + 1 part neat primer) and paint/float this on first and allow to dry. Any loose tiles will need taking up and the hole left behind filled with adhesive the day before fixing.
Before mixing up any adhesive always loose lay a large area of tiles to familiarise yourself with the tiles, the grout joint width and the pattern you are laying them in. Shaded tiles are best mixed as you lay them out to give a good blend across the floor. Make sure that your tiles fit across the room nicely without very tiny cuts at one side and perpendicular to the main walls or walkway into the room. Many tiles vary in size between each other so it is normal to have to use a larger grout joint or "wangle" the joints to make the floor look right. If you find any problems with the tiles contact us straight away before attempting to lay any tiles. Once the tiles are fixed down it is impossible to exchange any that you may be unhappy with. We recommend you check the tiles as soon as you get them home, preferably several days before the day you intend to tile.
Use a good quality polymer modified floor adhesive, sometimes referred to as a single part flexible adhesive, with 2 good clean buckets the relevant notched trowel and a sponge to clean excess adhesive off the tile faces. Mix the adhesive with water as per the manufacturers instructions, spread an area of about a square metre at a time onto the floor with the trowel leaving a "combed bed" of adhesive over the entire area where the tiles are to be fixed. Place the tiles down and apply firm pressure to them to ensure that they are correctly bedded into the adhesive. It is important to strive for 100% coverageof adhesive under the tiles so as to not leave voids where there is no support. Continue to lay the tiles and space them accordingly. Tilers will often do the cuts before mixing the adhesive at the "loose lay" stage so they can continue laying the tiles uninterrupted, some people prefer to cut the tiles as they go along. Clean with fresh water and a sponge the tile surface as you go along, make sure the grout joints do not have adhesive in them near to the surface of the joint otherwise the adhesive can show through the grout once finished. Work as cleanly as you can keeping your tools clean too. Once the tiles have set(usually after around 3 hours) the floor can accept light foot traffic. The next day they will be set firm.
Most man-made floor tiles are now made of porcelain so for this guide we will assume the tiles are porcelain, if they are ceramic it will not make any difference for the purpose of this guide. Whatever way you achieve it the best floor is a solid & rigid floor when tiling. We prefer to make floors as stiff as possible then use a flexible adhesive & grout as well.
Tongue & grooved floorboards or chipboard floor panels/boards - Preparation:
The timber floor needs to be swept clean first and any loose pieces removed. The floor should then be screwed down firmly using brass screws, any really bad boards need to be replaced and noggins put between joists to provide extra strengthening if required. The idea is to make the floor rigid and provide a smooth surface in preparation to tile.
Exterior grade (or marine) plywood - 18mm thick was always used for many years but it is cumbersome and the major problem with plywood is being too thick and handling it in big sheet form. If you use plywood it needs to have the edges primed first and then laid onto the timber floor and screwed down every 6-12" using brass screws. Then once fixed prime prior to tiling with a single part flexible adhesive & grout.
An excellent alternative to exterior plywood is cement based backer boards. These boards are rigid, waterproof and at only 6mm thick are ideal when you do not want to raise the floor level too much. They are convenient as they come in a more manageable size: 1250x800mm and as mentioned, just 6mm thick. These are quickly laid using floor tile adhesive, joints taped and then screwed down. These should be laid at right angles to the way the existing boards go and staggered in a brickbond fashion for extra strength. Any tiny gaps should be filled using the adhesive. Floors are very strong and rigid once these boards are laid. Once laid these are primed with a suitable primer and then tiled using a polymer modified cement based floor tile adhesive and with an additive in with the grout or the flexible grout we stock. These boards are always in stock and not expensive. Typically screws used should be just 25mm long so as not to go into any pipes under your floor boards. Spax 4x25 screws area ideal, available from many hardware stores.
Once your floor is primed and ready loose lay an area of tiles to familiarise yourself with the tiles, the grout joint width and the pattern you are laying them in. Tiles do vary in size and sometimes you need to be prepared to adjust the grout widths to accomodate this - this is normal. Very large tiles can slightly bow. Shaded tiles are best mixed to give a good blend across the floor. Make sure that your tiles fit across the room nicely without very tiny cuts at one side and perpendicular to the main walls or walkway into the room.
If you do find any problems with the tiles contact us straight away before attempting to lay any tiles - another good reason for loose laying first. Once the tiles are fixed down it is impossible to exchange any that you may be unhappy with. We recommend you check the tiles as soon as you get them home, preferably several days before the day you intend to tile.
Use a good quality polymer modified floor adhesive, sometimes referred to as a single part flexible adhesive. A grout admixture will also be required to add a little flexibility to the grout if standard grouts are used. You will need 2 or 3 good clean buckets, the relevant notched trowel and a sponge to clean excess adhesive off the tile faces. Wear rubber gloves as cement based products are not kind to your skin. Mix the adhesive as per the manufacturers instructions - not too much at a time, spread an area of about a square metre at a time onto the floor with the trowel leaving a "combed bed" of adhesive over the entire area where the tiles are to be fixed. Place the tiles down and apply firm pressure to them to ensure that they are correctly bedded into the adhesive. It is important to strive for 100% coverage of adhesive under the tiles so as to not leave voids where there is no support. Continue to lay the tiles and space them accordingly. Wipe tiles and joints clean as you go along with clean water.
Tilers will often do the cuts before mixing the adhesive at the "loose lay" stage so they can continue laying the tiles uninterrupted, some people prefer to cut the tiles as they go along. Clean with fresh water and a sponge the tile surface as you go along, make sure the grout joints do not have adhesive in them near to the surface of the joint otherwise the adhesive can show through the grout once finished. Work as cleanly as you can keeping your tools clean too. Once the tiles have set (usually after 3-4 hours) the floor can accept light foot traffic.
Once dry grout with a cement based floor tile grout with a flexible additive added. Mix with water/additive to a thick consistency, the grout needs to be mixed thicker than a morta mix that you would use for bricklaying. Excessive water can encourage efflorescence in grout. Using a grout float or squeegee force the grout into the joints taking care to smooth off excess grout. When the joints start to dry (usually after 20 mins or so) clean the tile surface and smooth the tops of the joints with a damp sponge leaving the grout slightly lower than the tiles surface. Don't leave it too long as once the grout starts to harden it takes a lot of effort to clean off the face of the tiles. Rinse the sponge continuously as you go with fresh water. When cleaning do not introduce too much water into the grout - use a well wrung out sponge. Once dry polish the face of the tiles clean using a soft cloth. Grout is very difficult to remove once set hard so take the time to clean well while it is still easy to do. Don't empty the grout down the drain as grout will set even under water.
Efflorescence in grout:
Efflorescence is something that can sometimes oocur in most cement or cement based products. You may have seen it but not realised what it is? On newly built houses for example you can sometimes see White crystals on the brickwork near the mortar joints - that is effloresence. It occurs in grout and can make grout joints appear patchy - light and darker areas. It will go eventually but it can be annoying until it does. It is not the fault of the grout, it is often caused by tiling onto areas that have not fully dried out yet (the moisture dries from the back to the front and "wicks" the salts to the surface) or when tilers have used their grout too wet or introduced too much water during the cleaning off stage. On some occasions it can be difficult to say what caused it. It will go but if you want to speed it up there are things you can do. There are efflorescence removers (we sell them) or more unconventional methods can be used such as putting linseed oil on the joints to hide it.
Polished porcelain usually requires sealing, marble and natural stones require sealing before and after grouting as do Victorian floor tiles. Glass requires polymer modified White adhesive and a suitable grout. Porcelain requires polymer modified cement based adhesive & grout too. Most wall & floor tiles now (certainly over 50x20cm) require cement based adhesives - not ready mixed buckets, all areas to be tiled require priming first.
Anhydrite or gypsum based screeds will need to be totally dry, 1 day per mm up to 50mm thickness then typically 2 days per mm after the first 50mm / 50 days is adviseable as a guide for drying time but still test for moisture content prior to tiling - Do not try and tile until dry. This screed needs any surface latency to be removed and all dust vacuumed up and then isolated with a specific primer prior to tiling - phone us for instructions.
Please note this is meant as a guide only, if you are in doubt of your ability please phone for more advice or alternatively get a professional tiler in to do the work for you. Floors need to be as rigid as possible before you commence tiling to ensure the tiles are fitted properly and that your grout remains intact. Any shortcuts made in the preparation may result in problems later.