Tips for Top Notch Tile
The key is getting the right viscosity: A little more viscous than water—but not much. It needs to be fluid enough to flow so gravity can draw it into a low spot. Strike off edges with a flat trowel.
Tile doesn’t move, but the things around it do.
Even huge things, like this basement floor will expand and contract with temperature shifts. Walls and counters move too. As the best insurance policy against tile cracking from this movement, use a waterproof crack isolation membrane.
I used a product called Red Gard, which is kind of like using rosin paper under a wood floor.
It works as a ‘bond-break’. If the slab moves, the membrane flexes under the tile. It’s also waterproof and helps keep moisture and humidity from groundwater in check. The membrane is ideal for bathroom and wet service renovations too.
The product was preposterously easy to apply. Roll on with a paint roller and let dry.
Here is the last thing you want on your finished tile job: A lily-livered sliver-cut on your last row. It’s one of those things that doesn’t sound important, until you see it. Then, you can’t un-see it.
With a few exceptions, the first row of tiles should be the same width as the last row—no matter what the size of the room is.
The bigger the room, the harder this is. And the more criteria there are, like notches around room features. The staircase in this reno is one such example. I chose to avoid the risk of sliver cuts (or worse, tapered sliver cuts) at the stairs in this room because it is the most frequently traveled and seen part of the space.
To avoid the small tiles I used DeWalt’s uber visible green laser to cast a line. It was ridiculously fast to set it up where I wanted my first course of tile. I then measured the rest of the room.
I divided the room measurement by the size of the tiles (plus grout joints) to determine how many would fit per row. If only a sliver would fit at the end, I knew to lay the first row with partial tiles to allow room for larger tiles at the end. I made small adjustments to the layout until satisfied, then snapped my final layout line in chalk.
Mix it Up
Thinset mortar should be mixed to a peanut butter consistency. When you comb it with a notched trowel, it should flow but still stand up. The reason is the tile is pressed into the standing seam of the thinset. As the mud squishes behind the tile, that’s what adheres the tile to the floor. If you mix it too watery, you risk having to replace a tile in a finished job.