Tips for Top Notch Tile
Also, a paste-like consistency enables you to ‘back-butter’ a tile. Back-buttering is adding thinset to the back of the tile and the floor to elevate a tile that is setting too low compared its neighbors.
Kneepads. They’re ugly, mostly uncomfortable and hot. They’re also 312 percent better than kneeling on the floor all day.
Drill. With a 0-450 rpm in low gear, my cordless drill turns at just about the right speed to mix the mud without whipping it up.
Trowels. There is zero ‘mud’ jobs I do—tile, hydraulic cement, drywall repair—where I do not use my margin trowel. This $9 tool is gold for mixing small batches of material, scooping it from the bucket and spreading it around the floor.
I also used a 3/8-by-3/8-in. notched trowel and learned on this job that it doesn’t take much for these trowels to wear down. My old notched trowel was worthless, so I had to upgrade from 1/4-in. and saw a huge difference between new and old. Large format tiles like a large format trowel.
Before combing out the thinset, I also use a flat-edged trowel to screed a layer over the floor. For plank tiles, comb the thinset perpendicular to the tile length.
Saw. A quality wet-cutting tile saw is the only game in town. There’s no such thing as one that doesn’t spray water, so set it up where it can get wet and you can clean it up without wrecking things. My DeWalt saw is great at containing overspray, but be ready for water no matter what.
In a large project like this I enlisted some ingenuity to make life easier.
Things on wheels move easier.
I built carts—my wife calls them carpenter’s carts—and rolled supplies whenever possible. I mainly used mine for mixing thinset. My water and tools stayed in the same place. Yet, as I moved, all it took was a nudge to wheel everything with me. Saved me hours.
Bridge. To literally keep from tiling myself into a corner, I make a bridge. On one end there’s a carpenter’s cart (I lock the casters, of course). On the other there’s a bag of thinset. Then, when I run out of room, I simply end the day and walk across my bridge out of the room. I finish the final tiles the following day.