One of the simplest and most satisfactory projects for the handy person to tackle is wall tiling. It’s simple when you have the correct instructions.

Surface preparation
Ceramic tiles must be completely dry before tiling. Do not soak when using adhesives.
Modern adhesives can be used on a wide range of surfaces provided the surface is dry, sound and flat. Since the commonly used wallboard is cement sheet it is important to ensure that sheets are fastened securely to a sound framework using screws. Leave a small gap between sheets and refer to the adhesive product label for the recommended surface preparation.

Keeping work level
Start straight and you’ll finish straight. If tiling is to be carried down to floor level, then:

  • Find lowest point on the floor line. Make a mark one tile height from theā€¢ floor or base mouldings.
  • Nail a batten with a true edge on the mark. Check with spirit level to get horizontal. The batten can be continued around the room or a line drawn at this level if other walls are to be tiled, so that the tile joints will meet accurately all around.
  • Set out a row of tiles across the wall and adjust so that equal cuts can be made in the corners.
  • Mark position of each tile on the horizontal batten.
  • Use plumb-line to get a vertical near a corner. Mark line and nail vertical batten to wall. Check the height you want to tile to by marking position of each tile on the vertical batten.

If a full tile is required at the top, lower the horizontal batten to suit. Now, this means when you start tiling you will have whole tiles everywhere on the wall except at the ends.
Never start tiling from an internal corner because most are not square.

Applying adhesive
Make sure you use the right adhesive for the job. Carefully read the instructions on the container. Apply only a small quantity at a time, so that it won’t “skin” or cure before tiles are in place.

  • Using the straight edge of a notched trowel spread a small quantity of adhesive on the wall.
  • Ridge the adhesive evenly with 5mm notched spreader by holding at right angle to surface.
  • Start at the intersection of the battens and tile across and up the wall.

Place dry tiles on the wall slightly out of position and slide sideways into position. Press tiles firmly into the ribs of adhesive ensuring that the whole of the back of the tile is in good contact with the adhesives.
Any excess adhesive on the face of the tiles should be removed with a damp cloth. Dried adhesive film can be removed with warm soapy water and fine steel wool.
Allow a gap of at least the thickness of a match between the tiles that do not have spacer lugs provided.
Check tiling regularly with a spirit level to keep work straight.
If spacers are used, remove before the adhesive sets hard. Continue tiling to required height.

  • Leave for 12 hours then remove the battens, and fill in the floor level row. Trim tiles to fit if necessary.
  • Measure and cut each tile as you fill corners. Place spacer lugs against adjoining tile.
  • Mark tile with a pencil along the line to be cut. Score the glazed side with a tungsten scorer or glass cutter.
  • Place a match, or nail underneath the tile and press down on both sides to make a clean break, or use a special tile cutter.
  • Butter the back of the tile, place cut edge against the wall and press firmly into place.

Allow at least 24 hours for the adhesive to become well set before grouting. Use a compressible grout mixture. Neat cements or other fillers should not be used. Read instructions on grout pack carefully.

  • Work grout well into joints with rubber squeegee. Use pointed stick to get to the bottom of joints. Only small areas should be worked and cleaned off at a time as the grouting sets quickly.
  • Draw a round-ended stick slowly along each joint for the best finish. Polish off excess grout with a dry cloth immediately after grouting.

Decorator Tiles & Quarries
When wall tiling with 20 x 20cm decorator tiles that have uneven backs, or quarry tiles that are ribbed, it is necessary, in addition to notching the adhesive on the wall with a 6mm notched spreader, to butter the back of the tiles to ensure a good bond between tile and wall. Use spacers to allow a gap of at least 5mm so that grout can be worked to the bottom of the joints.