Suitable for many internal and external surfaces, tiles are great looking, durable, low maintenance and affordable home renovation option.
Tiles are timeless in their appeal and the range today is better than ever before, with a dazzling array of sizes and specialty surfaces readily available. If you’re practical and patient, DIY tiling is an art which can be mastered more easily than some – as well as adding value to your home, it’s an opportunity to get creative and add a personal touch to your surroundings.
Your first home tiling project
If you’re new to tiling, check out the helpful DIY tiling information supplied by tile retailers or refer to a how-to book for detailed instructions. Some hardware stores and community centres run beginners’ workshops on tiling techniques. Before you tackle any long term fittings, take on a practice project and tile a picture frame, table top or barbecue bench to test your technical prowess.
Types of tiles
Conventional tiles come in a range of materials and are graded for strength and suitability for different applications. Ceramic tiles are the most common, including porcelain tiles and terracotta tiles. Natural stone tiles such as slate, marble and granite are also used for specific domestic needs, as are glass tiles and cement tiles. When ordering tiles, always buy 10-20 per cent more than your measurements require to allow for breakages, bad cuts and a few spares down the track.
Tools and materials for tiling
Before you start tiling, arm yourself with the right tiling tools and materials. You’ll need a spirit level, straight edge, notched adhesive spreader, grout spreader, plastic spacers (or good old fashioned matches), bucket, sponge, special purpose adhesive and grout, as well as sealants for wet areas. Good tile cutting tools are vital and are available in various styles and price points. For less than $100, a heavy duty manual tile cutter is a great investment and will save you time and energy, accepting tiles up to 300mm. And get yourself a pair of nippers.
Cutting difficult tile shapes
When it comes to cutting tricky curves and even circles, there’s no need to become an expert. Simply measure and mark exactly where you want the cut and take the tiles to a glazier, who will probably charge less than $10 per tile. When cutting tiles to fit around taps, remember to leave a little extra space for a tap spanner so you can change the washer in the future.
Preparing a suitable tiling surface
A suitable base is essential – it must be flat, dry, rigid and free from dust; some surfaces require over-laying with fibre cement sheets. Showers and wet areas will need waterproofing before tiling can begin.
Choose your grout colour carefully, keeping in mind that white is best avoided on high use areas as it is difficult to keep clean. Neutral colours are the most popular, but you can also get a range of coloured grouts for dramatic effect. Be aware that oxides in dark coloured grout can leach into porous tiles over time, so are best used only with high fired, low porosity tiles.
When it comes to borders and decorative features, you can really go to town with tiles. The tile store is a veritable lolly shop of colourful, diverse tiles and mosaics. Used sparingly, these specialist tiles can really make a renovation sing. Consider a row of glass mosaics, discs or tumbled river stones. Think about texture as well as colour and size when making your selection. Use contrasting tiles for effect; punctuate an expanse of natural matte tiles with a high gloss border in a bold colour. And of course there is the opportunity to include heirloom tiles, handmade tiles from local artists and the odd feature tile from your travels.
Look beyond conventional tiles for inspiration. For something different, source quartz or flat pebbles from a landscaping materials supplier and create your own unique tile feature. Before use, clean this material thoroughly in a mild solution of water and bleach.
Try mixing different types of tiles and ask your local retailer about end-of-run lots and leftovers. When you mix and match, however, remember to combine tiles of the same thickness for an even finish.
Think creatively when planning border tiles – a simple border tile could run vertically instead of horizontally and sit at unexpected heights or in a series of two or three rows. Break up vast floors and walls with tiny bold mosaics or glass features in central points. Tackle a tiled mirror surround and use the base as a blank canvas for your creativity. The garden is a great place to experiment with tiling – tile treatment can turn boring concrete pavers into outdoor assets.
If DIY tiling does not appeal to you, make sure you are very specific when briefing a professional tiler. And if your heart is set on a decorative border, don’t be talked out of it because of the extra labour cost – it’s good to love the tiles you live with!