Many of you have sent messages asking questions about our tile process. If you are planning on tiling something (kitchen backsplash, bathroom floor, bathroom shower), here is your step-by-step tutorial on how to lay tile. Every time we do another project, there is a new tool or creation that saves us a step (or 5 steps). Hopefully, our experimentations can help save you a headache and maybe even a little money. So, here is our advice on how to lay tile. This job is doable, but very trying. Be prepared for some serious frustration. Also, if you are a female simply accept that your hands are going to look rough for the next week. Exhibit A after scrubbing with soap and water:
1. If you are doing a floor or kitchen backsplash you will skip this step. However, if you are building a shower you will need to frame out the shower (with regular 2×4’s).
2. In order to guarantee that your tile will hold and your grout will not crack, you absolutely (without a shadow of a doubt, 100%, do not skip this step) must install a backer board. Do NOT try to use good ol’ drywall – it won’t work! We use Hardi Backer Board and it comes in a variety of thickness. On the floors we use the thinnest version, while on the walls we use something thicker (so it matches the drywall).
3. You will then screw all the backer board in. Lots and lots and LOTS of screws. You do not want this board to move…like ever. Use the specific Backer-On screws.
4. You will then use this tape on every corner, seam and edge. You can find it in the tile section at any home improvement store. It looks and feels like little chicken wire tape. The tape isn’t super sticky. Don’t worry, just do your best and get it placed on every required area. Trent claims this tape has an actual name…I always refer to it as chicken wire tape. Because we all know what I mean.
5. For the next step you will use the same mortar that you will eventually use to lay the tile. Mix a little up and apply this to every screw and all the chicken wire tape. Make it fairly smooth (doesn’t need to be perfect) and move quickly. This stuff dries in the blink of an eye.
6. For the next step we have found a new-ish product that takes the place of 3 steps (3 very long steps). We have LOVED using Hydro-Ban and would recommend it to anyone. In theory, you only need to use this product anywhere that water might be. However, since this step is so fast we apply it everywhere tile is going. We apply it to the shower floor, walls, benches, bathroom floors, everything. You will want to apply this thick and make sure to leave zero holes or missing areas. I usually do the corners and tight spots with a brush (use an old one, because it will be trashed when you are finished) and Trent uses a roller for the walls and floors.
7. Finally, you are ready to actually start laying the tile out. We have done this a hundred different ways and you will need to find what works for you. But once you are ready to actually install the tile, mix more mortar (a lot of mortar, this time), smooth it on to your surface (using a trowel) and place your tile.
8. As you move from one tile to the next, you will place a couple of spacers to make certain that you have the same space for each tile. Buy the TAVY spacers ($5/100)! They are so simple to use.
9. Select the grout color you like. Remember that grout is almost always lighter in real life than on those silly photos at the hardware store. If you are wanting a dark gray…pick black. It will turn out dark gray. We always get sanded grout and we always buy the powder to mix ourselves. The pre-mixed stuff is super expensive (and dries out too quickly). Save yourself tons of money and buy the powder. Add water very slowly and get it to the consistency of applesauce or a super thick milkshake.
10. Mix the grout and start pushing it into the cracks between your tile. As soon as you push it in, you MUST wipe up the excess. And quickly. We keep 2-3 big buckets of water and several sponges for this job. We also work on a 2 foot square at a time. If you do not get the excess grout cleaned up immediately, it will leave a residue. The residue will never come off. Never ever. I cannot stress enough the importance of cleaning it quickly and thoroughly. As a Realtor, I have seen many DIY jobs where someone didn’t get the grout cleaned soon enough and it is bad news! For whatever reason, this is Trent’s least favorite part and my most favorite part. It’s immediate gratification people! DIY projects don’t get any better than that!
11. 24-48 hours later, the grout is dry (you can walk on it, but we try to be very gentle for 3-5 days). Even though you cleaned all the excess grout up, there will be a haze. It’s called “grout haze.” Do not start crying! This is normal. We have tried many different ways to clean the grout haze – we have even bought the gimmicky items that claim to clean it in “one swipe.” Save your money. Get a bucket of clean water and a clean sponge. Wipe the entire surface, gently and with little effort. Walk away for 20 minutes and return. The grout haze will be back. Re-wipe the entire surface gently. Walk aways for 20 minutes and return. The grout haze will be back. Repeat. I promise the haze gets lighter with each wipe, but by the third or fourth wipe you are going to want to quit. Don’t. Also, don’t try to clean it better to save wipes…it won’t happen. Patience young grasshopper. It should take about 5-6 times of going through the process for the grout haze to be totally gone.
12. Buy a grout sealer and spray it on. There are liquid forms of this, but we have always just grabbed one of the spray cans and it works great. Let it dry for another 24 hours.
13. The final step is the best step: step back and admire your work!
While tile is a lot of labor (you should be very prepared), it is one of those jobs that is definitely doable and will save you thousands of dollars by doing the labor yourself. We actually tile all of our showers because it’s even cheaper than buying a fiberglass insert! Plus, I think we can all agree that it looks a thousand times better than fiberglass.
Warning: once you have done this job yourself, you WILL become a tile snob. You will judge every single home you walk into that has tile. You will either think “wow! Someone did an amazing tile job here!” or you will think “wow! Mine looks so much better!”