Tiling a Kitchen
As with all DIY jobs the key to tiling is preparation, preparation, preparation. Rushing into a job like tiling a kitchen will cause all sorts of problems, but if you patiently make sure the ground work is done properly then the job should be pretty simple. This is how I tiled my kitchen, you may want to read a more professional advice articl (on this website) on how to tile your kitchen properly.
Choosing the Kitchen Tiles
To start with you clearly need to decide what tiles you want for your kitchen! I went to many tiles shops and stared blankly at all the show cases. Eventually you just have to bring home some tile samples and try them in your kitchen. I managed to get hold of some boards (4 x4 of tiles) as well as a few spares of some other tiles. Some tile shops wanted a deposit, some tile shops are happy to loan the tiles for free. I'm sure if I visited enough tile shops I'd have enough free tiles for the whole kitchen; it would just look a bit strange that is all!
Once the tiles were chosen the last thing to do before buying them was to work out how many I needed, so out comes the tape measure: The tiles needed to be 0.5m high, and there was about 14 metres of wall to cover. Round that up to 16m for good measure and that makes 8 square meters of tiles, or 1,600 tiles. This page on our website gives some great advice on working out how many tiles to buy and how much they will cost.
Buying all the tiling equipment
Luckily for me I borrowed an electric tile cutting, something that proved to be very valuable as the tiling commenced. Most other things I had to buy:
1,600 tiles (sounds like a lot)2 tubs of tiling adhesive
1 kg of tile grout3m of edging strip
1 tile adhesive spatula1 chisel
1 putty spatula1 spirit level
1 big bag of plastic tile spacers
Knocking the old kitchen tiles off
Now this is the fun part. Take a large hammer and a chisel and just attack the tiles! But boy those tiles were stuck on well! After a fair enough of smacking, banging, crunching, pulling and chiseling all of the tiles were removed from the wall, leaving a kitchen covered in plaster and walls looking as if, well, as if someone had attacked them with a hammer and chisel
Clearing up after taking the old tiles off
At this stage it is tempting to just jump in and start slapping the new tiles on, but you are better off taking the time to clean the kitchen up, get rid of all the dust, and then slap a layer of finishing plaster over the gouges in the wall. I could have just put the new tiles over the top but I reckoned that it would easier to line them up properly and get them all flat if the wall is nice and smooth. It also means that I had time to leave the plaster to dry giving me some rest time after the energetic tile removal procedure.
Working out where the kitchen tiles go
Again, could just jump in and slap the tiles in place, but it is a good idea to think about where your tiles are going to go, see how many will fit on a wall and see where you will need to cut your tiles. Don't forget that it is practically impossible to cut a tile to less than 1cm across, so you may find that once you get an entire wall tiled you have a small sliver left that you cannot fill in with tiles. If you measure up properly to start with you should be able to spot this problem and start the wall with half a tile or similar.
Laying the edging trim
The last step before starting the tiling is to lay the edging trim. I used the tile adhesive to hold it in place and it seemed to work well .I used 180deg edging trim for the areas above the top of the tiles and 90 deg edging trim for areas such as the window sill. Use a spirit level to make sure that the whole thing is level.
Laying the kitchen tiles
Unfortunately the adhesive spatuala that I had bought was very very cheap and just wasn't up to the job of laying tiling adhesive down nicely on the walls. It IS worth paying the extra money to get quality tools. In the end I just applied the adhesive to each tile in turn and stuck it in place. I splodged the tile adhesive onto the tile using a spatula and smoothed it down to around 1/2cm thick. My technique improved at this as I went along and I discovered that it is best to roughen up the tile adhesive which allows a bit more movement once the tile is placed on the wall.
Spacing the tiles
To space the tiles correctly I used the plastic tile spacers that you can buy. These are small plastic cross hairs that are supposed to go flat against the wall in the corner of each tile. However I quickly discovered that they had an irritating habit of falling behind the tile and become completely useless. A far better way to use them is to stick them between the sides of the tiles with two of the cross legs sticking out towards the room. They can then be removed once the tile has set in place. Keep checking that the tiles you have laid are level by using a spirit level. It is very easy, especially on a long plain wall, to slowly drift up or down in your tile laying without noticing it.
Tile meets Kitchen Worktop
To get a good looking join where the tiles meet the kitchen worktop, I found the following technique worked very well.
Space the tiles above the worktop using one width of a plastic tile spacer. Once the tile adhesive has set get a tub of silicon sealant and run a bead of sealant between the tiles and the worktop. This should prevent and water from running down the back of the worktop and causing it to swell. Make sure that the silicon sealant ends up recessed behind the front of the tile. Now take some DRY grout and a paint brush and gently dust the wet silicon sealant with the grouting so that a little sticks to it. Finally leave the whole area to dry and treat as normal for grouting. It looks great and is pretty waterproof!
Cutting Tiles for the Windows and Sockets
Good quick progress can generally be made when tiling a plain wall, but as soon as some tiles need cutting things tend to slow to a crawl. The areas that require the most tile cutting are any window sills and any wall sockets.
For the wall sockets it is best to loosen them off of the wall and then cut the tile so that it fits underneath the socket. DO NOT tighten the wall socket back up until the tile adhesive has firmly dried, otherwise you will tend to squash the tiles in and make the tiling uneven.
For the window sills just carefully measure up the tiles that need cutting and dry to get them cut as cleanly as possible (an electric tile cutter comes in very handy at this point). However don't be overly critical of your tile cutting, you will find that when you come to grouting your tiles the grout is good at hiding a multitude of sins!
Grouting the Kitchen Tiles
Once the tiles have been firmly stuck to the wall and the tile adhesive has dried the fun part starts; grouting.
Mix up the grout in a bucket and stir with a stick, slowly add more and more grout powder until it doesn't quite fall off your stick when you pull it out of the bucket.
Now SLAP the grout on the walls, using a spatula, a sponge, a knife, or your fingers, don't worry too much if it goes everywhere, just try to get some of it in the joins between the tiles. You will probably start off tentatively but soon you'll be throwing it all over the place!
A big spatula is the best implement for covering a large amount of wall space quickly, but nothing beats the fingers for getting the grout into those hard to reach places. It is worth noting that the grout really dries out your hands, so you may want to wear gloves.
Leave the grout to dry
Before leaving the grout to dry it is best to go over the tiles with a damp sponge and remove any excess grout from the tile faces. It will come off the tiles, but big lumps of grout are quite hard to remove once dry. Also a damp sponge is great for smoothing and pushing grout into any spaces that you may have missed. Then leave the grout for around 1 hour to dry
Now vigorously wipe the tiles down with an old cloth or towel, the grout should dust off from the tiles but remain in the spaces between the tiles. If the grout needs tidying up at all in these tile spaces then run a damp finger along it, this should smooth down any lumps and bumps.
Keep wiping and cleaning the tiles until all the grout has been smoothed down. You may have to go back and fill in a few gaps but generally you should be amazed at how much better the tiles look with the grout on.
Clearing up after Tiling
You will now find that the entire kitchen is covered in a light dusting of grout. This stuff clogs hoovers up pretty quicky (well it did to my cheap one) so it is probably best to try to sweep and dust it all up. It took me about 3 days of dusting and wiping to finally get rid of all the tile grout dust.
Finally, stand back and look at how nice your kitchen looks with its new tiles!
Remember - This is how I tiled my kitchen, you may want to read a more professional advice articl (on this website) on how to tile your kitchen properly.
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"A good page, informative and well presented"
"I am looking for a metal fillet to fit between tiles on a worktop. This is hard to describe but it is used instead of grout where the tile space gets particularly hard wear and it prevents the tile edge from chipping. I think they are a pretty old fashioned fitting but very useful and hygienic."
"Why remove the kitchen tiles if solid when new tiles could be placed over them??"
"i luv your hint on the silicone and dusting it with grout "
"It is very important to make sure that you use the correct amount of tiles for the job. Yes, 1600 tiles did seem a lot, about twice too much! When using 4x4 tiles only 100 are needed per m2, thus 800 tiles is all that were needed. :D"
"Thanks very helpful beginners guide to having a go! I've been putting off getting started as I lacked confidence I could make a success of the kitchen tiling. You've inspired me to get started. Wish me luck."
"I would recommend that instead of starting to tile from the top you should tile from the bottom of the wall up wards as there is a possibility that the tiles can slip down wards on the wet adhesive. A trick I learnt many years ago was to nail to the wall, a temporary timber batten (using a spirit level) at the height the lowest row of tiles. The first row of tile can then be rested on the batten with confidence that the tiles will be perfectly level. Once the tiles are set the batten can be removed and the final row of tiles fixed in position."
"Fantastic! Down to earth, easy to follow advice making tiling sound fun & easy - Thank you! I'm looking forward to my tile job now - Roxie xx"
"very helpful, i just needed that little bit of info"
john H U.K
"Really useful but what if the tile end is exposed as you have gone round the back and side of a unit. The edging seal between the tile and worktop has just a cut raw edge. how do I tidy this up?"
"I found your instructions and helpful hints easy to follow and quite 'real' for an amateur. It would be great to have instructions on how to cut tiles where a socket falls in the middle of a tile. I used 300mm x 200mm tiles."
Maryanne, Western Australia
"i found this site both informative and amusing well done it makes even me feel better at taking this job on."
"Great stuff. Just the giude I needed."
"Useful thanks! Much better than the Wickes how to guide!"
"very handy, cheers!"