Tiling a Kitchen

How to tile your kitchen walls

You might rather choose to get a professional to do your tiling. We will go through all the steps of doing it yourself and then you will have an idea of what to expect from the contractor. Take all the measurements on the surface to be tiled and decide how tiles should be ended off. Explain exactly what you want to be done.

Preparation for tiling

Preparation before tiling is as important as the method of tiling. If the walls are dusty or flaky they must be brushed off thoroughly and a priming agent applied to seal the surface. There are different priming agents available depending on what you want to do. Ask your supplier what the best primer is for what you want to do. Explain which type of tile you want to use and the type of surface to be tiled.

If a wall is tiled already the tiles should be removed, but sometimes they are really there for life. In this case it would be better to tile over them - after you thoroughly degreased them. There is a special adhesive that you'll need in this case.

If you have a fixture that can be removed, rather remove it temporarily and tile under it and refit it afterwards, instead of tiling around the fixture. It will look much better that way. Protect the worktop surfaces by covering it with paper or plastic.

Make sure you have enough tiles to cover the whole area, with 15% extra to cover for mistakes. Check if all the tiles are the exact same size. Also check for colour consistency between boxes. Have all your tools at hand before you start. You should have the following:

Determine the centre of the area to be tiled. Draw a level horizontal line with a pencil and then a vertical line perfectly in the middle. If the worktop is level, you can measure one or two tile heights - with their spaces included - from below and draw a horizontal line from corner to corner, one spacer width above the top of the tile and then work from there. A laser level will come in very handy here.

Check to see what the spacing will be between the last tile and the corner. If too big for grouting and too small for a cut tile, you could adjust the spacing between the tiles. If that won't work out nicely then offset the tiles so that those on the sides will end up with their centre point in the corners, instead of the edge of the tiles ending there.

How to tile your wall

The spreading trowel should ideally have 6mm notches for smaller tiles and bigger notches for the bigger ones. Spread the adhesive over a 4-tile area at a time, but keep the pencil lines visible until at least four tiles are in place and fit perfectly. Hold the trowel at a 45-degree angle while spreading the adhesive and leave just enough so that no adhesive gets squeezed out at the joints when the tile is pressed into place. You will need a board or any other support to keep the first tiles from sliding down. Keep tiles with damaged or defective parts aside. The good parts can be used where tiles have to be cut.

It's easier to work in rows than in columns. Apply firm, evenly spread pressure on the tiles, twisting them slightly before finally aligning them. Spacers should stand out rather than lie in the joint, so they can be removed easily afterwards. Keep the joints free from tile adhesive. Remove the cover from an electrical point - after you first turned of the mains electrical supply. Fit the tiles behind it, allowing space for the screws. Replace only after the adhesive has set properly and make sure that the wiring is still secure.

Manual tile cutters can be difficult to master initially. Wet electric tile cutters are easier to work with, but remember to wear protective goggles, ear protection and dust masks. Wait about 20 minutes before wiping off excess adhesive or mastic.

After 24 hours, apply the grout. Use a squeegee or rubber grouting float and spread the grout diagonally over the tiles and press it into the joints. Wipe off all excess grout with the float and gently clean with a damp sponge afterwards when slightly stiff to the touch, but rinse the sponge regularly. When the grout is dry and stiff, thoroughly clean the tiles with a cotton cloth. Apply caulking to the spaces between tiles and corners after thoroughly cleaning them also.


"The how to tile guide is great! The only thing that is understated and not covered in real detail is the painfull process of removing old tiles and THE RIDGES OF OLD TILE ADHESIVE that spoil the flat surface if left in place and tiled over. Knocking off old tiles is often pretty quick and easy. chiseling or grinding off the old tile adhesive is often a long and unpleasant job but must be done, along with finally making good and re-plastering any damage to the wall and thoroughly priming/stabilising the surfaces before applying the new tiles. "

Derek W. London UK