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Bathroom stone tile encyclopedia

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Tiling Basics for Bathrooms

Adding the beauty of tile to your bathroom can be as simple as bordering a window or as extensive as tiling the floor, walls and tub surround.

Basic Bathroom Tiling Projects

1. Window surround: Though it's among the simplest bathroom tiling projects, don't underestimate its impact. You can highlight the window with a contrasting color tile, or you can soften the look with a gentle pastel color. Unless the window is in the bath or shower enclosure, you can use any type of tile you like. In wet areas, use impervious or semi-vitreous tile to resist water.

2. "Chair rail" border: Again, among the easiest projects, a horizontal wall border of tile can delineate between two paint colors, or coordinate or contrast with a solid paint color. Choose your tile based on whether it will get wet, as mentioned above.

3. Floor: Tile is the best choice for a bathroom floor because water won't harm it. It lends a polished look to the room and will resist daily wear and splashing. For this application, choose impervious or semi-vitreous tile to resist water.

4. Walls: Don't think 1950s pink or turquoise 4-inch tiles; today, tiled walls are chic and rich with earth tones. Again, choose tile based on whether the area is prone to moisture.

5. Tub surround: A tiled bath area adds something to the shower experience that the plastic tub surround can never replicate. It's easy to clean and virtually indestructible. Choose a tile specifically manufactured to withstand water.


· Measuring tape
· Level
· Enough tile for the job, plus an additional 15%
· Tile adhesive or mastic
· Tile nippers
· Tile scriber (good) or tile cutter (better)
· Tile spacers if not using self-spacing tile
· Notched trowel for applying mastic
· Grout (premixed or powder)
· Grout float
· Sponges
· Rubber gloves

The Basic Tiling Process

1. Prepare the surface. Remove any wallpaper, lightly sand high-gloss paint and scrape any cracked or flaking paint. Clean thoroughly with any household spray cleaner and allow to dry completely. Turn off the circuit breakers to any electrical outlets on your surface and remove outlet covers and switch plates.

2. Set your guidelines. Stand back and look at the area to be tiled and "eyeball" the visual center. Mark it with a pencil, then using the level, draw a perfectly vertical line a few inches away from your mark. Create a grid by drawing a perfectly horizontal line intersecting the first line. Use the grid you've drawn as a layout guide.

3. Apply the tile. Spread the tile adhesive or mastic over an area the size of about four tiles. It doesn't have to be exact. With the notched trowel held firmly at a 45-degree angle to the surface, drag it through the adhesive to form ridges. With a slight twisting motion, set the first tile into the adhesive on your guideline and press securely. If your tile doesn't have self-spacers - little bumps on the edges that give you a uniform space between tiles - insert tile spacers into the adhesive snugly against the set tile, then continue applying tile out from your starting point. Spread more mastic to small areas as you progress, and take care to wipe off any adhesive on the tile surfaces while it's wet.

4. Use a tile scriber or tile cutter to fit tiles where needed. A scriber is a handheld tool that scores the tile, allowing you to snap it on the edge of a countertop or other straight surface. There's a learning curve to this, so be sure to have extra tiles. A tile cutter is a tabletop tool that holds the tile securely while you drag a cutter across the tile. Some have pressure feet that snap the tile for you. Nippers allow you to cut curves and odd shapes by nibbling away at the tile.

5. Allow the tile to dry. Refer to the package directions for the specific amount of time.

6. Apply grout. After the adhesive is dry, remove the spacers if used. Grout is caustic, so wear rubber gloves when handling it. Mix the grout according to the manufacturer's directions or use premixed grout. Spread the grout across the tiled surface with a float held at a 45-degree angle, making sure you work it into every space. Work at a diagonal to the grout lines for the best coverage, and try to leave the tile surface as clean as you can.

7. Clean up. When the grout is firm to the touch, wipe off the surface with a damp (not wet) sponge and clean up the grout lines with a gloved fingertip. Wipe it all down with a damp sponge again. When the tile dries to a haze, buff vigorously with a clean rag. An old cotton T-shirt is ideal.

8. Seal the grout. Grout sealer comes in convenient aerosol cans; just point and press the tip. The sealer will keep moisture out of your grout and protect the color. Your grout package directions will tell you how long to wait before sealing.

9. Fill the gaps. After all is dry, you can run a thick bead of silicone caulk along the edges of the tiled area if needed, taking care to smooth it with a wet fingertip.

Outlining a window with tile shouldn't take more than a couple of hours; the larger the project, the longer it will take.

Individual Project Tips

· "Chair rail" border: Use a level to draw a perfectly horizontal guideline to keep your tiles straight.

· Floor: First, remove the toilet and cabinetry along with all baseboards. A proper surface is essential for doing a good job. The best thing to do is to lay out sheets of ½-inch cement backer board and screw them into the existing floor, but if you're working on a concrete slab, be sure it hasn't been chemically cured by sprinkling a bit of water on it. If the water beads up, there are chemicals present and the surface isn't suitable for tile adhesive. If the water is absorbed, just patch any cracks and low spots and allow them to dry thoroughly. Tile can be applied to a clean exterior-grade plywood subfloor as well as a previously tiled floor. You can apply the tile adhesive or mastic right over the old tile after it's been cleaned, but consider asking a structural engineer if the weight of another layer of mortal, tile and grout would compromise the supporting floor joists. Try to plan a layout that avoids tile cutting and maximizes the use of whole tiles. When you do have to cut, plan so the cut tiles end up covered by cabinetry or other bathroom furniture and fixtures so they won't be obvious.

· Tub surround: After you remove the existing surround, evaluate the surface behind it. If it's cement board in good condition, install your tile on that. If it's damaged, or if it's white drywall, then remove that and install ½-inch cement backer board or green drywall (sometimes called aquaboard or greenwall), screwing it into the studs.

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