How to Tile a Wall

Before you start

Make sure you are fully prepared before you start your tiling. If you haven’t already, we recommend you read our  Tile Preparation guide.

Setting out the tiles

To help you mark out the position of your tiles and the size of any tiles you’ll need to cut, make a guide rod(s) from a wooden batten. Put the batten on the floor and lay a row of tiles alongside it, with spacers between each tile. Mark the position of each tile on your batten. If your tiles are not square (e.g. 25cm x 40cm) you will need to use a second batten and repeat the process for the second length. We recommend that you mark the horizontal and the vertical, depending on how you want to display the tiles.

Mark the wall where you want the bottom row of complete tiles to start and use the first rod vertically to check the number of rows of tiles you’ll be laying and how much space will be left at the ceiling. If necessary, move the bottom line up or down slightly, so that you have at least half a tile on the top and bottom rows. Nail the guide rod horizontally where the first row of complete tiles will start and use a spirit level to ensure that it is level. (Don’t hammer the nails in too far, as you will need to remove them later).

Use the other rod horizontally to check the number of columns of tiles you’ll need and how much space will be left at the edges. Check that there is at least half a tile’s width on either side, and adjust the positions slightly if necessary. Nail the guide rod vertically at one side of the wall where the first complete tile will start from the edge of the wall. Use a spirit level or plumb line to check the tiles are in line vertically.

You should now have a right angle created by the two guide rods and this is where you will start tiling from.

If the wall has a window in it, you will need to take this into account when marking the wall, to avoid having an awkward cut around the window.

Adhesive

You are now ready to start with the adhesive. Make sure you follow the manufacturer’s instructions for best application. Here are our tips:

  • Spread an even layer of adhesive onto the wall with a spreader or trowel, starting at the guide rods.
  • Use horizontal strokes holding the blade at an angle of about 45 degrees. This will produce ridges that will ensure there is an equal amount of adhesive under each tile.
  • Only spread about one square metre at a time, so that the adhesive doesn’t start to set before you have had time to lay the tiles.

Laying your tiles

It is important to lay the first tile correctly as its position will determine the position of all the other tiles. Remember to use spacers between each tile to regulate the space between them, so that you produce a uniform grout line. Position the first tile using a twisting/sliding motion to ensure full contact between the adhesive and the tile. To check you have used enough adhesive, temporarily remove the tile and check there is a good coverage of adhesive on the back of it, before replacing it. Then place a second tile alongside the first one, with a spacer between them. If any adhesive squeezes out, wipe it off with a sponge.

Continue across the row and then work upwards, one row at a time. Every few rows use the spirit level to check the vertical and horizontal lines. Continue spreading further sections of adhesive, one square metre at a time until all the complete tiles are laid. Wipe away any excess adhesive and leave the tiles to set for approximately 24 hours. You can then remove the spacers and guide rods and start to lay the part tiles around the edges.

Cutting tiles

Make sure you have the correct cutting tools and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Always use safety goggles when cutting tiles. For complicated shapes it helps if you make a cardboard template first (remembering to allow for the grout line) before transferring the design onto the tile and cutting it.

When laying cut tiles it is easier to apply the adhesive direct to the tile, rather than to the wall. Place each cut tile in position until your tile area is complete. A neat finish can be achieved using a tile trim, of which there are various types and sizes available.

If you need to tile around corners or a bath, be sure to check out our How to tile around a corner and How to tile around a bath guides!

Grouting

Allow 24 hours for the adhesive to harden before you start grouting, unless you are using a rapid set adhesive, in which case it should be hard enough after 2-3 hours. Read the manufacturer’s instructions for your particular grout and mix as directed.

Having removed the spacers, use a grout float to spread the grout making long, upward diagonal strokes and working into all the joints, making sure they are all well filled. Remove any excess grout immediately.

Every 2-3 square metres, wipe over the tiles with a damp sponge. Don’t allow any excess grout to harden, otherwise it will be very difficult to remove. Compress the grout by running a thin blunt object along each joint, which will help to seal it and give a professional finish.

Leave the grout to dry and then polish with a dry cloth.