How To Tile a Wall
Nov 22, 2022
How To Tile a Wall
Tiling a wall may be thought of as a job left to the professionals, and it's indeed a difficult job. However, with our advice, you can be prepared for the challenge and cut costs while not compromising on quality.
What do I need to tile a wall?
In order to get it right, there is a fair amount of preparation to do. You'll need the proper equipment. Not to worry though - from cleaning products, tiling tools, grouting, and sealant, we'll advise you on everything necessary for success.
First and foremost, you have to choose the right tiles. Need some help? Our guide on tile suitability tells you which material is best for which room.
There's a lot of equipment needed to ensure you get the best finish on your tiling as well as stay safe and clean. Check off everything on this list before you get started:
- Installation materials
- Surface cleaner or degreaser (such as sugar soap)
- Wall filler
- Tile adhesive
- Tile sealant
- Tape measure
- Grout float
- Tile cutter
- Claw hammer
- Spirit level
- Tile spacers
- Dusk mask
- Dust sheet
1. Measure your walls
If you're tiling the walls yourself, you'll need to make sure that you’ve gotten all the right measurements. The basic measurement required is the length of the wall times by the height – this will give you the metres2 needed.
Remember your tiles will likely not fit perfectly into the room due to tile size or room layout. The industry standard is to recommend 10% wastage, which means you should order 10% more than the measurements call for. This will account for breakage and tiles that need to be cut. However, if you have an awkward layout or are tiling small spaces like a shower alcove, you may need to account for more.
2. Prepare the wall for tiling
One of the most important steps is preparing the wall before you start tiling. The surface has to be even, level, and completely clean to ensure the tiles are as secure as possible.
Firstly, remove existing tiles or wallpaper, then check for holes, cracks, and bumps in the wall surface. If the wall is uneven, your tiles won't lay flat and therefore, won't be secure. An even wall will also throw off the lines of your tiles, making them appear wonky, rather than a sleek, professional appearance.
Next, you need to prime the walls. This is especially important in bathrooms as improper priming will mean that condensation can build up behind your tiles and allow mould to grow there. You should clean the walls with a degreaser, like our professional degreasing agent, which will remove any remaining residue or dust. A perfectly clean and dry surface gives your tiles the best chance of adhering well.
3. Install wall tiles
The key part of the process – if all your preparation is in place then you can start installing your wall tiles. Don't forget to remove everything you can from the room you're tiling and put down a dust sheet to minimise clean-up afterwards.
Where do I start?
While you may be tempted to get stuck in and start sticking tiles, it's best to plan it out carefully. Your walls will look better if the tiles are centred and with full tiles at the edges, so measure out the centre of the wall and calculate how many tiles will fit. This is especially important if you are creating a pattern with your tiles. We would recommend drawing out a plan beforehand to make sure you get it spot on.
Once everything is clean and dry, you're ready to start installing your tiles. The key thing here is choosing the right adhesive. You need to check the manufacturer's instructions on the weight of the adhesive to ensure you use the right amount for your wall type, as you don't want the tiles to be too heavy for the wall to support. Although most pre-mixed wall tile adhesive is fine for tiling, you can also get different adhesives for different tile types, so check the specifications before buying.
Apply the adhesive with the trowel, pressing down at a 45-degree angle to get even grooves in the adhesive. Don't try to apply more than a square metre at a time, otherwise, the adhesive may dry out before you apply the tile, wasting material. If you are using large tiles, we recommend applying a small amount of adhesive to the back of each tile as well.
Starting small also helps you concentrate on each section. Once you've applied your adhesive, you can stick your tiles to it – ensure each tile matches up to the markings made and press firmly into the adhesive. Once you have placed a tile, put the tile spacers at the corners, then press it flush with the tile. You'll grout over these, so you don't want them sticking out.
Repeat the process until all of your tiles are stuck down.
4. Grout wall tiles
Once you have left the adhesive for the recommended amount of time, you can get grouting. Grout is the material between tiles that seals them together and ensures nothing gets under them. If you are tiling a bathroom, it is important to choose a grout specially designed for the wet environment.
To apply the grout, simply apply some to the wall and spread evenly across the tiles using your grout float. It is best to do this in big, diagonal strokes, making sure that you work the grout into all of the joints. Grout hardens quite quickly, so work on small areas at a time.
Immediately after you have applied the grout, take a damp (not wet) sponge and wipe away the excess. Take care not to remove any out of the joints.
5. Seal tiles
Finally, depending on what kind of tiles you use and where in the home they are, you may have to seal them. Many Bert & May tiles are more porous due to their handcrafted nature, but you can read our full guide on sealing tiles to learn which material need sealing and how to do it.
How to tile wall corners
One of the most difficult parts of tiling a wall is getting the corners right. However, we have some tips to make sure yours go smoothly.
Tiling internal corners
The first kind of corner is known as an internal corner. This is a corner that points into the wall and creates a recess (like the joint between two walls). Most people start tiling a wall from the centre and work out, so when you don't have space for another full tile, move on to the row above. Depending on design and preference, you can align your tiles to have an even gap at the end of each row, or stagger them.
Next simply measure the gap and cut your remaining tiles to size. Fill in the gaps and use a silicone sealant, not grout, to finish the edge.
Tiling external corners
External corners are the kind that face into the room, such as window sills and alcoves. Many people like to use a corner moulding, also known as a corner trim, which is an L-shaped piece of material (usually plastic or metal) that covers the join of the corner. Using this can give your corners a neater and more modern look if laid correctly.
Tiling without a corner trim is called a butt joint and is very simple. Just tile the least visible wall, flush with the edge of the corner, then overlap that edge with the adjacent tile. This hides the joint and makes it look seamless.
If you are using a corner trim, tile up to the corner, pushing your tiles over the perforated edge on the trim. Then line up the adjacent tile so the rounded edges are facing each other, but don't push too hard or you may dislodge the trim.
How to tile a kitchen wall
While there isn't much difference between tiling a kitchen wall and any other wall, there are some additional factors to consider.
A kitchen often has fixed objects that need to be worked around such as cabinets and sockets, so you'll need to do more calculating when planning your tiling. Like with any room, remove anything you can from the surfaces and floors to give yourself the best access to your walls. We even recommend removing the socket plates so you can get a more accurate measurement for cutting your tiles to size.
You may want to start tiling by a central feature such as the cooker as that is often where the eye is drawn when entering the room. If your worktops are level (check this with a spirit level) then you can tile immediately above them. However, this is often not the case, therefore, start one tile's width above. This way you can trim the first layer as needed but it still gives the appearance of a level surface.
Need some design inspiration? Check out our blog for advice on colour palettes and how to achieve a stylish home.