Our favorite tile guy, Dean Sorem, has been plying his trade for 15 years and he never stops researching, trying new products and looking for a better way to do things. Here are Dean's top tips for using new methods and products to make your next tile job the best it can be.
Save money and get a better looking tile job by making your own trim pieces for
marble, granite and other stone tile
jobs. Our expert prefers the honeycomb-style
dry diamond polishing pads
with hook-and-loop fasteners. They
allow him to quickly run through a
series of grits from 60 to 800
or higher without wasting a lot of
time changing pads.
This type of disc requires a variable speed
grinder because the maximum allowable
rpm is about 4,000.
Take the top of a shower curb,
for example. You would have to buy
enough bullnose trim to cover both
edges, and you’d end up with a
grout joint down the center where
the two rows of bullnose meet.
Dean covers the curb with one piece
of stone, polished on both edges.
As bigger tiles
have become more
common, so has the problem of loose tiles in a finished tile job. It's harder to get a good bond
with a large surface. Big tiles require a special technique: You need to trowel a thin layer of thinset
on the back of each tile before you set it. Set the loaded trowel near the center of the tile
and spread a thin layer of thin-set to the edge. Then rotate the tile a quarter turn and repeat
until the back is evenly covered.
Laser levels save time and increase
accuracy. Dean uses a self-leveling
laser to help plan the tile layout. He
projects a level line around the room
and measures from it to determine the
size of the cut tiles along the edges.
Then, after figuring out an ideal layout,
he uses the laser as a guide to chalk layout
lines. The laser saves time by eliminating
the fussy job of extending level lines
around the room with a 4-ft. level.
Our expert says that one of the biggest mistakes
you can make on a grout job
is to start cleaning up the grout too soon.
Wiping the grout before it's hardened a
bit allows too much water to penetrate
the surface. That means blotchy-looking
grout or, worse, hairline cracking and
grout that falls out. To avoid these problems,
be sure the grout is very firm,
about like a wine cork, before you start
cleaning it. Press your fingertip into the
grout to test it. If it dents easily, wait.
Screwing down backer board
is monotonous and time-consuming,
so when Dean discovered
that cement board screws were
available for self-feeding screw
guns and that they didn’t cost any
more than loose screws, he bought
a self-feeding screw gun and left
his old screw gun at the shop. The
Senco Duraspin tool shown is available
at some home centers. If you
need help locating a dealer, go to
Corded versions of self-feeding
screw guns sell for about $100 and
cordless for $150.
The Schluter shower system eliminates the
hassles and potential leaks of pouring your own
shower base by providing the tile setter
with a preformed shower base and
curb, a special drain and a waterproofing
membrane. Schluter even
includes preformed inside and outside
corner pieces to seal these tricky
spots. All you need to provide is
unmodified thin-set and some tools.
For information on where to buy
the Schluter system and how to install
it, go to schluter.com (800-472-4588).
The only sure way to keep water
from reaching the backer board is to
waterproof all areas that may be
exposed to water. That's easy with the
new waterproofing coatings. Dean uses
the RedGuard brand, but there are others.
Dean says, "If in doubt, coat it with
Follow the application instructions
on the container. Dean applies the
RedGuard with an inexpensive paint
pad, which he prefers to a brush or roller
because it works like a trowel, allowing
him to quickly spread a thick, even layer.
The solution to crooked walls is to flatten them
before you screw the board to them.
Choose the longest level that will fit across
a wall and use it to see if any studs are
bowed in or out. If a stud is really bowed
out (1/4 in. or more), Dean saws a kerf
about two-thirds through the stud at its
midpoint and pushes it back. Then he’ll
screw a straight stud alongside to hold it
in place. In most cases, though, shimming
the studs with thin strips of cardboard
to get them into alignment is
Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.
Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.
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