Modern Tile Installation Tips

Keep your tiling skills up to date with these installation tips

Modern tile

Tile just keeps getting bigger and bigger—in popularity and in size. The materials have changed too: Ceramic is still around, but porcelain and glass are now almost as common. Our tile guru, Dean, has had to change how he works. Here are some of his tile installation tips.

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Pick a large-notched trowel for big tile

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Cut without cracking the tile

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Upgrade your grout sponge

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Flatten the framing

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Back-butter large tile

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Flatten thin-set before installing mosaic tile

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Clean grout joints with a toothbrush

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Make a custom trowel

Dean has discovered that inexpensive auto-body filler spatulas, available at home centers and auto parts stores, are perfect for making custom trowels for special circumstances. One way Dean uses a custom-made trowel is for insetting thinner tiles into a field of thicker tiles. After finishing the field tile installation, he cuts notches on each edge of the spatula with a utility knife to create a mini screed. He cuts the notches about 1/16 in. deeper than the thickness of the decorative tile to allow for thin-set. Then he uses this trowel to add a layer of thin-set that acts as a shim when it hardens. After this layer hardens, he cuts 3/16-in.-deep teeth in the spatula to make a notched trowel and uses it to apply thin-set. Now when he sets the decorative tile, it's perfectly flush with the field tile.

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Finish your job with premium grout

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Level mosaic tile with a block

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Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

  • Microfiber sponge
  • Level
  • Grout float
  • Toothbrush
  • Safety glasses
  • Diamond wet saw
  • Trowel

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.

  • Thin-set mortar
  • Cardboard shims
  • Premium grout
  • Auto-body filler spatula
  • Hardwood 1 x 6