Tiling problems

Discussion in 'Tilers' Talk' started by furious_customer, Jul 11, 2019.

  1. furious_customer

    furious_customer Active Member

    Thought I would try my hand at tiling the kitchen splashback.

    To get a bit of practice first, I got an offcut of 9mm ply from the garage and a box of B&Q's cheapest tiles and had a go with them.

    I found 2 things more difficult than expected - (1) getting the gap betweem the tile and the wall even across all tiles. I eventually started using a steel rule to check that each tile was level with the ones surrounding it - but I have never seen anyone on youtube etc. doing this, so I wonder why I am having this problem?

    (2) After applying the grout (and making sure to really push it into the gaps) the grout line always looks un-even and bumpy - again no-one on youtube etc. evem seems to mention this as an issue so I am wondering where I am going wrong?

    Any advice on how to correct these problems?
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2019
  2. DIYDave.

    DIYDave. Well-Known Member

    I’m only diy but have tiled a fair few surfaces over the years, floors, walls, splashbacks

    Takes me longer for sure but I’m happy with the results, so, couple of questions;

    How are you applying the tile adhesive ?

    Notched trowel hopefully ?

    If so, just roughly wack on dollops of tile ady then start working with the notched trowel to spread out and even the adhesive bed

    The idea is that the notches set the ady depth whilst the bits either side of notches (no idea what they’re called) scrap off excess ady

    So you have say 4mm lines of adhesive, with bare wall inbetween

    If the whole wall surface is covered with adhesive, or the trowel lines are not consistent, then that’s the problem (probably)

    Also depends how flat the wall is before you start ?

    An experienced tiler can correct lumps and bumps as he goes with either less or more tile ady (to a degree, depends how bad wall is)

    For me, I want the wall/floor pretty much snooker table flat before I start

    This may mean a plaster skim, spot repairs, overboarding, etc before tiling

    Makes the job easier, quicker and a better end result (for me anyway)

    As to grout, again, what are you using to apply the grout ?

    A rubber grout float is best bet, really pushes grout in to full tile depth, covers large area quickly, cleans off majority of excess grout. Wipe tiles over diagonally with the float to remove access, going straight with the lines will remove too much grout

    If your leaving the grout at this stage, again, this is the problem

    The grout float is stage one

    Now it’s a game of time ...... leaving the grout long enough to firm up, but not set, and not too loose

    Now move on to the grout sponge. Good quality sponge that doesn’t fall apart or stain grout, with scouring pad on one side, around £2

    Once grout is at semi set stage (this you have to gauge) start cleaning and polishing with damp sponge. Large bucket of clean water, wring out sponge frequently and wipe over tiles/grout lines. This removes excess grout and ‘polishes’ the grout lines nice and smooth

    Grout too loose - you will remove too much grout

    Over cleaning or sponge too wet - you will remove too much grout

    Grout left too long - very hard to remove excess and polish grout lines

    Clean sponge regularly in fresh water to clean tiles, stubborn bits of grout use scourer side

    When your happy with cleaning, leave tiles and grout to fully dry, overnight really

    Tiles will now be covered in a haze of dry dust and will look dull

    Now polish with clean dry cloth to remove dust

    Lovely job

    Just experience that’s all
    You tube videos can be handy, but along with practical experience as well

    Like all things in life really - good luck
    furious_customer likes this.
  3. ajohn

    ajohn Well-Known Member

    Tile spacers should help with the gaps but if starting say some way up a wall a temporary level strip of timber fastened to the will help get the first row straight. I have a splash back to do and will set the timber to the height of the worktop. Then spacer on top of timber and etc just the same a tiling over the worktop. Later I will remove the strip and add a row below.

    The adhesive depth is set by the angle of the notched trowel. A shallower angle leaves shallower notches of adhesive. Ideally when a tile is pressed home those will spread over the entire tile leaving a very thin layer of adhesive. That's fine if the wall behind is flat. They often aren't so it's a case of using some judgement. The best option may be to just make sure the tile edges are level. If over a worktop and the top of the tiles are visible large changes in the gap behind them will be noticeable. A tile trim might not hide them. If no edges are visible the can't be. Big tiles make this aspect worse in some ways in terms of getting the edges and corners level.

    One thing can help. The adhesive should cover 100% of the back of the tile when pressed home. In practice if the ridges don't expand fully to do that it's ok within reason. They may in the middle or around the edges etc. This might mean having next to no adhesive in the middle of a tile when it's put over a hump etc. Can't really give any hard and fast rules as it depends on the wall.

    Adhesive on the tile or surface? I'm inclined to put the adhesive on the tile for a wall with small tiles in particular but that's me. Either way is ok. On a floor I would always put the adhesive on the floor but on the tile where cut pieces are laid latter. If I put it on the tile I just go close to the edge not right up to it. One thing about plastic notched trowels is that they can be cut down.

    For easier grouting avoid tiles that have textured surfaces right at the edge that the grout line may pass over. A grout finishing tool can help even with those and in my view isn't a bad idea anyway. ;) I have to do some grouting just over a mm wide - probably no use for that but the tiles are essentially flat so the sponge should do it. It can on textured tiles too but fiddly. Rubber floats are best as lots of grout can be got off. There is also a type that looks like a scraper with a short rubber "blade". Work back and forth over the joint forcing grout in then scrape of excess by running the float at angle of say 45 degrees to the grout lines ;) not parallel what ever you do but that can be used to help force it in. Shallower angles force in, steeper scrape off.

    :) When tiling a bath I forget the old tile down to it for cast iron baths. I tile down to a strip of timber that also supports the edge of the bath. Set the bath slightly away from the wall against sealer and then seal. They never leak.

    furious_customer likes this.
  4. furious_customer

    furious_customer Active Member

    Brilliant Dave - thank you for this reply!

    I was practicing on a sheet of ply, so it was perfectly flat. Rather than a notched trowel I was using one of those cheapy notched adhesive/grout spreaders from B&Q. I am guessing that the problem there was uneven adhesive lines as you say - think I will pick up a proper trowel and see if I can get more consistent coverage with that.

    I applies the grout with the same multi-tool spreader, but I do have a proper grout float for when I do it for real. I used a j-cloth rather than a sponge to clean off the excess tiles - so maybe this is why I didn't get the neat grout lines?

    Will give that a go tonight.

    Do you ever use a grout profiler type tool?
  5. DIYDave.

    DIYDave. Well-Known Member

    So looks like we’ve identified where your going wrong .... that’s good, it’s progress and learning, great to share knowledge and ideas

    So pop out and buy the correct tools. Don’t need to spend a fortune, top of the range brands aren’t gonna make a difference here, and for occasional diy use will be perfect. So, notched trowel, not a stupid plastic scraper, rubber grout float, and a grout sponge with scratch pad on other side

    Again, use grout float diagonally over tiles, makes a massive difference to going vertical / horizontal

    Just need to time the grout, let it get to a semi set stage before cleaning and polishing but, remove as much grout from tile face without disturbing grout lines

    And no J Cloth.... :eek:

    Sponge for cleaning and polishing grout, scourer for stubborn blobs

    Another tip (and you won’t read this anywhere else) when you’ve finished grouting, you will have some grout left over that will soon set

    Remove say a golf ball size lump and wrap well in cling film

    As your cleaning tiles, you may need a little extra grout here and there or sometimes see like a bubble in the grout

    The saved ‘golf ball’ will remain workable for perhaps an hour and saves mixing up a teaspoon amount

    Never use a profile tool, just the sponge to remove excess and polish grout nice and tidy, rung out in water, not dry but not dripping

    Rinse frequently and don’t over clean

    Anyway ,,,,,, all will be fine so enjoy :)
    furious_customer likes this.
  6. furious_customer

    furious_customer Active Member

    Thanks! Will have a try using these tips tonight!
  7. DIYDave.

    DIYDave. Well-Known Member

    Don’t think the OP is talking about actual gap between tiles, eg, using tile spacers is the obvious answer here (as long as tiles are regular size)

    Think it’s more to do with obtaining an even adhesive bed so as to avoid the dreaded ‘lippage’
  8. furious_customer

    furious_customer Active Member

    Yep, that's right - but I was curious why ajohn isn't just starting with the first row directly on the worktop as this will presumably be level? I could understand if it wasn't level or even and the bottom row had to be scribed to the surface.

    Using the steel rule to check for lippage with adjacent tiles worked quite well, so think I will continue with this.

    Just need to find a decent budget manual tile cutter now...got this one and it's hopeless -

    Last edited: Jul 11, 2019
  9. ajohn

    ajohn Well-Known Member

    Because the stove isn't built in and as a result the hob isn't either.

    I have cut loads of tiles with the larger version of the vitrex cutter. Placing an off cut in front of the tile and setting pressure on that helps.

    Or for low cost, cuts neatly and cheap the small wickes electric one. It doesn't splash water all over the place if filled correctly. Many larger ones do. Slower to use than the vitrex.

  10. ajohn

    ajohn Well-Known Member

    On ply board ? That is flat so technique must be off somewhere.

    As I'm using tiles a bit over 300mm and the wall isn't flat I'll get some idea of how much it's out with a feather edge first. :mad: Thanks to a plasterer I am expecting to need to remove some close to a switch even a 300mm rule would show that.

  11. DIYDave.

    DIYDave. Well-Known Member

    We’ve identified what the problem is and it’s nothing to do with tile spacers

    OP wasn’t using a notched trowel for ady so uneven adhesive bed - simples :)
    furious_customer likes this.
  12. DIYDave.

    DIYDave. Well-Known Member

    Any reason why you want manual cutter over wet electric cutter ?
  13. ajohn

    ajohn Well-Known Member

    good waste of time me posting then.

    mcooper2406 likes this.
  14. furious_customer

    furious_customer Active Member

    Just because it's faster for row ends etc.
  15. DIYDave.

    DIYDave. Well-Known Member

    Well you do have a habit of waffling on and going rather ‘off piste’ ;)
  16. furious_customer

    furious_customer Active Member

    Not at all - really appreciate your advice! I think you were also correct about the adhesive depth.
    I will be stopping by SF on the way home tonight for a notched trowel.
  17. furious_customer

    furious_customer Active Member

    ok, thanks guys - picked up a decent notched trowel last night and tried again using the propert trowel, float and sponge.
    Can grout like a pro now - still had some lippage on a few tiles but probaby not noticable with the eye, but I can detect it with my steel rule - might practice with another dozen or so tiles before I start on the splash-back.

    On that note - the first section of wall I need to tile is 600mm wide and I am using 300 x 100 tiles, so 2 tiles span it nicely with almost no cutting required.
    The only problem is that this wall is a little concaved - by a max of 10mm in the middle.
    So I am wondering what is the best way to deal with this?

    Was thinking of maybe screwing some 9mm ply to the wall to pack it out and then just generously butter the back of the tiles with adhesive as wall as spreading it on the wall?
    Would this work?

    Once I fit the tile trim the gap will still be visible behid that, so do I just pack this with adhesive as well?
    How do tilers deal with concaved walls?
  18. DIYDave.

    DIYDave. Well-Known Member

    As a diy tiler, me and you both :), I would want the wall as flat as possible before starting

    On my previous post I mentioned like a snooker table !

    Even more important with large format tiles, lippage is more a problem if walls are out

    Sure, a pro tiler or someone that has tiled acres would sort this out as they go along, they’re used to this and walls are seldom perfect

    I would honestly sort out the wall before I even consider starting to tile . Can use finish plaster, Easi Fill, even tile adhesive

    Problem is, you can’t slap on 10mm plaster in one hit, so couple applications I would think

    Bonding plaster not recommended to tile directly onto but could use and make up say 8mm in one hit, allow to dry then 2mm skim of finish plaster

    Use a long straight edge and pencil mark all the hollows then level out with chosen material. I would use plaster or Easi Fill, ok to work with in smallish areas (I wouldn’t plaster a whole wall), level off with a trowel or straight edge

    Tidy up couple times as plaster is setting / going off, with a splash of water and damp trowel

    Can even sand when dry if there are any raised areas. Doesn’t actually need to be as perfect as a snooker table but 10mm dips ain’t good

    Obviously this is going to delay your tiling as 10mm plaster is gonna take some time to dry and then will need priming before you tile - SBR or specific tile primer

    But, end result, better job, less hassle and grief but yes, more time and labour but, as diy, these elements are free :)
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2019
  19. Mr Rusty

    Mr Rusty Well-Known Member

    Don't try and pack the wall with ply. 10mm is easily within the range of a decent cement based (bagged) tile adhesive. Last time I looked I think my go-to adhesive said suitable for up to 13mm, and I have gone over that in the past where a wall has been well out of square. Mix it a bit stiff, lay it off on the wall as flat as possible, also do butter the backs of the tiles as well and ease in to position. The difficulty with using a very thick bed of adhesive (apart from cost) is that the tiles may well slip about if you are not careful, so better to use a fast adhesive, and let a couple of rows go off before you carry on.

    You can certainly get away with this over a small area like you are doing. It would be tricky over a larger area, and then I would suggest using tile-backer /hardie sheets over the whole wall which will make it perfectly flat. You can fix this with foam first and then drill and plug it once the foam has gone off. Tiles will go up like lego then. However, backing board is not really suitable for a kitchen splashback.

    Don't do what I did once years ago and use little postage stamp sized stacks of hardboard at the corners of the tiles to help keep them in place off the wall with thick adhesive - the colour in the hardboard leached through the white grout....

    Tiles on timber in my opinion is always a challenge because timber moves about with humidity and temperature and tiles to all intents don't - either direct to the wall or on a cement-based board is best IMO. I have never used the composite backers like jackoboard.
  20. furious_customer

    furious_customer Active Member

    Hmm - ok, thank for the advice guys - the trouble I am having is that the wall is fine to look at with a painted finish, and the tiles are only going to be 3 course high.
    Fixing the entire wall just for the 3 course of tiles takes me past the tipping point of it being a DIY job - a tiler has quoted £150 labour to tile the entire thing (an experienced old-timer and have used him before).

    And this is a job I really want to be able to do for some reason I can't really explain!

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