kitchen · tile

The Process: Kitchen Tile Part III

Have you ever noticed that, when a homeowner is taking part in a renovation with the HGTV crew, they always get put on the task of tiling? You know why?

Because it’s super easy. A little messy, perhaps, but easy none-the-less. Also, depending on how much you’re tile, it doesn’t even take that long. Our small project took a grand total of three hours.

When we renovated our bathroom, I came home from work one day to a completely tiled shower and floor. This time, I wanted to actually help out. Mark started the process and, when I volunteered to lend a hand, he took me outside with a tile and started up the tile saw. I watched him start to guide the piece through the grinder, then turned around and walked back inside.

I know. I know. Not very grown up of me. Not very empowered of me. But I’ll be honest: that thing freaked me out. It was loud. Wet. Dangerous looking. I wimped out and gave into my fear of power tools. I can wield a drill among the best, I can cut a piece of wood on a 45 degree angle with a miter saw like no body’s business, I can even cut into a piece of drywall with a saws-all without a hint of nervousness, but that tile saw terrified me.

So, I grabbed the tile paddle instead. Is that what they’re called? It’s a special tool with two grooved edges two smooth. After an hour or so of slapping glue onto the wall and carefully placing some tile, I totally feel like an expert. So, naturally, I must share my expertise.

This is how tiling works.

(Clarification, correction, and criticism of my steps definitely welcome!)

What you need

Tile! Preferably, a pretty one.

Tile adhesive

Tile trowel

Tile cutter



Step one

Using your level, measure and mark out where your tiles will go. Draw a grid on the wall to ensure that, when you lay your tiles, they’ll be level and properly placed. The Husband drew our grid on the wall by the foot since that’s what our tiles were.

Step two

Determine which tiles you need to cut or trim and which ones you’ll use whole. You may need to be a little strategic with this. Some of our tiles were cracked or broken on the edges, so we wanted to hide those as much as possible. One or two of the marble pieces were blotched with a yellow vein. It takes a little work to sort through them and determine where exactly each one will go, but it’s definitely worth it.

Step three

Make your cuts. Some tilers will prefer to make all their cuts first. This is how we worked in the bathroom. That way, the cuts could be made and we could just throw them all up on the wall without having to break to cut another tile.

This time, though, we glued, then cut, glued, then cut. Eventually, as I got into the swing of things, the Husband was about to focus on cutting and I on gluing. It went twice as fast.

Step four

Slap the adhesive on the wall using your tile trowel. Use the grooved side to smooth it out. This will leave the deep grooves you see in this shot:

Step five

Press the tile onto the wall firmly. You may need to wiggle it into place a bit. Step back and look to make sure there are no large gaps between one tile and the next. Super skinny gaps are no good either. You want it to look uniform, with the same amount of gap between the tiles as there is between your mosaic pieces. Fortunately, tile is forgiving. If there’s no gap or too much gap, simply wiggle it back or forward until it’s right.
Step six
Repeat until your done! 
Step seven

Clean up. That glue can be nasty stuff.
Step eight

Sit back with a cup of tea and admire your handiwork.
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