Choose materials based on whether you are tiling a new wall, a prepared surface or directly onto old tiles.
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The type and size of tile you choose will affect your overall design and how you work. You can use larger tiles to cover an area more quickly, but you may find it more difficult to lay large tiles on uneven surfaces. In such cases, small tiles may be easier to use and be more forgiving. Consider whether to tile the whole room, just up to a border or a specific area, like a backsplash. Because of the grid pattern formed by tiles, you need to spend time finding the best starting point in order to achieve a balanced overall effect and avoid thin slivers of tile.
Tiles are usually applied in a regular grid pattern, but you can use other designs — for example, staggered or diamond patterns or a combination of the two. For complicated designs, drawing a scale diagram will help you to plan your approach.
The majority of ceramic tiles are square, and the most common design is to apply them in a grid pattern. However, tiles can be laid in a brickbond pattern or in more elaborate designs. Beware of using complicated arrangements in small spaces, since the effect can be overpowering.
Choosing the Right Tiles
Size, shape and color are as important as the material from which the tile is made. The standard square sizes are 12" x 12", 8" x 8" and 4" x 4". When possible, buy tiles of one color with the same batch number. Shuffle tiles of the same color from different boxes, so that any slight color variation will not show once the tiles are applied to the surface.
Most tiles are ceramic — they are made of clay, have a glazed, smooth surface that is easy to clean, and are very durable. Glazes are generally colored to provide decorative options. Some glazed tiles are prone to surface cracking, which may affect their waterproofing properties, making them unsuitable for constantly wet areas such as showers. Nonceramic tiles are made of materials such as marble or slate, and rather than relying on glaze, their natural texture provides the finish.
These are usually glazed and are available in many sizes, colors, and thicknesses. Ceramic tiles are also easy to cut to shape. Some manufacturers produce ceramic tiles that look like natural tiles (see top left), but are often cheaper than the real thing.
Limestone (image 1), slate (image 2) and marble (image 3) are common types of natural stone tile. Marble tiles are normally larger than standard-sized ceramic tiles and are usually applied allowing for small grout joints to give a continuous marble effect. Natural stone is porous, so in areas where water is used, such as a bathroom or kitchen, natural stone tiles have to be treated with a waterproof sealant after application. Suppliers can provide appropriate sealants for the job.
These tiles add a decorative detail to the main pattern of a larger design. They are usually small and square, but come in many shapes.
Small ceramic or glass tiles are supplied in sheets on a net backing to control the space between tiles and to make them easier to apply. Some have a protective sheet of paper; it has to be soaked off after the tiling adhesive has dried. Sheets can be cut with scissors to size.
Excerpted from Do It Yourself Home Improvement
© Dorling Kindersley Limited 2009