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Tiles are cut after they have been measured. The sheet tile used for this particular project has rubber dots on the back (Image 1). They hold the place of the tiles in the sheet. The tiles cut away from the sheet easily with a razor knife.
Straight tile cuts for the walls and 90-degree angles are done by placing the tile on the cutting table, sliding the table forward, placing the steel tape measure lightly against the blade. Line it up with the tile so you know you have the exact cut you want (Image 1). If you're doing a bunch of tiles at once what you'll need to use is a rip-fence. Place it against the tiles, tighten it down, put on your safety glasses, turn on the saw and cut (Image 2).
Tip: With porcelain tile, you'll want to go slow when cutting because they can easily break and chip. To get perfect diagonal cuts, use a speed square and go even slower than before because of the sharp edges that can be brittle (Images 1 and 2).
Before you begin the thinset process, be sure to cut the felt from the top of the tub with a razor knife. Clean the backer board with a damp sponge.
Mix the thinset according to manufacturer's specifications with the 1/2" drill motor and the rod-type mixer paddle at less than 600 rpm. Apply the thinset with the flat end of the trowel to key in the mortar on the backer board, and then use the notched side to create a uniform thickness.
Tip: Only lay as much thinset as you can tile in 15 minutes. If the thinset skims over, the tile won't stick to it. Use your finger as the judge. If the thinset sticks to your finger, it will stick to the tile.
Start with the lower courses along the edge of the tub (Image 1). Lay the tile on the thinset following the pencil lines. Make sure there's no excess lippage on the laid tiles. Tap the beating block that covers the tiles lightly with a rubber mallet to ensure a good bond to the thinset.
Warning: Be careful not to put too much pressure on your mallet or you could crack the tile.
To keep the sheets of tile straight, be sure to use a level and 1/8" spacers along the way.
Note: The numbers on the tile represent the color shading difference of the tiles. You can simply wipe the numbers off later when the job is completed.
After the wall area is finished, decide where you want the insert tile to go. Then, cut out the necessary tiles and install the insert tile and surrounding tile pieces by back buttering them and setting them into place (Image 1).
To make the tile fit around the tub faucet hole, you'll need to cut the tile sheet to go around the hole. Cut the tile tabs with a razor knife, then for a closer fit, cut slits in the tile with the wet saw and trim the edges off with tile nippers and place around the faucet hole (Image 1). For the corners, be sure to use bull nose tile, which has rounded corners for an attractive line and finished look.
To bring the access panel on the side of the tub up to code, frame the panel with backer board, and tape the joints with alkali-resistant tape and thinset the joint.