7 Basic Principles of Floor and Wall Tiling

The finishes applied to a building defines the total aesthetics, and reflects the pride of the designers and builders. A functional building without good finishes is like a beautiful lady covered with black veil, every body knows she is there and alive, but nobody appreciates the beauty.

Tiling is a good choice of finish for floors, walls, countertops etc for a lot of reasons. Tiles come in variety of colours, shapes, sizes, and quality. This gives architects and interior designers enough flexibility to obtain a balanced and pleasing appearance.

A poorly done tiling work is as good as disaster, and therefore it is very necessary that adequate planning be put in place before any tiling work commences.

Have you ever gone into a building and instead of your mind being at rest, it will be wondering why the tiler did not follow a definite/regular pattern, or why the grout lines are misaligned? You could spend your whole time there trying to fix the puzzle of the best pattern. This is not a good thing because your mind should be relaxed – life has enough puzzles already! On the other hand, once you look at a tiling work and discover a regular pattern/balance, your mind stops evaluating the work in a distressing manner.

I am going to discuss some of the principles to be adopted to obtain good tiling work.

(1) Right quality of materials
This cannot be overemphasized. You should select and insist on the best materials. For instance, the tiles to be used should not be chipped at the edges or cracked prior to installation. Depending on the usage of the building and the anticipated human traffic, the appropriate tile thickness and material should be specified. Fully vitrified tiles is better for sitting rooms, while granite tiles/marble could be better for entrance porch and other areas exposed to weather. Do not use tiles that would wear out easily or get discoloured when subjected to heavy traffic.

Also, it should be ensured that there are no factory defects on the tiles. It is possible to have unequal tiles (with about 1 – 2mm difference in dimensions) in the same pack. Such tiles are usually problematic​ to tilers. Also some tiles are curved or discoloured when supplied. All defective materials should be rejected.

Furthermore, the tile gum (adhesive), fasteners, and cement used for laying the tiles should be of superior quality. The mixing of the cement/adhesive should be of adequate strength, the floor screeding should be standard, and fasteners (when employed) should be well installed.

(2) Workmanship
Tilers are in grades. The honest truth is that some tilers are better than others in terms of carefulness, experience, and committment to quality work. Some tilers are so careless when cutting tiles that they cause misalignment of tiles. It takes a good tiler to throw down a straight line of tiles along a corridor without any misalignment or uneven grouting space. It is possible to have a straight space of 3mm groove (grouting space) for a length of 50m in the hands of a good tiler. In the same light, the tiler should ensure he has the right tools such as plumbs, spirit levels, laser levels, blue lines, spacers, cutting machines, sharp cutting discs/blades etc.

The tiler should also ensure that the tiles are very level, and not kicking at the joints. Where are openings or recesses for utilities, the tiler should ensure that he cuts neatly. For instance, the use of diamond tile hole cutters can be used for making holes neatly on tiles. The tiler should be patient on the job.

(3) Quality of supervision
No matter how good a tiler is, his works still needs to be supervised and adequately monitored. Tilers may be forced to do ‘management work’ like going ahead to install a poorly cut tile due to tiredness. The supervisor must watch out for situations like this.

(4) Tiling Pattern drawing
There are different tiling patterns as may be recommended by the architect. There should be a drawing that captures the tiling pattern, relative to the shape of the floor or wall being tiled. This gives the tiler a good idea of what to do.

(5) Check for straightness of wall before commencing tiling work
This is particularly important because tiling exposes defective works such as lack of straightness of walls. Also, when the edges of walls are not square, the tiling may not come out good. After checking for the straightness of the wall, the tiler and the supervisor should determine the margin of error, and the corrective approach. If the margin is small, it can be corrected by using varying thickness of tile adhesive. But if it is too large, additional plastering works or demolition can be employed to obtain the desired straightness. It is not good to try to manage the situation when it is too large, because the tiling must be affected.

(6) Avoid small offcuts at the edges
It is usually very unpleasant to have offcuts less than 100mm at the edge of walls or floors. In the first place, small offcuts are usually problematic and may lead to wastage. On the other hand, they are not pleasing to the eyes.

To achieve this, the tiler has some calculations to do, which usually involves finding the centrelines of the floor/wall to be tiled. Two things are involved, it is either the centreline of the tile plate coincides with the centreline of the floor, or the groove (spacer/joint) between the adjacent tiles coincides with the centreline of the floor/wall. Another advantage of this is that the you have equal offcuts at the two ends. This gives the tiling work a balanced look.

(7) Grouting and tiling joints
Grouting works is almost as important as the tiling work itself. The grouting material should be non-expansive, and the grouter must be careful and skilled. For wall tiles, it is usually more beautiful when the grouting  material does not fill up the groove completely. When the edge of the tiles can be seen, it is actually more attractive. Peradventure you desire to fill the groove completely, it must be very neat. Neatness of grouting is an important key.

When tiles are to closely joint, it is very important that the tiles close tightly. Little grout can be used to cover small gaps that might exist.

At exterior edges of elements like columns and walls, it always a good practice to mitre the tiles meeting at the joint so that the joint will close. When the tiles will not be mitred, suitable edge trimmers should be used. At areas where edge of tiles will be exposed, it is better to expose the factory edge.

These guidelines when followed usually results in a good tiling work. Feel free to add yours at the comment section.

Happy new year!!!!

Join our Facebook community at



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here