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Tiling Tools Advice

Tools needed for tilingAre you planning to carry out your own tiling work but don't know what tools you will need?

The following article will guide you on a couple of tiling examples. 

Although there are many variables on the tiling approach, preparation and background types.  I have compiled a small shortlist which should at least enlighten you on the tools likely to be required, together with some information on their usage.

What tiling tools will I need?  The tools required for a tiling project can be many. This depends on the type of work involved, the tile type and preparation method. 

Here is a list detailing the tools and their purpose in the job.


For a small kitchen wall tiling you would likely need:

  • Dust sheets.  Dust sheets can save you a tremendous amount of money in avoiding damage to surfaces such as worktops and soft floor coverings, especially natural wood worktops, as these can be scratched easily and are prone to staining (especially if these have not been sealed yet).
  • Paintbrush or mini roller.  The paint brush is for the application of tile primer (not always required).  Although a mini roller can also be used, for small areas, with obstacles like electric sockets in the way, I find the brush a better candidate.  Do make sure to watch for primer runs! This can be very dangerous if the liquid gets in contact with the electrical sockets.  Always SWITCH THE ELECTRICITY OFF BEFORE YOU START.  Even if the electricity is off, you must avoid runs.  Mini rollers are great where are small gaps such behind radiators.
  • Manual tile cutter.  The type of cutter required depends greatly on the type and thickness of tiles to be installed.  You can purchase some very cheap (disposable) tile cutters out there, and many manufactures will tell you that it will cope with a certain amount of tile thickness.  A long time has passed since the advice of using a matchstick to break tiles.  Not many companies still produce very thin tiles; instead, because the demand is for larger tiles, the tile thickness has to change accordingly in order to give it strength. 

    For thin ceramic tiles up to 6 mm thick, most plastic tile cutters will cope and should see the job through.  Thicker tiles, like floor tiles, porcelain tiles, glass tiles, would be better cut using a metal or alloy built cutter.  The cost of these cutters will increase considerably from the plastic ones, but these should cope with a wider range of tiles.  Take care when choosing a manual cutter; buy one that will be compatible with the tile size you intend to use it with.  Your cutter will be useless if the tiles you intend to use fit in it when cut at 90° but not if you intend on having a feature cut at 45°.
  • Tile nippers.  There are a few different tile nippers on the market, each one is  best suited to matched tiles types and applications.  ALWAYS WEAR EYE PROTECTION WHEN USING TILE NIPPERS. 

    The standard and most used tile nipper is the one with the flat 90° cutting edge. It is generally used to cut and shape the tiles.  Generally used, it is not really suitable for cutting mosaics as these will shatter the tiles.  The cutting edge is usually made from tungsten carbide with some nippers having an extra hard tip which is more suitable for some porcelain tiles.  Bigger tile nippers are also available for use with quarry tiles; these have wider jaws than the standard ones and a longer handle for more leverage/pressure.

    Other types include a parrot nipper and a mosaic nipper.  The parrot nipper or nibbler is very useful for nibbling a section of tile such as when enlarging a hole or more intricate cuts with the cutting end resembling a parrot's beak. The mosaic nippers have slightly round jaws and are designed to give a straighter cut. 

    The wheeled nippers are also great for mosaics.  There are other nippers that have other features like the inline cutting nipper, with a slight curvature on the cutting edge which will facilitate cutting curved shapes.  Dual use nippers allow you to score the tiles with one side and to split them with the opposite side but will not allow tile shaping.  Another one for mosaic use has a small bag attached on one side.  This will capture the cut mosaic reducing lost time wasted in trying to find small pieces that can fly out in the room. 

    Be aware of the nippers pinching the side of your thumb. This often happens if you haven't used this tool before.  Many tilers I know have all been receiving this little bite from the tool.  If someone gets pinched once it is very unlikely he/she will get pinched again, because he/she will remember it! ;-)
     
  • Screw driver.  Usually a small to medium flat head screwdriver is needed for loosening the electrical points screws, although it can be better using a small and slow electric screwdriver as some screws are really long.  This is a very useful and time saving tool especially as in some kitchens you can find more than 8 sockets.
     
  • Water cooled diamond cutter (wear ear defenders).  This tool is a must have when you need to cut around objects or very small strips of tiles. Water cooled tile cutters or wet saws with a "direct drive" motor will give you a quieter operating sound and usually more powerful than the "indirect drive" ones.

    Make sure to protect the surrounding area for water splashing and tile chipping.  Do make sure to use an electric circuit breaker as you are dealing with a potentially dangerous environment.
     
  • Hammer, nails and batten. These will be needed if you need to bridge the gap in between base units (where the free-standing cooker fits in to.
     
  • Pencil and tile marker.  The pencil is mainly to mark the level or plumb line for your tile guide and the tile marker is a better and more visible way of marking tiles, especially if the glaze is really smooth as some pencils will not mark some tiles easily.
    Tile markers are really great for use on polished marbles and granites and it won't come off when wet by the water cooled cutter.
     
  • 600 mm spirit level or laser level.  This is needed for making sure to have level and plumb tiling, to check the worktop, bottom of cupboards and to mark the centre line above the cooker (if applicable). 

    The laser level is more useful (some times a must) if there are obstacles in the way, which makes it impossible to use the spirit level.
  • Fine toothed hacksaw.  This is needed for cutting the batten and if used, tile trims. If tile trims are installed then you will require a mitre box too.
     
  • Tape measure.
     
  • Spreading and mixing trowels. It is important to use the correct tile adhesive spreader depth and type.  There are several variables that will determine the type of spreader needed for the job in hand.  Things to consider are:
    tile type, tile size, tile thickness, tile background, surface to be tiled, interior or exterior location, domestic or communal application, adhesive type and even temperature condition.  Your tile store should give you some advice according these variables.  If in doubt contact the adhesive supplier technical department.

    When buying a mixing trowel, get one that has a flat end and not a pointed one as you will be able to scoop the mixed material in more quantity.
     
  • Grout floats (squeegee) or spatula.  This is for applying the grout or cement in the tile joints.  These tools have a very limited life span, sometimes only lasting one job (depending on the tile texture).  For a better job my advice is to get the float as you can work the grouting in a lot quicker and with less mess. 
  • Masking tape.  Very handy for when applying a tile cut above an electric socket (to stop it from sliding down inside the socket). Or when tiling above a window.
     
  • 2 clean buckets and a sponge.  One for the grout and one for clean water.
     
  • Clean cloth. Dusting of grout residue off the tiles and adjacent surroundings.
     
  • Dust mask.
  • Protective goggles.
  • Rubber or latex gloves.
  • Silicone applicator.
  • Dustpan and brush.


Tools for floor tiling

If you need to tile a floor on a cement base, then you will need many of the above tools, plus:

  • a_DCP_0613Possibly a different size manual and electric tile cutter (to accommodate different tile sizes or situation.  i.e. Use a smaller cutter in kitchen walls situations where the cutter can be placed on the worktop.).
  • Straight edge for lining up the tiles.
     
  • Rubber hammer.  For helping bed some large tiles.
     
  • Chalk line or Laser level for marking a starting point.
     
  • Square, knee pads, dust mask, broom.
     
  • Saw for cutting architrave.
    Fein Multimaster
    If you have lots of architrave to cut, then you might want to invest on a Multimaster (great tool)

    This multi versatile tool has many uses, including special kits for plumbing, tiling and carpentry.  Also great for many jobs around the home and hobbies.
     
  • Electric extension lead (with an RCD circuit breaker).
     
  • Suction pads.   For help lifting, carrying and even adjusting larger tiles during installation. 

If you need to tile a floor on wood with the need of an overlay, then you will also need some carpenter's tools to cut and install plywood or other overlay types.  These are:

  • Jigsaw or hand saw.
  • Work bench.
  • Clamps.
  • Electric drill / screwdriver (buy a decent one with good torque and long battery life).
  • Circular saw.
  • Vacuum cleaner

The list may continue depending on the floor preparation required.

If the project is a one off, then it may be better to hire some of the more expensive tools. If that's the case, do make sure that you get full instructions on how to operate them.

Before using power tools, always read the instruction manuals that accompany that tool and apply any safety protection needed.

I hope you have found this of interest. ;-)

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