Tile FAQ’s

The list below contains some of the most commonly asked questions I get about tile and installation methods. For each one I have included a (very) short answer.  I already have, or will have in the future, a post about every one of these. If that post already exists there will be a link at the end of the answer.

I will continue to add to this page as the questions come up. If you have a question just leave a comment at the bottom and I’ll include it on this page.

Just click on the question to view the answer.

Grout

What type of grout should I use for my tile?

It depends on the tile and the size of the grout lines. Read this: Using the correct type of grout

How large should my grout lines be?

It depends on the tile size and the look you want. Read this: How large should grout lines be?

Can I fill my cracking grout with more grout?

Maybe. Read this article for a more complete answer: Filling grout lines with more grout

Are there any “magic” products available to remove stains from your grout and tile?

No there are not. One of the closest things to magic that you can buy is oxygen bleach. It is not bleach! It's a slight misnomer. This is the main ingredient in products like oxyclean. It works very, very well to clean grout. More information: How to clean grout

Does grout help stabilize tile, hold them in place, or make them stick better?

No it does not. (Epoxy grout is different) Read this: Does grout stabilize tile?

Are tile, stone or grout waterproof?

No they are not. Read this: Is tile waterproof?

Can I install my tile without grout lines?

No, you should not. Read this: Tile with no grout

Miscellaneous

Can I install floor tiles on my shower walls?

Yes you can. Read this: Floor tiles on a wall

Sealers

Will sealing your tile and grout make it waterproof?

No! It absolutely will not.

Should I seal (or re-seal) my tile and grout?

If you would like it to be easier to clean then yes, you should.

Setting Materials

What should I use to set my tile?

It depends on where you are installing the tile. Read this: Proper setting materials for tile

Are mastic and pre-mixed “mortar” acceptable to install tile on a floor or in a shower?

No they are not. Read this: Proper setting materials for tile

Substrates

Does my floor have to be level before I install tile?

No it does not. Read this: Does my floor have to be level for tile?

Do I need a waterproof membrane for my shower walls?

Yes, a membrane of some sort is required. Read the article for the different types. Read this: Preparing a shower wall for tile

Can I simply stick tile to the drywall in my shower or the plywood on my floor?

You can but it won’t last – so no. Read this: Preparing a shower wall for tile or this: Installing backerboard for floor tile

Transitions

Should I use grout or caulk in the corners of my shower?

Technically? Caulk. Realistically? It depends. Read this: Caulk or grout in corners?

If you have any suggestions or questions please feel free to leave a comment.

Jeff Heimbaugh

Roger,
Small area 3 1/2 x 5. Floor is osb, not worried about deflection and will be using hardie board. In reviewing the instructions for the thinset, none say its ok to use on osb. Use a sealer, modified or unmodified, adding plywood makes the room higher (2 enterances). Can I simply use thinset, put on the hardieboard, and screw it?

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Bill Hewitt

Hi Roger, great site- finally one written in english and funny too! I do have a question- I’m installing a fancy long thin drain closer to one end of a 3×6 shower how to I make the pre-slope not have to drop a full inch by the drain?

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Denno

Roger, first, thank you for publishing this site. It is extremely helpful to me. I am replacing my tub and tub surround and have all the Hardi Backer up, taped and grouted now it’s needs waterproofing I’m going to use AquaDefense from Lowe’s my question is What type of grout do I use on the tile and grout lines?
Thank for all you do.
Denno

GuestBathSmall

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Nikki

Thanks so much for a great site!

So, I have installed a lot of different types of ceramic, slate, travertine, onyx, mosaic and granite.

However, I just installed a textured ceramic in my brother’s shower, and anticipating problems, was a zealot about cleaning grout off the tiles before they dried.

And still I failed. We sealed the stone mosaics before installing them, so as to prevent this problem, but I both read and have seen sealers do very bad things on ceramic tile.

Should I have applies some sort of grout release to textured ceramic tile? And now that I am stuck with the haze of death in tiny pits in the texture tile, is there a way that doesn’t involve another four hours of scrubbing?

Thank you!
Nikki

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Sheila

Hello Mr. Elf,

I am wondering if you can recommend a product/method of filling grout lines on a tiled table top to create a smooth surface. I hate the tile and would like to paint the entire table and make the tile “disappear. Thank you

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Curt

OK. I did not read your website before I started my project and now I am worried. I have already installed my pre-slope. I used a standard sand mix which I got from a local big box store and I have my drain mounted directly to the plywood of my floor. This means that the thickness of my bed is about 1/4″ at the drain. I also mixed my concrete wetter than you are suggesting and with less sand apparently. I also did not “pack” it as I was placing it. It seemed to be going right into the mesh. I am guessing the increased sand would be so it can be sanded after it has been installed. But do you see any issue with what I have done so far. If I need to do something to correct, now would be the time although I cannot move the drain up at this point.

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Tina

Roger, Can I use Ditra thinset in the shower concrete pan and on the durock waterproofed walls? I have some left over and I know you apply it on the plastic membrane for the floor (Ditra XL is what I used on bathroom floor)?

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Tina

Roger, I am getting ready to tile the shower floor and walls. I have a bag and 1/2 of ditra thinset mortar sack left over. Is it alright to use it on the floor and wall in the shower which I have a concrete pan in and a liner Or should I just go buy the thinset mortar?

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Tom cimino

Used a stone sealer for dry areas, in my shower, didn’t,t read the label. What do I do now. Tks tom c

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Roger

Hi Tom,

I don’t know what a stone sealer for dry areas would be. What particular product is that?

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Tony

Hi Roger,
I’ve been pre-sloping under my pans by troweling out a layer of thinset, and putting a thin mortar bed on top of that (2 parts quikcrete sand topping mix, 1 part sand). Works well, but requires time to set-up time before installing the pan and mortar bed floor. I’ve recently run across a job by another builder, and instead of a mortar pre-slope, he stacks a couple layers of roofing shingles under the pan, layering them so they taper off towards the drain, effectively creating that pre-slope. He then can do the slope, pan, and mortar bed all at the same time. It seemed perfectly plausible to me. Can you think of a reason why this would be a bad idea?

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Roger

Hi Tony,

Yes, I can think of several reasons. You WILL have hollow areas beneath your liner for one. It is a hack that a diy’er would do before researching anything. If you are a professional I would HIGHLY recommend not doing that. If you are concerned with speed use a topical membrane, then you only need a single slope.

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Andrea

which grout is best for pebbles? can the Fusion grout be used if gaps 1/2″ or less?
PLease Help!

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Roger

Hi Andrea,

I believe so, but call the manufacturer to make sure. They would know specifics of their grout, I don’t. Sorry.

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theresa

i purchased a home that was remodeled by the seller. the seller bragged about the beautiful $15,000 tile floor he installed…. half of it was installed over a sunken living room that is “sitting on concrete and built up with 2 by material at 12″ on center with solid plywood” …. that s a quote from seller. the problem is 2 days after living in home and no furniture or anything over this area… just walking by myself (65yrs old 130 lbs) the grout and tiles are coming loose and cracking over built up area only…. the seller then told me to apply silicone grout now that i am no longer moving anything heavy into the house…. which i had not done yet…
3 flooring contractors i had come look at floor all said it was installed wrong, that no cement board was used …. the floor sounds hollow when walking across it now… and it seems to be saggng where the built up floor meets the floor tiles placed on slab or as he said “tile installed over crack isolation bed”…. i am so confused …. can you help me understand. please!

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Roger

Hi Theresa,

It sounds to me like he installed the tile directly over plywood, which is a no-no. Any tile installation needs a proper substrate. That could be cement board, a membrane such as ditra, or a mud bed (deck mud used to form a flat substrate). Any of those work, the problem is your tile does not have a proper substrate beneath it.

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7625y

What and Where do I use modified or un modified with Ditra and Hardy Backer Board ??

I looked long through your delightful questions and reply’s ; & I did not see. I feel it is simply to easy. Duh and no body asks these simple ?’s

Mine is , I installed Hardy Backerboard over 16 inch center 2X12 covered with OSB and a 1/2 inch under lay plywood. Hopefully done correctly with Modified thinset and screwed down now its time to finish the Kitchen project.

So for completion , my Choice is Schluter – Ditra. ((( Not Ditra XL))) then tile with 24×12 ceramic porcelain tile What and Where do I use modified or un modified with Ditra and Hardy Backerboard ???

Reply

Roger

Hi 7625y (if that IS your real name…),

With hardi you want unmodified both under and over it (the ditra).

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7625y

Yes, kind of real name. 7625y is Rocky on the telephone number pad. Seems every one these days tell you your name is taken ;and you have to something different to talk to posts. Thanks for the info . I’m in conflict with tile & floor company about “Thinset”.. They supplied “modified” & then said it was the proper use; with both sides and floor. (plywood underlay over OSB with hardie backer board ) This is my kitchen floor construction. I called and informed them of Schuleter Ditra instructions. Also the Ditra is down with “modified”. under. ;;;;; before discovery . I think I asked earlier about “modified” between wood and hardie backer board . But please comment back to me if that too, will be ok. ::: Also if I rip out ditra what can I do with floor to correct can I put unmodified over modified and new Ditra , one mess after another , thanks for the reply and your help, Rocky

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Roger

If you used modified under the ditra you’re fine. Although unmodified is recommended, modified works fine.

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Karen Tohidi

Hi Roger, I have a question that didn’t seem to be answered by the eBooks I bought, or any of the posts I’ve seen. Can Denshield tile backer boards be installed on shower walls, all the way down to a concrete slab floor, before setting a mud deck?
If not, why not? Since a liquid waterproof membrane will be applied to walls and mud deck before tiling, does it matter? If so, why? Thanks for all your help!!!

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Roger

Hi Karen,

Yes they can, that’s how I do it.

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Ted

I’m using Ditra Heat TM in two rooms and and just the regular Ditra (not heated) in the other rooms. I just realized that they are different thicknesses… The Ditra Heat is 5/16″ and the regular Ditra is 1/8″. The tile throughout the whole basement will be the same though. Any suggestions on how I make the two membranes the same height? Returning and exchanging it via UPS would be very expensive. I should’ve just ordered Ditra heat mats for the entire basement, but thought I could save a little money doing it this way. Now what?

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Roger

Hi Ted,

You can either use ditra heat, ditra XL, or you can double up the regular ditra (that’ll still be a bit short, but you can make that up with thinset).

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Wendy

I am installing tile baseboard using bullnose tile, and am not sure how to do the corners. Do I miter them like wood? The tiles seem kinda thin, so i am wondering how they would miter cut cleanly. Also, i saw on youtube a guy who recommends construction adhesive instead of thinset to adhere them to the wall, what are your elfie thoughts on this?

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Roger

Hi Wendy,

You can miter them (kind of a pain, but they look better) or you can just butt them together and silicone that corner. That’ll be completely fine.

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Charles

what best mat’l to put on the studs for a 3×5 shower only when stapling black paper used for shingles chicken wire of lattice, floating the tile the shower?

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Roger

Hi Charles,

I don’t understand what your question is? You are describing a floated mud shower, no further materials are needed.

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Mike

Hi Roger,
I’m getting my 5’x3′ shower hot-mopped this week. They said they’ll mop up probably 8″ or so against the walls. A couple of questions:

How low should the Densshield go over the mopped walls?

Should I use a lath on the 8″ mopped walls to hold the mud up to the bottom of the Densshield (whatever height that ends up at).

If I need lath, should I use it on the dam wall also, or am I over-thinking this?

Thanks!

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Roger

Hi Mike,

Normally down to about 1/4″ – 1/2″ above the mud bed. No need for the lath, yes, you’re overthinking it. :D

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andrew

Hi Rodger
I purchased a tub from home depot (the Maxx Avenue Alcove to be exact). The lip around the side of the tub is not wide enough to put my 1/2 Densesheild over top of the flange and leave enough room for tiles. The tile will end up in the bathing area.
1/2″ Wall board above Integrated tiling flange 1/2″ Integrated tiling flange about 1/8″ thick – 1/8″ = 3/8″
Integrated tiling flange to curve of the tub 5/8″ wall board sticks out past tiling flange – 3/8″ = 2/8″ = 1/4″ Wall covering can only be 1/4″ thick or it’s going to be over the edge of the tub into the bathing area.
I have cut back the studs (not a supporting wall) then sistered some 2×3 so that the Densesheild will hang over the flange by a 16th. I am planning on putting on silicone between the Densesheild and the flange. Can i use some left over Kerdi membrane about a foot from the bottom of the board to run it over the flange for saftey or will that have a negative effect? Also the other two walls lips are wide enough so would be better to install the Denseshelild over the flange on them?

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Roger

Hi Andrew,

I just looked at it – that’s one of the dumbest damn designs I think I’ve ever seen! I would install the densshield over the flange on the sides and use the kerdi as you’ve described along the back – that will work just fine.

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Josh

Roger,

Any special procedure for setting wall tile on new drywall (dry areas)? I’ll be using Kerabond – unmodified. Should I dampen the surface? Do I need to prime?

Thanks,
Josh

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Roger

Hi Josh,

No need to prime. I do run a sponge over it just to get rid of any residual dust that may be on the surface, other than that just go at it.

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Mike

Hi Roger,

I’ve been reading lately on rectified tile and wanted to make sure I understand the term. This applies to porcelain and ceramic tiles only (manufactured tiles), and means that after the tiles have been cast/baked/created??? they are “trued-up” to be an exact dimension?
Additionally, natural materials are “rectified” by default since they are cut as part of the “creation” process?

Thanks,
Mike

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Mike

I’m sorry, I did a search in your library, and found the answer afterward. It sounds like I was pretty much correctly understanding the definition. I should have looked first! Thanks for all you do for the rest of us!

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Roger

Hi Mike,

That is correct. Well done! :D

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Josh

Thanks Roger. Just to make sure I absolutely understand (at the risk of beating a dead horse)… If I’m using a 10″ tile and 7″ fits on the back wall, I should “wrap” the 3″ piece to the side wall?

Thanks,
Josh

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Roger

Not necessarily. You want to begin with a full and half tile on the outside edge of the side wall. If the smaller of the two tiles in the corner happens to be three inches then yes, but it may be a bit smaller or larger. If your side wall is 30″ then your smaller tile will be five inches – not three. The point is to have the smaller tile in the pattern butted against the large tiles in the corners.

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Josh

Roger, that makes sense now thanks!

I installed the tile on the back wall of the tub surround and it came out great. No problems at all with 1/16″ grout line. Thanks for all of the advice!

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Josh

I’m still trying to nail down how I’m going to layout the tile for my tub surround. I’m considering 1/3 overlap running bond. Your explanation / diagram on p76 of your layout book has me confused. It looks as though you have two different sizes of tile, but I’m not sure that’s what you meant – check out the right side of the back wall where it meets the side wall. Can you clarify?

Also, do you think 1/16″ grout line is too ambitious for an amateur?

Thanks,
Josh

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Roger

Hi Josh,

It is all the same size tile – though not in the diagram. I stretched the tiles in the corner to emphasize that you want 1/2 tile against a full tile (or a smaller against a larger) where they meet in the corner. That’s all that is.
1/16″ is fine provided you take your time and pay close attention to your grout lines.

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