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.

Jerry

Roger,
I just read a question from Paul you recently responded to regarding porosity of a concrete floors and thinset holding to it. I am refinishing a bathroom in the basement and was able to get the top layer of linoleum off of it, but the majority of the floor still has a white layer of something on it (ie. the concrete is not exposed). The white layer is extremely thin and will not come off (at least I have not been able to get it off). I haven’t tried the water on it yet to see if it will permeate this layer. Will the thinset hold to this and if not, what can I use to get the remainder of this material off the floor?

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Sandy Weber

Hey Roger~
You have probably answered this before, but I wasn’t able to find it (or I’m just too damn lazy)…
Can I use kerdi band in the corners of my tub surround over the hardiboard and then paint everything with redguard (over the kerdi band too)?
If I can, do I install the kerdi band in thinset or do I paint redguard in the corners and just mount the kerdi band on that?
I would have preferred to use fiberglass mesh, but I can’t seem to find any locally.
Thanks for any advice.
Sandy

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Diane

A few quick questions to start out….

We are redoing a 5′ neo-angled shower on a 5″ sunken concrete slab floor and 2 sides of concrete block walls that are covered with Denshield and Redguard.
The other sides butt up to the tub platform and a pony wall. We are planning on using the divot method with the lower level of the drain set into the concrete slab at the floor level. We will be doing a 1 1/4 ” divot so the depth of the deck mud will be 2 1/4″.

We are redoing a 5′ neo-angled shower on a 5″ sunken concrete slab floor and 2 sides of concrete block walls that are covered with Denshield and Redguard.
The other sides butt up to the tub platform and a pony wall. We are planning on using the divot method with the lower level of the drain set into the concrete slab at the floor level. We will be doing a 1 1/4 ” divot so the depth

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Roger

Hi Diane,

I see you’ve described your project layout very well – twice. But I can’t for the life of me find a question in there, let alone a few quick ones. :D

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Paul

Hi Roger, I’m tiling a small bathroom floor and will do the shower surround after the floor. The bathroom concrete slab floor is in good shape, level no cracks. Question(s) The old linoleum came up pretty well and there are only some very small traces of residue. (1) Does the entire floor need to be stripped with some type of chemical (non-toxic etc.)? In some references they recommend a type of antifracture membrane over a concrete slab before tiling. (2) Do you advise using something like RedGard over the concrete slab?

(Inside the shower) I’m putting travertine mosaic on the floor and in the niche. The mosaic comes in 12X12 inch squares mats and has varied joint, 1/16 to 1/8 in. (I think). I’ve heard that unsanded grout would be the best choice as the travertine could scratch with sanded grout? (3) You don’t recommend unsanded for joints 1/8 or more? Can I use unsanded on the travertine mosaic if it has a 1/8 joint?

I’m using 12X24 inch porcelain for the walls in the shower and on the bath floor. (4) If I use 1/8 joint throughout the remainder of this job, I’d assume you would recommend sanded grout for the rest of the bathroom and shower walls? Thanks so much for all your help and patients

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Roger

Hi Paul,

What you need to be concerned with is the porosity of the concrete. If you splash some water on it and the water soaks into the concrete within 45 seconds or so you’re fine to go over it. If it sits on top then you need to either chemically or mechanically scarify the surface – until it soaks water in. If it can’t soak in water the thinset will not bond to it.

You can use unsanded on 1/8″ joints, but you’ll have to go over it a couple times to get the lines full. I have never seen sanded grout scratch a travertine. Doesn’t mean it won’t happen, I’ve just never seen it. And I’ve installed a LOT of travertine.

Same answer. :D

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Brent Bowser

I tiled my shower (tub surround) and I haven’t grouted yet. The top edge of the tub was not level, so we made a level line and measured down to the tub for each tile in the bottom row. The result is a stepped and uneven gap between tub and tile (admittedly due to lack of attention to detail and patients). Any suggestions for making it look decent?

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Roger

Hi Brent,

Not much you can do with it now short of replacing those tiles. You can try to get an even silicone line there, but I don’t know how far off they are. If it is less than 1/8″ across a tile the silicone should be fine.

Sorry for the delayed response, my spam filter went ape shit last week for some reason, I just found your comment in the spam folder, I hope the answer found you in time.

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Jerry

Roger, I am using the alkali resistant tape on the durock seams I installed in the shower enclosure. I have seen that you use thinset over the tape, but how do you mud the seams of the blue board ceiling and walls outside of the enclosure to the durarock? The blue board is to be painted.

In addition, I used a non-paintable silicon caulk in all of the durock seams. I wish to paint the durrock walls with Aquadefense and have been told the Aquadefense will not hold to the non-paintable silicon caulk. The only option they said I have is to tape then thinset the over the tape and silicon caulk then apply the aquadefense over the thinset/tape. Will this work?

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Roger

Hi Jerry,

You can use the thinset and tape on that seam as well. After it cures it can be sanded and painted like regular drywall mud. Yes, tape and mud over the silicone will work.

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Rod

Hey Rodger,

I’ve got mortar question(s).

I’m the process of renovating a bathroom and have levelled the floor as best I could using 3/4″ plywood. I then used Custom Building Products Skim Coat & Patch over a good portion of the plywood for a flat surface. I then installed Nuheat cables and plan to put Ditra down before I tile. ( just saw your Sun Touch article – don’t think I’m comfortable doing the 1 step process you have for installing the Ditra over the warm wire. Is 2 steps OK?).

What’s the best mortar to go with to ensure a good bond to the patch product, Laticrete 317 or Customs PREMIUMPLUS® STANDARD THIN-SET MORTAR? Not sure if you’d be familiar with this one as it says Canada only on their site; anything like their Masterblend which you’ve described?
I can get Mapei’s Kerabond locally too but I’m not familiar with their product.
I’m more familiar with Laticrete products but as I used a Custom product the local Laticrete dealer steered me back to Custom – compatibility issues.

Appreciate any info you can provide.

Thanks,
Rod

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Roger

Hi Rod,

A 2 step process will be just fine. The premiumplus is all right, no, it’s nothing like the masterblend. To be honest I would use a good modified mortar since you have cables in there, it will see a LOT of expansion and contraction.

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phil

Hey Roger,
Recently put in a shower mud-bed, sloped to a laticrete flange drain, but the slope is slightly steeper than I would like. Its still in code (about 3/8″ per foot), but just a bit steeper than I would like. I am considering some ways to reduce the pitch.

1) lay the thinset a little thicker near the drain when laying the tile
2) screed another layer of deck mud, tapered thicker toward the drain
3) same as 2 above, but use a medium-set mortar, feather finish, or FB-9L (Ardex)
4) scrape/sand the existing mud pan to the desired pitch
5) do nothing, leave the pitch as is
6) bring up the shower threshold another foot, enclose and insulate the shower, and use it as a beer cooler (shower in the kids bathroom).

2&3 would probably leave a bit of a shallow divot near the drain, which could be filled in just like you describe in your book. 4 seems like it would be slow and difficult. Thoughts?

Thanks

Phil

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Roger

Hi Phil,

While I’m extremely partial to the beer cooler idea (I see you read my website :D ) it probably won’t go over well with everyone else. I would go with #2, just use thinset over the existing deck mud before installing the new so it will bond.

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Chester

So I put my first hardieboard up on the wall and I’ve realize my slope for the floor (not tiled yet) is not even.. I have 1ft distance from one side of the drain and the other side is 3 ft distance from the drain. So of course i made the 3ft side higher to increase the slope as it gets farther. The issue I see here is when I lay the boards the spacing on the floor to board is not even. Then When I tile the wall it won’t be even also. How can I fix this issue?

Can I thicken the versabond when tiling to even it out?

Use Type S on top of the Mud?

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Roger

Hi Chester,

You can put more deck mud over the lower areas and slope it up so you have a level perimeter. It should be 1/4″ / foot to the furthest corner, the perimeter level from that point and sloped evenly from the perimeter to the drain. With an off center drain you will not have a consistent slope. You also need to put thinset over the existing deck mud before installing the new so it will bond.

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Jennifer

Hello Roger,
I am greatly enjoying your site, thank you for making all of this info available for people who would otherwise have no idea what they were up to.

We plan to install 18×18 travetine over concrete floor. Here is the irony, we decided not to stain because of the prep required. Our old floor is t&g pine, get this, Liquid nailed to the concrete. Needless to say there is alot of residual liquid nails left on the floor. So, my question is, how much of the residue do we have to remove? If it is relatively even, can we just use a membrane on top?

Thank you!
Jennifer

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Roger

Hi Jennifer,

Yes, as long as when you splash some water onto it the water soaks into the concrete relatively quickly you can go right over it with a membrane.

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Carolyn

I had someone install tile in my hallway cheap because he was still learning the job. He was supposed to come back for a few finishing touches and some cleanup, but he never did and to make a long story short (yes I learned many lessons, I promise), I now have tile floor but most of the tiles are stained with grout and mortar. I’ve tried several different tile cleaning products (including the acidic one) and followed the directions, etc., to no avail. Any suggestions, or do I need to start over? Thanks.

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Roger

Hi Carolyn,

If it’s porcelain you can take a drywall sanding sponge to get most of it off, then use a grout haze remover to get rid of the rest (yes, works with mortar haze as well).

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Julie

Purchased a 1954 fixer-upper, and am about to dive into a tiling job on the downstairs (original basement house) shower room. It’s built out of cinder block, and I’m ripping down the half-completed, totally unfortunate tile job that is thin-set directly to the unsealed walls to start over. (The prior owner was known for half-completing everything, and if you saw the crap he did to my upstairs shower, now requiring me to rip out a ton of moldy sheetrock, you would be… probably not surprised, but I needed an adult beverage.) Wondering if you have instructions for this kind of tile-on-block job? I’m wondering if I should add backer board, or seal the cinder block wall and use the mortar to even out the surface? Maybe this is a new instructional manual idea? I read through 101 and found it most helpful!

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Roger

Hi Julie,

I don’t have anything specific for that. Your best bet is to float it out with thinset to flatten it, let that cure, then waterproof it with either a liquid or sheet membrane. Tile right over that.

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Julie

Thanks – that seems to be the consensus with all the hardware stores, too. I’m curious if there is a good trick for getting the tiles to release? I am really struggling to get them off the wall!

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Roger

Go rent a rotary hammer. Or buy one, they’re cool. Like a mini-jackhammer. :D

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Albert

Hi Roger,
My kitchen floor (with U shape counter top sitting on top) was done two years ago and many of the tiles are lose with cracked grout.
After removing the grout and lift the tiles up I see thinset didn’t glue to those tiles. After removing tiles (mostly center area of the floor) I started chipping away those thinset with a small air hammer and along with the thinset some of the hardieback board surface came off too (like surface of the moon). I also noticed there was no tape/mud for the joints of two board.
The tiles are brickwork pattern with 12×12 tiles. Three side of this U shaped kitchen has counter rest on the tiles.
Please advice what should I do at this point. Can I put tiles done on this moon surface like hardieback (somewhat flat but not smooth)? Should I cut out the hardieback as much as I can and replace it with new piece?
I suspect there is no thinset under the hardieback either, anything I can do to remedy it? Anything I can do to prevent lose tiles and grout again? Really appreciate any help you can offer.

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Roger

Hi Albert,

Ideally everything, including the backer, should be removed and installed properly. You can just do that in the center portion (the part without cabinets), but it may be very difficult to get your tile flat with the existing. You can go over what you currently have as long as all of it is scraped as much as you can get it, but I can not guarantee it won’t crack again. It sounds as if the substrate was not properly prepared, but it may just be a matter of the tiles not being backbuttered or the thinset skimming over before the tile was placed over it. So it may last if you do that, it may not. It’s a flip-a-coin decision.

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Chester

When applying Redgard do I apply it also on the final mud floor where it will be tiles? Or do I just stay around the walls and curb?

I’m using 12×24 tiles vertically on the walls. Do I start in the middle and work my way out and keep going to the other walls? Any tips or advice. Thanks

I have about 3 feet from the drain and My drain is about 1.25 inch height. The mud wall at the end of the 3 ft I marked at 3 inches to get a nice slope. This only gives me ab 1.5 inches left of the inside curb. Does this sound normal?

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Roger

Hi Chester,

You did not say how your shower floor is waterproofed (or if it is). If you have a traditional liner in there then just use the redgard on the walls. If you are waterproofing it with redgard you would obviously need to cover the entire floor.

Begin at the center of the back wall and tile to both sides, then begin with a full tile at the outside edge of both side walls and work into the corner.

1.5″ is fine for the inside of the curb.

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MJ

Roger,
We’re tiling a kitchen backsplash where there was never tile before. That means the outlets and switches are all flush with the sheetrock. We will have to build them out to be flush with the new tile. Do you have any information or resources on how to do that? This is a great site, BTW, and enabled me to do a professional job on our basement floor (if I do say so myself :-)
Thanks,
MJ

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MJ

Roger,
I did some investigation, and it turns out it’s not that difficult, so I’m sorry for bothering you BEFORE I researched some more. I see two different solutions: one is Electrical Spacers that fold up to the specified width that sit between the receptacle and the box, and the other is a rectangular plastic insert that actually extends the whole box out. Do you have a preference when you tile, or is that the concern of the electrician and not the tiler? :-)

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Roger

I normally use the spacers, as I stated. But both work just fine. I normally don’t call in an electrician for a remodel on a backsplash, but if it’s new construction it’s his problem.

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Roger

Hi MJ,

At any hardware or big box store you can purchase longer screws for your outlets as well as spacers, which are just little square pieces of plastic with holes in the middle for the screw. When you cut the tile around the outlet be sure to cut the hole small enough that the ‘ears’ on the top and bottom of the outlet sit on the tile, place your spacers in there and to be flush with the face of the tile and install your screws. When you do that the face of the outlet will be flush with the face of the tile and your cover will sit on it correctly.

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Sandy Weber

Hi!
Love your site. Great information!!
My question is, I want to replace the tile in an existing bathroom of my old house (built in the ’20’s). The walls are plaster and metal mesh. It would be a pain in the butt to try to remove the walls down to the studs. Can I use a topical liquid waterproofing on these walls or am I limited to the membrane waterproofing material.
Thanks for any advice!
Sandy

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Roger

Hi Sandy,

Over plaster walls you have to use a sheet membrane. The plaster can be an inconsistent density leading to areas where your waterproofing may be overly-thinned from being sucked into the substrate and not completely waterproof.

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Sandy Weber

Ah, OK, that’s what I was afraid of. But I want to do it right…
Thanks for the info!
Sandy

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Dale goralczyk

Hi,

I am about the start my first tiled shower, floor and walls and have been reading as much material as possible. Based on limited funds and best potential for success I have decided on the following method. Does that make since or as a first time shower person would a better approach suit me needs. I have alot of tile experience but never a shower or pan.

Traditionally waterproofed shower floor and topically faced substrate walls

Thanks

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Roger

Hi Dale,

Very good option. Done correctly it works very well.

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Dale goralczyk

I downloaded the manual that I mentioned in my original post. Then after reading thru it a couple of times I realized what I really wanted was a Traditionally waterproofed shower floor and a liquid based waterproof substrate walls. I read thru the list of manuals multiple times and do not see one with this combination. Is that not something that is done? What manual did I intend to purchase?

Thanks great site!

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James

Hi Roger
have a question for you.
I just installed porcelain tile in kitchen and leading out to my walkway next to the carpet in my living room. I am going to replace the carpet, but when I was laying the new tile next to the old carpet I notice the tack strip on the ground was not straight, so I had to cut tiles to fit that backed away from it.
I realized later (really stupid) that now the tile line is not even. The tile line that will meet up to the new carpet has tiles of different widths.
What you recommend, I try and cut the installed tiles or leave it and have the carpet installers try there best the get the carpet to line up against the uneven tile line.
Would appreciate any advice you could offer.
Thanks,

James

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Roger

Hi James,

You can cut the tiles in place with a grinder and a diamond tile wheel. Alternatively you can have the carpet guys install a transition strip which covers the edge of the tile. I would not have them try to tuck the carpet directly to the tile as it is, you’ll always see that line.

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Shawna

Hey Roger………..I have just started reading some of your articles, haven’t fully delved into any projects as of yet, but I can see that you have a WEALTH of knowledge when it comes to laying tile and I can’t wait until I actually get one of my projects going and I can read your step-by-step instructions. Seems like you actually make it fun to figure out!!! Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge with the DIY!!!

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