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.

Christian

So, I’m going to be framing out a bedroom in the basement of a family member’s home. Problem is… there’s a small leak in the MB shower above this area! This custom house is only about five years old ( and appears to be, mostly, well-built), but that big, walk-in shower has leaked since the beginning. After a significant amount of testing/observation, it appears that plumbing connections and supply lines are all good, but the shower floor is leaking, allowing water to trickle down through the sub-floor. Every day, after morning showers, there’s a small puddle on the basement floor.

The last test we did involved sealing the floor strainer with duct tape and adding a few inches of water to the shower; within a couple of minutes, water was steadily dripping down into the basement. Shower floor is tiled and grout looks pretty good (not so good in the corners).

I’m afraid that it’s going to require a full demo of the shower floor to replace the pan/liner. Is that your consensus, too? :(

Reply

Roger

HI Christian,

Yes, you’ll need to remove the floor as well as at least 12″ of the bottom of the walls to correctly tie the waterproofing into the walls.

Reply

Mark

I’m removing an old cast iron tub and converting to a walk in shower (following this awesome sites direction). The bench at the far end is going to be a slab of granite I had fabricated for this purpose. What I’m wondering is where the water that permeates the tile on the back wall, through the durock, and ends up at the plastic membrane goes. I’m not seeing how to make a path for that moisture to eventually end up at the weep holes. I didn’t see anything on slab benches in the bench section and am afraid it will eventually lead to tile failure behind the bench. Am I screwed and need to re do the entirety with a topical membrane?

Thanks for the great site!!

Reply

Roger

Hi Mark,

A topical membrane is always the best choice on a bench. Slab benches are just like tile benches, the waterproofing is exactly the same. Makes no difference what you bond to the waterproof substrate.

Reply

Rory

Hello,
Thanks for previous help. Now onto new project.
I am building shower that has a entryway that will not be exposed to water. The rear wall (of the entry) is on the same plane as one shower wall. Do I need to continue hydroban on area outside of shower or can I end hydroban when wall is outside of water area?

Reply

Roger

Hi Rory,

You can end it once it’s outside the wet area.

Reply

Wesley Bergeron

I am working towards installing travertine on 650 sq ft of basement floor.
I have 100 sq ft of linoleum that i’m trying to remove. It is glued down with a grey adhesive that is approaching impossible to remove completely from the concrete..Even if I do get it scrapped from the concrete, it’s hard to tell if it’s permeated the concrete. any suggestions? I could email a couple pictures if you would provide your email address.

Reply

Roger

Hi Wesley,

Heat it up first with a heat gun or blow dryer. It should scrape right up when heated.

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Dan

hi roger….love your tips, great site.
no burning cats or dogs on fire here, but do have a burning question…tub surround in my condo…old out new in…my backing substrate on two walls is actually full concrete slabs…but the slabs are very rough and uneven in fininsh…I would like to install a backer board and membrane…my concern is regarding the backerbaord…I will need to “shim” out the walls for a flat level wall…I have about 3/4″ + for depth to work with…on a floor you would use scratch coating or SLC to get you there…but what do I use to “scratch coat” on a wall before installing my backer board? thx ;)

Reply

Roger

Hi Dan,

You would do it with wall mud, or wet mud. It’s 1 part portland, 1/2-1 part powdered lime, and 4 parts sand. However, you wouldn’t be shimming it out for the backer, once cured the tile goes directly onto the mud. Over cement walls you’d need to place your waterproofing over the mud, so you’ll need to use a sheet or liquid membrane.

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Dan

ty for the quick response…elves earned thier keep. ;) so the idea is to fully fill the void with “wet mud”… is there a prepared powder I can mix with water or as I am presuming by your formula I would need to gather components and mix my own?

Reply

Roger

I’m sure there is, but I’ve never seen it, so it’s likely extremely difficult to get a hold of. You can also use powdered stucco base mix, it’s nearly an identical formula. Yes, you’re filling the void with wet mud. My buddy Jack has a good video of him doing a tub surround here: Floating a tub surround

Reply

KP

Roger,
I’m having the same contractor that laid new tile & subfloor in my main hallway remodel my master bath, total remodel. The cabinet will now be where the tub was & the tub will now be where the sink was. The toilet will remain in current plumbing. Will this be a footprint change & will it cost more to move these two fixtures? Also, there was more dust than I expected from the hallway project. He did put up plastic, but it was thin & not taped down real well. They used a saw to cut tile in the hallway right by the heat vent, no coverage of heating was done. And, when they returned to fix lose tiles & grout 2-3 times they didn’t put back the plastic or cover the chandelier. It’s overwhelming. Should I expect this to happen with the bathroom? I’m not sure I can handle this massive amount of dust. I’ve have a total kitchen remodel & 4 season porch & the dust level was far far less. Would you tell me what’s acceptable, I don’t want to make the contractors job more tough. thank you

Reply

Roger

Hi KP,

I have no idea about the pricing issue on the footprint, it is dependent on your particular contractor. A little dust is always unavoidable, but it doesn’t sound like he’s doing everything he can to diminish it. I would make very clear up front what your expectations are for dust control before he begins.

On a side note – it is not your responsibility to make your contractor’s job easy. You are paying him for a service, should he not provide the service to your expectation then you are not getting what you paid for. Also, why, if he had to fix loose tiles and cracked grout 2-3 times (!!!) why in the hell are you having him build a bathroom??? Completely your choice, just an observation on my part.

Reply

KP

THANK You Roger
I took your advice & we’re now searching for someone smart like you to remodel our large master bathroom!
We still have some cracking of grout in places even after he screwed the subfloor down better. However, I don’t believe the caulk he added to the grout (in a very few places) is a perm. fix, do you?

Reply

Roger

Absolutely not! If the grout is cracking it’s an issue with the subfloor. Temporary fixes, like caulk, will only fail and you will have the same problem.

Reply

Dan

don’t want to steal any thunder here mr. elf, from what I know, screwing of sub floors happens before tile installation…how did this guy screw the sub floor after tiles installed? … very curious as to this wonder technique

Reply

KP

Screwing down the subfloor. He did if from the furnace room that is underneath the hallway. ‘Am I screwed again?

Reply

Roger

Don’t know if you’re screwed again, but it’s highly doubtful that will actually fix anything.

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David

Two part question (so is that considered two questions?)
I have measured (twice), I have cut, I have placed, and I have screwed the Hardiebacker onto my shower wall. Now what product should I use to cover the joint lines. How do I send pictures of it? I prefer to be laughed at so I thought I could post something here to satisfy that need. Second part is how or can I, make the installation waterproof?

I put in 4mil plastic on the walls first and drapped it over the Oatey shower pan membrane. I used the pre-pitch and the quick-pitch products to set my floor in and all that went wonderful. Portland cement and sand mixture (4 to 1 ration) for the floor pan so I am not worried about the floor.

Its the walls I want to make sure I do it right.

Thanks.

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David

OK so I didn’t read first. My dog was biting me because he was on fire and I was ignoring him too.

So thinset to fill in the joints and tape and more thinset. Got it.

Now let me put out the cat too. The dog ran into the cat when I told him to roll over to put out the fire. :bonk:

Reply

Roger

Ugh, cats. They just won’t listen… :D

Reply

Roger

Hi David,

You need alkali-resistant mesh tape (in the tile section) and thinset. Tape and mud the seams and corners with that just like you would drywall tape and mud. If your plastic is overlapping your floor membrane then your installation is already waterproof – tile away.

Reply

John

Hi Roger; Thanks for what you do! I have no doubt I can do what I am contemplating – remodeling a bathroom and tiling in a tub/shower – once I know the materials and processes. With your guidance I think I’ll have that covered.

QUESTION; I am tiling in a new tub to make it into a shower. My design does not have tile going all the way to the ceiling, and so I would have some wall inside the shower exposed. Would I use backerboard for the entire wall and skim coat/sand smooth the exposed area, or is there another process by which to create a smooth and yet moisture resistant wall surface?

Thanks for any ideas!

Reply

Roger

Hi John,

Backerboard is your best bet. It can be textured and painted just like regular drywall.

Reply

Patti

Questions.
Sorry to bother but could not find the section on what to do if your dog catches on fire.
Applying Kerdi membrane to a new shower. Some of edges did not stick to thinset. After it is set what are options to repair? Do I peel it back and apply more thinset? Do I have to scrape some of old thinset off first? Cut the loose section aout and patch using thinset? Can Kerdi Fix be used?
I think there may be air bubbles in some places under Kerdi. Will my tiles fall of the wall? Do I have to cut those open or out and patch? Did this happen because the darned thinset dried too fast? I just could not keep up with it! Will thinning it more help next time?

Reply

Roger

Hi Patti,

Given the options kerdi-fix is your best. It can be used to bond the edges. You can also place more thinset beneath the edges and embed it. No, your tile will not fall off the wall. If they are bigger than about 4″ around I would cut them out and patch them. Yes, it happens if the thinset cures too quickly. Yes, making it thinner next time will help.

Reply

Randy

Great website! And an even greater review/recommendations for unmodified thinset. Can you do the same for modified thinset?

Reply

Roger

Hi Randy,

Sure, which set of 100 modified thinsets would you like me to cover? :D There are SO MANY modified thinsets, with so many different applications that it would be nearly impossible for me to do that. I’d be more than happy to answer questions about any you need info on, though.

Reply

Mike

Hi Roger,

I just installed travertine on slab. I have not grouted yet. I’d like to enhance the tile. What is my order of operation? Enhance, grout, seal? Grout, then enhance and seal with one product? The tile does have natural air holes that I would like to fill with grout. Does that determine grout first?

Thanks!

Reply

Roger

Hi Mike,

If you want to fill those holes (and have it last) you’ll need to grout first. Then use a couple coats of enhancing sealer once the grout cures.

Reply

Rayne

I’ve read through so much of your site tonight, I think my brain is going to explode! I tried to find my answers in comments, but no luck.
Our shower is on a concrete slab. After reading through your site, I had decided on a topical paint on membrane. Awesome! Then I read the part about needing a special drain. Our plumber already put in a standard drain. Is it hopeless? Can I do a topical membrane on the walls and bench and then traditional on the floor? Is there anyway I can do topical with a standard drain? Plugging holes maybe?

Reply

Roger

Hi Rayne,

Yes, you can do a topical membrane on the walls with traditional on the floor. You can also do it with a regular drain (google ’tile drain divot’) or you can use a kerdi drain adapter kit, which bolts the regular kerdi drain to the lower flange on your clamping drain.

Reply

Joshua

I live on a third floor condo and have heard other residents talk about a moisture barrier being put down before installing tile on the outside balcony. Do you have any suggestions as to what product is best for this purpose and is it actually needed?

Thanks, Josh

Reply

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