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.

Dave

Roger
I am tiling a 15ft X 7ft Room with 12X24 rectified porcelain tiles over Ditra. I laid out the tiles dry over the installed Ditra. Using a 6 ft. level I checked for level and flatness. Everything looks good except a slight slope to the rear of the room. I am also planning to use PLS tile leveling system. I am considering a 1/16 grout gap. What problems am I going to have if I do? Is there any effect on durability? As far as the slope, where would be the best place to start, high or low?

Thanks

Reply

Bill F

Elf
I have been working on my downstairs bathroom for about two years now (heart problems, golf, and beverage research). Question being, I bought all my stuff two years ago and the tile is about to go on. The thinset has been in my garage all that time and has a few hard spots you can feel….is it still ok to use? Also the floor had self adhesive tile before and may need clarification; what’s the easiest effective method?

Thanks and Merry Christmas buddy

Bill

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Bill F

Autospell strokes again lol. Scarification, not clarification

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Roger

Hi Bill,

You need to replace that thinset. If it has any hard spots it is gone. The easiest thing to do with the floor is use a primer over it, tec has a good one. Beyond that a grinder with a cup wheel is the easiest – wear a mask. :D

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Leslie

Hi, Roger

Thanks for guiding me through the cement board and Redgard installation steps with your downloadable shower waterproofing manual. Now that I’m ready to tile, I picked up two ceramic corner shelves at the tile store. I was surprised to see that only one of the corners was unglazed with holes in it to attach to the shower wall. The other end that will go up against the perpendicular wall is glazed. I expected two unfinished sides. I assume that I will use thinset on the unglazed side and push it right up against the membrane and then tile and caulk around it. What about the glazed side? Also, the guys at the tile store said it didn’t matter if I used thinset or construction adhesive or if I used it on the unglazed or the glazed. They didn’t give me much confidence.

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Roger

Hi Leslie,

You can use thinset on the glazed side as well. And yes, it is placed against the membrane and tiled around, then siliconed.

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Paul

Hi Roger,
Just when I figured nothing else could go wrong it does. The bathroom tile floor is down and I grouted it yesterday. I know you recommend Spectralock but I used the Laticrete 1500 sanded with 1776 enhancer. The tile was a light gray and we were going for a much darker shade of gray for the grout. I’m sure you can guess my next comment. When the grout dried it was very light gray. Super disappointment.

The only thing the Laticrete service guy could offer was that maybe I “wiped” it too much and offered to send me some colored sealer. Don’t know what I did wrong but I need to find a better way before I grout the shower surround. Any thoughts?

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Gordy Toomey

Hi Roger, HELP I am trying to install a shower in my bath.
This is a new house and is on a concrete slab. When the slab was poured the shower pan area was not left with enough pitch. Should I chip out the concrete and use dry pack mud to slope to the drain or should I just jackhammer out the whole floor and start over again?

Reply

Roger

Hi Gordy,

You need to build your shower pan with deck mud, which requires building up the floor. A bare concrete floor is not a proper shower floor substrate. You can start here: Building a shower floor.

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Gordy Toomey

Hi Roger You are a Saint for putting up with us Idiots asking stupid questions. But of course I m going to ask another. I am trying to have a curbless shower floor, I guess I forget to mention that in my original post. What now?

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Roger

Hi Paul,

Is it the very top surface that is lighter, or is it the entire grout joint? If you scrape the very top of it with your fingernail is it darker beneath? If so it is likely just efflorescence, minerals from the water left on top after the water dissipates. If that’s the case you can take a drywall sanding sponge and LIGHTLY sand the grout lines to get the correct shade.

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Paul

Roger,
We tried the 50-50 water / vinegar treatment. Used the vinegar mixture on the grout and scrubbed pretty good with a plastic grout brush. This seems to have done the trick. The grout has basically come back to the sample color. I’m thinking this does about the same thing as a drywall sanding sponge. At any any rate thanks again for your help and patience.

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steve

Hi Roger ,
Your help to build my shower was so appreciated . My final question :bonk: What can i use to clean and i guess disinfect after using ?

bleach and water ? i used porcelain tile and the color plus grout cant remember name of grout . it was the good stuff though and the matching grout colored caulk all charcoal color found it lol Mapei Ultracolor plus grout

thanks steve

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Roger

Hi Steve,

Regular laundry detergent and warm water would the the best. Rinse it really well.

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pete

Hi Roger. I have approx. 300 sq feet of 1 x 2 foot floor tile set on ditra that I need to remove to retile. Ditra is set on plywood. Is it possible to remove the tile and set new tile on the ditra or will it all have to be removed? ty

Reply

Roger

Hi Pete,

If the tile is properly installed you’ll never get the tile up without ruining the ditra, so just plan on replacing all of it.

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Dan

Elf, when using silicone matching grout for the corners of all plane. Do I use just the silicone orshould I grout and then apply the silicone.

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Roger

Hi Dan,

Just the silicone.

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Malcolm

And advice on installing floor heat under a tile bathroom floor? I did this once using the mat type of heat pad and had a heck of a time getting it embedded in the mortar and flat. I’m going to do another one and was thinking of using the wire that comes in a role and not the pre-configured mat to have more flexibility. SunTouch is the product I’m planning to use. Any suggestions on how to proceed, get it to stay flat, and not make my tile unlevel and subject to cracking.

Reply

Roger

Hi Malcolm,

Yes: Installing suntouch floor heat. That little search box up at the top works fairly well too. :D

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Stacey

Hey elf, I got this product froma local tile store they said this is what I need to use for the change of planes, floor to wall tile corners. It says siliconized acrylic and mold resisant etc… Is this what I need to use?

http://www.groutgetter.com/images_09/three_tube_165.jpg

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Roger

Hi Stacey,

Yes, that will work fine.

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Rick

My question is, Can I get tile to stick over slick marble. Have a friend that wants to tile over their PINK marble hearth. It is 2 inch thick marble 2 ft by 4 ft slabs. Have read that sanding it with 30 grit sand paper then thinset will stick. But I thought I better ask the Guru..

TY for your response.

Reply

Roger

Hi Rick,

What’s wrong with pink marble??? :D

You need to mechanically scarify the surface of the marble (take the ‘shiny’ off of it) or chemically etch it. It needs to be able to absorb water quickly when you splash it on there, then it will bond to the thinset.

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Cindy

If my shower is going to be a steamroom. Should I have tile on the ceiling to waterprrof it?

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Roger

Yes, your entire shower needs to be waterproofed (vaporproofed).

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Phil

Hey Roger, In your book on liquid topical membranes, and in particular, the section on taping and mudding the backerboard seams, you say “It is always best to fill the corner seams with silicone FIRST…” After you fill the corner seams with silicone, do you then put thinset and mesh tape over them just like on the flat seams? Thanks, Phil.

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Phil

Also, do you recommend any particular kind of silicone? Thanks again.

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Roger

All silicone is essentially the same. If it’s 100% silicone then one is just as good as any other.

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Roger

Hi Phil,

Yes. The silicone keeps thinset out of the corner gap and the tape and mud ties the boards together so they don’t move in different directions.

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Paul

Hi Roger,

You’ve been a tremendous help to me on my first tile job. Since, I’ve gotten so much good advice, I thought I’d pass on my experience if it hasn’t already been covered and maybe save one of my fellow DIYers some real pain.

I picked up 11 boxes of 12X24 inch “made in America” stamped glazed porcelain tile. It looks great. But, what I didn’t know when the store loaded the skid of tile, 10 boxes were of one type dye number and 1 box of a different dye number. As luck would have it, I started with 2 boxes with different dye numbers. After laying about 11 tiles, I noticed that the brick, 6 inch offset would no longer fit. At this time I noticed there was a 1/8 inch difference in the width of the tiles between the two dye lots.

After a lot of searching the tile store was able to locate 2 boxes of the smaller dye lot tiles which should allow me to finish the bathroom, but this has been troubling. In addition they said I shouldn’t have been using 1/8 inch grout lines, even though the boxes states this is the minimum allowed. Needless to say it is disheartening when as a novice tiler you do everything as correctly as possible and the store sinks your ship. When I move into the shower surround I will go to 3/16 grout lines and make sure I’m using all the same dye number.

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Stacey

I also forgot to ask, we just did the floor tiles with 2×2 and some of the edges are very tight and can barely get a knife blade between them to clean off the versabond. We will be grouting it next with fusion grout but i’m worried that the smallest gap if any will not have grout due to its tight space. This is just a small area not the whole shower floor.

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Roger

Hi Stacey,

You will be fine using fusion grout with those. Just pay close attention to those areas and you’ll be able to get the grout in there.

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Stacey

Hey ELF, So we just put our waterproof membrane redgard and about to start 12×24 wall tiles. Our of all the corners from niches, 2 piece of tile for corner shelf, and wall to floor and wall to ceiling, what needs to be grouted and what needs to be caulk and what needs to be silicone? I know tiles need grout but some areas need to be caulk and silicone right? Thanks.

Reply

Roger

Hi Stacey,

Any inside change of plane needs to be siliconed. Corners of the shower, where the wall meets the floor, around the shelves, etc. Everything else gets grout.

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as

what mortar and grout I can use for sauna floor porcelan tiles? Art

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Roger

Hi Art,

Anything that is not premixed will work. A good modified thinset like laticrete 255 or mapei ultraflex 3 would work just fine. Any cementitious grout or epoxy grout will be fine.

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Joe

Thank you for the wonderful site.

1) Why do you have flaw-pictures of nails and screws through the plastic water vapor barriers, but then recommend we staple and screw backerboard up to studs in showers, through a plastic vapor barrier?

2) Is it worth gluing backerboard to the studs, as well as screw them, just like we do on floors? Then using either Kerdi or RedGuard for the moisture protection?

Thanks again
-joe

Reply

Roger

Hi Joe,

Because the pictures I have are of nails and screws that have been placed below the top of the curb. The vertical vapor barrier on the wall is completely different than a pan liner in the bottom of a shower. Gravity. :D

No, you won’t gain anything at all. You can if you want, it won’t hurt anything, but no real reason to.

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kelly

Roger,

I finished tiling my guest bathroom (old school mud cap style) recently and thought I would share photos. When I went to your “Reader’s Projects” page, I can’t see links to other folks’ projects. Have you discontinued this page?

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Roger

Hi Kelley,

Nope, it’s still there. The elves went on a bender for a couple of days, but everything should be back to normal now. :D

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