Free TileTips Newsletter from the FloorElf

You can now purchase Tile Tips all at once rather than waiting over six months for them! Just scroll down below the form and get it all now!

Over the past seventeen (almost eighteen it’s over twenty now! – damn I’m gettin’ old) years in the tile trade I have learned a couple of things:

1) People sometimes do not appreciate my sense of humor

2) I oftentimes think I’m funnier than I actually am

3) I sometimes end sentences with inappropriate auxiliary verbs (see above) or start them with a conjunction (see below)

4) And I’ve learned a thing or two about tile

Since the first three on the list are highly unlikely to change or help you I’d like to concentrate on the last – Tile Tips. Since you’re reading this I’m assuming one of two things: either you are interested in learning about tile or you enjoy really bad humor.

You’re in luck! I making both available in one little handy email format. Just sign up below with your name and email and whenever I sober up about twice a week you will receive a handy little tip, trick, or secret about tile installation. I’ll wrap these little tidbits up in really bad humor and shoot them right to your email so you can start your day off with either a chuckle and a helpful tip or one more person to hate.

These things help speed up your installation, make the installation easier and less stressful and help put professional touches on all the little things you may overlook. Things like how to eliminate grout haze, how to get dead-level and flat walls and how to eliminate hollow spots beneath your tile. I also include all the really important stuff that drives me absolutely insane(r) like how to keep your 5 gallon buckets from sticking together and how not to electrocute yourself with a drill while using your hole saw. Fun for the whole family!

This isn’t just for the DIY’ers out there, either. If you are a professional tile contractor it would absolutely benefit you to learn some of these little tricks that you may have just never run across. It’ll help keep your customers happy – that’s what we want, right? You can sign up too, I won’t give you any shit.  Well, I might…

So how much is all this delicious jackassery?

It’s free.  ‘Cause I’m just super-cool like that. 8) Unless you want to buy them in the form of an ebook, if so just scroll down below the form. These will only be sent out once – not recycled like spam (the unwanted email – not the delicious breakfast pseudo-meat) so get yours now before I sober up long enough take enough time off work to make an ebook out of them and actually start charging people for stuff. Which I will do. Seriously. Get it now while it’s free.

First Name:
Your Email Address:


Buy it all now!

If you would prefer to simply purchase an ebook with 50 tile tips in it you’re in luck! You can do that now. Rather than waiting over six months for all this useless information you can now purchase all this useless information at once!

You can receive an immediate download link for a 90 page ebook in pdf format with 50 Tile Tips in it. You can get the same tips free, but they will be delivered to your email over the course of 6 months.

Entirely your choice.

Anyone who regularly reads my blog, my facebook, my twitter, or any of the other hundred places I’m lurking online, knows that I am an adamant supporter of Homes For Our Troops. So this is your chance to help out as well…

You can get all these tips for free – however, for every TileTips ebook purchased I will donate a portion of the sale to Homes For Our Troops!

Read all the details and go get it right here: Tile Tips of the Rich and Famous

{ 228 comments… add one }

Leave a Comment

  • Toni

    I am planning on tiling my outdoor lanai in central Florida. It has what I think is expansion crack…when tiling do I

    a.) abutt the tile to the line and then fill it all in with a caulk matching the grout?

    b.)do I center a tile over it and tile?
    c.)do I need to put down a membrane over the crack? then proceed to tile as if crack wasn’t there?

    I can send picture but don’t know how to attach……

    • Roger

      Hi Toni,

      A membrane would help a lot, but you’ll still need a soft joint over it. You want to lay out your installation so there is a grout line directly above that crack, then fill it with silicone rather than grout.

  • Anthony

    Can you use an additive in modified thinset to strengthen the bond. Using porcelain tiles and the are not sticking. Using 6×24 tiles. Set one and let it dry 24 hrs. Pulled up easily with pry bar without effort. Please let me know what I can do.

    • Roger

      Hi Anthony,

      You can stop pulling up your tiles with a crow bar. :D You can ALWAYS pull a tile up the next day with a crowbar. Provided you have complete coverage on the back of the tile and you are backbuttering them they will bond just fine. Yes, you can use an additive with modified thinset if you want to, not really necessary or a good idea in my opinion. I can hang 2’x2′ tile on a ceiling with unmodified thinset, and hang off of it after 48 hours. Your tile shouldn’t be a problem if properly installed.

  • Linda

    Hi Roger,
    I have some questions about tiling outdoors. We need to pour a cement step and I was going to tile over it with slate tile. Would I use Versabond thinset and tile just as I would indoors? How long do I need to wait for the cement to cure before I tile over it? I was also going to tile over some old walkways that were brick layed over cement – all very solid except for one crack. Anything special I need to do for the crack? And how important is it to seal the tile? I’m assuming I can use the 511 sealer outdoors (?) but I’m wondering what sealer you would recommend If I decide to go with the wet look to bring out the color?
    Thank you

    • Roger

      Hi Linda,

      Versabond will work, but it would be better to have a membrane such as ditra over it. You need to compensate for that crack with a crack isolation membrane, as well as having a soft joint through your tile. If you want enhancing sealer, miracle sealants seal-n-enhance will work just fine. You should wait 28 days before going directly over fresh concrete.

  • judy

    Roger, We had porcelain tile installed throughout our house 3 weeks ago, and have 2 problems needing your advice on how to handle. First, we have what appears to be “hazing” on almost all of the tiles some worse than others. We complained, and they returned and supposedly cleaned them up. Some look a little better, but we still can’t get them clean looking. How clean should the subcontractor be responsible for getting them? Second, the grout in many places is very uneven and very low. What should we insist the subcontractor do about this? Thanks for your advice

    • Roger

      Hi Judy,

      Insist that he fix it. The tile should have absolutely nothing on the top of it when he’s done, they should be clean. And the grout should be flush and consistent. Both issues are simply poor workmanship.

  • Steve

    So when I bought my traditional floor and topical book I also bought tile tips too. Are these books containing the same tips?

    • Roger

      Hi Steve,


  • Lee

    Would you recommend a water-based or oil-based sealer for a flat pebble stone shower floor? Pebbles are very light in color and grout is ivory.

  • Reid

    Love the site. Plan to order the e-books. Question: Will I require extra support for an upstairs tile shower installation? I removed the fiberglass tub/shower and want to put in a tile walk-in shower. If my floor joists are 24″ on center with 3/4″ subfloor, should I be worried about weight with a shower floor that’s 40″ x 60″?

    • Roger

      Hi Reid,

      You should put an additional layer of 3/4″ ply beneath the shower. Other than that you should be just fine.

  • Gail

    Hi Roger,
    I’m laying floor tile in my living room (16′ X 22′). I have a couple of questions.
    1. Do I need backer board or will plywood work?
    2. Do I also put thin set down between subfloor and backer board or just on the backer board before the tile ?

    • Roger

      Hi Gail,

      1. You need backerboard
      2. Yes, you need to have thinset beneath your backer.

  • Gene

    Roger Elf, your site has been so helpful, and entertaining!
    I built a completely new bathroom on my 2nd floor. Using very conservative construction throughout (extra joists, plywood under my Hardiebacker on the wall, etc, etc.) and a magnificent heated floor. But please warn your other fans about this:
    After installing all my heating wire, I decided to pour a layer of self-leveling cement. Even though my floor was very flat, and nearly perfectly level, it really secured and protected the wires before installing the porcelain tile floor.
    BUT, BEWARE: Before you pour this fantastic, very easy-to-use product on your floor, CAULK ALL AROUND THE CORNERS, where wall meets floor, or you will find dark grey extremely thin, nasty concrete running down your kitchen walls, in to your cabinets, and even filling your fancy new coffeemaker. This stuff is so good that it literally finds its way through every pinhole that is downstream! My second (unplanned) pour went just fine after heavy caulking.
    Also, it says you can put down tile after 12 hours, but you need to wait 36 hours or more. There is a bit of moisture that comes out for quite a while after is has set.
    Self-leveling cement mix. Great stuff. Like a piece of granite. But my lack of experience with it caused my dog caught fire… and my cat melted.

    (That was too long, wasn’t it.)

    • Roger

      Hey Gene,

      Perimeter foam should actually be used, that will prevent that. (Now I tell you, right?). Hope the dog is fine. The cat…well…


  • Nick

    Hi Roger!

    Not real sure where to post this question, I suppose here looks good… What are your thoughts on tiling stairs?? I have a two stair entry way that I would like to tile so it matches the main floor in the adjacent room. I planned to finish the vertical/horizontal transition with Schluter Rondec (is it necessary to use “roncec-step”). Any dos or don’ts when it comes to tiling stairs?

    • Roger

      Hey Nick,

      They can be done, but you need to make sure they are built well. I prefer to have ditra on the treads, it helps. Yes, you can use the rondec. Rondec step is not necessary.

  • myles

    we had two new showers installed, and the grout lines on the shower base turn dark when wet, is this normal? the tile guy insists that he sealed the grout.
    thanks in advance!

  • Arnold

    Hi Roger,
    I found out there are molds behind our bath tub shower wall – only on the long side of the bath tub (the shower/faucet side and it’s opposite side of the shower wall looks like are dry and not affected). The affected side (longer side) of shower wall is on the external wall side and is constructed with the following layers: shower tile–>1/2″ greenboard–>1/2″ sheetrock–>2×4 stud(with R-13 insulation)–>sheet of felt–>OSB (ie., it ).
    I already removed the affected first bottom 8 rows of tiles including the layer of greenboard and sheetrock behind them as they have traces of mold and are damp.
    The next row of tiles above the 8th row looks like not affected by mold and are dry.

    After reading your blog posts and articles, I am planning to use 0.42″ hardiebacker as substrate and then Redguard it before putting in the tiles.

    Is my approach to leave intact the top rows of tiles and their corresponding layers of substrate (greenboard+sheetrock) and just replace the affected bottom portion with hardiebacker/redguard, a sound approach?

    If no, I would like to hear your suggestions.
    If yes, to level with the top remaining unaffected rows of tiles, I need to compensate for the difference (due to replacement of 0.5″ greenboard and 0.5″ sheetrock with just a 0.42″ hardiebacker). Is it ok to put a stud shimy on over the existing stud?

    Thanks in advance for your advise.

    • Roger

      Hi Arnold,

      While I prefer to have the ENTIRE shower waterproofed, your fix will work just fine for a fix. Yes, you can shim over the existing studs to bump out the substrate for the new tile.

  • LaNell

    It’s coming along. The shower that is. Quick question… Without buying the incredible hulk of grinders, what would round off porcelain tile corners, bullnose.
    In reference to your comment above another being funny, you are a scream. Keep it up and we all appreciate.

    • Roger

      A $150 bullnose blade for a wet saw. Any tools used to create bullnose are expensive.

  • Leigh Prieto

    I had Mexican travertine installed. the grout between the tile varies from being 1/2 way up to 3/4 up the side. my question is how high should grout be placed in between the tiles.

    • Roger

      Hi Leigh,

      It should be nearly flush with the face of the tile on that type of tile.

  • Jim

    Hi Roger. Great site! I have a 2nd floor shower with fiberglass (acrylic?) base that is somewhat spongy and has about a 3 or 4 inch long crack. I plan to renovate the bathroom when my current occupants move out, but need a better solution than duck tape until then. The area below the shower is accessible through an A/C return in the ceiling below, and there are no signs of water damage, so hopefully the shower pan / drain is intact. Most contractors are suggesting removing several rows of tile, pulling up current base, re-doing water-proofing, and then a new shower base, new tiles. As an alternative, I’ve seen one site that recommended drilling holes in the shower floor, injecting “foam”, repairing the crack, and then placing a new “skin” on the floor. This should be much less costly. Have you heard of this approach, is it worthwhile, and do you know how I can find out more about this of product / approach? Thanks!

    • Roger

      Hi Jim,

      I am in the camp with the replacement. I’ve heard of that method (drilling and foam) but have never actually talked to anyone who has done it. I’m guessing because it didn’t work or last, although I’m not positive about that. There is also no real ‘skin’ you can put over the existing floor. If there were why not just do that by itself without the drilling and foam? :D

  • Thres

    Hi there, my hubby is doing a demo in our bathroom and we’re having a kerdi system installed. He’s removed all drywall and is putting up new dry wall on top half of wall and bead board on the bottom half. Question is, unless we can find 1/2″ beadboard there will be a transition between the top and bottom that is not even. What happens when the layer of tile from the shower overlaps onto the wall and it’s not uneven

    • Roger

      Hi Thres,

      You’ll have a gap at the lower part. You can shim the beadboard away from the studs so it is even with the drywall.

  • Steve

    I have some layout questions – that’s a good thing, because it means I might actually get done with this bathroom before the baby comes.

    1. Our bathroom doorway has a small “passageway” due to a built in bookshelf in the adjacent room. What that means is that there is short run before the bathroom opens up. I’m using 12″ tile on the floor. If I put a full tile in the doorway/threshold, it means that the tile leading to the toilet (perpendicular to the door) will be 2 full tiles and two 5″ cuts on either side. I’m concerned that it won’t look great (small cut tiles and the centered grout line) and that it might be hard to get the grout line perfectly centered on the toilet. The only option that I have come up with is putting a cut tile in the doorway (about 7″). Installing diagonally or staggered sort of addresses the issue, but I’m not sure it would work aesthetically otherwise. It seems like a tradeoff between getting a full tile in the doorway or an ideal toilet layout. Thoughts?

    2. How to terminate Ogee (chair rail) on top of wainscoting? The wainscoting is 4×8 subways that “runs into” the shower tile (also 4×8 subways, but without the ogee and obviously taller on the wall). The other place is behind the vanity (3 wall backsplash) where the ogee and tile stops at the edge of a shallow wall (even with the vanity top). Should I just end it with the flat edge exposed ( it is marble, so not an unfinished edge)? Should I treat it like crown molding and do a mitered return? Round over the corner? Something else?

    3. 4″ Kerdi drain in 1.5″ square mosaics. I can center the drain in 3×3 array of tiles and end up with a large (1/4″ + grout line) or I can tuck the drain in the corner of the 3×3 section, and end up with narrow tile slivers on two sides of the drain. Thoughts?

    • Roger

      Hi Steve,

      1. Center it in the doorway. There is no need at all to center a grout line on the toilet.

      2. Either a mitered return or cut the face of it at a 45 toward the back of it.

      3. With that I normally tuck it in the corner of the sheet.

      • Steve


        I think I did a bad job of explaining the situation in question #1. Here are some bad drawings to attempt to convey it visually:!i=3081973947&k=N7qZfdH

        The doorway in question is at the bottom left of the image – the adjacent room is not tiled. The tile in the doorway will be centered either way. I think the rest of the layout works better if the tile in the doorway is not a full sized piece(second picture), but in the tile tips book you make a strong point about using a full sized tile in the doorway (first picture).

        What would Roger do?

        As always, many many thanks.

        • Roger

          I would do it the first way. HOWEVER, if you think the second way looks better then that’s the right way to do it. There are no hard and fast rules, as I’ve said, I just prefer full tiles in the doorway.

  • Robert Gray

    where is the best place to by Ditra. I need 4000+ sq/ft.

    • Roger

      Hi Robert,

      At whichever retailer is in your area. Schluter has MAP pricing, which means dealers are limited to specific regions in which they can sell the product. You may want to look into Laticrete Strata-mat instead. Call StoneTooling and tell them I sent you, you should be able to get a break on the pricing with that much product.

  • Nick


    I’ve got my Ditra installed over OSB with a modified thinset. Now I’m going to install my natural stone using unmodified thinset. Can I fill all the cavities, wait a day, and come back, snap lines, and install the natural stone with more unmodified?

    • Roger

      Hi Nick,


      • chris

        I would think that the advantage ditra provides would be maximized by filling the cavities and tiling all at once rather than filling, letting dry, then tiling would. I don’t think ditra recommends doing it that way either! All at once is certainly the way to go..

        • Roger

          Hi Chris,

          You can do it either way. And several people at schluter headquarters have told me the same. It makes no difference at all. Cured thinset is porous enough for the fresh thinset to bond into it just fine.

  • Fritz McDonald

    thanks for the help

  • Margo

    Hi. We are trying to figure out how to cut a diamond shape into the middle of a porcelain tile.Also how do you keep the tile from chipping when you cut them?

    Thank You for any help

    • Roger

      Hi Margo,

      The easiest way to do it is with a grinder and a diamond tile wheel on it. You can normally minimize chipping by cutting slower. Don’t force the blade, let the blade cut through it.

  • Stil

    hahahaha. Thats funny

  • Dennis

    I have a very out of the ordinary substrate outdoors that needs to be tiled. Modified vs unmodified. Ditra vs Prova Flex. Picking the correct products for a good end result is key and I am not sure anyone has the 100 % correct answer for my specific job, but would love to talk with you briefly with any suggestions. Ask 10 people and get 20 different answers. However, I would love to hear yours so I could make my final choice and roll the dice….

    • Roger

      Hi Dennis,

      Sorry for the delay, been out of town at the new Schluter facility all week.

      I would love to help you choose the correct substrate and products to install tile over your out of the ordinary substrate!

      You need to let me know, though, what this out of the ordinary substrate is. :D

  • Linda

    Hi Roger,
    I am grouting my porcelain tile floor with Hydroment/Bostic sanded grout. The bag says when mixed with water, which is what I plan to use, the grout should be wiped with a damp sponge several times a day for 3 days after grouting. The guy at the tile store didn’t seem familiar with this, so I was wondering if you ever do this or feel it is necessary.
    Thanks for your help!

    • Roger

      Hi Linda,

      It’s not necessary if you clean it correctly and get all the haze removed when doing so. I think they do that to ensure that people get the haze removed before it becomes permanent and requires chemicals to remove. Just do a couple good wipe downs – the first when the grout firms up, the second when the tile hazes over (1/2 hour later or so), then when it hazes over again (it should be really light haze) use a micro-fiber towel to do a final wipe down. That should get all the haze off of your tile. Keep an eye out for random renegade areas and wipe them down again if needed, but no need to do it for three days. Hell, I’d never get any jobs done if I had to do that. :D

      • Linda

        Thanks for the info! When I looked up the data sheet for the grout this is what it said: “When mixed with water, damp cure for 3 days by
        wiping joints with a clean, damp sponge several times per day, or by covering joints with non-staining craft paper. Improper curing may result
        in light color and weak joints”.
        I’ve heard of people doing this for cement jobs (spraying water on the cement so it would dry slower), so maybe it is the same idea?

        • Roger

          Damp curing is completely different from what sounded like recleaning it for three days. Damp curing assists with consistent and better finish, but wiping it with a sponge is not how to do it correctly – covering it while it cures is the right way to do it.

  • Jim King

    Hi Roger,
    I’m retiling my shower from a house that is about 60 years old.
    I found out the hard way about the mud thing. Wow, this shower could have been a fricking tornado shelter. I never knew they did this before. Anyway, I got all the walls tore out, wire mesh and all and I see that the ceiling tiles were done the same way. No way I’m going to tear down that shit and have 18″ of blown in cellulose come down. The existing ceiling is 4″ ceramic tile in excellent shape, no cracks or anything. Im going to use your burn method, but should I take a sander to the tile first? I was also thinking of drilling angled holes in the grout lines every 6″ for the thinset to hold into. (is the angled hole thing overkill)
    Lastely…do I let the burned thinset completely dry (on old and new tile) before I put notched thinset onto my new tile.
    Lasetly Lastely…Any comments on how to get the bottom of the shower tile out easy. I’m sure this is done the same way. Do I need a jack hammer.
    I appreciate any info you can give. This is very generous of you.

    • Roger

      Hi Jim,

      Yes, you should rough up the existing tile first. Holes aren’t necessary, but don’t hurt. You can let it cure first or do it at the same time you set the tile. A jackhammer works very well. I have a bosch bulldog (it’s like a mini jackhammer) that I use for that stuff, works extremely well.