Ceramic tiles are an ideal covering for kitchen and bathroom walls. They're hardwearing, easy to keep clean and completely waterproof. They're also surprisingly easy to work with - provided you plan the job properly and use the right tools.It's important to spend a little bit of time preparing the walls before you start. They must be sound and dry, so cut away and replace any crumbling and flaky plaster.If the walls are a mass of lumps and bumps, you will not be able to disguise this simply by tiling over the top. Cover them instead with sheets of plywood or chipboard and tile onto these or repair/re-plaster.
Coat each sheet with dilute PVA adhesive to protect it against damp. If the walls are already covered with tiles, don't assume that these will have to be removed - provided they are firmly attached, you can leave them where they are and fix the new ones over the top. If you are going to do this, clean the old tiles thoroughly first and plan your work so that the joins between the new tiles don't coincide with those already there.Where old tiles are loose or damaged and do need to be removed, chip them off with a club hammer and a bolster chisel. But remember to wear safety goggles to protect your eyes. If the walls were previously papered, strip this covering away. Do the same with flaky paint. Paint, which is sound, should be roughened slightly to give the tile something to grip. If you are tiling a wall with a window this should be your focal point. Make a vertical line on the wall through the window's mid-point and tile symmetrically either side of this mark.If your wall has two windows, find the mid-point between them, draw a line and work outwards from here. Arrange the tiles on a plain wall so that you can cut an equal amount off the ones at either end of each run. Start by screwing a wooden batten to the wall approximately one tile width above the skirting board. Use a spirit level to make sure that it is horizontal. When drilling or hammering nails into walls make sure there are no hidden electrical wires or cables. Spread tile adhesive over approximately 1 square metre of wall.Using a notched spreader will create ridges in the adhesive, which will help the tiles to stick. Following the guidelines you have made on the wall, bed the first tiles into the adhesive with a slight twisting action - its bottom edge should rest slightly against the top of the batten.Continue along the batten, bedding down tiles and inserting plastic tile spacers in between them as you go. These will ensure an even grouting pattern later and should be pressed into the adhesive below the level of the tiles.Leave the gaps at either end until you have completed two or three rows. You will work more quickly if you tile in batches and cut in batches. A measuring and cutting guide like the one illustrated will transfer the exact dimensions of the gap to be filled onto the tile to be cut.Traditionally tiles have been cut by scribing and snapping separately, but a tile cutting tool like the one shown will do China Cap Mould Factory both jobs in one operation.
If using a large quantity of tiles there may be slight shade differences between batches. Tiles should be unpacked and mixed up in order to minimise this effect.Cutting curves in tiles to fit round a basin takes a little care. You may be able to tilt the basin away from the wall, insert a tile and mark your cut line directly onto its surface. But if you can't you will either have to make a cardboard template or use a profile gauge to obtain the exact dimensions of the curve.Use a pair of nibblers to remove the unwanted portion of the tile, taking small bits at a time to avoid cracking. Smooth off any rough edges using a tile file.If you are covering a wall immediately below a window, the job will look best if you have a row of whole tiles here. Measure down from the edge of the window reveal and position your batten accordingly.