Woman laying tile

Do it right the first time

No need to hire someone to install new tiles in your kitchen. Do it yourself using these tips from experts.

Adding new tiles to your kitchen is a great way to update the look of the room, but it can be an intimidating task. Don’t sweat it — you can easily conquer the task with these tips from the experts.

Choose your tile

All tile is not created equally! It’s important to choose a tile that not only looks good in your home, but also matches your lifestyle. "Different materials have different advantages," said Allen Ellison, owner of Mr. Handyman of West Knoxville. "For example, porcelain is great for kitchens in households with kids and pets running around because it’s chip- and stain-resistant. Natural stone materials, such as marble, are more expensive and look the nicest but they are not as family friendly because stone requires more sealing, cleaning and general maintenance. Ceramic offers the least expensive option but also looks the least upscale."

The material is only your first choice when selecting your tile. You also need to choose tile size and color, both factors that make a big difference to the look of your kitchen.

Ellison said the size of the tile makes a bigger impact that you might think. "A larger tile, for instance, will make your kitchen look larger, whereas small tiles will have the opposite effect but will let you create more intricate designs and patterns," he said.

Color is just as important of a decision. "The lighter the tile, the larger the kitchen will appear. Darker colors make kitchens look and feel cozier and mask dirt and spills better than their lighter counterparts," he added.

Choose your mortar

While the tiles you choose will decide the look of your room, the materials you use to install will determine how well the job turns out. Ellison advises you to take care when selecting your mortar, the material used to bind the tile to the surface and hold everything in place. "For the larger tiles, use a medium-bed thin-set mortar, which has a thicker consistency that can hold in place the larger tiles," he said.

Take measurements

You probably measure the surface you’re going to tile, but your measurements shouldn’t stop there. You also need to measure a few places you might not have thought to check, especially if you’re tiling a floor.

"Before you lay down the tiles, check how much clearance space you have above appliances. For example, many homeowners have cabinets above refrigerators. It’s important to measure how much room you have between the top of the refrigerator and the bottom of the cabinet. Make sure your new tiles will still leave a gap so the refrigerator will fit. A typical tile installation can add up to an inch in floor height," he said.

Laying the tiles

"The first thing anyone should do when laying tiles is to determine the center of the kitchen and plan to lay the tiles outward from the center," said Ellison. "That way, your tile cuts will be even on both sides of the center point in the kitchen, creating an even pattern. It also helps to snap a chalk line from the center outward, which will help you lay tiles in an even manner."

Spacing is also important in accomplishing a neat, clean look. Brooklyn-based interior designer Eli Mechlovitz, founder of GlassTileStore.com, suggests you use spacers to ensure an even look. Glass mosaic tiles, often used for kitchen backsplashes, come on mesh sheets. "People sometimes put one sheet flush against the next, making the entire project look uneven," said Mechlovitz.

Do a little at a time

Working too far ahead of yourself may just cause you more headaches down the road. "When laying tiles, apply thin-set mortar or adhesive on the floor only when you are ready to lay the tile down. It dries quickly," warned Ellison.

Grouting

Grout can be a pain to put in, but it’s even worse to clean sometimes. Ellison recommends you choose a stain-resistant grout to make life a little easier for years to come.

"For kitchen floors, ask for stain-resistant grout at your home center or flooring store. Many of the new stain-resistant grouts offer the benefits of epoxy- and urethane-based grout without the difficulty of installation," he said.

Need help?

Still not quite sure? This DIY video from Build.com illustrates installing ceramic tile.

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