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Q&A with Handy Mac: Sorting out tiling or flooring

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Handy Mac takes a look at the basics of floor tiling to ensure you don’t get caught.

Q: This week I have received three queries around tiling or flooring, all different, but all with a complaint about quality. I thought I would have a look at the basics of floor tiling to ensure you don’t get caught.

A: It all starts with preparation, and with tiling there are many things to consider. Firstly, get the correct tile for your purpose. All too often we choose on the basis of attractiveness instead of use.

If it is a wet or potentially wet area, such as a bathroom or outside area, you need a non-slip tile. Consider the thickness of the tile, especially if you are renovating and stuck with existing floor levels.

On a new build, the thickness of the screed can be adjusted, but on a renovation it can become expensive if you need to hack up the screed. Small differences in levels at door openings can be a problem.

They can be fudged, but you will always know something isn’t quite right. Along with colour, size and shape are important. What something looks like in a showroom might have no resemblance to what the tile is going to look like in your home under different lighting and space conditions, so always take samples home first.

If you are going to be daring and use mosaics and patterns, ensure you give your tiler a detailed layout plan. If you haven’t given him the correct instructions, you cannot blame him if the end result is not what you wanted or expected.

Always buy a few more boxes of tiles than you think you will need so you have matching colours in case of breakages, or you change built-in furniture later on. Before starting to tile, open and check all the boxes to ensure they are all what you ordered.

Finally, avoid trying to save money by buying tiles on special or seconds – there is always a reason they are cheaper. Before laying your tiles, you need to ensure the surface is level.

The tiles will always follow the floor, and despite what people may tell you, there is only so much you can do with adhesive to make up levels. Always use the best possible adhesive and the one recommended for the tile you have chosen. Apart from the floor being level, you also need to ensure it is sound.

You don’t want to lay tiles on a hollow or loose screed. You also need to ensure the walls you will be tiling against are square and run parallel to the opposite wall. If not, you are going to have to work out where you want to have the skew cuttings. I would lay out the whole floor first without using adhesive to get the best solution.

If you are using tiles with a porous surface, give them a coat of sealer to ensure excess adhesive or grout does not get into the surface. There is a reason why tile spacers are made so insist your tiler uses them if you want a perfect finish.

Finally, if you have the time, keep a careful eye on the tiling to ensure the tiler uses sufficient adhesive. The whole floor must be covered, not just blobs on the back of the tile.

*Handy Mac, aka Don MacAlister, is our expert on household DIY issues. If you have a question for him, please send it to or SMS only to 082 446 3859. Find Don on FB: Like us on Facebook



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