Adhesive for tiling
There are many different adhesives on the market. Your choice will in part depend upon the background to which you are fixing and whether or not they will be subjected to wetting.
Waterproof adhesives should be used around showers and baths for example, and a flexible adhesive for surfaces which may move a little, such as plywood panelling around a bath.
Pre-mixed adhesives will save time and effort but are also relatively more expensive.
Tile guides and battens
Ensure that you have set out the tiling lines correctly as explained in the setting-out section. Check that the batten at the bottom is really horizontal.
To make sure that the vertical lines also stay vertical, use your gauge rod to measure and mark guide lines at regular intervals around the room. If you put these at about one metre intervals, you will be able to keep a check on the verticality of the tiles as you fix each one square metre bay.
Spreading the tile adhesive
Spread adhesive over a manageable area of about one square metre at a time, using a small trowel or large filling knife.
Work this with a notched trowel held at right angles and drawn across the surface. This will produce ridges in the adhesive, allowing the tiles to be levelled.
Fixing the first tile
Fix the first tile against the horizontal batten at the bottom, lining up its side with the vertical mark set out earlier as your starting point.
You may find it easier to also fix a vertical batten for the first ‘column’ of tiles.
Press the tile home against the adhesive, making sure it is flat and firmly fixed.
Take the second tile and fix next to the first, allowing a gap for grouting. This gap should be the same as you allowed when setting them out on the floor to prepare your gauge rod. If the tiles do not have lugs (protrusions for spacing them) use matchsticks or plastic spacers to maintain the gap.
Keeping tiles level and flat
Ensure that this tile is both flat relative to the wall and relative to the previous tile. This is where the ridges in the adhesive come into play as they allow for levelling of the tiles. Adhesive applied flat to the wall would not make this possible.
It is rare that walls – particularly in old houses – are perfectly flat. Tiling on a ridged bed of adhesive enables slight discrepancies in the surface to be ironed out.
Continue fixing tiles in this way across the section which has adhesive on it.
Next, fix a row above the first. Again, take care to space them evenly and to level them with their neighbours.
Continue tiling around the room
Continue fixing the first rows of tiles in bays of about a metre square until these are complete.
You now have a solid foundation from which to build your tiling. Double check that the corners are not stepped and that the verticals between the tiles are staying vertical. It is surprisingly easy to run out of line.
Leave the batten at the bottom in place until the adhesive has fully set otherwise the tiles may slide out of line.
As you work, remove surplus adhesive.
Tiling around windows and basins
When the tiling goes above a window or basin, for example, fix a temporary batten to support the first whole row above the item rather than fixing the cut tiles first. It is a lot easier to cut these tiles into place when the surrounding whole tiles have been fixed and have set.
Over a window, the cut tiles will have nothing underneath them to stop them sliding down the wall. Once positioned, use masking tape to attach them to a previously fixed tile to hold them in place until the adhesive dries.