Bob Vila Radio: Laying Tile

By Sarah Monzon & Bob Vila | Updated Oct 25, 2012 10:55 AM

We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs.

While you might consider laying tile yourself for moneysaving reasons, remember that the substrate, or what the tile is installed on top of, is just as important as the tile itself. A flexing floor or a wall that’s not true to plane can lead to broken tiles and failed grout.

Laying Tile



Listen to BOB VILA ON LAYING TILE, or read the text below:

Water-resistant backer board, not drywall, should be used under tile that will get wet. Whether it’s backer board, plywood or concrete, the substrate needs to be sound, clean, and dimensionally stable. Surfaces need to be level or plumb and true to plane within a quarter-inch to every ten feet. Any cracks or voids can compromise even the best tile job.

Use a notched trowel to apply the adhesive, and use spacers if your tiles don’t come on mesh sheets. The larger the tile, the larger the space should be between them. Some do-it-yourselfers will make the mistake of pushing tiles too close together to reduce grout lines. Without enough surface area, grout won’t bond well and can fail prematurely, leaving room for leaks and water damage.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 60 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.

For more on flooring, consider:

Bathroom Floor Tile: Which is Best for Your Bath?
Subway Tiles: The New Classics
Top Trends in Tile