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All Tools Needed for Installing Tile Flooring

Putting tile tools

Installing a tile flooring is a handy skill to learn. It can also save you hundreds of bucks on something you can do yourself. It’s not as hard as you’d imagine. The most important part is to have all the right tools at hand.

So before you get down on all fours and start mixing your bathroom’s datum line or mixing the adhesive and cutting the tiles, check out these essential tools that will make your job much easier.

Chalk Line

Chalk line

Source: Wayfair

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This simple carpentry tool is necessary for making sure that you have straight lines on the ground or on the wall when you are installing tile, and it makes it very easy to line up your tile perfectly. Using this tool is very easy. After measuring where you want your line to be, you simply pull the line out of the tool. When it comes out of the box it will automatically be covered with a layer of fine chalk dust.

Stretch the chalk line from end to end where you need your line to be marked, and then snap it down onto the floor or the wall. This will leave behind a straight line that will allow you to quickly install your tile without having to worry about precision. Blow away any extra chalk dust for a line that is easy to see. The wonderful thing about this tool is that if you make a mistake, you can simply wipe the chalk up with a damp rag and start again.

After using the chalk line you will need to wind it back up so that the string is once again inside the box. This ensures that the string gets covered with more chalk dust and is ready to use the next time you need it. Trying to use the chalk line repeatedly without winding it back up not only decreases the amount of chalk dust that is on the string, but makes it difficult to get a perfectly straight line, as the line will already be pooled out of the tool.

Bubble Level

Bubble levelSource: Home Depot

This is a fairly simple instrument that is used to make sure that a surface is perfectly level or plumb. Also known as a “spirit level,” these tools have a glass vial with the center clearly marked. Inside the vial is a liquid and a bubble. Since the vial has a very slight curve in the middle of it, the bubble will naturally move toward the center of the vial. This means that when the level is completely flat, the bubble will be right in the middle of the vial. Most bubble levels have more than one vial so that they can be used on walls as well as to ensure that the wall is plumb. When laying tile, you will want to use a bubble level to make sure that your walls are level when you are installing tile on a vertical surface. It’s not a bad idea to use it on the floor as well to ensure that the tile is even and flat and that you didn’t use too much adhesive under the tile, creating a buckle.

Make sure that when you’re buying a bubble level for laying tile that it is long enough, as one that is so short that it will only measure one tile will not give you accurate information about the job you are doing. A level that can stretch over multiple tiles will allow you to see how level they are when compared to each other.

Tape Measure

Tape measure

Source: Etsy

When laying tile, you will want to use your tape measure along with your chalk line to make sure that your measurements are accurate and that your lines are perfectly parallel and perpendicular to each other. Using a carpenter’s square to double-check your work will allow you to be sure that your tiling job looks great when you are finished. Tape measures come in a number of different styles and sizes, and you will want to make sure that you buy one that is large enough for you to measure the whole length and width of your project, as having to stop measuring in the middle and pick it up from that spot will result in inaccurate measurements.

These are long, flexible rulers that generally come in a solid and sturdy case. Make sure that the tape measure you buy has an automatic return as well as a floating hook on the end so that you can easily measure if you are working by yourself. Additionally, you will want to choose one that has multiple fractions of an inch measured on the tape, as something that is not very detailed will make it incredibly difficult to make exact measurements.

Related: 20 Different Types of Measuring Tools

Carpenter’s Square

Carpenter square

Source: Houzz

This tool is used when installing tile to make sure that all the pieces you install are angled correctly. You do not want to have to deal with tile that is at an incorrect angle to the ones around it when you have already finished the entire job, and checking your work as you go is the best way to make sure that you don’t make a major mistake. These tools can also be used to check that your guidelines are at 90-degree angles. If they are not, then you will want to wipe them clean and use your chalk line to place new guidelines.

Long Straightedge

Long straightedgeSource: Home Depot

When you have laid your tile and need to make sure that the tiles are exactly even and in a straight line, you will need to use a long straightedge. While this tool has many other applications, when laying tile it is placed along the row of tile you have just laid and then gently pressed into the row to ensure that it is even and straight. These tools are very long, which is perfect if you are going to be tiling a large area such as a kitchen or large dining room. It’s not uncommon for them to be more than ten feet long, as this makes it very easy for the user to guarantee that their work is straight, no matter how big the project they are working on is.

Notched Trowel

Notched trowel

Source: Houzz

This tool is used to easily and evenly spread out the adhesive for the tile to stick to. It also is used to evenly comb it out. The trowel has a steel blade that is attached to a handle, and when you are shopping, you will want to pick up the notched trowel that you are considering buying and move it around to make sure that it is comfortable in your hand. Depending on the size of your tiling job, you may be holding this trowel for a very long time, and it’s normal for your hand to cramp up if you do not find one that is comfortable for you to use. The handle of this type of trowel is actually attached to the middle of the blade. The blade of the notched trowel has notches on one side as well as on the front. The other side and the back do not have notches, and they are left straight so that the user can scoop up the adhesive and move it to the project area.

There are three different shapes of notches that you can choose from. The trowel with V-shaped notches is perfect for installing hardwood floors and tile that is going to be on a vertical surface, such as in a bathroom or as a kitchen backsplash. The U-shaped trowel will not be used for installing tile, as it is generally only used for installing vinyl. The notched trowel with square notches is perfect for installing vinyl, hardwood, and tile. One thing you need to consider when choosing a trowel is whether or not it is large enough to handle the work that you are doing, as trowels have different thicknesses.

Square trowels that are 0.25 inches thick are great for laying tiles that are eight inches square or larger, while a 0.5-inch thick notched trowel is necessary for spreading the medium bed mortar needed for quarry tile. Make sure that no matter what kind of trowel you buy, you take care to wash off the extra adhesive when you are finished with it or it will dry on the trowel. Once it has dried, you will either have to get rid of the trowel or chip if off, which is time-consuming and can easily damage the trowel.

Mason’s Trowel

Mason's trowelSource: Home Depot

This trowel has a front that comes to a point instead of being blunt like many other trowels are. They are not great for moving adhesive to the floor or wall where you are going to be laying tile in the way that other, wider trowels are, but they are very important when you are working in small spaces and want to make sure that your adhesive is perfectly level and smooth. These trowels are used for spreading, leveling, and shaping the adhesive that you’re using. Once it has been applied with another trowel, you will want to make sure that it is as flat as possible.

This is especially important in small or narrow areas. Instead of just hoping that it will be smooth, using this trowel allows you to ensure that it will be. While this may seem like an extra task that you don’t want to have to worry about, if the adhesive isn’t totally smooth all over your surface, you will risk an uneven surface and popped tiles. The handle on mason’s trowels extends off of the end of the trowel, allowing the tool to work more like an extension of the user and giving them a lot of control as a result.

Narrow Margin Trowel

Narrow margin trowelSource: Home Depot

Just like you will need a mason’s trowel to get into tight spaces when smoothing out your adhesive, you may also need a narrow margin trowel. Many people think that they can get by with having just one of these tools, but it’s actually smart to have them both. The narrow margin trowel is very useful because you can buy ones that have either a pointed end or a blunt end. The blunt-ended narrow margin trowel is ideal if you need to get into an area that is skinny and rectangular, as you will have a very difficult time trying to maneuver a mason’s trowel in there due to the point of the blade.

Look for a narrow margin trowel that feels balanced in your hand, and which is comfortable for you to use. They are built with the handle coming off of the end of the blade, and you will want to make sure that when you hold the trowel there is plenty of clearance for your hand over the ground, as you don’t want to accidentally drag your hand through the adhesive while trying to smooth another area. The best way to avoid this problem is to look for a narrow margin trowel that has a large enough bend in the handle to allow you to use it without having to contort your hand.

Tile Scorer

Tile scorerSource: Home Depot

Tile scorers are used to cutting part way through the tile, leaving behind a groove that will then allow it to be broken into the correct size of pieces. Depending on the type of tile that you have as well as its thickness, you may be able to easily snap your tile once you have scored it where it needs to be cut. This creates a line that is straight and clean, instead of leaving one that has jagged edges. Not only are jagged edges dangerous, as you could easily injure yourself on them, but they will also create an unsightly look in your final wall or floor.

Scorers must be used carefully, as you do not want to cut yourself when using this tool, but they are a great way to prepare the tile for a further cut. If you are going to have to use a wet saw to cut your tile due to its size or how thick it is, you may not need to use a scorer beforehand.

Tile Cutter

Tile cutterSource: Home Depot

While you can buy or rent wet saws to cut your tile, depending on the size of the job you are working on as well as the thickness and size of the tile, you may be able to get away with using a tile cutter instead. These tools are great for cutting porcelain, glass, and ceramic tiles and allow you to cut through tile at any angle without worrying about it shattering or breaking into smaller pieces. They operate by using a tile scorer to prepare the tile to be cut along a specific line. They are great for both professionals and beginners and don’t need any water or electricity to operate like wet saws do.

To cut tile with a tile cutter, you first need to mark the cut with a pencil and place the tile in the tile cutter, ensuring that the mark you make is directly over the guideline. Use the level to create a score line on your mark, and then press down on both sides of the tile to easily snap it in two. Depending on whether or not your cut edge is going to be visible in the final project, you may want to sand down the edge. This also ensures that nobody accidentally catches themselves on the sharp edge, whether it is on a floor or a wall.

Tile Nipper

Tile nipperSource: Home Depot

Nippers, also known as “tile crimpers,” are essential to have if you will be making any circular cuts in your new tile installation. While in a pinch they can be used to make either angled or straight cuts in your tile, it’s generally a lot easier and faster to use a tile cutter or a tile wet saw to do that work. Because of the way that they cut and the fact that sharp pieces of tile can easily pop out from the tile you are working on, when using nippers you must wear eye protection.

Using nippers can be a very slow process, depending on the size of cut that you need to make. They slowly take little bits out of the tile as you work your way up to the line that you have marked. If you try to work faster and take out larger bits of the tile, you put yourself at risk of snapping the tile and having to start over. As you get to the line that you have marked, you will want to work more slowly to ensure that you do not accidentally go over, and since you will probably want to sand down the edge of your tile to ensure that nobody is injured on it, you may want to stop a little way before your line. This will allow you to sand down to the line without accidentally going over it.

Tile Wet Saw

Tile wet sawSource: Home Depot

These saws are important to have for large tile installation jobs so that you can quickly and easily cut down all your tile to the exact size you need. They leave a very smooth and clean edge on ceramic tile. Portable wet saws are easy to take with you to your project site so that you don’t have to move the tile back and forth to a workspace, and they can be set up on a small table for extra stability and security. The saw consists of a circular blade and a water pump that will keep water flowing over the blade the whole time that it is cutting. This is very important as it actually works to cool the surface of the tile and the blade and limit the friction that is created.

Tiles tend to be very brittle, and a regular table saw can’t cut them without breaking them or getting too hot to continue. The blade on a wet saw is not very sharp, as sharp blades will damage ceramic tiles, but it is smooth and does a great job as long as the water flows freely. Instead of using metal for the blade, wet saws have a blunt, wide blade to grind a channel into the tile. This blade is usually made with diamond or sharp sand crystals.

Using a wet saw is fairly easy, but it does involve perfect measuring to make sure that you aren’t going to make a mistake when cutting the tile. Always make sure that you wear eye protection, and use a gentle pressure to press the tile into the running blade, always ensuring that there is ample running water and that you move slowly enough so the water has time to keep the blade nice and cool.

Rubber Grout Float

Rubber grout float

Source: Houzz

Finishing your tiling job with a professional grout job is important or your whole project will appear unfinished and will not last nearly as long as you would like it to. Grout is important because it fills in the gaps and spaces between your carefully laid tile, creating a cohesive look. Applying grout involves having the right tools for the job or your grout will be messy, clumpy, and unprofessional.

Grout floats have a rubber pad that is flexible yet very firm and attached to a handle. Depending on what kind of job you are doing, you will need either a wall or a floor float. Wall floats have rubber pads that are much softer than the stiff rubber pads on floor floats. Additionally, wall floats are generally easier for beginners to use and are great for reaching into corners. While you may be tempted to buy the least expensive rubber grout float that you can find, you need to make sure that it will hold up to your grouting job without falling apart, or you will have a shoddy-looking grout job.

When using the grout float, always move the float diagonally over the joints to keep the tip or edge of the float from accidentally dipping into the joint and dragging out any of the grout you have already installed. When filling joints with grout, make sure that you hold the tool at a 45-degree angle to the floor or a 30-degree angle to the wall. Rubber grout floats can also be used for cleaning off any excess grout because when you hold the tool at an 85-degree angle and pull it down, you can clean without removing grout from between the tiles.


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