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person applying tile spacers to metro white tiles that have been fixed to a wall with trowelled adhesive

How to tile a wall - Tile like you mean it

Tiles are an amazing way to improve your home as they are hardwearing, functional and can create real statement pieces for your rooms.

At we are more than just a bit partial to adorning walls and floors with the stone stuff but we also have the expertise to back up our passion for porcelain.  

With that in mind, we're here to share our knowledge and join you on your journey to actualise your kitchen and bathroom tile ideas and goals.

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably already prepped your wall, picked out your party pieces, sealed the tiles (if needed) and purchased all your bits and bobs. If you haven’t, not a problem, just head on over to our ideas and advice page where we walk you through all the steps to get you to this point in your journey.  

This guide is all about how to tile your kitchen, bathroom or any other room in your home. So slip on your DIY clothes, slap down the dust sheets and let’s get this show on the road!

How to plan a tile layout - Perfect Proportions

For the purposes of this blog, we have assumed a pattern of rows of tiles on top of each other, forming a straight bond tile pattern. Other patterns can be used but this is the most straightforward.

If you want to explore other tile layout patterns, have a look at these on pinterest.

1. Before you get your hands dirty in the sticky stuff, you need to find out how to lay your tiles so they look more like a perfectly proportioned dream instead of an asymmetrical nightmare. The best way to do this is to knock up a tile gauge which is a wooden batten that you make yourself. 

How to make a tile gauge - Let’s get physical

Before we go into the nitty gritty of how to make it, here’s an equipment list that we prepared earlier:

  • Timber batten just over half the length of your area to be tiled
  • Your chosen tiles
  • Tile spacers
  • Pencil
  • Set square
  • Tape measure
  • A beady eye for precision mark-making

a) First, lay the batten horizontally on the floor and place your tiles along the whole length of it. Make sure that the edge of the first tile is butted up flush with the edge of the batten and that you have added your tile spacers between each tile. 

b) After that, mark the edge of each tile, including for the spacers, on the batten using the pencil, set square and your beady eye to get clear lines.

Voilà! You now have a tile gauge and are ready to find your perfect tile positions.

How to work out where to start tiling first

2. So now you’ve got your Blue Peter-esque batten sorted, it’s time for your meticulous measuring skills to take centre stage.  

a) First, measure and mark the middle of the area to be tiled horizontally and vertically.

b)Then slide your batten horizontally across the area, lining up the middle mark with the first markings on the tile gauge.  

c) Move the gauge, tile mark by tile mark, close to the end of the wall and check how much space you have left.

If the space is small, you could end up with narrow tiles at the sides (which don’t look great) or cursing the tile gods as you break multiple tiles trying to perform the cut of the century.  

Tiling Tip Top: An end space that’s sized between half a tile and a full one would look best on the wall but make sure (using your tile gauge) you either have a full tile or half a tile either side of the middle point on your wall to achieve this.

The objective here is to have the tile pattern looking balanced from the centre outwards to give you the best finish because any off-centre tiles will look really annoying and stick out when you’ve finished your project.

diagram of a wall showing how to find horizontal tile position
Wall showing horizontal tile gauge position with 1 tile width each side

 Horizontal tile gauge position showing 1/2 tile width each side

Wall diagram showing horizontal tile gauge position with 1/2 tile width each side 

d) Once you have your ideal horizontal position, pencil in the start of the tile gauge on the wall so that you know where to start your tiling. Awesome.  

e) Next, find the ideal vertical positioning by repeating the above process, but sliding the tile gauge vertically through the area centre mark with a spirit level alongside it too.

This is just to make sure that you end up with an accurate vertical line and not something that resembles a dog’s hind leg.  

Tiling Tip Top: Line the centre mark up with your gauge markings so that you have between half and a full tile’s worth of space at the top and bottom of your tiling area for the best finish.  

f) When you're satisfied with your spacings and sure the gauge is accurately vertical, draw a pencil line from top to bottom and mark out where the tiles will go at the top and the bottom of the wall.

wall diagram showing horizontal and vertical tile position markings

Wall diagram showing horizontal and vertical tile position markings

How to lay tiles and make sure your first row of tiles is straight - Tie your battens down, Sport

3. Now you’ve figured out where you want to place your tiles, it’s time to get your guard up. This is where you are going to attach battens to the wall so that you have true guidelines to tile against. 

Here’s another equipment list we prepared earlier:

  • Spirit level
  • Pencil
  • Stud finder/ multi-purpose digital detector 
  • Timber battens: 1 x wall length, 1 x wall height
  • Nails
  • Hammer

And this is what to do:

a) Find the bottom-most marking on your wall and line your batten with your spirit level horizontally against it. 

b) Draw a level pencil line on the wall along the batten then slide it and the spirit level along the wall, pencilling in your level line as you go until you have a full line going horizontally across the bottom of your area. This will form part of your bottom batten guard.

c) Locate the first horizontal marker on the left of your wall (this should have been one of the first markings you made) and place your batten vertically along it. Using your spirit level against the batten, draw an accurately vertical line from top to bottom stopping when it meets the horizontal line you have just drawn. 

Tiling Top Tip: If you’ve done it right, you should have drawn a big ‘L’ on your wall to line the tiles up to. Awesome!

d) Before you get all hammer and nail happy, it’s a good idea to check there are no pipes lurking in your way behind the wall. Here’s where your trusty stud finder comes into play along both drawn lines.

If there are some annoying pipe or cable alerts, simply adjust your lines enough to avoid any puncture problems. 

e) Lightly nail your battens along the lines (they will need to be removed at some point) and then you’re ready to rock!

Wall diagram showing horizontal and vertical tile battens and tile markings

Wall diagram showing horizontal and vertical tile battens

What tile adhesive is best? - Tile like you mean it

4. Thank the tiling gods because you’re now ready rock the ceramics and hit that main event!

But just before you do, we need to answer that eternal question: to use ready-mix tile adhesive or not to use ready-mix tile adhesive? To be fair, some of this is personal preference but it also depends on what you’re tiling.  

Tiling Top Tip: As a rule of thumb ready-mix tile adhesive is better with smaller ceramic projects, whereas powdered tile adhesive is usually better for larger projects.  

This is because ready-mix needs access to more air to dry effectively, which doesn’t happen with non-porous porcelain and is more challenging with larger tiles and on floors / wet areas.  

As always, check your project suitability and product instructions before you commit, but you can check out our adhesive offering here.  

How to tile a wall and how to apply tile adhesive to a wall - spread it, spread it real good 

Before we get into it, here’s yet another equipment list we prepared earlier:

And here’s what to do:

a) First, remove or cover up everything that you want to keep. This is especially important with floors, which we recommend covering with something with a bit of give, like cardboard or an old duvet. The idea here is anything that drops will have its blow cushioned enough not to do any permanent damage.

Also, put on all of your protective gear; we don’t like damaging anything we want to keep and that goes double for fleshy things. Keep yourself covered, and we’re good.

 b) Right, now it’s time to work that adhesive. Make sure you prepare it according to the manufacturer’s instructions and within the timeframe.  

Tiling Top Tip: Depending on your adhesive, it’s probably best to make up half of the bag instead of all of it in one go (if self-mixing the powdered stuff). This is because the longer the adhesive is out, the harder it is to work with as it thickens up over time.  

You won’t have this issue so much with ready-mix, so as long as you follow the product’s instructions, you’re good.

c) Using a notched gauging trowel, slap some of the adhesive onto the wall, starting inside the bottom corner of the battens, where they meet. Put enough on the wall to evenly cover around 1m2 to begin with (spreading with the trowel at about a 45° angle) and ensuring the adhesive gets right up to the battens.

Once you’ve spread your adhesive like a champion bread-butterer, drag the notched edge of the trowel back over all in the same direction - this creates ridges which help the adhesive to stick the wall and tile better, meaning fewer loose tiles!

wall diagram showing vertical and horizontal tile battens with applied tile adhesive starting point

Wall diagram showing vertical and horizontal guiding battens and where to start tilling

How to put tiles on a wall

d) Next, imitate Chubby Checker by twisting your first full tile into position in the corner of the big ‘L’ on the wall. The twisting action, while being fun to do, helps to secure the tile firmly into the adhesive.

Make sure your tile is neat and level against the side batten and on top of the bottom batten; this will keep everything sitting pretty and straight. 

Wall diagram showing vertical and horizontal guiding battens with first laid tile

Wall diagram showing where to place first tile

Tiling Top Tip: If your tiles are on the larger side of life, we recommend you go double bubble by thinly buttering the back of the tile with adhesive before you make it dance. This covers your bases (because the tile is bigger and probably heavier) and ensures a lasting bond.

 e) After you’re happy with your tile position and depth, add your tile spacers in the corners and crack on to the next tile, butting it up to the tile spacers to ensure uniform joints between them.  

Tiling Top Tip: Not quite sure about spacers and how to use them effectively? No problem; fly yourself over to our Tile Spacers blog for some guidance about how to work them and when to remove them.

Tiling points to note

While you are busy creating a tiling masterpiece, you might find that some of the adhesive seeps out of the sides/ is too high in the joints to grout. This isn’t an issue as long as you wipe it off/ clear it out with a damp sponge before it dries. 

As you go, remember to check your tiling is level and straight using a spirit level. If some are sitting too high or low, just carefully take them up and add or remove adhesive as needed.

Tiling top tip: If you want an even more precise and Oscar-worthy level finish, try a spin top levelling system. The ingenious set-up reduces the need to get your spirit level out and play the Hokey Cokey with tiles every few minutes so it can be a real time saver.

f) Now you’ve got the basic steps down, rinse and repeat the tiling process to infinity, or until all your straightforward bits are done and fully dry before you remove the battens.

Then give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done and get the biscuits out. You have definitely earned this break before the next section of fun starts - the cuts!

How to tile wall edges- see you on the other side

5. As wall edge cuts can take some time to get right and on the wall, we recommend tilling the bulk of your space first, leaving the wall edges to last, if possible. This is because these cuts can be tricky and consume time you don't have while your adhesive is going off. 

If you would like some more advice on which methods are best for different types of tile cut, head over to How to cut tiles - The first cut isn't the deepest and prepare to be amazed.

Tiling Top Tip: Measure and cut all your twiddly bits and challenging spaces first. Then dry-lay them with tile spacers in place before you start to fix them down. Working this way means fewer re-cuts when your adhesive is ready.

We also recommend making up smaller amounts of adhesive (if you’re using a powdered variety) and spreading it over smaller sections or just buttering the back of the tile directly. This is to prevent the adhesive becoming unworkable before you've had chance to fix the tiles down.

a) Measure and double check your proportions before you attempt the cut. Walls are usually a bit wonkey donkey so it’s always a good idea to measure the space for each individual edging tiles.  

As you note down the dimensions you need, remember to allow for tile spacers too. The last thing you want is a tile that’s 2mm too big; shaving a slither off is no fun at all.

b) After you’ve made the cut and checked that the tile fits the space, get that puppy on the wall using the unique set of skills you’ve honed over the many tiles you’ve placed previously.

Once all your non-standard tiles are done, all that’s left to do is wait until the adhesive is fully cured and dry (check your adhesive instructions for timescales) before grafting on the grout. A guide to grouting will follow soon, so watch this space.

When the grout is set in the joints, the tiles are more secure and your work should be complete. Nice one!

Just one more little thing though; no makeover would be complete without the compulsory before and after pics, so do us a favour and get your photos over to us at or tag us on Instagram. We’ll be sure to do some oooh-ing and ahhh-ing and we might even tell you how awesome you are too.

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