Tips for Great Tile Work

Tilework is one of those things that might seem simple, but is actually super complicated! Having good tile installers is absolutely key, but there are some things that must be thought through ahead of time to make sure it turns out right. Here are a couple:

  • Align the niche with the grout lines. Depending on your tile layout/shape, you can’t do this in both directions, so choose one – here we chose to align the niche vertically, with the horizontal grout lines.
  • Continue grout lines through the niche; don’t stop and start the tile alignment at the edges of the niche.
  • In your drawings, communicate *intent* rather than strictly relying on dimensions. For example, what matters here is that the niche lines up with grout lines, but that it is also at least 16″ tall. By indicating those parameters on our drawings, the framers [who are building the wall and the niche pocket] and the tile setter knows what we’re trying to do, but are given enough freedom to find the best way to execute it in the field.
  • Understand angles, and know when geometry will and won’t allow you to align patterns/grout lines, so that you can make smart decisions about what matters and what doesn’t. We wanted a nice crisp line as the tile turned the corner, but we’d lose that as the angled part of the ceiling continued up the wall. We lined up the parts that are at eye level, and let the pattern go after that.
  • Don’t forget the role grout plays in the design! A contrasting grout makes the individual tiles pop, while a matching grout makes the tile read more like a continuous surface. Either can be cool!
  • Don’t obsess too hard about drawing grout lines at actual thickness in drawings and getting toooo nitpicky in layouts…things will change in the field, and tile isn’t perfectly uniform. See note above about communicating intent.⁠

Tile is one of the most fun and expressive parts of a project – don’t be afraid to branch out and try something new! A stellar install, though, is absolutely key to making any tile look great.

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