Whether it's a kitchen backsplash or an entryway floor, tile is an elegant choice. Could it be a DIY project?
Adding tile to a room can reflect your personality while enhancing the character of the room itself. Installing tile in your home may seem like a daunting task but, while there is a good deal of planning and labor required, anyone can do a beautiful job.Whether you are a Type A do-it-yourselfer or a first-time homeowner with little experience, installing certain kinds of tile is an achievable goal. As long as you get the right information and are willing to take the necessary time and energy to do it correctly, you can take on the task.The most common do-it-yourself areas are kitchen backsplashes, floors and shower or bathtub walls. Each space is different and requires different materials, tools and knowledge. Don't make the mistake of completing one area and thinking you can necessarily repeat the same process for every area.TrendsOver the years tile styles and preferences have changed. Recently, according to Carl Dubberly, co-owner of Artistic Tile in Nashua, the trend has gone from a lot of tumbled marble or stone to more glass and handmade tile. Also, larger-format tile is becoming more common. While the largest popular tiles were once 8" x 8" or 12" x 12", the trend is shifting more towards 24" x 24" - so much so, adds Dubberly, that 8" x 8" are now almost nonexistentFinally, it's all about color. Plain beige and gray are growing tired. Today's home owners tend to want to spice things up with brighter colors like blues and greens.PreparationBefore you lay even that first square of tile, you need to go through a preparation process. Dubberly suggests having the rest of the room designed first - cabinets, countertops, etc. Bring in samples or photographs of the room to your local tile store and choose styles, material and colors of tile based on the rest of the room. Use the samples and test them in the room to make sure the design is exactly what you want. From there, based on accurate measurements of the space, you can order the appropriate amount of tile and begin to install it.Dubberly adds that it's often a good idea to order slightly more than the area requires in case you need some extras to fix problems. If installing tile is something you have never done before, make sure you spend a good deal of time speaking with an expert and getting the right information. Spend as much time learning as you need - the last thing you want is to install tile incorrectly and have to start the process over again.What Should You Use?With tile there are endless possibilities - materials, styles and colors. Dubberly says ceramic tile is the easiest to work with and is best if you intend to do the work yourself. Glass tile, with the right information and materials, is fairly simple to install, especially in small pieces. Natural stone is very forgiving, but it requires a saw to cut it. If you want to go with natural stone, you might consider hiring someone to install it for you.You can also choose custom designs, created either by you or a professional. If you choose to do so, tile can become the focal art piece in a room. However, Dubberly suggests if you're going beyond a basic pattern and intend the tiled area to be more art than decoration, consider hiring outside help. The more complicated the design, the less room for error.Cost TipDo you want an upscale, chic look in your home but don't think your budget can handle it? Installing tile on your own certainly saves you the cost of labor, but even if you hire help there are other ways to save money. Here's a tip from Dubberly to get that polished look for less: Use an inexpensive tile as the base of your job. Then, accent the plain tile with slightly more expensive tile to add a little pizzazz. You can use a contrasting color or style as a border or in a pattern rather than throughout the entire space. This trick will actually make the room look more high-end than it actually is. NHTools for DIY InstallationA wet saw, which can be rented and is designed to cut all types of tile.Non-power tile-cutting tools are also available. They are equipped with a carbide cutting wheel that scores the tile and then splits the tile in two.Margin trowel for prying up tile and mixing mortar.A rod saw has small carbide chips on the blade and works well with softer tile.Notch trowels come with different size notches to measure the amount of mortar applied to the surface.The tile nipper has carbide teeth that bite off small pieces of tile.For grouting: rubber grout float to apply it and a large grout sponge to clean the tile.Other tools: pencil, tape measure, chalk line for marking working lines, carpenter's framing square, large bucket, rubber gloves and eye protection for cutting tile.
This article appears in the September 2011 issue of New Hampshire Magazine