A practical kitchen can be defined as it marriage between the furniture and fittings and the structural reality of the room. Once you have a fairly clear idea of what is the best possible layout that will suit your kitchen, you can use a free design software online or the kitchen and bathroom supplier could offer you a free design. Our London Kitchen Fitters and Bathroom fitters will provide you with a kitchen or bathroom design. Then you can go on to selecting the furniture and fittings for the refurbishment.
Choosing the furniture and fittings
As mentioned before it is not enough to concentrate purely on the good looks or otherwise of any particular items. When choosing furniture and equipment for your kitchen and bathroom, the first question you need to ask yourself is ‘will it work’? This is where ergonomics relates to the problems of design. To recap on this ergonomics can be defined as the relationship between man and machine.
In a tiny kitchen, every inch counts. Room for food preparation, cooking, washing up and storage is at a premium but too often such kitchens are badly designed, lacking storage space and with a thoughtless choice and siting of kitchen equipment. This can be infuriating for the housewife who spends much of her day there. With a little planning, however, a tiny kitchen can be made as pleasant to work in as any other kitchen.
Ideally, to make really efficient use of limited space you should start re-planning the room from scratch. Take a long look at what is already in the kitchen and the type of equipment you have there and you will probably find that much of the space is wasted. A hotchpotch of different-sized storage cupboards, for example, is a great space-waster. An old sink will have very little room below it for storage. A central table in a small kitchen will make traffic jams almost a certainty.
Planning the Kitchen layout
With space at a premium in your kitchen, it is essential that you plan the room thoroughly. The best way to do this is to use a kitchen design software or make a scale drawing of the floor plan of your kitchen on a sheet of graph paper. Mark on it any architectural details plumbing, electrical points, windows, the door and the way it opens.
Next, cut out coloured pieces of card and mark them to represent the cooker, fridge, sink, cupboards and any other units. Lay these down on the plan and move them about to find the most efficient kitchen arrangement. Once you start doing this it will be easy to visualise how,everything can be fitted in, and how to save space.
You will gain many ideas from working with your plan, but remember that there are basic design rules for kitchens, however large or small. There are three basic shapes for a kitchen plan-I, U and L shapes. Decide which one is right for your kitchen and fit in the units accordingly.
An I-shaped arrangement is best for really cramped kitchens in passages and very narrow, rooms. In this type of kitchen, all the equipment and storage can be down one side of the room or right in front of you, making a neat and efficient line.
An L-shaped arrangement is good for a rectangular room, or for part of a multipurpose room where the kitchen can be slotted into one corner. The L-shape can either be fitted neatly around the corner or, if space permits, one ‘arm’ can be left jutting into the room to act as a serving place or eating bar. But this arrangement is more suitable for reasonably big rooms.
A U-shape can be used in square kitchens and is often best in a confined space because the equipment can be ‘wrapped’ around the cook, who stands in the centre and has everything well within reach.
Work areas in the kitchen
Kitchen space must be divided into 4 work areas-preparation, cooking, serving and washing up even if there is a dishwasher. Within the framework of the I, U, or L shape, arrange these work areas in a natural progression, so that you don’t have to keep doubling back on your tracks when working in the kitchen. For example, you should place the fridge, food storage cupboards and mixer in the food preparation area. Keep pans over or under the sink as they usually need water in them before being put on the stove.
In a tiny kitchen, it is essential that there is a storage place for everything. Items that can’t be stored will simply be left cluttering valuable work surfaces. So plan your kitchen to the smallest detail to allow as much working space as possible to be left permanently free. When you have planned your kitchen to your satisfaction, you can start fitting in equipment and storage units to suit the work areas.
Units and Cabinets
You can save a great deal of space by using every inch of wall space from floor to ceiling for storage cupboards. The base units, the tops of which provide a work surface, should all have sliding doors. These take up a lot less room than I- hinged doors. Base units should stand on a recessed plinth. This will not only make unsightly scuff marks less conspicuous, but will also increase the kitchen floor area slightly, allowing you to work more comfortably as you can get your toe s under the working surface. One problem with base units is that manufacturers standard sizes will rarely fit snugly into a tiny kitchen.
You can build cupboards to your own sizes, or you can use open shelves, cheaper for someone on a small budget to bridge gaps between units. The top shelf should be level with the other work surfaces. Corner units are particularly important as there is often wasted storage space here in badly designed kitchens. Corner cupboards with plenty of shelves will gain valuable space.
Over the base unit, shallow midway units, about l00mm and l52mm deep will give ample space for jars or tins of food, but leave plenty of working room underneath. Over these units, hanging cupboards can run right up to the ceiling.
A modern stainless steel sink is shallower and therefore less space-consuming than the old-fashioned ceramic sink. If the sink is set into a work-top you can save a lot of space. Draining racks can be set on either side of the recessed sink hung on the wall behind it or placed on a tiled window sill over it. Even in a tiny kitchen don’t stint on the size of the sink as this is one of the items in most constant demand in a kitchen. If you have a large family a double sink is well worth considering even in the smallest kitchen. It speeds up washing up, and has many other uses.
Waste disposal in the kitchen
A waste disposal unit will take up far less space than a waste bin, though a cheaper and equally space-saving alternative is a rubbish chute set into the wall near the sink. Rubbish can be ‘posted’ through a trapdoor on the kitchen side and falls straight down into a dustbin outside. There should be a hinged flap on the outside wall to prevent draughts and the walls of the chute should be tiled to permit easy cleaning.
A split-level cooker takes up more space than an ordinary cooker unless it is carefully placed. If you can find room for this arrangement however, the hob and the oven don’t need to be next door to each other. This is useful if, for example, yon can make use of an old fireplace.
The fireplace can be removed and the hob set into the chimney on a fitted unit with cupboards beneath. The oven can be placed near the serving area or on the other side of the preparation area. The door opening should be taken into account when placing the oven. Also don’t put the cooker by the floor because this can be unsafe especially with small children around.
Vinyl tiles are supple, easy to handle and don’t take much time to lay. They come in many colours and designs so you should have no trouble finding tiles of the type you want.
Vinyl tiles are ideal for use on kitchen and bathroom floors because they are waterproof and resistant to oil, grease and most domestic chemicals. They have the advantage over vinyl sheet flooring in that they are easier to handle, and also, if you make any mistakes when cutting, they will be confined to individual tiles. So if you have a room where you will have to carry out quite a lot of intricate cutting to make the floorcovering fit round obstacles or awkwardly shaped areas, it would be well worth considering laying tiles rather than sheet material. The tiles come in a wide variety of patterns and colours, with a smooth gloss finish or a range of sculptured and embossed designs. They can be bought with or without a cushioned backing. Cushioned tiles are softer and warmer underfoot, but more expensive than uncushioned tiles.
However, even among tiles without a cushioned backing there is a wide variation in price. The cost of a tile is usually a fair indication of its quality, so, in general, the dearer the tile the longer it will last. However you don’t need to be greatly concerned about this: even the cheapest tiles can have a life of twenty years in average domestic use, and long before then you will probably wish to remove or cover up the tiles. (On average floorcoverings are changed every seven years.)
So your choice of tiles will probably be based simply on the fact that you like the colour or pattern and feel it will fit in well with the rest of the decorative scheme in the room. Preparing the surface The floor surface on which you intend to lay vinyl tiles should be free of dust and dirt, so you should go over it first of all with a vacuum cleaner. Then check that the subfloor is in sound condition. If it is a timber floor you will have to repair any damaged boards, and if the floor has been treated in whole or in part with stains and polishes these will stop the tile adhesive from adhering properly, and will have to be removed with a proprietary floor cleaner. There may be gaps between the boards and they could possibly be warped and curling at the edges.
You can cure these faults by lining the floor with hardboard without adding much to the cost of the job or the time it takes to do it. First inspect the floor; punch home any protruding nails and countersink any screws. Replace missing nails. Where a board squeaks because it is loose, screws will hold it in place more securely than nails. Hardboard sheets 1220mm (4ft) square will be a manageable size for this type of work. To condition them, brush water at the rate of V2 litre (2/3 pint) per 1220mm (4ft) square sheet onto the reverse side of the sheets.
Then leave them for 48 hours stacked flat back to back in the room where they will be laid so they will become accustomed to its conditions. When fixed they will dry out further and tighten up to present a perfectly flat subfloor. You can begin fixing the hardboard in one corner of the room. It’s not necessary to scribe it to fit irregularities at the walls; small gaps here and there at the edges of the boards will not affect the final look of the floor. Fix the sheets in place with hardboard pins at 150mm (6in) intervals round the edges and 225mm (9in) apart across the middle of the sheets. Begin nailing in the centre of a convenient edge and work sideways and forwards so the sheet is smoothed down in place. On a floor where there are water pipes below, use pins of a length which will not come out on the underside of the floorboards.
The sheets should normally be fixed with their smooth side down so the adhesive will grip more securely; also the pin heads will be concealed in the mesh. Nail down the first sheet and work along the wall. When you come to the end of a row of sheets, you will have to cut a sheet to fit. Don’t throw the waste away; use it to start the next row so the joins between sheets will not coincide. When you come to the far side of the room you will have to cut the sheets to width. Again, don’t worry about scribing them to fit the exact contours of the wall. On a solid floor, check to see if there are any holes or cracks and whether it is truly level and smooth. Fill in holes and small cracks with a sand/cement mortar. Large cracks could indicate a structural fault and, if in doubt, you should call in an expert. To level an uneven floor, use a self-levelling compound, applying it according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
When dealing with a direct-to-earth floor you will have to establish whether it is dry or not. There’s no point in attempting to lay the tiles on a damp floor: you will get problems with adhesion and in time the tiles themselves will curl and lift. One difficulty is that dampness in a floor is not always immediately apparent, especially if there is no floorcovering. (If the floor has a sheet covering you should lift up a corner of the covering and inspect beneath for any signs of damp.) A slight amount of damp can rise up through floors of quarry tiles or concrete and evaporate in a room without being noticed. To test for damp you can heat up a plate of metal over a gas ring or blowlamp, or heat a brick in the oven for about an hour, then place it on the floor.
If a damp patch appears on the floor or moisture gathers underneath the metal or brick this indicates that damp is present. Another test is to place a sheet of glass on the floor, seal its edges with putty, then leave it for a couple of days. If moisture appears underneath it is again a sign of damp. These methods are, however, rather hit-and-miss and you may feel it’s worth calling in an expert to give a true diagnosis. Curing a damp floor is a major undertaking which may involve digging up the existing floor and laying a new one with proper precautions taken against damp. You should seek professional advice here. Existing sheet floorcoverings should be removed before you start laying vinyl tiles. You can, however, lay them over existing vinyl tiles provided these are in sound condition and are securely fixed. If they are not, you will have to remove them before you fix the new tiles. To lever them up, use a paint scraper, or even a garden spade (the long handle will give you plenty of leverage).
You should start laying tiles from the middle of the floor. To find the centre of a room which is a reasonably regular shape you should take one wall and, ignoring any bays, alcoves or projections, measure and mark its centre. Go to the wall opposite and do the same. Between these two centre points you should snap a chalked line. Snap a second chalk line from the middle of the other two walls: the point where the lines meet is the centre of the floor. If you are going to tile an irregularly-shaped room you should strike a chalk line, to form a base line, parallel to and 75mm (3in) away from a wall which has a doorway in it. You can then strike a line at right angles to the base line and stretching to the wall on the other side. The centre of this line will be the centre point of the room; draw a line through this centre point parallel to the base line. (Instead of using a large square to help you draw the lines at true right angles, you can use what’s known as a trammel;
Laying the tiles
When you come to lay the tiles, the first one is all-important. There are four possible positions for it. It can go centrally on the centre point; neatly inside one of the angles where the centre lines cross; centrally on one line and butting up to the second, or centrally on the second line and butting up to the first. You should choose the position that gives you the widest border of cut tiles round the room. Very narrow cut strips at the edges will tend to give an unbalanced look, especially if you are laying the tiles in a dual colour or chequerboard pattern.
So set out the tiles dry (that is, not stuck down) to find out which position for the first tile gives you borders with the largest cut tiles. In a regularly-shaped room this will be quite straightforward; a couple of dry runs should make things clear. In an awkwardly shaped room, especially if it has a lot of alcoves or projections, you will have to make several of these practice runs. When you’ve decided on your final starting position, draw round the outline of the first tile to be placed.
When you’ve stuck down your first tile you can begin laying the rest. If you are laying tiles which require adhesive, you should apply this to as large an area as you can cope with in one go; possibly a square metre (square yard). Butt all the tiles accurately up against each other, and check that they are precisely aligned. Then apply firm hand (or foot) pressure to bed them firmly in place. It’s normal practice to stick down all the full tiles, known as the ‘field’, leaving a border of cut tiles to be fitted round the edges.
If you are laying self-adhesive tiles, you simply peel off the backing paper and press each tile into place. Where you have to cut tiles, don’t peel off the backing until the cutting-to-size is completed. Should a tile be misplaced, lift it quickly and relay it correctly; the adhesive ‘grabs’ quickly and later attempts to lift the tile will probably tear it.
Vinyl tiles can be quite easily cut using a sharp knife and a straightedge. For an intricate shape make a template first.
Border tiles can be marked up for cutting in the usual way; that is, you take the tile to be cut, place it on the last complete tile in the row, place another tile over the first one but jammed hard against the wall and use this tile as a guide for marking off the cutting line on the first tile. The main thing wrong with this method is that it can leave a narrow border in which it is difficult to apply adhesive, with the consequent risk that the border tiles will not adhere properly.
Another method, which avoids this problem, is to lay the field except for the last full tile in each row. Then take a tile and place it against the last full tile in the field. Place another tile on top of the first one and jammed against the wall. Use this second tile as a guide to cut through the first (and it will itself become the last full tile fixed in the relevant row). The two tiles can temporarily be placed on top of the field, adjacent to the position they will occupy, while you cut the rest of the border. When you come to stick the border tiles down you will have plenty of room in which to wield your adhesive spreader and ensure adequate coverage.
We can achieve the look of a new kitchen by just replacing parts such as worktops and doors. This can be done at a fraction of the cost of a complete new kitchen, with considerably less disruption to your home and far more quickly.
Robuild can refurbish your existing kitchen with beautiful replacement doors and worktops, new sinks and appliances and if required minor changes to layout, additional cupboards and fittings, tiling, facias and splashbacks etc.
How you lay vinyl will depend on the type ans size of the kitchen or bathroom; always follow the manufacturer’s instructions. As vinyl can shrink it’s wise to stick it down immediately before or after trimming it.
To stick the edges you should first turn them back and apply a 75mm (3in) wide band of adhesive to the sub-floor, using a serrated scraper in a criss-cross motion, and then press the vinyl into position immediately. This will usually be at doorways, round the edges of the room, or round obstacles.
Where heavy equipment will be pulled across the floor regularly (a washing machine for example) it is worth sticking down the entire area. At the seams, you should make the width of the spread adhesive generous – 150 to 200mm (6 to 8in).
Again, turn back the edges, apply the band of adhesive to the sub-floor and press the vinyl back into position immediately. Wipe away any adhesive which seeps through the seam or round the edges of the vinyl immediately, as this can discolour the flooring if it hardens. At the entrance to rooms, particularly in heavy traffic areas, or if you have used the ‘lay-flat’ type of vinyl, you can fasten down the vinyl with a ready-made threshold strip. These come in metal, wood or plastic and are also used to cover joins between two different materials, such as vinyl and carpet.
Fitting and installing extra-wide vinyl flooring in kitchens and bathrooms
The technique is largely the same as for fitting strips of vinyl except there will not be any seams to stick, or pattern matching to do. You should start by laying the flooring out fully – you will probably need help for this – and try to find a long straight wall against which the first edge can be laid.
Then make diagonal cuts at each corner to allow the flooring to be positioned roughly, with the excess material ‘climbing up’ the skirting board or wall. Trim away the excess, leaving a 50 to 75mm (2 to 3in) overlap all round. Scribe the first wall, if necessary, then trim and ease the flooring back into its exact position. Deal with corners, projections, and obstacles as you work your way round the room, leaving the same overlap; finally trim to a perfect fit.
Vinyl provides a tough, easy-to-clean floor surface which is ideal in kitchens, bathrooms and other areas of the house where floors are likely to be subjected to heavy wear or spillages. It’s also straightforward to lay. Vinyl can be laid over concrete, wood or tiles. Don’t attempt to lay it over old vinyl, linoleum or cork; these should be removed or covered with hardboard.
PREPARING A WOOD FLOOR
To prepare a bumpy wood floor for laying vinyl, cover it with large sheets of flooring grade chipboard or hardboard. Stagger the joints between sheets. If you are using hardboard, place the shiny side down as the rough side provides a better grip for the vinyl.
Vinyl flooring was developed in the 1960s and revolutionised the smooth (and resilient) flooring market. At first it was a thin and rather unyielding material. But it was something which could be laid fairly easily by the DIY enthusiast; and this was a breakthrough because its predecessor, linoleum, had had to be professionally laid.
Since then, vinyl flooring has been greatly improved and there are now several different types available.
Types of vinyl
The cheapest type of vinyl is known as a ‘flexible print’ and has a clear wear layer on top, with the printed pattern sandwiched between this and the backing. Then there are the cushioned vinyls, which are more bouncy underfoot and have a soft inner bubbly layer between the wear layer and the backing.
They are often embossed to give them a texture, which is particularly successful when the embossing enhances the design, as with simulated cork or ceramic tile patterns. Finally, the most expensive type is solid flexible vinyl, made by suspending coloured vinyl chips in transparent vinyl to create colour and design which goes right through the material and consequently wears longer.
All three types come in a wide variety of colours and designs ranging from geometric and floral patterns to simulated cork, wood block, parquet, ceramic tiles, slate and brick. Some ranges include special glossy no-polish surfaces. Also, there is a special ‘lay-flat’ type which does not have to be stuck down, except on very heavy wear areas or at doorways.
Some vinyls can be folded without cracking, but as with carpets, a good guide to durability is price: the more expensive the flooring, the longer-lasting it is likely to be. Buying vinyl To work out the amount of vinyl you’ll need, measure up the floor using a metal tape; note down the measurements and then double-check them. Draw a scale plan of the room on squared paper, marking in all the obstacles, door openings and so on.
Take the measurements and plan to your supplier, who will help you to work out quantities. Remember to allow for walls which are not quite true and for trimming the overlap. Whatever the type, vinyl is available in standard sheet widths. Choose one in a wide width for use on a floor where you do not want to have a seam. (A wide sheet can be difficult to lay so make sure you have someone to help you – If you are going to lay sheets of a narrower width which will have to be joined, remember to allow for pattern matching when buying.
Check the manufacturer’s instructions for fixing and order the correct adhesive and other sundries. Make sure you get the right amount; there is nothing worse than running out of adhesive halfway through the job. A roll of vinyl is usually 30 to 40m (100 to 130ft) long and the retailer will cut off the length you want, re-rolling it for you. Take the roll of vinyl home and leave it, loosely rolled, in the room where it is to be laid for about 48 hours, This will allow it to become acclimatised and it should then be easier to lay. Do not stand it on edge as this can crack the material and take care not to damage the ends when you are transporting or storing the roll.
Preparing the sub-floor
Vinyl must be laid on a sound, reasonably smooth and even sub-floor if the best results are to be achieved and the flooring is to give adequate wear. The floor must also be free from dirt, polish, nibs of plaster or splashes of paint, but above all it must be damp proof, so deal with this first.
In an old property with no damp-proof course (dpc), it may be necessary to install one or to have some other form of dampproofing carried out. The floor may have to be rescreeded or old floorboards taken up and replaced. But whatever is needed must be done before laying the new flooring. A cover-up job will never be satisfactory and the new material will start to perish from the back.
Remember that screeding a floor will raise its level and so doors will almost certainly have to be taken off their hinges and trimmed at the bottom to accommodate the new floor level. Where the existing floor covering does not provide a suitable surface for laying vinyl you will have to remove it. You can remove old vinyl by stripping it off from the backing, then soaking any remaining material in cold water, washing-up liquid and household ammonia before scraping it off with a paint scraper. With a wooden sub-floor you should remove any protruding tacks, nails or screws, or punch them down level with the floor.
Any rough or protruding boards should be planed smooth and wide gaps between boards filled with fillets of wood; small holes or gaps can be filled with plastic wood. If the floor is very bumpy it can be covered with man-made boards.
Fitting seamed lengths
WHERE TO SEAM
If you are going to join vinyl, avoid having seams in doorways or heavy traffic areas:
• seams on wood floors should run across the boards
• seams over chipboard or hardboard should be no closer than 150mm (6in) to the joints in the board sheets.
Measure for the first length of vinyl along the longest unobstructed wall unless this brings a seam into the wrong position.
After measuring you can cut the first length from the roll. Butt the edge of the vinyl right up to the skirting at one end of the room, tucking the overlap underneath the skirting if possible so you don’t have to trim this edge. Then cut the material off across the width, allowing for an overlap at the other end, at doorways and obstacles. To fit the first doorway you will have to cut slits at the door jambs and then ease the vinyl round the door recess and supports, cutting off a little at a time, until you get a perfect fit.
Next, either tuck the overlap of the vinyl under the skirting which runs along the length of the room if you can, or trim along the wall or skirting, allowing for a good (but not too tight) fit. Smooth down the flooring as you work along its length and then cut the vinyl to fit at the other end. If the wall is uneven you will have to ‘scribe’ its contour onto the vinyl.
You pull the vinyl slightly away from the wall and then run a wooden block, in conjunction with a pencil, along the wall so its profile is marked on the vinyl. To cut along this line you can use a knife and straight edge (with the straight edge on the vinyl which will be used), or if the line is very wobbly, use scissors. With the first length fitted, you can then place the next length of vinyl parallel to the first, matching the pattern exactly, and cut off the required length, again allowing for extra overlap at the ends and sides.
Some kitchen and bathroom floor layers cut all the required lengths first before fitting, but if the room is not perfectly square and several widths are being used, there could be a mismatch. If the two sheets overlap, the excess will have to be trimmed away. Place one on top of the other, aligning the design carefully, and cut through the two sheets together at the overlap, using a knife and straight edge. Remove the trimmings and then adjust the second sheet to fit doors, skirtings and so on, trimming where necessary. Where there are more than two sheets, repeat the fitting procedure, making sure the pattern matches. If you are renewing the skirting, to get a perfect fit you can fit the material first and put the skirting on after the vinyl is laid. Remember, though, that this may make it difficult to take up the floorcovering when you need (or want) to change it.
The best possible way to start planning for a large expanse of tiling is not on the wall, but on paper. Graph paper is ideal, particularly if you intend including a mix of plain and patterned tiles, or a large motif that needs building up. Of course, advance planning is also essential if you’re tiling round major features like windows, doors, mirrors, shower cubicles and so on. You need separate pieces of graph paper for each wall you intend tiling. Allow the large (1 cm) squares on the paper to represent your tiles — one for a square tile of any size, two for a rectangular tile; this will give you a scale to work to.
Now mark up sheets of greaseproof paper with your actual wall sizes using the scale dictated by the tile size on the graph paper. Measure and outline on the seethrough paper the exact position and in-scale dimensions of all fixtures and fittings . At this stage, the objective is to decide how to achieve the best symmetrical layout for your tiles — the ‘ideal’ is to have either whole or equal-size cut tiles on each side of a fixture. First you have to mark in the central guide lines. For instance, on walls with a window draw a line from the sill centre to the floor, and from the centre of the top of the window to the ceiling. If there are two windows also draw in the central line from floor to ceiling between them.
Mark the centre point above a door to the ceiling and also indicate the horizontal line at the top of the door. In the same way draw in a central line from the top of a basin or vanity unit to the ceiling. For all these lines use a coloured pen for you have to be aware of them when deciding where whole tiles should be positioned. But they’re only the starting point — other potential problems have to be looked at too. Place the see-through paper over the tile sizes on the graph paper so you can see how the tiles will fall in relation to the guide lines. Now take into account the following important points:
• The first row above the lowest level — either the floor, the skirting board or a wallto- wall fitting — should be whole tiles. If necessary, change this to prevent a thin strip being cut at the ceiling.
• Check where tiles come in relation to fittings. If very thin strips (less than 38mm/ 11/2in) or narrow ‘L’ shapes would need to be cut, move the top sheet slightly up, down, left or right till the tiles are of a cuttable size — areas to watch are around windows, doors and where one wall meets another.
When you are satisfied that you have a symmetrical and workable arrangement you can tape the top sheet in the right position on the graph paper, then start to plan where you’re going to position your patterned tiles. Use pencil this time in case you change your mind and want to make adjustments. These are the points to watch:
• Don’t place single motif patterns at internal corners where they would have to be cut — you won’t find it easy to match up the remaining piece on the adjacent wall.
• If the pattern builds up vertically and horizontally over four or more tiles, ‘centre’ the pattern on the wall so that cuts are equal at both ends. If pattern loss can’t be avoided with designs of this type at least it can be kept to internal corners. • Whole tiles should be used on both faces of external corners. Now butt each of the wall plans up to the other to make sure that the patterns relate both vertically and horizontally.
Planning on the wall
When there are no complicated tiling patterns involved and walls are free of interruptions such as windows, it’s often easier to do the planning directly on the wall itself. Here, the simple objective is to place the tiles symmetrically between the corners. And to do this, all you need is a tiling gauge which you can make. A tiling gauge is like a long ruler, except that it’s marked off in tile widths. Use a long, straight piece of timber ideally about 25mm square (1 in square) and remember to include the grouting gap between tiles as you rule off the gauge. If you’re using rectangular tiles, mark the widths on one side, the lengths on the other. Holding the gauge against the walls first vertically, then horizontally — tells you instantly where the whole tiles will fit in and where cut tiles will be needed. But first you must find the centre of each wall.
Measure the width — doing this at three places will also tell you if the corners are vertical (hang a plumb line or use a spirit level to make absolutely sure) — and halve it to find the centre point. Use the tiling gauge to mark this vertical centre line with a pencil, then hold the gauge against it. Move it up or down until you have at least a whole tile’s width above the floor or skirting board — this can be adjusted slightly if it avoids a thin piece of tile at ceiling height — then mark off the tile widths on the vertical line itself.
Now hold the tiling gauge horizontally, and move it to left or right of the vertical line if thin pieces of tile would have to be cut near windows or fittings, or to make cut tiles at both ends of the wall equal. Following this adjustment, mark the wall and draw in a new vertical line if necessary.The wall can now be marked horizontally with tile widths. Keeping to the same horizontal, mark up adjacent walls in the same way. At corners, whether internal or external, don’t assume they’re either square, vertical or even. An internal corner is the worst place to start your tiling for this very reason, but it doesn’t matter if you position cut tiles there. On external corners use the tiling gauge to work inwards in whole tile widths. You can also use the tiling gauge to check that your graph plan is accurate, and make any necessary adjustments.
Putting up battens
Once you have determined that your plan is correct, fix a length of perfectly straight 50mm x 25mm (2in x 1 in) battening across the full width of the wall — use a spirit level to ensure that the batten is horizontal. Use masonry nails to fix it in place but do not drive them fully home as they will have to be removed later. If using screws the wall should be plugged. The batten provides the base for your tiling and it’s important that its position is correct. If more than one wall is being tiled, continue to fix battens around the room at the same height, using the spirit level to check the horizontal. The last one you fix should tie up perfectly with the first. If there are gaps, at the door for example, check that the level either side is the same, by using a straightedge and spirit level to bridge the gap. Once the horizontal battens are fixed, fix a vertical batten to give yourself the starting point for the first tile. Use a spirit level or plumb line to make sure it’s positioned accurately.
Begin tiling from the horizontal base upwards, checking as you work that the tiles are going up accurately both vertically and horizontally. Work on an area of approximately 1 sq metre (1 sq yd) at a time, spreading the adhesive and fixing all the whole tiles using card or matchsticks as spacers as necessary. Make sure no excess adhesive is left on the surface of the tiles. Next, deal with any tiles that need to be cut. You may find the gap into which they fit is too narrow to operate the adhesive spreader properly. In this case spread the adhesive onto the back of the tiles. When all the tiling above the base batten has been completed wait for 8-12 hours, before removing the battens, and completing the tiling. Take care when removing the base batten that the tiles above are not disturbed — the adhesive is unlikely to be fully set.
Dealing with corners
Your original planning should have indicated how many border or mitred tiles you will need for tiling external corners or for the top line of tiles on a half-tiled wall. You will find external corners, those which project into the room, in virtually all tiling situations — around boxed-in pipework , or around a window or door reveal, or in an L-shaped room. Where you are using universal tiles at an external corner, start at the corner with a whole tile — it should project by the depth of the mitre so that the mitre on the other face neatly butts up against it with a fine space for grouting in between.
With window reveals the correct method is to tile up the wall to sill level, cutting tiles if necessary. Fit whole tiles either side of the reveal, then again cut tiles to fill the space between those whole ones and the window frame. Attach whole border or mitred tiles to the sill so they butt up against the wall tiles. If using square-edged tiles the ones on the si should cover the edges of those on the wall so the grouting line is not on the sill surface. If the sill is narrower than a whole tile, cut the excess from the back — not the front. If the sill is deeper than a whole tile, put cut tiles near the window with the cut edge against the frame.
Continually check the accurate lining up of tiles with a spirit level. Some vertical external corners are not as precisely straight and vertical as they should be and this can lead to problems of tile alignment. The use of a thick-bed adhesive will help to straighten out some irregularities where a corner goes inwards (a thin-bed helps where the wall leans outwards). Buying a ‘flexible’ adhesive will give you both qualities.
As a general rule it is better to concentrate on lining up your border or mitred tiles perfectly vertically with only minute ‘steps’ between tiles, then bedding spacer or ordinary tiles behind to correspond with the line. Don’t forget that if you do have to create a very slight stepped effect, you can reduce the uneven effect between the corner tiles and others by pressing in extra grouting later.
Internal corners seldom cause serious problems as cut tiles can be shaped to suit fluctuations from the truly vertical. Don’t assume when cutting tiles for a corner that all will be the same size — the chances are that they will vary considerably and should be measured and cut individually.
Another point: don’t butt tiles up against each other so they touch — leave space for the grouting which will give the necessary flexibility should there be any wall movement.
Tiling around electrical fittings
When tiling around electrical fittings it is better to disconnect the electricity and remove the wall plate completely so that you can tile right up to the edge of the wall box. This is much neater and easier than trying to cut tiles to fit around the perimeter of the plate. Cut tiles and fit them in the normal way with the plate being replaced on top, completely covering the cut edges of the tiles.
This same principle applies to anything easily removable. The fewer objects you have to tile around the better, so before starting any tiling get to work with a screwdriver. You have the greatest control over the end result if at the planning stage you work out where you want to place fittings such as towel rails and soap dishes, shelves and the like.
Tiling non-rigid surfaces
On surfaces which are not totally rigid or which are subject to movement, vibration or the odd shock, tiles should not be attached using adhesive which dries hard as most standard and waterproof types do. Instead use adhesives which retain some flexibility. These may be cement-based types with a latex rubber content, or acrylic adhesives. You may have to surround a non-rigid surface with wooden lipping to protect the tiles. Bathroom Fitters, Kitchen Installers