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To DIY Tile or Not to DIY Tile

That is the question…

So you’re planning on doing a DIY tile job huh? It’s not for everyone and it sure isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s fun to plan and have a vision of doing your own tile work be it a small foyer, back splash, back patio/lanai or even a shower area. But there’s more to it then just sticking some square tiles on the wall or floor in rows. Here in Florida there is so much tile being installed some of the fly by night installers moonlighting as tile setters that aren’t really that good. You can’t do a good, quality tile job in a few weeks of reading, you need to have the years of knowledge that a “Professional” tile setter has. This from being on jobs and seeing installation techniques of various types of tile, tile trade schools or material classes or learning from another pro on the job over the years of work.

If you do decide to go at it yourself you will require the proper tools for the job. You will need to go out and purchase a good amount of specialty tools that most tile setter already have and own. Things like a quality wet saw, maybe you can rent one from the local rental store, but will the blade be what you need for the type of tile you are cutting? You will also need to purchase items like trowels, a speed square, chalk line, level, maybe some straight edges, ledger boards, spacers, rubbing stones, nippers, a razor knife, hole saw, mixing drill, mixing paddle, angle grinder, and so on.

Other things you will need to understand are, which trowels to use, what will I use to cut which type of tile, will a bar snap cutter cut porcelain or do I need a wet saw. Can I use an angle grinder on Travertine or do I need a special blade for the wet saw. Then figure out how your floor was constructed and make sure you have the proper deflection for the tile your installing. If you’re on a slab you will need to figure out if your hairline cracks are slab crack or are they control joints. Then you will need to understand if you need a crack membrane on the whole floor or can you get away with just applying it to just bridge the cracks. Maybe an uncoupling membrane would work, how could I lay out this wall or floor to line up the grout joints to look good.

You will also need to understand which type of thinset to use, modified, flexible, un modified, epoxy, rapid setting, gray or white. And then figure out if the type of tile you are setting requires it’s own type of thinset, that and making sure you can use that type of thinset with the type of substrate or other material you are using. Schluter Ditra & Kerdi require a UN modified thinset to set tile, but glass tile manufacturers require you to use a highly modified, ohh no. What next? Granted you could probably read about tile and do some research for a few weeks if you have the time, between working, kids, family, friends and your relaxation time.

All this and still not breaking the surface of the knowledge you need to achieve a perfect tile installation. If your doing a shower your really in for it. Shower waterproofing is a pretty tricky and difficult installation. Do you need a traditional liner with a pre slope or can you go with a sheet waterproofing membrane like Schluter Ditra or NobleSeal TS. Or will a liquid membrane like Hydroban, Hydro Barrier or RedGard be better for your shower area. This is an area you don’t want to mess up on, a leak in your waterproofing or shower pan liner can seriously cause problems. Water dripping from your kitchen ceiling, damaging your drywall, soaking your carpets, rotting studs in your walls or mold forming behind your shower walls.

Do you want to spend the time, effort and possible the waste of some material for a chance you might have a good tile installation in your home? I myself would not attempt to do electrical and or a big plumbing job in my house. I would rather hire a pro with experience on getting the job done right, on time and at a fair price. I’m not trying to scare you away from doing it, heck, you’re the one that has to live with it and look at it everyday. But I know one thing; tile and most other finish trades require some sort of skill. Can you do it? Sure you can. We all started some place. I have seen a good amount of people come to a popular tile forum I help answering tile related question on looking for advice and tackling the project themselves with success, and there are also the other 80% that come there looking to be bailed out after they botched the tile project they were so excited to “Do It Yourself”.

I know from over 20 years of installing tile like glass, porcelain, travertine, marble, ceramic, paver’s and many more types of tile here in Tampa, Florida and also prior up in New Jersey that doing a perfect tile project isn’t an easy thing. There is a lot of labor involved along with scheduling, logistics, layout and making everything come together.

My advice to you is either commit yourself to over a month of having your house turned upside down and ripped apart, or doing some research and hiring a professional, skilled, qualified Tile Contractor that is up to date with current installation techniques to do your job. You will spend a little more but you can rest assured after doing your due diligence that you will have a quality, long lasting, good looking and professional tile installation.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

John Trent February 4, 2010 at 9:42 pm

Excellent article! Helping people understand the challenges involved in the various tile installations can help some from making mistakes that can cost them a lot of money & time as well as aggravation in living in a construction zone for months on a job that should take a 5-7 days. Great to see an article that helps those DIY’ers make a better informed decision.

Tammy & Bill February 11, 2010 at 12:51 am

Ouch & Deja Vu !
Just last week we tried to install a new tile floor in our kitchen. Well with some reading and planning we did. Well a week later we are ripping it up. Our floor wasn’t strong enough and we used the wrong adhesive. Now researching to do it again we come across your article. Wish I had found this earlier because we were on the border to have a tile guy do it but decided to DIY. It’s now costing us over double!

🙁

Jim "Sparky" H. April 23, 2011 at 6:35 am

Do you want to spend the time, effort and possible the waste of some material for a chance you might have a good tile installation in your home? I myself would not attempt to do electrical and or a big plumbing job in my house. I would rather hire a pro with experience on getting the job done right, on time and at a fair price.”

Nice comparison! And you mentioned Electrical first! Awww! Nothing like having a pro do what your unsure about. I might be talking to ya in a year or two about our master bath if you might be interested maybe & incorporate it into another trip northward.

Good article. You never know who’s reading them.

Brian Bolt - BC Tile February 5, 2012 at 6:27 am

I had a call the other day where a gentleman was talking about what his neighbor did. He described first the amount of work this fella had been doing. Apparently he worked on tiling a bathroom that came out well, and decided to continue his work throughout the hallway, kitchen and laundry room. So, he again rented the equipment, purchased the materials, and tools he didn’t already have. After tearing up all of the old flooring and setting all of the tile, he came down in the morning and all the tile was coming loose. Years of experience are worth far more than some savings by not hiring a professional.

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