Laying Ceramic Tiles - Planning Layout

Tools: Angle grinder with diamond blade; buckets; chalkline; marking pen; notched trowel (10mm); power drill and mixing screw; rubber mallet; rubber squeegee; spatula; spirit level; sponge; straightedge (2400mm); tape measure; tile pincers; tile cutter.

Preparing fibre cement

Fibre cement (FC) cladding comes in sheets, planks and weatherboards.

To prepare, sand ?aking paint, punch nail heads beneath the surface and cover with ?exible gap sealant.

Remove mildew by scrubbing with one part bleach and three parts water, leave for 20 minutes then rinse clean.

Prime with sealer then apply two coats of exterior grade acrylic.

TIP FC installed before the early 1980s may contain asbestos, in which case have repairs done by a specialist.

The rules of painting

Paint longevity depends on good adhesion, so surfaces must be sound, clean and dry. Place drop sheets over trees, shrubs, paths and driveways.

WORK FROM THE TOP DOWN to avoid drips on freshly painted areas. Start with gutters, fascia boards and eaves then paint walls, downpipes and trim.

PAINT WINDOWS AND DOORS early so they can be closed at night.

For windows use a 50mm angled sash brush, overlapping paint slightly onto the glass then removing with a razor-bladed paint scraper when dry.

For doors, paint the panels then work into the corners, with long strokes in the direction of the grain, brushing back over wet paint to avoid marks.

TO PAINT WEATHERBOARD work horizontally, painting three boards at a time to the end. If the surface has vertical boards or panels, complete each from top to bottom before moving to the next.

Using a spray gun

A spray gun is the quickest way to apply paint to a large, smooth surface but may not be the fastest when you add the time taken to protect ?xtures and surrounding area from overspray.

Personal protection is also required. Wear a lightweight spray suit, quality respirator mask and safety glasses.

START AT THE TOP and move across then down in overlapping layers without stopping until the entire wall is covered. Move the sprayer in a steady back-and-forth motion, keeping the gun perpendicular to the wall. A spray gun covers large areas quickly.

Protecting from drips

Every paint job requires drop sheets, either in plastic or canvas.

PLASTIC is less expensive and can be taped into position but spills make it slippery. It doesn’t absorb paint which can stick to the bottom of your shoes and be tracked through the house.

CANVAS is heavier, more absorbent and provides a slip-free base. It’s more expensive but is re-usable.

TIP – Combine the advantages of both materials with an ABC plastic-backed canvas drop sheet, $25.

Materials: For typical 40m2 job: 40m2 of floor tiles plus wastage allowance (7 per cent for square laying and 15 per cent for tiles laid diagonally); tile adhesive (4-8 20kg bags, depending on bed thickness); grout.

Before you start: Careful floor preparation is essential before tiles are laid. Ensure the floor is clean, level and sound. Irregular or dusty concrete floors may require a wet-mix topping made up of 6 parts fine-grained sand to 1 part cement. Before applying the wet-mix, coat the floor with a mixture of 1 part of a bonding agent to 1 part water. Timber floors need flexible adhesives.

Planning Layout

Planning the layout

Floor tiles can be laid in one of two ways: either square to the walls or on the diagonal. The job illustrated here shows a diagonal pattern, laid at 45° to the walls, with a rectangular half tile laid as a border. Professional tile layers charge more per square metre to lay tiles in a pattern like this because of the extra time involved in cutting and setting-out. For the best looking job, minimise the number of cut tiles; keep diagonal cuts to halves; and arrange the pattern so it is symmetrical to the most prominent wall.

Determining joint gaps

Determining joint gaps

The normal joint or gap between tiles is 1.5-5mm. To decide which size looks best, lay out 9 tiles in 3 rows of 3. Open or close the gaps to achieve the desired spacing. Do not lay tiles too tightly, since there will probably be some variation in their size.

Laying Tiles Step1

Laying tiles – planning and getting started


For a professional-looking finish, and to avoid wastage and excessive cutting, it’s best to have exactly half-diagonal cuts against the border on at least three of the four walls. This can be achieved with an accurate set-out and adjustments to either the gap between tiles or the border width.


It is vitally important to get your set-out lines exactly square, otherwise the gap between the tiles will gradually grow or shrink as the job proceeds.


Make two marks (the border width) at each end of a long wall. Stretch a taut chalk line across the two marks and snap the line to mark the border line on the floor. Repeat along the adjacent short wall where you will start laying.


Although time-consuming, the best way to set out a floor is to lay a row of tiles dry (without adhesive) to see exactly how the pattern will work across the room. Ensure the gaps are accurate and even, and position the tiles against a straightedge to keep them aligned. If the desired set-out with full and half tiles against the border does not work, make some adjustments.

First, open or close the joints to try to obtain a neat fit. If this fails, adjust the border tile width. Reducing the border width to less than half a tile still allows two border tiles to be cut from one full tile. If the border measures more than half a tile, you will be using a full tile for each cut, which is wasteful and expensive. Keep cost in mind when calculating the percentage of waste in the tile order.

Laying Tiles Step5


Check that your layout is square using a Pythagorean 3-4-5 triangle. This simple method allows you to establish or check 90° angles. Make a mark 1800mm from the corner on one side. Make a mark 2400mm from the same corner on the other side. Measure between the two marks. The angle is exactly 90° when this distance equals 3000mm. If this distance is more or less than 3000mm, move one or both sides in or out to correct the angle.

Laying Tiles Step6


If the set-out is not square, adjust one or both lines until a square setting is achieved. If a room is badly out of square, the border tiles will need to be wider at one end of the room than they are at the other. Try to hide discrepancies in corners that receive the least amount of attention.

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