How I install subway tile (2″X6″)

Installing small tiles that are less than 8 inches wide on a wall requires a different approach to layout than for larger tiles for both standard tub surrounds (60 inches) as well as larger tubs.  For instance, when installing 12″ tiles you can center a tile on the back wall and just work your way left and right cutting the last tile at the corner thus having symmetry on both sides.

Before beginning installation of 2X6 subway tile I suggest actually laying out your tiles so can see what your cut offs will look like. Also with small tiles small deviations in the plumb of the wall can really come back to bite you.  Slivers of tile look horrible.  You will be mocked by your friends and family for slivers so take these precautions.

Getting started:  The horizontal line is a level line.  Make sure you make a level line for your first course of tile and a few reference lines above so you don’t get all crooked. Make your bottom level line such that you start with a tile at level on the low side of your line. That way as you work towards the higher end you use small shims to jack your tiles up to the level line.  If you start with a full tile on the high end you will wind up cutting every single tile after it in your first course.  A huge waste of time.  The gap under the first course can be caulked after grouting.  The vertical line is the edge of where my bullnose tile will run to. After it I have laid out several tiles on quarter inch spacings.

Above you see what the cutoff sizes will be in this corner.  If at all possible shift the tiles so your corners are able to make the length of an uncut tile. Make sense?  That is, the sum of the cuts is 6 inches in this case and it then looks like the tile wrapped the corner.  I was not able to quite achieve that on this surround but you can see for your self the finished product in my next post.

Now that you have determined level and your layout you can go mix up some thinset and get started. In my opinion you should only mix enough thinset to lay your first course unless you are very experienced with tiling. I suggest laying the first course with cuts, making sure you are on your marks, and letting it set up overnight.  In this way you have a very solid, level base to start with the next day.

This photo is a bit of a fast forward but its all the same principle. Look how the upper left tiles have no spacers in the and they are crooked.  This is how to speed up the process. Put your thinset on the wall using a 1/4 by 1/4 inch trowel then just start put the tiles up.  Every ten or so tile start adding spacers and push them tightly into formation.

Not only is it faster than spacing them one by one but it really helps lock the tiles to the wall.   That’s it for installing 2″X6″ subway tiles.  For info about avoiding grout haze see my post “How I avoid grout haze”. Click to see the finished bathroom.

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