DIY How To

How to Lay Quarry Tiles

Quarry tiles are ideal for areas that require a hard wearing surface such as utility rooms etc. They differ from ceramic floor tiles in that they are always un-glazed, thicker and are usually laid on a bed of mortar, rather than adhesive.

Planning how to set the tiles out is the most crucial part of tiling. The tile joints should run parallel with the main feature of the room, when viewed from the main doorway. Also uneven sized tiles around the edges should be avoided otherwise the room will look unbalanced.

Always start tiling in a corner and work back towards the main door, once you have found the best fit, place a whole tile into the corner and draw around the two outside edges. Use a straight edge to extend the two marking lines, then check that they are at 90° using the 3,4,5, rule.

How to check a 90deg corner

To check a corner is 90° there is a rule that says if you measure 3 units along one wall and make a mark, then 4 units along the other wall and make a mark, the distance between the two marks should be 5 units. If the distance between the two marks is more than 5 then the angle is greater than 90° and if the distance is less than 5 the angle is less than 90°
Units can be any form of measure eg. Metres, Feet.

Position battens

When you have checked that the markings are at 90° you also need to check that the batten running towards the main door is parallel with the main feature in the room. When you are happy with the start position secure two battens to the floor along the outside of the markings (battens to be twice as thick as the floor tiles).

Fit batten

Measure the length of four tiles allowing for joints (approx 3mm) or for ease use a tile gauge and secure a third batten parallel with the first.

Tamper board

Make a tamper board to level off the mortar, use a piece of wood long enough to span the two parallel battens.

Cut out notch

Cut a notch out of each end so that the board can fit between the two parallel battens. Cut the notches to a depth just less than the thickness of a tile, this will give an even thickness of mortar as the board is drawn along.

Before making up the mortar, soak the tiles in a bucket of water, this will stop the tiles sucking the moisture from the mortar. Make up the mortar mix using one part cement and three parts building sand, once the sand and cement are mixed together add water and mix until a smooth consistency is achieved. Spread the mortar between the battens and use the tamper board to level off the mortar.

Level tiles

Starting in the corner of the two walls lay the first tile, push the tile firmly into the mortar until it is level with the top of the battens. Lay the next tile along the batten making sure it is square to the first, use plastic tile spacers to keep the joints apart (use the same size spacers that were used to mark out the tile gauge). Continue laying tiles along each batten and then lay the remaining six middle tiles. Use the back edge of the tamper board to level all the tiles.

Reposition batten

Continue laying sixteen tiles at a time until the first wall to wall section is complete (except the border). Reposition the third batten four tile lengths away from the last row, remembering to allow for the joints. Once all the whole tiles are layed allow 24 hours for the mortar to set before walking on the tiles.

Mark tile

Once all the mortar is dry, remove the battens, then measure and mark the tiles for around the edges. Measure each tile individually using a whole tile, turn the tile upside down and mark the back, then transfer this to the face of the tile before cutting, this ensures that the tile will follow the profile of the outer wall and also that the cut edge of the tile will be against the wall.

Spread mortar

When you are ready to lay your cut tiles around the edges, use a pointed trowel to spread the mortar bedding, don't try to do too much in one go otherwise the mortar will start to dry out.

Level mortar

Use a piece of hardboard or similar to to level off the mortar. Cut a notch the depth of a tile on one side, this will make sure the mortar bed is level.

Lay border tiles

Lay the border tiles and use a straight edge to level them with the adjoining whole tiles, allow a further 24 hours for the mortar to set before grouting or sealing.

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