Tips for selecting tile installation tools
As you began planning your tile project, you probably realized that your local home improvement store, like Lowe's, has a seemingly endless variety of installation tools. Don’t let these options overwhelm you – or your wallet! Use this guide to carefully select a few high-quality tools that will serve you well during this installation and future projects.
Mixers: Slow and Steady Wins the Race
To mix your mortar or grout, you can simply attach a mixing tool to your electric drill. Although mixing faster might seem more efficient, with thinsets and grouts, your mixer speed should not exceed 300 RPM, which will be a slower setting on your drill. Faster rotations may whip too much air into the mix, while a 300 RPM speed will ensure that the material is mixed thoroughly and consistently. During mixing, check that you aren’t covering the drill’s vent holes with your grip. Obscuring the vents can overheat the drill. You can rent mixing attachments at select local Lowe's locations.
If your project is smaller, you can also mix your mortar or grout by hand – using a margin trowel. Make sure that the mortar or grout reaches the consistency recommended by the manufacturer. If you want to cut down on mixing time, look into ready-to-use products.
After mixing, use clean water and a scrub brush to immediately clean your mixing tools and bucket. Doing so will help your tools last longer.
Tile Cutters: Select Based On Tile Type, Shape and Job Size
If your tile layout requires partial tiles, you’ll need a tile cutter. Your tile cutter selection will depend on the scale and design of the space and the tile itself. For small and medium-sized jobs that require only rectangular tiles, you can use nippers or tile scorers and breakers. These tools are relatively inexpensive to purchase.
Wet saws make tile cutting go quickly for larger projects, and must be used with natural stone. You can use them to cut 90-degree angles in tiles – to fit them around switches, outlets and other fixtures. To achieve circular cuts, use a wet saw or angle grinder with a diamond blade. If you don’t anticipate using a wet saw or angle grinder again, consider renting one from your local home improvement store, like Lowe's.
Note that many home improvement stores, like Lowe's, will cut tile for you. If you’re anxious to make sure your cuts are accurate or don’t want to invest in cutting tools, this option may be perfect for you. Simply ask in the tile section.
Trowels: Choosing the Trowel for Proper Coverage
Careful trowel selection is critical to achieving proper coverage – a key factor for successful installations.
Square-notched trowels are used with most tile-thinset combinations, and generally, the larger the tile, the deeper the recommended notch. For smaller tiles, use a ¼-inch by ¼-inch square-notched trowel. If your tiles are between 8 and 16 inches, opt for a ¼-inch by 3/8-inch notch. For tiles that exceed 16 inches, select a ½-inch by ½-inch square-notched trowel.
V-notched trowels can be used with mastics and to install mosaic tiles and glazed tiles up to 4 ½ inches on vertical surfaces.
Grout Floats: Consider Tile Type, Grout Composition and Work Space
Because grout and tile interact with grout floats, they both factor into grout float selection.
For cementitious grout and most types of tile, stick with a standard grout float. However, if you’re working with natural stone, opt for a specialized one. Stone grout floats are made of softer rubber than standard grout floats, which minimizes grout residue on textured surfaces and prevents unsightly scratching – making sure your finished installation matches your vision.
Grout floats can also address potentially challenging work spaces. If you’re working in difficult-to-reach areas – such as the spaces under cabinets and other fixtures – try an offset grout float. The handle on this type of float extends from its end, rather than its center, for easier maneuverability in small spaces. Margin grout floats, which are narrow and have handles attached to their backs, can also be used in difficult-to-reach spaces.
As you can see, a successful tile installation does not require a dramatic expansion of your tool collection. Carefully selecting a few of the right tools will help you efficiently achieve an installation that lasts. If you have questions about product selection, feel free to get in touch with our tile installation technical support team.