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How to make a grid when installing ceramic tile

Laying ceramic tile is so much easier when you know how to make a grid when installing floor tile.   Once you have selected the tile that you are going to install and the floor has been prepped, I will guide you in how to layout floor tile the easy way.   This is where you can get stuck in your Tile Installation and that’s okay.

When I installed my first tile job, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing.

I was a Professional carpet installer. I just had that DIY in my blood. I didn’t know how to make a grid. I didn’t even know there was such a thing. (oh the good old days of learning things the hard way!)

I can show you how laying ceramic tile can be easy!

You might not know exactly where to start or how to start and if this is the point that you are at now, I’m glad you are here reading this. I want to help guide you through this process and help make your tile installation go as easy as possible.   I would like to introduce to you the grid system.

With this system we are going to accomplish several things to help make your tile installation go easier, faster and it will look better.   Imagine what it would look like if the room that your installing tile in was drawn on a piece of grid paper. If you drew everything to scale on that paper including- the cabinets, walls and doorways you would be able to see exactly how all the tiles would fit in that room.

Now imagine that piece of paper becoming the actual size of the room and now you can see these lines on the floor.

Wouldn’t that be great! Think about it, if all those lines were on the floor before you started installing your tile, how easy would it be to figure out your cuts for the tile and then install the tile using those lines to guide you? Wouldn’t almost be like cheating?   Well I’ll tell you first hand, that this is the process I use and IT WORKS GREAT!   There are a few simple steps that we will go through, then you can use this system too.

Grab these few items so we can get started

  • Tape Measure
  • Pencil for writing
  • Carpenters pencil for marking on the floor
  • Paper
  • Chalk Line/I use black chalk and it seems to work the best
  • Calculator

Step 1

 

Measure several of your tiles to determine the average size

Because tiles are never the same exact size you need to determine what the average size of the tiles are. This is also the reason why I never recommend using tile spacers. If the tiles aren’t adjusted when laying ceramic tile, then the joints will run off.

Determine the Grout joint Size

This is totally up to you. There are a few suggestions that I will make to help you with this. I would not use a grout joint that is smaller than 3/16 of an inch. This is the standard that I follow for a few reasons. If the floor is not perfectly flat, then the wider your grout joint is, the more forgiving a tile that sticks up a little higher will be. Trust me, a wider joint is better! Another reason is that when you have different size tiles, the grout joints will need to be adjusted slightly throughout the floor. This will make up for the different size tiles. If your grout joint is wider, the less likely it is to see the difference in the grout joints.

Example; I have tile that is 12 x 12 in size according to the box. It is actually 11 3/4 x 11 3/4 and some are slightly larger 11 13/16 which is 1/16 of an inch larger than 11 3/4 and some are slightly smaller 11 11/16 which is 1/16 of an inch smaller than 11 3/4 .

I absolutely love to use easy numbers and I think you will to, so here’s how I think we should figure this out. Make sure the smallest your grout joint will be is 3/16 of an inch. If you look again at my example just above here you will understand that if I add 3/16 of an inch to my largest tile that would total 12 inches.that would give me a very easy number to work with. I would make my grout joint slightly larger to have an easy number to work with.

Here’s an example of what I mean; If my largest tile was 11 3/4 inches and my smallest tile was 11 11/16 inches I would still use 12 inches for my (one tile + grout line) answer. It’s an easy number to work with and the possibility of having a grout joint that could be 5/16 of an inch is worth to me.

Larger grout lines aren’t a bad thing. Most people think- the smaller a grout joint is, the easier it is to grout. NOT TRUE! Check out my blog – Grouting the easy way.

I always try to use the following increments-

1/8 – 1/4 – 3/8 – 1/2 – 5/8 – 3/4 – 7/8 – 1

  These are the increments I’m trying to use when I talk about about using easy numbers. If my tile is 11 7/8 inches, I would then use 12 1/8 inches for my ( one tile + grout line). Check out my fractions to decimals chart to convert your fractions to a decimal number for the next step.

 

Step 2

 

 Creating a Cheat Sheet




I’m going to continue to use my example above in creating my cheat sheet. Now that we have determined the grout joint size, the next step in laying ceramic tile is to create a cheat sheet. This is what we will use when we begin the layout our grid lines, it will show us how big our grid squares are going to be. Grab your paper, pencil, calculator and tape measure and let’s get started.

The formula for this is very simple

  • Let’s start out by writing down our starting point which is our answer to –

one Tile + the grout joint = ?

  • 12 is my answer.
  • now we need to add another (one tile + the grout joint) to our first number – so that would be 12 + 12 = 24
  • then repeat this process until you get passed the longest point of the room.

Example: This is what my cheat sheet would look like

Cheat Sheet

12, 24, 36, 48, 60, 72, 84, 96, 108, 120, 132, 144

I added 12 (one tile + the grout joint) + 12 +12 +12 and so on.

Step 3

 

Measure the room

Using a tape measure, we want to measure the room to find the longest distance from wall to wall. Once we find that distance we need to write that down. Let’s convert this number to inches, it will make a little easier for us when we start to fill out our cheat sheet.

Divide this Number in Half

Let’s take the answer we got in step 2 and divide that by 2. The room I’m laying ceramic tile in is 11 ft wide x 20 ft long. So 20 ft is the longest distance and that is 240 inches. If I divide that by 2, that’s 120 inches. I know that your probably thinking that you wish your room was this simple. I’m just trying to show you these steps with nice even numbers.

How Big will My Pieces Along the Wall Be?

Let’s continue learning how to make a grid for an easy tile installation.

Now we need to start making marks on the floor, but first we need a starting point. I always try to use an outside wall to measure off of because they are usually the straightest walls.

This not always true though. I do also take into consideration the longest distance in the room. I want my first line that we are going to mark(snap) on the floor to be the longest.

If your room is not square or rectangular shaped and there are several places that you have nooks that jog in from the main part of the room, let’s concentrate on the main part of the room first.

If you have a hallway attached to the room then we do need to start our layout with that in mind. I will get to these soon, but let’s start with a square or rectangular shaped room.

 

1) Measure both the length and the width of the room and write these down on a piece of paper. Measure the room in a few different places, this will show you how straight the walls are with each other.

 

2) Divide these numbers in half. Now we have divided the room in half and found the center of the room. These answers we came up with here, we will be using in the next step. It might be easier to convert these measurements to inches when dividing.

Example: My room is 11 ft wide or 132 inches. When I divide this in half I get 66 inches.

 

3) Let’s find the center of the room in the width first. Measure away from the wall into the room and using the answer from above, we will mark that measurement on the floor using a pencil. This is the center of the room. Keep your tape measure extended in that spot for the next step.

 

4) Let’s check the size of our pieces along the wall. Grab your cheat sheet! Look on your cheat sheet and find the first measurement that is smaller than the center point of the room and mark that on the floor.

Example: My center point is 66 inches and the first measurement that is smaller on my cheat sheet is 60 inches.

 

5) Measure the distance between the 2 marks we just made and that’s how big your pieces along the walls will be.

Example: When I measure the distance between the marks I’ve made , my answer is 6 inches.

If the pieces are to small, we can move this pretty easily.

 

1. Divide the tile + the grout joint in half (example: tile + the grout joint = 12 ÷ 2 = 6)

 

2. With the end of your tape measure placed on your center mark, measure away from the mark, the distance you came up just above.(answer from number 1)

(tile + the grout joint = ? ÷ 2)

 

3. Make a mark on the floor with a pencil.

 

4. Measure from the wall to the mark we just made.

 

5. Grab your cheat sheet and look for the number that is closest to your mark without going over and make a mark.(This mark might already be on the floor because it could be a mark we made earlier)

 

6. Measure the distance between these 2 marks and this is how big your pieces would be.

 

7. Now decide which of these piece sizes will be better to use and circle the mark you will be using.

 Step 4

 

Now repeat the steps from above to find the pieces in the length of the room

 

Watch the video below to see how I did this.

Step 5

 

Mark the 2 Main Grid Lines

Now that we know which marks we will be using for our 2 main lines in the grid let’s build this thing and start laying ceramic tile.

Let’s start with Width of the Room

  • We already have one mark made, so let’s remeasure this for an exact measurement.
  • On the other side of the room make a mark on the floor that is the same distance from the wall as your first mark.
  • circle these marks and grab a chalk line.
  • Extend the chalk line and place the string on your marks.
  • Pull the chalk line tight and then grab the string with two fingers.
  • Lift the string above the floor a few inches and let go.(Just lift enough for the entire string to come above the floor).
  • SNAP! The string should have snapped back to the floor and left a mark behind after you remove the chalk line.
  • Now let’s take our tape measure and measure away from the wall to the line in several places.(Checking to see how straight our line is.)
  • If the measurements are slightly different throughout that’s okay. The wall could be wavy.
  • If it’s off quite a bit we need to adjust the line to make it straight.
  • Just add or subtract from your mark to make it straight and then with a sponge wipe off the line and re-snap a new one.
  • Check your line again to make sure it’s straight.

What if your mark is not at the longest point of the room?

  • Grab your cheat sheet and tape measure
  • Place the end of your tape measure on the mark you have on the floor.
  • Measure towards the area you need the mark to be
  • Look on your cheat sheet and find the number that will be in the area you need to make your mark.
  • Make a mark on the floor

Example: If mark needs to be at least 40 inches away from my original mark I would look at my cheat sheet to see what number is on there that is closest to 40 inches.For me that would be either 36 inches or 48 inches and I would need to look to see which of those two numbers would get me into the area I need to make my mark.

  • Once you complete this step, then we would follow the same steps I mentioned above.

Step 6

 

Now let’s move on to the length

  • We should have a mark on the floor for this already so find the mark on the floor.
  • Now grab a T- square( a carpenters square can be used in smaller area that a T square will not fit into.)
  • Place the T square on the floor with the top of the T square(this is the shorter part) on the line you just snapped.
  • Line up the longer part of the T square with your mark on the floor.
  • Once this is lined up, draw a line along side the T square using the edge of the T square as a guide.
  • now extend the line you just drew to other side of the chalk line.

Example: If you move the T-square 2 feet down the line you just drew, 2 feet of it will be on the line you drew and 2 feet of it will extend passed the chalk line you snapped earlier.

  • Place the T square on the floor with the top of the T square(this is the shorter part) on the line you just snapped.
  • Line up the longer part of the T square with your mark on the floor.
  • Once this is lined up draw a line along side the T square using the edge of the T square as a guide.
  • Extend a chalk line from wall to wall and line it up on top of the line that you drew on the floor.
  • After you are certain that it’s lined up and you pulled the chalk line tight, snap the line

TIP

Wrap the chalk line around your finger and use your thumb to hold the string on the floor.

If the room you are working in is a larger room then we should check our lines. We can do this using a method called the 345 Rule. Grab a tape measure and we need to measure two of the lines that we snapped. Look at the lines on the floor where they meet. We want to measure away from where they intersect on two different lines.

Just think of it as if the letter L was on the floor and that is what we need to measure.

First measure the shorter part of the L and measure 3 feet to the right of where the lines intersect and make a mark. Then measure up the line 4 feet and make a mark(the longer part of the L)

Now measure the distance between these two marks. This would be a diagonal measurement. This should be 5 feet and if it’s not then make a mark where 5 feet is and adjust your line. Just erase the line on the floor with a sponge and then re-snap your line.

For bigger rooms this is a great method because 3-4-5 can be changed to 6-8-10 or 12-16-20 and so on.

These are just few more tips to use when learning how to make a grid.

Step 7




Mark the rest of the Grid

Now we can mark the rest of the grid so grab your cheat sheet, tape measure and a pencil. What we want to do here, is measure away from our main lines and put a mark on the floor every two tiles + the grout joints. This is on your cheat sheet. we also want these marks to be next to the walls.

  • Place the end of the tape measure on the line.
  • Look at your cheat sheet and begin marking the floor every two tiles + the grout joints.
  • At the the end of the wall we need a mark that is one tile + the grout joint away from the wall.
  • Circle all of you marks

Example: The distance from my line to the wall is 66 inches. My measurements from my cheat sheet would be 24, 48, and 60. Once I get to the point that I can’t mark two tiles + the grout joints, which was 48, then I marked it one tile + the grout joint, which is 60.

You can measure away from the line anywhere in the room. This is what you will have to do to get into closets or other areas that jog in. If you have areas that you can’t measure to from the main line that’s okay. Once we snap our lines you will be able to use one those lines to measure off of, into any area in the room.

Snap the rest of the lines

Now go through and snap all of the lines. Once this is done, you should go throughout the grid and measure the squares to be sure that the squares are all the same size. Sometimes the squares can be slightly bigger or smaller and that’s okay.

As long as it is only slightly. This happens because of slight bows in the floor that cause the chalk line to move a little. Your main lines are always your go to lines when there is a problem. Measure off the main line to the other lines when you need to check a line that is off. If your chalk lines wear off the floor then just re-snap them.

Before you begin the layout of the grid , mix some thin set. Mix it thin so it’s easy to spread. Then spread a thin layer on the floor using the flat side of a trowel.(the side that doesn’t have notches). This will help hold the chalk line so it doesn’t wear off as easy.

Step 8

How to Install Your Tile Using the Grid

Now that we have finished learning how to make a grid we can start laying ceramic tile. When we install the tile we will be following the lines that we snapped on the floor. To do this we will line up two edges of the tile to two of the lines on the floor.

Once we decide which lines we are going to line the edges of our tile to, these are the lines that we will follow throughout the entire installation. Sound complicated? It’s not at all, let me explain.

Now I have given you a lot of information here and it might seem overwhelming. Just go back and read this a few times. You don’t need to memorize all of this information. You can follow these steps one by one while you are laying out your grid. This was worth putting together for you, because I know how easy laying ceramic tile will go, once you get the grid on the floor.

I have some really easy methods that I use for measuring your cuts when using the grid system. One of the methods doesn’t even require a tape measure. The other method is very easy too. You do use a tape measure, but it only requires you to remember one number – one tile+the grout joint!

Check out some of my other posts on my site and let me guide you, laying ceramic tile . I know the problems that you can face during a tile installation, because I’ve lived them. I will walk you through all of them and help make your tile installation go easy.

Thanks, Joe Letendre

Through Christ alone we are SAVED!

Measuring cuts

Measuring cuts that are more dificult

Installing Tile using the Grid – getting started

Installing Tile in the Main Field of the Grid

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