Whole tiles – or ‘field tiles’ – are laid in their rows first. When these are complete, you’ll have to cut the ceramic tiles to fill the gaps at the edges and around obstructions such as window frames, cupboards, light fittings, bathroom fittings, taps and pipework. Cutting straight edges for borders is relatively easy – especially if you invested in a tile-cutting jig. It’s a very unusual room that has absolutely square walls and, inevitably, the margin will be uneven so you’ll have to be prepared to measure and cut each tile individually to fit into position.
The technique for measuring to cut a tile to shape is similar to that used when laying floor tiles, but in the case of border tiles, you need to make an allowance for the normal spacing between ceramic tiles that will be filled with grout.
Use a water-soluble felt tip pen to transfer the measurements to the tile, but only mark it at the edges, just in case there is a flaw – a tiny crack, hole or gap in the glaze – that the colour could run into and get trapped under the glaze. Use a straight edge to score a line across the face of the tile, joining up the marks at the tile edges. Wear goggles when you cut tiles to protect your eyes from any flying shards of glazed ceramics, which can cause serious injuries.
1 Measure and mark
Mark a border tile by placing it face down over its neighbour with one edge against the wall. Remember to allow for the normal spacing between the tiles. Transfer the marks to the edge of the tile using a water-soluble felt tip pen.
2 Score and cut
Using a straight edge, score a line across the face of the tile joining up the marks on the edge. With a proprietary tile cutter, score across the face in one firm stroke to cut through the glaze, then snap the tile over a length of thin wire stretched across a panel of chipboard, pressing down on both sides of the tile to snap it.
3 Position the tile
Smooth off the cut edge of the border tile with a tile sander or small slipstone and then press the tile into position at the edge of the tiled field. Never slide a tile – even a small one – into position: the tile may not bed properly and could come unstuck.
Whatever method you use to cut or ‘nibble’ your ceramic tiles, you must always protect your eyes from flying shards with safety goggles.
Make sure your room is well-ventilated when mixing adhesives and grout and, if necessary, wear mouth and nose filters to protect yourself from noxious fumes.
Always be sure to use the correct tools for the job.