Do-it-yourselfers laying their own ceramic tile often shy away from diagonal tile layouts. Diagonal tiles can seem difficult to install. Once installed, diagonal tile may feel too busy—perhaps even inappropriate for small spaces.
But diagonal tile layouts can be an excellent choice. With a few techniques and tools, they aren't all that hard to install. And they can work well for many spaces, especially small spaces like bathrooms.
What Diagonal Tile Layout Is
A diagonal tile layout, sometimes called bias layout, places the direction of the tiles at a 45-degree angle to all of the walls.
A diagonal tile layout can be preferable in a bathroom or another small room because it helps to make the room look larger.
As for installation, cutting on the diagonal will always be a little more difficult than cutting parallel to edges. But there are tools and techniques to help you do this.
Diagonal Layouts Can Feel Less Imposing
Whether you know it or not, your brain automatically calculates the size of spaces. If you're a detail-oriented person, you might do this while using a bathroom, multiplying the number of tiles in a row by the number of tiles in a column. But all people do this type of calculation whether they know it or not: it's purely subconscious.
Either way, square tile layouts allow the brain to rather easily gauge the size of the space, and thus a small bathroom will instantly seem just as small as it is. But with a diagonal tile layout, the brain does not easily make this area calculation, and thus it's not instantly apparent that the room is small. Diagonals can be an excellent strategy to make small rooms seem larger.
Diagonal Layouts Are Unique
Parallels and squares form a grid. Diagonals have a more open, dynamic look. The shapes afforded by the diagonal tile layout create an opening effect.
You only need to look at wall tile laid harlequin style to see how vibrant and fun diagonals can be. It's particularly helpful for a bathroom floor to use a contrasting diagonal pattern if the walls have a straight grid pattern, such as subway tiles arranged in a traditional running bond.
Diagonal Layouts Hide Out-of-Square Walls
With square tile layouts, a room that is out of square will be quite evident from the shape of trimmed tiles along the walls. But diagonal layouts make room imperfections less visible.
While a diagonal pattern might seem logical if you are using big tiles for a large space such as a kitchen or living room floor, some may be concerned that diagonal tiles can look too busy in a smaller bathroom.
Diagonal tiles can add visual interest to a room, but they will never make a room feel large on the same scale as can wall-length mirrors, light-colored paint, and a white ceiling.
If you are do-it-yourselfer planning to install the tiles yourself, cutting tiles on a diagonal is a legitimate concern. While templates do help, a fair amount of calculating is required. If you're not mathematically inclined, you might want to avoid installing on the diagonal.
Diagonal Tile Layout Installation Issues
One criticism of diagonal tile layouts is that you will need to cut tile for all four walls—there will be triangular tile segments along all four walls of a tile floor.
But many square patterns also require trimming of tiles on two or sometimes all four edges of the wall. When spacing is a problem, it's often best to start the tile layout by running a row down the center of the room, and then working outward. The two penultimate rows will be cut tiles.
Related to this is the concern that it is harder to cut individual tiles along the diagonal than it is to cut them parallel to their edges, as you would with a square pattern. While it's true that most manual tile cutters and wet saws are better suited for making parallel cuts,
Finally, there is a perception that it's somehow more difficult to lay out a diagonal pattern on the floor than it is to lay out a square pattern. In reality, though, a diagonal layout begins by simply snapping diagonal layout lines across the floor from each pair of opposite corners.
At the intersection of the lines in the center of the room, you'll begin by installing full-size tiles, using the lines as a guide. As you work out toward the walls, you'll be installing full-size tiles until you reach the walls, at which point you'll begin trimming tiles along the diagonal to fit against the walls. Except for the cutting, a diagonal pattern is no more difficult to execute than a square pattern.
Tools For Diagonal Tile Installations
There are a number of tile templates available to help you mark diagonal cutting lines on tiles. Once marked, it's relatively easy to cut the tiles along the marked lines with a manual score-and-snap tool or with a motorized wet saw.
Although it's possible to cut ceramic tiles on the diagonal with a score-and-snap tile cutting, it will be considerably easier with a motorized wet saw.
If you are installing natural stone tiles, which are harder than standard ceramic tiles, a wet saw is your only option. There are plenty of affordable wet saws available for around $100 to $200, a good investment if you do occasional tile work. Or, they are available for rent by the day from tool rental outlets and big-box home improvement centers.
Once you learn the techniques for laying out diagonal tile and cutting, you may well want to try the technique for other applications, such as walls, showers, or kitchen backsplashes.