The Four Laws of Tiling For Kitchens and Bathrooms

Modern bath, shower and sink
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When tiling your bathroom or kitchen, keep these basic laws of tiling in mind. Some of this is just plain common sense, but it's always good to be reminded of these things when starting on an unfamiliar project.

Look at this as a wish list. Because our real, physical world doesn't always cooperate, you may have to compromise on some of these laws. But they're good to keep in mind. One theme that runs through all of this has to do with the usage of cut tiles.

Minimize Your Use of Tiles Less Than Half-Size

What it looks like: Strange, skinny tiles that call attention to themselves. Your eye is drawn towards things that are out of the norm. 

Cutting is just a fact of life with tiling. But always try to use cut tiles that are between half- and full-size. Anything less than half-size looks too skinny and "slivery."

How can you do this? Try to anticipate the amount of space you have left as you near a wall. If you're two or three feet from the wall, you can begin to tweak the joints between the tiles ever so slightly that it will be imperceptible to the eye, but will bring you to a final row of half-size or greater tiles.

Employ Symmetry in Your Layouts

 A layout that somehow doesn't look right, though it's hard to describe exactly what's wrong.

Perhaps a no-brainer, but what we're talking about are the edge pieces. If you're setting tile around a kitchen sink, for example, make sure that tiles bordering the sink are all of the same sizes. The last thing you want is full-size tiles on one side and half-size tiles on the other size.

The same example applies to a bathroom floor. Here you'll want opposite-end wall tiles to be the same size. If one wall has three-quarters size tiles, the opposite wall should have the same.

Minimize Your Tile-Cutting

What it looks like: A jumble of small tiles. Pure visual chaos.

There are two reasons for this, and only the first reason is aesthetic:

  • It's a bad look—Cut tiles never look good. The more full tiles you can use, the better.
  • Save work for yourself—Cutting tiles is not fun. Even outfitted with a top-of-the-line tile-cutting wet tile saw, you will not enjoy life.

But you can get over the work part of it. It simply doesn't look good to have a lot of cut tiles in your layout.

Use Full Tiles in Highly Visual Areas

What It Looks Like: The most visible part of the field tile has an array of cut tiles. Why are they here? Couldn't the tiler have found an out-of-the-way location for this stuff?

When people put up Christmas trees, they often turn the tree so that the bad side faces the wall and the full side faces the room.

It's the same concept here. Tuck the cut tiles away in the less-noticeable areas: near walls, borders, under the cabinetry overhangs, etc. The center of a bathroom floor or kitchen counter is the worst place for a cut tile.