Working with Tile

Working with Tile

SKU# 071343

Completely Revised and Updated

Tom Meehan
Lane Meehan


List Price $21.95 Today's Price $17.56
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Other Formats
  • Product # 071343
  • Type Paperback
  • ISBN 978-1-60085-373-9
  • Published Date 2011
  • Dimensions 9 3/16 x 10 7/8
  • Pages 240
  • Photos 375
  • Drawings 15

The latest techniques for the latest technology. Advances in technology have brought many new installation products and tools to the world of tiling in recent years, including waterproofing membranes, backerboards, grouts, and cutting tools. That’s why DIYers will welcome the thoroughly updated, easy-to-follow directions in Working with Tile.

Introducing two all-new sections. You’ll benefit from new content focusing on grouting (which can make or break any job) and working with porcelain and glass tile (a daily challenge to tile and shower door installers and plumbers). This perennial bestseller, first published in 2005 and now fully updated, also provides expert advice and over 370 photos to guide you through common remodeling projects like adding a backsplash or retiling a powder-room floor.

It’s a reference to rely on. Order your copy today!

About the Authors
Tom Meehan got his start laying tile with his father on weekends and has been installing tile for more than 40 years. Together with his wife, Lane, they own Cape Cod Tileworks in Harwich, Massachusetts. They are both long time contributors to Fine Homebuilding magazine.


Preview a sample of this book below

Table of Contents

Introduction to the Revised Edition

Getting Started
Living in Style
Look to the Future
Translating Ideas into Tile
Materials Are Better, More Versatile

Tiling a Floor
Maintain a Familiar Style
Tiling a Floor 
Installing an Uncoupling Membrane 
Layout Is Next 
Installing Tile Is the Fun Part 
Finishing Up 

Tile Wainscot
Wainscoting Is a Practical Choice 
Layout Is Key 
Checking for Obstructions 
Now Check the Horizontal 
Installing the Tile 

Tiling a Fireplace 
Design for the Whole Room 
Planning a Hearth and Mantel 
Tiling over the Firebox 
Building a Mantel 

Tiling a Backsplash 
Color, Patterns, and Accents 
Installing a Tumbled Marble Backsplash 
Sealing and Grouting 

Tiling a Countertop
Keeping It Clean 
Getting Started 
Cut the Tiles First 
Adding Edge Trim and Grout 

Tiling a Tub Surround 
Before You Start 
Check for Plumb and Level 
Use a Story Pole for Layout 
Planning the Installation 
Now for the Installation 
Finishing Up Corners and Edges
Finishing Up 

Tiling Showers 
Reviving a Bathroom with Tile 
Out with the Old 
Installing a Pan and Backer Board 
Story Poles Guide Layout 
Cutting Tiles to Fit 
Installing a Glass-Block Shower Wall 

Installing a Shower Pan 
Getting It Right 
Start with the Subfloor 
Installing the Waterproof Membrane 
Attaching the Drain and Liner 
Installing Backer Board and Tile 
Building a Curbless Shower 
Comparing Installation Methods 

Tiling with Stone
Choosing the Stone and the Look 
Choosing Thinset and Trowels
Cutting Stone Tile 
Drilling through Porcelain

Glass Tile 
Installing Stone Tile 
Stone Should Be Sealed
Glass Tile 
Glass Tile Installation Is Different 
Glass Tile in a Tub Surround 
Getting the Thinset Right 
Have Patience with Cutting and Grouting 

Planning a Repair 
Replacing Tile around a Shower Valve 
Replacing a Large Area of Tub Surround 
Replacing Floor Tile 
Replacing a Shower Pan 

Appendix A: A World of Tile 
Appendix B: Tools and Materials 
Appendix C: Trowels for Tiling 


When Tom worked with his father 30 years ago, installers went to the customer’s home and helped pick the tile. They would show up with 10 or 12 sample boards and walk out an hour later with all the choices made.

Not that it was easy: There were 40 or so possible colors for bathroom tile alone. The lower 4 ft. of the wall was usually tiled, forming a wainscot. There was a trim tile, called a cove base, where the wainscot met the floor, and another trim tile, called a cap or a tile chair rail, that could be used at the top. Customers could pick a matching, contrasting, or complementary color. Most bathrooms also got a full set of ceramic fixtures—towel bar, soap dish, and toothbrush and toilet paper holders.

Those relatively simple days are gone. We have a wider variety of tile shapes and sizes today than we did back then. Probably the most popular is 6-in. by 6-in. tile, which gives walls a clean look and a minimum number of grout lines. Rhomboids, or diamond shapes, and 3-in. by 6-in. subway tile have been making a strong impact in the past few years. They’re most popular on backsplashes, but they add a wonderful texture to any wall. New decorative borders and trim pieces make it easy to interrupt the wainscot partway up, and once you do, you can turn the tiles diagonally to create different visual textures.

Ceramic fixtures are on the decline. Today’s toothbrushes just don’t fit into the holders once common over the sink. Standard toilet paper holders don’t accommodate the larger rolls of toilet paper sold today. Old-fashioned tub soap dishes with the handle across the top are a thing of the past, too. They’ve been replaced by grab bars. Given the tendency of soap dishes to pop out of the wall when you grab them, it’s probably just as well. Shampoos, conditioners, body washes, and other common beauty products would overwhelm an old-fashioned shower stall. Now, we cut shampoo niches into the wall, sizing them to meet the customer’s needs and tiling them to match the shower.

Floor tiles are becoming larger, too. In the past, a floor tile commonly would have been 8 in. or 10 in. square. Now we tend to use tiles 12 in. by 12 in. or even larger. They reduce the number of grout lines, making the room look bigger and less busy. On the other hand, we are also seeing a great deal of small stone mosaic patterns. Mosaic patterns can make a big impression in a small powder room.

In the old days, a high percentage of foyers would have been red, gray, or green slate in one of a number of random block patterns. Today, the possibilities are endless. You can create a formal marble entry or a more rustic entry using tumbled marble. Borders and patterns can be combined to imitate rugs, making wonderful welcome mats, especially inside sliding or French doors. We have even filled entryways with what look like ponds of water made with fish- and shell-shaped tiles surrounded by tumbled stone.

What’s new in the kitchen
When Tom was doing kitchens with his father, the floors were usually either quarry tile, 8-in.-sq. Italian tile, or Mexican terra-cotta tile. Today, the combination of tile technology and our fast-paced lives has changed how we design kitchen floors. The most popular contemporary kitchen floors are ceramic or porcelain 12-in. squares made to look like stone.

The varied texture hides a multitude of sins, such as juice spills, sand, dirt, and pet hair. The matte finish keeps footing reliable even when the surface is wet. Porcelain and ceramic tiles come in many patterns and variations. The trend is to make tile that looks like tumbled marble or limestone, and it’s amazing how the tiles look so much like the real thing. Both porcelain and ceramic tiles are reasonably priced and very durable—a great way to update a kitchen without breaking the budget.

Slate also has become increasingly popular for kitchens. Unlike the flat slate of the 1970s, available in three colors, slates today come in a wide variety of tones and textures. Surfaces are more forgiving than the flat, chalkboard finish that showed scratches and was very difficult to maintain. Many slate tiles have a beautiful cleft texture that helps prevent slipping but still lets you move your kitchen chairs across the floor. Slate is usually slightly more expensive than ceramic tile but is a nice compromise if you want all the wonderful colors and textures of real stone without paying for a more expensive material such as tumbled marble or limestone.

Tile still a smart choice
People we meet at our tile store on Cape Cod or through Tom’s tile-setting business often assume we have fantastic tile in our own home. And the fact is that we do. But we also have four active boys in the house, and tile makes a lot of sense for us from both a practical and an aesthetic point of view. Like many other parents, we’d like to keep our house spotlessly clean and well organized, but the reality is that if we’re not working, we're probably racing to a karate class or a baseball game or some other activity. Tile is not only durable and good looking but also hides our housekeeping shortcomings as no other material could do.

A lot has changed since Tom began working with his father a generation ago. It’s not just that there are many more colors, sizes, and types of tile to choose from. There also are better and more varied materials used to install tile—
everything from grout and thinset cement to special floor membranes and sealers. All of it helps ensure that the beauty and practicality of tile remains as compelling as it’s ever been.


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