Offsetting tile joints to add visual interest
When your tiles are rectangular rather than square, you can create a more interesting pattern by offsetting the end joints, as shown in the photo sequence above.
Offsetting tile end joints takes a slightly greater attention to detail, however, because if you offset every other row of tiles, one of the control lines will be covered half of the time. This is easier to see than to explain. The tiler in our photo sequence is working with 8 in. x 16 slate tiles and offsetting each end joint by 8 in. So every other end joint lines up. As you can see in the second photo, the first tile in his first row fits nicely into the intersection of the control lines; the first tile in the second row overshoots the control line by 8 in.; the first tile in the third row lines up, and so on.
Not to over-think things, but when one of your control lines is covered half the time, you will probably rely more on the control line that isn’t covered up (because it runs parallel to tiles’ long sides). Our tiler seems to be doing just that. After setting his first row of tiles all the way to a wall, he uses a straightedge to check tile alignments and then weights down the straightedge so it won’t move as he adds and adjusts subsequent rows.
Installing each row is an ongoing process of adjusting and aligning–using a tiler’s straightedge, a measuring tape, a framing square–but that’s true of any tiling job. And, of course, while you’re constantly checking tile positions against the two control lines, you must also keep an eye on the third dimension–how level the tiles are–as seen in the sixth photo. This job was particularly exacting because tile thicknesses varied somewhat. So in addition to the layer of thinset he applied to the floor with a notched trowel, he also “buttered” the back of each tile, using the trowel’s straight edge.
Thanks to Josue “Blanco” Zazueta of TEK TILE, Brentwood, CA, for sharing his deep knowledge of tiling and allowing me to photograph him on a job site in Oakland, California. This sequence appears in Renovation 4th Edition, published by Taunton Press in October, 2012.
Renovation 4th Edition‘s 614 pages cover renovation from start to finish; its 1,000 photos were taken on job sites across North America; and its field-tested tips and renovation techniques were gathered from hundreds of master builders. This new edition includes extensively revised chapters on planning; doors, windows and skylights; electrical wiring (including wireless switches); energy assessment and retrofitting–in all, 20 chapters. Written and photographed by Michael Litchfield, a founding editor of Fine Homebuilding and the author of 12 acclaimed books on home design and renovation. Litchfield’s recent book on second units–In-laws, Outlaws and Granny Flats–was named One of the Ten Best Design Books of 2011.
© Michael Litchfield 2012
1. Offsetting end joints so that they align every other row creates a more interesting pattern--especially when installing rectangular tiles. (Renovation 4th Edition)
2. Installing an offset tile array is a bit trickier because every other row of tiles will cover one of the control lines. Here, the first tile in the first row sits within the intersecting chalklines, but the first tile in the second row is offset by 8 in., covering the chalkline. (Renovation 4th Edition)
3. The tiler sets the first row of tiles all the way to the wall, places a straightedge along the edge of the row (at right) and then weights down the straightedge so the first row won't move as he adds successive rows. (Renovation 4th Edition)
4. Periodically, use a framing square to check make sure end joints line up. The white spacers between tiles ensure the correct spacing for the grout, which will be applied when the tiling is complete. (Renovation 4th Edition)
5. When tile thicknesses are slightly irregular, butter the backs of tiles with thinset adhesive in addition to troweling adhesive on the floor. (Renovation 4th Edition)
6. In addition to checking the alignment of tile joints to the two primary layout chalklines, use a straightedge periodically to make sure tile faces are level. (Renovation 4th Ediiton)
Renovation 4th Edition contains the collective wisdom of hundreds of master craftspeople, such as "Blanco" Zazueta, shown in this tiling sequence.