Installing glass subway tile is easier than you think and can be accomplished by yourself. Also by installing the tile yourself, you’ll save a good deal of money and more than likely pay closer attention to detail than someone else would.
Tools Needed to Get the Job Done
• Rubber Tile Float
• Diamond Wet Saw
• Large Sponge
• Chalk Line
• Carpenters Level
• Wooden Beating Block (small board wrapped in cloth, 2×4 works great)
• Adhesive (Thin set modified with Latex)
• Grout (Unsanded if tile spacing 1/8″ or less)
• Trowel (1/4″ x 1/4″ square notch)
The Right Backing for Your Project
You’ll want to make sure that your tiles are installed onto the right surface for the area that they are being installed in. An improper installation surface could cause you problems after your tile is already installed so you’ll want to get this right.
Drywall - This is acceptable in areas of low or no moisture. You’ll more than likely have drywall installed behind your kitchen countertop and this is an acceptable surface as long as it only receives small amounts of moisture.
Cement Board – When installing tiles around a tub or shower a good choice to go with is to use cement board. Make sure when you install your cement board that you use galvanized screws, because standard drywall screws will rust over time.
Green Board -Green board can be used in areas that are occasionally subjected to moisture, so areas like behind your sink, toilets, and other backsplashes. While green board is water resistant, you do not want to use it for areas with high exposures to moisture such as your shower as it will soften over time and your tiles will come loose.
Concrete - Having concrete as your surface is great for tiles. It is ideal for outdoor areas that are subjected to freezes and thaws. You’ll want to make sure that if the concrete is newly poured that you wait at least 28 days for it to cure before installing your tiles. Also if the concrete surface has cracks or large chips make sure you repair those before installing your tile.
Grouts and Adhesives
When choosing an adhesive we suggest that you go with a Latex modified thin set and to verify with the manufacture that the product is suitable for glass tiles. You’ll want to shade the surface area that you are applying your thin set to if necessary as direct sunlight can cause the surface to dry unevenly or dry to fast causing you problems during installation.
As far as grouting it is recommended that you use non-sanded grout for most glass tiles. If your spacing between tiles is 1/8″ or less then you must use the non-sanded grout, but if it it greater than 1/8″ you’ll most likely want to use sanded grout. The color of grout you use is completely up to you though it is typical practice to use a grout color that is lighter than the color of the tile you’re installing.
Installing Your Tile
1. Clean the surface you are installing your tile to, you want a nice clean and smooth surface before you apply your thin set. When you’ve finished cleaning your surface you will want draw some guidelines on the wall, so get our your tape measure, chalk guide lines and level and draw as many necessary guides as you think you’ll need to properly line up your tile.
2. Once you are happy with the amount of guides you’ve drawn on the wall it is time to mix your latex modified thin set. All thin sets are a little bit different so make sure to read the manufactures instructions on mixing.
3. Time to apply that thin set to your surface! Using the flat side of your trowel apply the thin set to only the area of your surface that you plan to install tile on in the next 10 to 15 minutes. Typically this would be the size of 2 to 3 square feet, but if this is your first time I’d recommend that you only put up enough for 1 square foot your first couple of sheets of tile.
4. Now you’ll want to angle your trowel about half way between 45 degrees and 90 degrees using the notched side of the trowel to evenly spread the thin set. Once down switch back to the flat side of your trowel and gently flatten all the peaks and notches in your thin set. Your goal here is to flatten your thin set without changing its thickness and minimizing any air pockets or gaps in your thin set.
5. Time to set your first sheet of tile. With your hands gently press the tile into the thin set while aligning it to your guide lines. Make sure to use gentle and even pressure across the sheet when pressing it into the thin set.
6. Grabbing your wooden block that is wrapped in cloth, place it over your tiles and lightly tap it with a hammer to make sure all the tiles in your sheet are flush with each other.
7. Now you can repeat steps 3 through 6 for the remaining sheets of tile in your project. Make sure when placing the next sheet that they are evenly spaced from the other sheets in accordance with the width between the tiles in your sheet.
8. After all your tiles are placed on your wall, you’ll want to let them cure for a minimum of 24 hours or longer if stated in the instructions of your thin set.
9. Once you’ve waiting 24 hours or longer you can now begin to mix your grout. Go ahead and follow the manufactures instructions for the grout you choose and mix it up.
10. Use a tile sponge and dampen the surface of your tiles. This will help with the application of your grout.
11. Using your rubber float apply the grout in between your tiles forcing the grout down into the spaces between the tiles. You’ll want to make sure that you left no air pockets in the joints.
12. After you’re satisfied with the grouting you can use your rubber float to scrape off the excess grout that is still on the tile face. Holding the float at 90 degrees to the surface and scrape diagonally. By scraping diagonally you ensure that you are not removing grout from between the tiles but only the excess that is left on the tile face.
13. Let your grout dry a bit but not set completely. Usually this takes about 20 minutes. If you wait too long the residual grout still left on the tile face will be very difficult to remove.
14. Grab a damp sponge and gently clean the residual grout from the face of the tiles. You’ll want to be sure that you don’t use too much water or force because you don’t want to remove the grout from between the tiles, only the excess grout on the tile face. Make sure you do a very detailed job here, because you don’t want to leave any grout on the surface that will cure completely.
15. After removing the grout you’ll want to wait at least 24 hours to let the grout cure completely, before applying a grout sealer. A grout sealer will protect your grout from water damage so this is extra important to do in high moisture areas.
16. Too apply the grout sealer first you’ll want to wipe down the surface with a dry towel to remove the haze that the grout left after installation, and then follow the manufacturer of the grout sealers instructions on application.
17. You did it! Now you can invite over all your friends and family to marvel at the amazing transformation of your space and all the great work you did.