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CTEF Blog - About Tile Education and Installer Certification

Gridlines vs. Spacers: Which is Better When Installing Tile?

[fa icon="calendar"] Sep 8, 2020 8:30:00 AM / by CTEF Blog Team

CTEF Blog Team


When you're installing tile, do you use gridlines or spacers? Why do you do so?

Gridlines Are Better for Time Management

From the perspective of making the most of the time you have available on a job, Scott Carothers strongly encourages you to use gridlines so you can install tile faster, and more concisely while making more money and maintaining a high level of quality in the installation. 

Here's why.

Spacers Mean the Job Takes Longer to Complete

With spacers, when you have a chalk center line in both directions, you get to the point where you can't do perimeter cuts until the second day of the installation.

Then, since you must wait 24-hours before grouting, that means you can't do so until the third day with spacers.

With a grid pattern system, you complete the entire floor layout at one time. As a result, you know what every cut is before you start around the entire perimeter of the room. You can get all of that work done before even starting the thin set mixing part of the tile installation project.

Always Test the Floor Surface for Porosity

First, do the unscientific water test and pour some water on the floor. You'll looking to determine if the floor is porous enough so that the thin set can bond to the surface. If it isn't, you'll know that if the water beads up, you must address the bond breakers present with some surface profile work.

>> See Substrate Preparation 101: Banish All Tile Bond Breakers!

By the way, although it's effective, don't use hairspray on the chalk line as it is a bond breaker. Better to use pieces of tape on the wall then you can easily resnap the chalk line.

>> See Have You Snapped a Chalk Line for Your Tile Layout?

Other Ways to Save Time While Installing Tile

Consolidating effort while maintaining quality standards is the best way to be profitable. Scott offers other suggestions for saving time while professionally installing tile.

Ensure a Balanced Layout

In the room where Scott conducts the demonstration in the video below, he knows what type cuts he will require in both directions. He also has a completed layout that is balanced in both directions.

>> See Tile Patterns Require Balance and Common Sense

Create L-Shaped Tile Cuts that Won't Break

When you get to door in this installation layout, you'll need an L-shape time. Since you can't do that on the cutter, you have two options, 

  • The Wet Saw - but it's often easy to overcut the tile which weakens it and may eventually lead to a broken tile. That in turn creates additional issues that require time to address.
  • Instead, take a diamond-spade bit, wet it so the bill stays cool, drill a hole in the tile and then cut to the hole with the saw. This maintains the radius which will distribute the load.

Use a Skate to Keep Tile and Snapper By You As You Install the Tile

Scott like to use a skate for his tile and one for the tile snap cutter. That way the system moves on wheels with you as you install. You never need to get up to either get tile or cut it.

>> See How To Cut Tile and Manage Time (Video)

Scott recommends that you work on the skate from 4 to 5 boxes of tile that you've mixed or shuffled so you encounter no issues with shade variation.

Maintain Movement Joints With a Reusable Backer Rod

When a baseboard is already in place, you must maintain movement accommodation joints for the tile. Once you allow for that space, you can add a shoe mold or 1/4-round molding to cover that free joint.

An easy way to maintain that 1/4-inch joint around the perimeter is by using a poly-ethelyne backer rod that you can easily put along the edge.

Tape it into place, bring the tile to the edge of it, and you'll have no issues with extra thin set getting into the joint, or any worries about grout either. The backer rod protects the free joint.

Once you're done, simply pull out the backer rod, clean it off and use it on next job. Not only does it help you ensure movement joints, but it also avoids your having to clean out thin set or grout, saving you time.

>> See Quick and Easy Movement Joints... the Right Way

>> See Why Do You Need Expansion Joints When Installing Tile?

Batch Like-Tasks For Better Installation Efficiency

To improve your efficiency, figure out how to make all your cuts during the first day, so you can set the next day. Your finisher can get all of the preparations ready first thing that next day to maximize what you get done.

As Scott demonstrates, you can easily save time without giving up quality. Fast is not better if quality diminishes at the same time.

Watch the Video titled How to Install Tile Using Gridlines vs. Spacers

It's a 13:06-minute video where Scott demonstrates some of the best practices he embraces for installing tile in the most time-efficient way possible.

Do You Consider Gridlines or Spacers Better?

What's your take on this topic? Do you find that gridlines make you more efficient or are spacers better for you? How to you address the shortcomings that Scott brings up in this video?

Let us know in the comments below.

And, if you aren't yet one, consider becoming a Certified Tile Installer

Thanks for reading.


Interested in  Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers (ACT)? Click Here.

Topics: Ask Scott, Installing Tile TIps

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You don't become a tile installer or a business owner overnight. It takes time, enthusiasm, pride, reliability, respectfulness, a willingness to learn, and dedication. No two jobs are the same; each one has its own unique nuances. As a qualified installer, you need to be able to communicate how to deal with those nuances and qualify yourself to not only meet but exceed expectations. Being qualified will exponentially increase your value and you will have endless opportunities.

Mike Corona CTI #923 Corona Marble and Tile

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