How to Lay Baseboard Tile

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Using tile as a baseboard, rather than wood trim, not only is a fresh and different look, but it provides more protection for the wall. The classic application of tile baseboard is on tiled floors in bathrooms, providing a solid "bowl'' of moisture-proof protection throughout the room. Using tile baseboard in a living room or study with a wood floor is a more unusual (and interesting) application. You can get long, narrow tiles that are designed as baseboards, but any tile with a beveled or bullnosed edge will work.

Things You'll Need

  • Tape measure
  • Pencil
  • Chalk snapline
  • Wide painter's tape
  • Level
  • Thinset mortar
  • Notched trowel
  • Baseboard tile
  • 1/4-inch plastic tile spacers
  • Tile cutter
  • Premixed grout
  • Rubber grout float
  • Sponge
  • Caulk, of a similar color to the grout
  • Finish your floor first. Measure the height of your tile. Add 1/4 inch to that measurement. Mark the wall every three feet along the bottom at that adjusted measurement (i.e., if the tiles are 4 inches high, put your marks along the wall at 4 1/4 inches from the floor.)

  • With a helper, stretch your chalk snapline tightly across at the wall at the level of the marks. Make sure the string isn't below any of the marks along the wall. If it is (which means the floor is high in that spot), then raise the line as needed. Snap the line.

  • Run a piece of wide painter's tape just above the snapped line.

  • If the floor is covered with tile of the same width as the baseboard tile--meaning you're going to line up the grout lines--then use your level to draw a straight vertical line on the wall that meets any one of the grout lines on the floor. If the floor is of a different configuration, then measure the length of the wall and put your vertical line at the very center of the wall length. In either case, keep the line below the painter's tape.

  • Starting on either side of the vertical line, spread thinset mortar on the wall with your notched trowel, coating the wall between the floor and the painter's tape. Let the mortar go just over the bottom edge of the tape, but not above it. Press your first tile into place, putting two plastic spacers between the bottom edge and the floor. Make sure the rounded finish edge is facing up and lining up with the bottom of the tape.

  • Continue tiling across the wall, putting plastic spacers on the bottoms and sides of the tiles. Cut the end pieces as needed on your tile cutter. Pull out the plastic spacers and peel off the painter's tape, taking the excess mortar with it. Let the tiles set overnight.

  • Lay a clean strip of painter's tape along the top edge of the tiles. Use your grout float to press your premixed grout onto the tiles, pressing it into the lines and squeezing it off the tile face. Grout to the tops of the tiles, letting the tape shield the wall from the excess (don't let any grout get beyond the tape and onto the wall.) Don't grout the corner between the bottom of the tile and the floor, but leave it open. Wipe down the tiles with a damp sponge to take up the excess grout. Remove the tape and let the tiles set for a day.

  • Run a line of caulk along the bottom of the tiles, filling the space where the wall tiles meet the floor. Make sure the line is straight and clean.

Tips & Warnings

  • Wear eye protection when using your tile cutter.

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