Tile is traditionally sold in square format, although it can also be found in rectangles and even circular pieces as mosaics. Square pieces can be cut into diagonal shapes and used as part of a diamond pattern in which tiles are turned and installed on a diagonal as opposed to straight. Although you can mix and match diamond and square tile patterns, you need to use a creative layout that generates your desired results.
Corner inserts are square tile patterns where the corners of the square tiles are cut off at 45 degree angles to accommodate diagonal inserts. When finished, you have a checkerboard pattern where at every intersection of square tiles there is a diamond insert. Typically, the inserts are 2 to 3 inches in size, but you can make them as large or as small as you desire. Pay attention to the differences in thickness if you are using two different tile sizes, as you might need to build up one layer of tile with more thinset mortar to match the two installations.
Pattern inserts are large-scale diagonal or square-based areas that are set inside of an overall installation. An example of this would be a tile entryway that features an overall diagonal pattern across the width and length of the entryway, but centered in the middle is a square-based insert that is 3-feet by 5-feet in dimension. The layout for the insert is done in advance of the installation with a tape measure and pencil and then popping chalk lines to outline the insert area, then you either install the insert first or you install the overall installation first. For best results, install the thicker tile first (if you are using two different types of material) and then use a deeper notched trowel when you install the thinner material to make the surfaces match.
Borders and Accents
Another way to mix diagonal and square tiles is with borders and accents. Borders follow the perimeter of an area, while accents can be found anywhere in the installation, such as halfway up a wall, midway through a floor or as a border for an insert. Use square or diamond tiles for the border/accent, then use the opposite of whatever your overall field tile is. An example would be a diamond-pattern border or accent, where your field tiles are cut from point to point diagonally to give you two triangles, and then you install triangles side by side, inverting every other piece to create a border pattern of right-side-up and upside-down triangles that form a straight-line border.
Sectioning off areas of the tile installation is the easiest way to mix and match material. For example, setting the bottom half of a shower installation with straight-lay tile, then adding an accent row and above the accent installing the upper half of the wall on a diagonal, or vice versa. Mix and match different sections, such as installing the bottom third as a diagonal in 12-inch-by-12-inch material, then the middle third straight-lay with 8-by-8 material, and finally the upper third of the wall with 4-by-4 material. The same applies to floors, such as separating a walk-in bathroom from the hallway by switching over from straight to diagonal when you make the room transition, or vice-versa.
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