Ceramic, or clay-based, tiles come in a wide range of sizes, from small-sized mosaics up to tiles as large as 24 inches in some cases.
Because each size of tile requires a different mortar bed thickness, you must size your trowel to the size of the ceramic tile you are installing.
Mosaic Ceramic Tiles
While you will smooth out mosaic tile mortar prior to installation, you still must key it to the correct depth beforehand. For mosaics ranging from 3/8 inch up to 2 inches in size, use a V-notch trowel that measures 3/16 by 5/32 inches. You can install 2-inch tiles using a 1/4-by-3/16-inch V-notch trowel as well.
If necessary, you can use a 1/4-inch square-notch trowel with 2-inch ceramic tiles, but avoid this size for mosaics any smaller.
Ceramic wall tiles commonly come in 4-inch, 3-by-6-inch, 6-inch, 4-by-8-inch and occasionally 8-inch sizes. For the majority of ceramic wall tiles, a 1/4-inch square-notch trowel is adequate. You can also use a 1/4-by-3/16-inch V-notch trowel to install 4-inch tiles, but do not install that size of tile with a trowel any larger.
Install 4-by-8-inch and 8-inch wall tiles with a 1/4-by-3/8-inch or 1/2-inch square-notch trowel. A 1/4-by-3/8-inch square-notch trowel is also adequate for installing 6-inch square wall tiles.
Small Floor Tiles
Ceramic floor tiles are available in 4-inch, 6-inch and 8-inch sizes. Floor tiles are typically thicker than the corresponding wall tiles and need a slightly larger trowel to accommodate the mortar.
Use a minimum of a 1/4-by-3/8-inch square-notch trowel. A 1/2-inch square-notch trowel is also fine for 8-inch floor tiles.
U-notch trowels that are 1/4 by 5/16 inches are adequate for all ceramic floor tile sizes up to 8 inches square. You will require a larger trowel for rectangular-shaped tiles that exceed these sizes.
Large Floor Tiles
Ceramic floor tiles and some wall tiles are also available in 6-by-12-inch, 12-inch, 12-by-24-inch and 16-inch sizes. These thicker tiles require a much deeper mortar to beat the tile into place to prevent the corners from lipping.
Use a 1/4-by-3/8-inch square- or U-notch trowel for floor tiles up to 12 inches in size. For tiles over 12 inches in size, use a 1/2-inch square-notch, 1/4-by-1/2-inch U-notch or 3/4-by-5/8-inch U-notch trowel. The thicker the tile, the larger the trowel required; tiles thicker than 3/8 inch will require larger U-notch trowels.
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