Installing Hexagon Tile for Beginners
Installing Hexagon Tile for Beginners
Since we’ve never worked with tile, it’s pretty obvious that it was a mean little trick to fall in love with 1-inch hexagon tiles. But, Ryan loved the hexagon tile, too, and it went with our house perfectly. In fact, the floor in our entry way is a beautiful hexagon tile from the late 19th century.
You can laugh with me.And while it ended up not being super simple for us, I hope that outlining our steps and challenges can help you install the floor of your dreams. Even with little experience.(Let’s just ignore the fact that the room isn’t even close to complete. Rome wasn’t built in a day.)
Here are the steps we took to get the flooring down.
After installed cement board on top of the sub floor, the first step was to lay out the 2ft x 1ft sheets of tile and make any cuts to fit. After nearly 8 hours of attempting to dry-fit the tiles in the space, Ryan was on the verge of a melt-down. (Okay, he was having a melt-down.) Our house is old and far from square and it was darn near impossible to get the tiles to fit properly and with equal spacing.
Because the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, Ryan was officially insane. So, we had a little heart-to-heart and headed to our favorite home improvement store (Menards!) to find a square to replace my husband’s missing square. We also picked up 1/8 inch spacers. This was our turning point.
A square is essential, in our opinion. If none of your walls are perfectly square (welcome to the joy of an old house), use a square to draw a perpendicular line from the wall you want to begin the tile on. We ran a perpendicular line from the left wall below and used it as a guide for the bottom of the sheet of tile. We cut the sheets along the tub to fit, if necessary. (You can see our pencil line next to Ryan’s knee and the level.)
Maybe you will be able to find spacers that are made for hexagon tile. If you are like us, you won’t. So, use the tiles from normal square tile and turn it on it’s side. Don’t skip this step. You may think that you can eye-ball it. You cannot. Trust us.
Our tiles were spaced approximately 1/8 inch apart. This means that if we weren’t exact in spacing, after a few sheets, the tile sheet wouldn’t even fit.
The great thing about using lots of spacers when placing the sheets together is that the spacers allow the individual tiles to shift just slightly. This means that an individual hexagon may be off by a smidge, but the entire sheet is in-place and it’s not noticeable. This is great for anyone – and particularly those of us who have no clue what we are doing. (We’re raising our hands.)
While laying out the tiles on the floor, now is a good time to make any necessary cuts to fit the sheets flat up to the wall. If you are dealing with non-square walls, now is also a good time to let go of any perfectionism. The tiles won’t be perfectly aligned against the length of every wall. My husband was very worried about this, but it’s truly not noticeable. We used a small wet saw that we borrowed from Ryan’s parents.
We wanted to add a little period detail to the floor, so we cut black ‘daisies’ out of the black hexagon tiles and placed them at this point. We just measured from the center and spaced them evenly in the room. Once we were happy with the layout, we cut out the white tile to set the flowers in place.
When we put down the tile, we decided to install the base board after the tile, so we didn’t worry about the small gaps by the wall because they will be covered by trim.
Once you are all done, take a good look at your floor and make sure there aren’t large gaps or other issues. If it looks good, it’s time to move on.
And give yourself a pat on the back. Because you rock.
At this point, you’ll need to remove all the tiles and clean the cement board really well. When you pull out the sheets of tile, number the sheets in order of installation so the sheets you cut will end up in the correct place. We labeled with a roll of painter’s tape.
Then, we swept and swept to get any loose dust or debris out from under the tile and then began to lay the tile with mortar, following the instructions on the container. I don’t think there’s any need to rehash that. But, do check with with the person you bought your tile from to make sure you have the right trowel and type of mortar. We ended up with a 3/16 trowel.
Ryan went slowly and carefully, making sure to level and space out the tile as he went. We did have some issues with oozing mortar, and if we were to do it again, we would try to control this more. This can show through your grout if it oozes too much.
Once you’ve completed the floor, let it set. (Our mortar said to allow 24 hours.) Then, we cleaned it really well several times with a clean, barely-damp sponge. Once dry, we sealed the tile twice since the tile was unglazed.
If your tile is glazed, you won’t need this step. If you are working with unglazed tile (the top of the tiles don’t have a clear, smooth feel to them), then you may want to seal them before grouting. This will help keep the grout from soaking into and staining the tile. Which is a good thing if you just spent a lot of money and time getting that tile down.
We talked to the tile person at our hardware store and picked out a good sealer. The I just sponged it on with a special sponge. I did two coats according to the instructions.
We chose a white grout for the floor. We went with a non-sanded variety, based on the size of the spacing (1/8 inch). It is pretty much as you expect and according to instructions. Force the grout into the joints with a float, wait and wipe, wipe, wipe. Repeat.
It ended up taking a long time for us to get all the grout residue from the tile. Ryan wiped it down with a barely-moist sponge. Then, we cleaned it again when the grout cured on the entire floor. I also used a dry white cloth to remove the final residue. Just keep cleaning until there aren’t any streaks left.
You’ll think that it may never get clean. But, it will.
To keep the tiles protected and the grout lines clean, I applied sealer again to the top of the surface after the floors were cleaned. I hope this will keep the floor clean and pretty for years to come.
The moral of the story is that laying hexagon tile floors takes some time, a little brainpower and lots of patience. But the end result is just pure beauty, in our opinion.
I’m really pleased with how it turned out. Now, it’s just time to finish up the rest of the room (and house). I hope you’ll check out the progress over at NewlyWoodwards.
What do you think? Do you have any tips for laying tile floors?
>That looks great! I think adding the daisies really made it pop. I can't wait to see the completed room…of course, take a few days and rest after that project! 🙂
>You're on Apartment Therapy's Re-Nest!! https://www.re-nest.com/re-nest/diy/diy-ideainstall-your-own-hextileremodelaholic-140190
Fantastic floors!!! My husband and I are virgin tile layers and this post gives us hope that we can do it ourselves! (we too have an old house and love the small hex tiles) I wanted to know how you laid the tile next to the tub??? Did you cut little tiles to fit into the pattern adjacent to the tub? Thanks!! I can’t wait to read more!
Had researched the internet for months before setting down to install exactly the same tile as you. Saw your blog yesterday and it gave me the push I needed to get the bathroom done. Was able to lay about 2 rows (my tiles are 3/4″) and when I did the third, nothing lined up – the spacing was all out of whack. Can you venture a guess as to what I did wrong?
Ann, this was actually a guest post so I am not sure exactly how to help you out, i am sure that the woodwards would love to help you out! (there like is at the top of the post!) Good luck!
Nice tile and it looks really great for sure. Tiling is indeed something you need to plan ahead of time to save lots of issues and aggravation in the long run.
The only question I have is why they laid the tile before the walls were finished. They could’ve just put plywood over the cement board, finished the walls and then did the tile floor. That way, no worries about getting paint/dust on the new tile at all.
by doing the walls after, they are able to hide the imperfect edges around the room’s perimeter that resulted from an out-of-square room. otherwise, if the walls are done first, you have to cut all those little hex tiles incredibly perfectly, along the same skew from one tile to the next, so the edge line of them looks perfect, and that’s a lot harder (and sooooo time consuming) to do than just cover the edge—and for most installs it almost certainly looks nicer to have the wall/baseboard trim overlap the floor tile.
We are doing essentially the same tiling job in our kitchen right now. We have a more intricate pattern but once that is cut and ready, it’s the same. We hired a recommended tiling professional from our hometown and after the first day the tiles all popped up and the thinset did not adhere to the tiles at all. Unfortunately it adhered to the subfloor really well so we are currently trying to get that thinset up and the floor ready for retiling. From what I understand the thinset was too dry. I have been told by several professionals that I consulted with after the disaster and they have all stated that the thinset should be even wetter than you would expect. So much so that it will start to droop after about 3 or 4 seconds of being troweled. Unfortunately we blew our budget hiring the last guy and with all the materials wasted so we will be attempting the job ourselves this time around.
Sorry for your bad experience! That is such a bummer. I hope the install is going well for you guys!
If you’re in CA, go to small claims court, sue the guy, and get at least some of your budget back. Take lots of photos. I did it for some badly hung doors, and was able to get my project done without taking a huge loss
Cassity,I’m knee deep in hex tile right now and I have a few questions as I am utterly stuck 1. Did you cut hex tiles in half for the edges or cover them somehow? 2. What did you use for mortar and what size trowel?
Thank you for explaining that tile spacing thing! I was going nuts trying to find hex tile spacers.
the company i bought my tile from (auc tile) sold 4-point and 5-point half pieces, they fill in that half edge perfectly, they’re precise and no chipping on the cut edge since they’re manufactured that way. it’s a nice option to have if you aren’t covering the edge of the floor tile.
I used this post as a blueprint for my floor. I did it alone at age 62! I had tile guys do the cement board and the shower. I also hired out a wall a nod door and the plumbing.
The hex tiles I bought did not have one eighth spaces so I was forced to eyeball the whole thing. It is gorgeous. Very time consuming but I love it.
Good for you, Peg! We’d love to see pictures — you can message us easily over on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/remodelaholic
It looks awesome! After searching the web I finally found somebody with the same tile as me. I’m in the process of installing some identical tile in my half bath but with no designs. My room isn’t square either so I feel your pain lol
Good luck, Nate! Thanks for the comment.
You are an angel for posting all of this. I needed help with this exact thing in my bathroom and I couldn’t find any youtube videos on it. ?? 🙁
when I get to the point of doing the tile in a few weeks, I will use your blog here. I have an old craftsman house and I am redoing the kitchen and one of the bathrooms right now. I am putting the black and white hex tile in the bathroom. Wish me luck! And thanks again.
Good luck! We’d love to see your results!
I just finished installing cement board in my bathroom and getting ready to install a ceramic hexagon tile that looks like carrera marble. How did you handle the gap between the cement board and base of the tub? I have between 1/8″ and 1/4″ gap per instructions I’ve read, however, now I’m concerned about it being a weak point for the tiles. Any pointers on this?
Under the “Spacing” section, you say the following: “So, use the tiles from normal square tile and turn it on it’s side.” Do you mean to say, “So, use the spacers for normal square tiles, but turn them on their side,” or something like that?
I just installed a tile floor in my bathroom with white hexagon tiles and found that pennies worked perfectly as spacers. You can also rent a tile saw and nippers to trim the tiles to fit nicely against the wall, tub, and around plumbing. After the tile has been laid (but well before the mortar is dry) you can put a large flat board over the tiles and tap it gently with a hammer – moving it around the floor at different directions to help ensure it’s smooth and level, without edges of tiles sticking up. You’d think it would be easy to see but staring at a million tiny white tiles for hours starts to blur your vision 🙂
Thanks for the tip, April!
Warning – long post!! I realize this is an old post, but for readers looking for advice for laying tile themselves, I have some recommendations. I chose 1″ hex for my first tile job, also. Ignorance is bliss. Here are some things I did and would do differently had I to do it over.
Most importantly, do your homework. Do not rely on the sales staff in the tile aisle at the big box store to give you the right advice. I can’t stress this enough. I read for about 4 months from a great free forum, John Bridge Tile Forum, and asked a lot of questions (plus you can read all about others’ mistakes and learn from them). The pros on the John Bridge forum, bless their hearts, are so patient and thorough in answering even the stupidest questions. Use the search function on the site…chances are good someone has asked your question before. This forum was my primary source of information, and they did not steer me wrong.
Often, the premium materials that the pros use don’t come from Home Depot or Lowe’s but, of course, the sales staff at the big box store will sell you what they’ve got. Could be ok, or not. Again, the pros at John Bridge can give you recommendations.
Along those same lines, learn the terms. Thinset is what you use to “glue” the tiles down. Grout is what you use to fill up the gaps. Should you use sanded or unsanded grout? Use the right size and type of “trowel” for the tile you’re laying to spread your thinset. Read and follow the directions. If the thinset needs to set up for 10 min, do it. If you use 1″ hex, use the recommended trowel to avoid the thinset oozing up between tiles. It’s no fun digging it out with a toothpick. Buy the huge, yellow sponge to wipe off the grout (according to the correct period of time to allow it to firm up some). Buy a rubber “float” to force the grout into the joints. Learn to use “nippers” – just takes patience and nip a little at a time. Must have a manual tile “scorer”. Practice. (Sorry, there’s probably a more professional term for it.) A decent wet saw is around 25.00 at big box stores and is easy to learn to use. Expect to get wet but it is essential for making clean cuts. Buy the right size spacers. None of these tools cost a lot. I could go on but the bottom line is that you will need “accouterments” in order to do a professional looking job.
Lastly, be involved in the prepping of the floor prior to laying the tile. My biggest mistake and it ruined the entire job. But it was too late. A carpenter doesn’t necessarily know what to do to prepare a floor for tile. I knew this but didn’t catch my carpenter in time and thought if I put down extra screws, it would be ok. Nope. YOU MUST GLUE THE CEMENT BOARD TO THE SUBFLOOR WITH THINSET, THE SAME GLUE YOU USE TO ADHERE THE TILES, AND WHILE THE THINSET IS WET, SCREW THE CEMENT BOARD TO THE SUBFLOOR. This prevents movement of the floor from weight and changes in temperature. It doesn’t take much movement to cause the grout to continually crack everywhere the sheets join. And it will. Ask me how I know. Your only recourse is to periodically remove and replace the grout (often) or remove the tile and cement board and start over. It ruined my entire job.
One more thing, (promise), consider using the Schleuter system. It adds to the cost but results in a no fail, no leak job. John Bridge and the moderators on the forum are believers in the products. You can order Schleuter materials online and the forum provides an ebook with detailed instructions. I used the system and found it easy to install.
I hope I have been helpful. Any GIRL or guy can do this correctly, it just takes educating yourself and utilizing a professional source of information.
Once you experience tiling, visiting the tile aisle will bring you a feeling of empowerment and joy. :)))))
Where are you guys getting your tiles from?? Trying to find a good source for unglazed! 🙂