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5 Essential Tools for Tile (QUICK TIPS)

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by Jeff Patterson in Bathrooms
5 Essential Tools for Tile

Here’s the deal: tools make a huge difference when tiling a shower.

Today you’ll get five tool recommendations that will make shower tile installation easier.

I got these from my Bathroom Repair Tutor co-founder Steve.

If you’re new to HRT, Steve is a 14 year veteran of bathroom remodeling.

He’s awesome at tile work and does high-end bathroom installations.

So you’d better listen when he talks…just kidding, but seriously, I listen!!!

Here’s a story: years ago I did my first bathroom remodel.

All was good during the first day.

But then I ran into a wonky shower window and made some goofy tile cuts.

To this day I cringe at some of the tile work in that bathroom.

I’m pretty sure the project would have been better had I used the tools in today’s tutorial.

Here’s the supply list you need

  • Laser Level
  • Laser Jamb
  • SeamClips
  • Horseshoe Shims
  • Carpet Knife
  • These Amazon Links help support HRT, so muchos gracias 😉

Well, I guess that spilled the beans.

But why do you need these tools?

I’ll explain…

Shower Tile Installation…Laser Levels Make it Easier 

Here’s the Bosch laser level Steve recommends.

bosch-laser-level

It’s not cheap at $129 (the Bosch model number is GLL 3-15).

But let me tell you, it’ll make your shower tile look 100% better than if you eyed it up.

Plus, it won’t smudge…unlike a pencil mark or chalk-line.

The Bosch model here shoots both a vertical and horizontal laser across the wall.

laser-beams

So you can line up the vertical tile joints with each other as you move across the shower wall.

But how do you keep the laser still while working?

 

Introducing the Laser Jamb

The first time I saw Steve use this tool I was like ‘what the heck is that?’.

After he explained how to use the Laser Jamb I was super impressed.

laser-jamb

What a cool idea.

Basically you attach the laser level to the jamb and place it anywhere in the room.

How does it work?

Simple, it has two feet.

One is on the floor and the other on the ceiling. It uses pressure to hold itself in place.

laser-jamb

Then you can slide the laser up and down the metal framing.

Pretty awesome!!

The picture above could be better but the bathroom was small, like Willy Wonka small (whatever that means).

What if you have thin-set that oozes in between the grout joints?

How can you remove it?

 

Carpet Knives (who know they’re handy tile tools?)

After editing hours and hours of tiling videos for Bathroom Repair Tutor one thing became clear: the carpet knife is a must.

carpet-knife

Steve definitely convinced me I need to use one.

Carpet knives are only a few bucks and are great at removing thin-set from grout joints.

BUT make sure you’re careful…carpet knives are super sharp.

So it’s not a bad idea to dull them either with a file or by rubbing them on a sold surface like wood.

Be very careful using the carpet knife as you don’t want to pierce the waterproofing membrane behind the tile.

carpet-knife

Also, when you use a carpet knife to remove excess thin-set it’s not a bad idea to have a damp sponge nearby.

You can wipe the thin-set on the sponge as you inspect each grout joint.

As a side note, you’ll want a separate bucket of water and a sponge close by while tiling anyway.

Because you’ll want to continually remove the thin-set from tiles as you set them on the shower surround.

How do you get perfect grout joints in the first place?

 

Tuscan SeamClips and Horseshoe Shims (the dynamic duo!!)

Attention to detail is everything when tiling and Tuscan SeamClips help you stay on track.

These little clips slide behind the tiles.

And when you use them they help clamp the tile to the wall.

seamclips

Furthermore, the SeamClips compress the tile into the thin-set and create a smooth transition from tile to tile…which eliminates tile lippage.

Lippage is simply when two adjacent tiles are even.

Position SeamClips 2-3 inches from the edge of the tile and every 6 to 10 inches along the tile.

You’ll need to know the thickness of your tile before purchasing SeamClips. They come in Red, White or Blue.

Each color represents a different size SeamClip. We used Red SeamClips in this tutorial because the porcelain tiles were 3/8″ thick.

Some people say you don’t need a leveling system like SeamClips if you’re a good tile setter.

But honestly, wouldn’t you want to give yourself every advantage when tiling?

Plus how often are you going to tile your shower or floor? Once every 20-30 years.

Personally I find them to be very useful but you can decide for yourself.

Now, SeamClips are great at leveling tiles but they’re only 1/32″ wide.

Therefore you’ll need a spacer for properly sized grout joints.

Horseshoe shims are great for this.

They’re made from plastic and come in different thicknesses.

The horseshoe shims are in between the SeamClips in the picture below.

shims

Placing them at tile transitions, for example where three tiles meet, helps keep grout joints nice and even.

We recommend getting 1/16″ horseshoe shims.

That way you can use them in 1/16″ increments to get the grout joint you need or to shim tiles up off the tub.

You can buy horseshoe shims online or at your local tile store.

I’d recommend calling your local tile store first though if you’re not an Amazon Prime member…shipping can be crazy on these!!

Check out my QUICK TIPS video to see all the details of these tools

Shower Tile Installation Tools

 

What’s Next?

Well, what do you think?

Do these tools make tiling less intimidating?

Let me know.

And if you have another tool that you like please add your two cents.

After all, we’re all here to learn.

Thanks for reading and watching.

We have an awesome DIY community and I’m truly honored that you stopped by today.

Jeff Patterson

 

 

 

 

P.S. If you haven’t already done so, join our email newsletter so you don’t miss our tutorials and tool giveaways…we’re always doing something cool for the community.

4 Comments
  1. Laura Z. says:

    Jeff, What did you do about the glass block window? In my ground floor bathroom a previous owner removed the window and installed glassblock, which is a code violation because there is no opening or vent in it. So I’ve been wondering how to deal with it…..I would like to get some type of vent and install it in the middle of the glass blocks, if it is possible to remove some of them…..

    1. I actually just left the glass block Laura because it’s the only fullproof way to have a waterproof window. I’m surprised glass block is a code violation. Venting in a bathroom should be done via a ceiling bathroom fan that’s vented to the exterior. Does your bathroom have a fan in the ceiling?

      1. Laura Z. says:

        No, that’s the code issue. There has to be ventilation, either a ceiling vent or a window vent. The bathroom doesn’t have either one. It orinigally had a window but a previous owner glass blocked the whole thing, without putting in a hopper. So I thought it would be cheaper to take out a couple of the glass blocks than cutting into the ceiling and installing a fan and vents to the outside…..

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