How to install travertine wall tiles

Written by travis martinson
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How to install travertine wall tiles
You can use travertine tiles for bathroom or shower cubicle walls. (Voyagerix/iStock/Getty Images)

Travertine tiles come in a variety of patterns and colours. These porous, natural stone tiles -- part of the limestone family -- are not as difficult to work with as the more dense stones, such as granite, and are easy to cut and sand. If you take your time and have patience when installing travertine wall tiles, you will impress yourself with the outcome, whether you are using them in the bathroom, as a kitchen backsplash or anywhere else. Tackling this project yourself also will save you money on professional labour costs.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Notch trowel
  • Pre-mixed thinset mortar
  • Level
  • Tape measure
  • Timber board
  • Framing square
  • Tile spacers
  • Cement board
  • Drill with screwdriver attachment
  • Grout
  • Sealer
  • Grout float
  • Wet tile saw
  • Towel
  • Bucket

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  1. 1

    Prepare the wall. If the wall is concrete, clean it and set the tile straight onto it. If the wall is plasterboard or wood, secure sheets of cement board to it using cement board screws and a drill with a screwdriver attachment. This creates a better surface for the thin-set mortar to bond to.

  2. 2

    Decide the layout of the travertine tiles to help you determine where you should start laying the tiles. If you want the tiles on the top row to be smaller than the bottom row, you will be able to set full tiles on the bottom, so you can start setting on the very first row. If you want even tiles on the top and bottom, start setting tiles halfway up the wall.

  3. 3

    Mark the centre line of the wall (measured top to bottom), using a tape measure and level. Screw a timber board below that line to support the rows of tiles you will set. From this point, you will set the top half of the wall.

  4. 4

    Use the notch trowel to spread mortar on to the wall and the back of a tile. Use a white thinset, as travertine is very porous and could discolour as it absorbs darker products.

  5. 5

    Put the tile in its desired location and push it firmly against the wall so that the mortar on the wall will bond to the mortar on the back of the travertine tile.

  6. 6

    Use the level to ensure that the tile is set levelly and that the front of it is plumb.

  7. 7

    Repeat this process for every tile. Use tile spacers between each tile so that all the tiles are evenly spaced. You may need to adjust the spacing to account for natural variances in the sizes of the travertine tiles.

  8. 8

    Cut tiles that do not fit as whole tiles. Measure the appropriate size, mark the size on the tiles and cut them with a wet tile saw. Cut along your marked line slowly and exactly.

  9. 9

    Remove the board from the wall after the mortar on the top half of the wall has had time to set. Using a tape measure, determine how many full tiles will fit below the existing tiles. Mark the line for the bottom of the lowest full tile using a level and pencil.

  10. 10

    Set the lower half of the wall. Measure, cut and set the top and bottom rows of tile. Allow the mortar to cure, following the product directions.

  11. 11

    Mix the grout powder with water in a bucket to form a thick paste.

  12. 12

    Scoop grout from the bucket with a grout float and spread it evenly into the spaces between the tiles, filling them fully. While the grout is still wet, wipe the surface of the wall with a sponge, rinsing it regularly to remove excess grout.

  13. 13

    Allow the grout to dry to the point at which it forms a haze over the surface of the wall. Polish the haze off with a towel or cheesecloth. Let the grout fully cure.

  14. 14

    Apply sealer evenly to the entire wall, using a towel or rag.

Tips and warnings

  • If you are tiling in a corner, use the framing square to ensure that you have a square corner on your walls.
  • If you want the walls to be plumb, you do not simply tile to the existing wall. You will need to make sure that your tiles are plumb, and you may need to build out the wall with more mortar in some areas than others.
  • Pre-mixed mortar is thick enough that when you set the tile on the wall, it will have minimal slippage. Using bags of mortar that you need to mix will cause variance, and you may end up with a great deal of movement of your tiles.
  • When tiling, always keep a bucket near you with a sponge. Use this to clean up any excess mortar or grout while doing your work. Cleaning as you go will save you a lot of time in the long run.
  • When cutting tiles, cut slowly, as trying to cut too quickly will cause the saw blade to bind and may kick the tile back toward your hands and body.
  • Use thinset mortar, grout and sealer that are compatible with travertine tiles.

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