Tile Leveling System
Tile Leveling System
The meaning of tile lippage
For the inexperienced, installing tiles doesn't seem like a too complicated process. But, if you completed a few tiling projects, you know there are several aspects worthy of consideration.
While spacers and trowels are must-have tools when laying tiles if you want to achieve outstanding results you need to have more than this to adequately align the tiles. If the alignment is not performed correctly, you risk having to deal with lippage.
What is lippage? When the edges of two adjacent tiles show level differences, this phenomenon is known among professionals as "lippage". Thus, one edge can be taller or lower than the other, creating a surface with an uneven level. So, even if the tiles appear to be laid right horizontally, their height will differ.
Lippage is undesired not just because it ruins the aesthetics of the tiled floor, but can also trigger a series of problems. For instance, the tiles affected by lippage can get damaged, if they are hit by objects such as carts, trollers, or pieces of furniture. They are also turning into a health hazard, especially for people using walkers, as they can trip and fall.
However, it is worth mentioning that there's a difference between lippage and tile warpage. Not all tile warpages are considered lippage phenomenon, so there's a bit of room to wiggle. According to the ANSI, or American National Standards Institute, grout joints that measure 6 millimeters are allowed to have a 1-millimeter lippage. To this, you can also add the natural warpage of the tiles, which occurs during the adhesive's drying process.
What can lead to lippage? There are quite a few factors that can influence the appearance of lippage. Starting with the flatness level of the floor and going to the coverage level of the used mortar, if you don't pay attention to some details you'll end up with lippage in your tiled floor. While tile leveling systems can help you with eliminating lippage, you first need to know how to correctly level a floor before learning how to use a leveling system.
Steps for adequately leveling a floor before a tiling project
The main goal when laying tiles is to provide a flat, good-looking floor. The flatness of the surface is an aspect that cannot be negotiated and should be ensured for every tiling process. Thus, before you start laying tiles, you need to make sure the surface is as smooth and flat as it can possibly be, performing adjustments as necessary. How can this be achieved? With the right knowledge and tools leveling a floor before the installment of tiles is achievable.
First of all, you need to know the tools you'll be working with. If you're just starting how writing down a list with the necessary tools will help you buy exactly what you need. Bear in mind that these tools can be found at a tile supply store and not at a regular home improvement store. So, here are the tools required to perform a tiling project on an uneven floor surface:
- A chalk line or contractor line;
- A trowel with square notches. However, when choosing the trowel, make sure it has the right size for your project. What does this mean? It means that if the surface features significant level differences and you'll need to compensate that by laying thick layers of mortar, you will need a larger trowel.
- Mortar for tiles;
- Grout sponge;
- A large bucket;
Leveling the floor surface – the process
1st step: locate the irregularities
Finding dips and peaks in the floor's surface is a must, no matter how large or small a room is. Ask someone's help, perhaps a colleague, to help you draw straight lines with the help of a chalk line. The other person should hold the end of the chalk line as you go across the room from one end to the other in a straight line. As you do so, check the surface of dips and peaks. When you locate an irregularity, mark its spot with the help of a contractor pencil.
2nd step: see how deep or tall the irregularity is
You cannot correct a floor irregularity if you don't know how deep or tall it is. If you came across a dip, use your trowel to determine just how deep it is, by aligning it next to the chalk line. Is the dip larger than the size of your trowel? If the case, you will need to use a larger trowel to complete the job effectively. In most cases when 12x12-inch tiles are used for a tiling project, a square-notch trowel with a 1.4x3/8-inch size is more than suitable for the job.
3rd step: get the surface cleaned up
A real professional will only work on a cleaned surface, so make sure to remove dust and any existent debris from the surface before starting any kind of work. A brush will help you clean larger debris, while a brush will help you get rid of dust.
4th step: get the mortar ready
The secret to obtaining a high-quality mortar lied in achieving adequate consistency when mixing the ingredients. So, you will need to follow the instructions provided by the mortar manufacturer and guides specially created for professionals as an aid for their work. Acquiring the right knowledge will take you closer to the ideal mortar consistency.
5th step: cover the dips
With the help of mortar and a trowel, it is time to cover the dips found and marked on the floor. Take a good amount of mortar with your trowel and spread the material across the dip so that it reaches the right level. To flatten the dip and mortar, use the straight edge of the trowel to scrape away any excess material.
6th step: get rid of peaks
If dips can be corrected with mortar, for peaks you will need a grinder to smoothen them out. To obtain the best results and a flat surface, start by grinding the peak from its center, gradually working your way toward the edges.
7th step: making the last filling operations
The mortar needs 24 hours to dry out completely, so you will have to wait for this much until you can perform any kind of operation. It is possible to use fast-drying materials instead, but that will put pressure on your budget. Once the mortar is dry, proceed to check the level of the floor once more. In case you come across dips that exceed 1/8 inches in-depth, you will need to add more mortar by repeating the previously mentioned step. If the floor is smooth and level, you can continue your work by laying the tiles.
How can tile leveling systems help with avoiding lippage?
You need to know that a tile leveling system is complete when containing three elements: wedges, clips, and pliers.
- The clips
Made out of a resilient material, the clips are capable of withstanding the pressure triggered by large and heavy tiles. This way, they allow an effective and quick adjustment of the laid tiles.
At the same time, the clips are made to be removed, so they can only be used once for a tiling project. They feature a cut on the side, which helps you set them free by simply kicking them with a mallet with your booth. Thus, the upper side breaks, while the part underneath the tile remains in place. Remember to remove clips only once the mortar is completely dry.
- The wedges
The wedges are those elements of a leveling system that can be reused for several projects in a row. If you use them right, they will not get damaged and you'll be able to continuously reuse them. Even if you tighten them up, they are made to prevent tile damages. As a recommendation, always use wedges, wedge bases, and clips from the same manufacturer, to avoid installment problems.
- The pliers
Pliers are effective tools that can be used easily and with precision due to a scale bar. This scale bar is made to fit various ceramic tiles thicknesses, allowing you to adjust the applied pressure based on the used tiles.
The tool can be adjusted gradually so that when more pressure is needed, you can reach the desired level without risking damages to the crosses or tiles. Also, you don't have to worry about scratching the tiles, as the pliers feature plastic parts precisely where they come in contact with the tiles.
Are you using a tile leveling system for the first time? Then you must read the following part. It is a guide meant to help learn how to properly use such a system. This way, tiling projects will become easy and you won't have any trouble obtaining the desired results.
- Start by checking the surface where the tiles will be installed and determine if there are any level differences. Using a spirit level will help you see if the surface is flat or if there are irregularities on it. If there are level differences, it is highly recommended to address them before starting your tiling job.
- The next step is determining where the first tile will be laid. This an extremely important step because the first tile will influence how the entire project will turn out. It is always best to start in a corner of the room. Choose the corner that is the flattest and the closest to the right angles of the room. Doing so will help you lay the first tile correctly.
- Proceed to apply the mortar or tile adhesive on the chosen corner and install the first tile. Utilize spacers to preserve straight edges along each side of the tile. Did you notice that the adjacent tile is lower than the first one you set? Then employ wedges to bring this tile to the same level as the first. Also, do not forget to adjust the amount of adhesive use as you move along the line of tiles, making sure they are set at the same level.
- Make use of the pliers provided by your level system, as the tool makes tile leveling easier and more convenient. With its help, applying pressure on the tile is easy and safe, allowing you to properly press the tile onto the adhesive.
- Once all the tiles have been set according to the plan, let the clips in their position and give the adhesive sufficient time to dry out. After this happens, it is time to remove the clips and set the wedges loose. For this, kick the clips along the grout lines and until they snap. Take the wedges for future projects and clean the floor of debris.
Choosing the best tile leveling system
It can be quite a challenge to choose a tile leveling system since the market provides numerous options to choose from. We decided to come to your aid by outlining several aspects to consider when shopping for a tile leveling system so that you manage to find the ideal leveling system for you.
- What does the kit contain?
Not all kits are made the same, so the number and types of elements contained by kits may differ. The majority of kits will provide clips, wedges, and pliers. Certain kits may provide straps, caps, which replace wedges, and baseplates, which are similar to clips.
So, when choosing a kit, make sure it provides the elements mentioned previously, as they are elementary for a tiling job. Each of them plays an important role when it comes to achieving great results and finishing the job fast.
- How suitable the kit is?
Always consider your future tiling project when shopping for a leveling kit. Because kits are made to be used with various tile thicknesses, it is possible not to be able to use your current kit for a future job. Also, if you don't have a kit just yet, check for it to be suitable for the tiling project you want to engage in. To make sure you cover this part, check the manufacturer's specifications on the kit's label and see the tile thickness range the kit is suitable for.
- The quality level of the kit
The quality of the tools you're using is also very important. Thus, when selecting a leveling kit, it would be great to choose one that provides elements made out of quality materials. This aspect matters because the kit's elements go through a lot of wear and tear during tiling projects.
A good quality kit will provide resilient elements that you'll be able to use for several projects in a row, without fearing damages and breaks. This way, you won't need to buy leveling kits too often.
- How to tile a wall by using a leveling kit?
If you selected a kit that can be used for tiling floors and walls as well, then you can utilize the same kit for both situations. Even if the steps that need to be followed when installing tiles on a wall are very similar to those followed when tiling a floor, differences can still occur. This is why you need to keep these aspects in mind when selecting a leveling kit, making sure it suits your tiling project.
- How to identify lippage in a tiling project?
You should not wait to finish a tiling project to look for lippage. Ideally, you should avoid it right from the start, by installing tiles on a flat surface and using a good quality leveling kit. Regarding lippage, this means that the edges of two adjacent tiles feature different heights. Thus, the floor is not smooth and level. And the biggest goal of a tiling project is to provide a smooth surface. Unfortunately, lippage can occur, especially when the surface where the tiles were laid is not even, and when there are differences in the style, size, and design of the used tiles.
- How can lippage be prevented?
Lippage can be prevented by respecting several important aspects. First, make sure the surface where the tiles will be set is as flat as possible. So, check the surface and repair imperfections before you start installing the tiles. Also, each tile that you set should be checked and leveled with the elements of an adequate kit. Using a tile leveling system will avoid the occurrence of lippage even when you use tiles of various thicknesses and sizes in the same project.
- What's the best spacers' size for bathroom tiles of large sizes?
There isn't a specific size to be recommended, as it all resumes to one's personal preferences. However, if you want to install tiles on a bathroom wall, you can consider spacers with sizes between 2 and 3 millimeters. In case the tiles will be installed on the floor, you can use spacers of 5 millimeters. For tiles made out of porcelain, granite, or marble, the recommended spacers should have around 3 millimeters.
Besides the size and type of the tiles you plan to use, there are other factors as well that could influence the selection of the spacers' size. For instance, unusual shapes, like curbs around a shower cabin, cut tiles, intriguing designs, or bathrooms with particular shapes will also weigh in making this decision.
- How to properly check the level of a tile?
It is very important to make sure each tile is properly leveled throughout the project. Utilizing a high-quality tile leveling system gives you the peace of mind that all tiles will be installed at the same level. This is due to the fact that leveling elements will be used until the adhesive dries out. The elements of the leveling system will be removed only after the adhesive is dried, which makes sure the tiles remain in position until nothing can influence the way they were installed.
Selecting the best tile leveling system
As you walk through a room, kitchen, or bathroom, you have the sensation of being unstable or wobbly? This is because the tiles on the floor were not properly leveled during their installation. To obtain a perfectly leveled tile floor, a tile leveling system is of great use.
Lippage is avoided with the help of every leveling kit mentioned in the lines of this article. You just need to find the system that best suits your project. To make things even easier and more convenient to you, consider the following tips when selecting a tile leveling system:
- Don't start a job without practicing first
When you choose a leveling system, check its elements first and see how they are assembled. It is possible to find kits that don't provide pliers, a case in which you will have to buy this separately. You cannot use clips and wedges without pliers, as these three elements compose a whole system that works toward achieving the best results when laying tiles.
The pliers your kit provides or the one you purchased separately should feel comfortable in your hand. A good tool will allow a firm grip while still feeling safe and comfortable. As a piece of advice, always use pliers made by the same manufacturer as the one that made the kit you purchased. When it comes to clips and wedges, don't waste too much time and effort in using them perfectly, as they can be replaced easily.
- Avoid using too much force
If you have spacers that are installed in a poor manner, then utilize the pliers carefully when trying to get them out. Even if the pliers are sturdy, and so are the tiles, it is not recommended to use too much force on them. Tiles can crack when spacers are removed with brute force.
Before you begin your tiling project, create a chart that will indicate where you will position both the clips and wedges. This will help you save time as you won't have to take a wedge from one place to install it somewhere else.
To work easily and effectively, it is recommended to follow the spiral method. Regarding the leveling kit that is best to use, choose one that is most suitable for your tiling project.
- Don't hesitate to employ more than one method
Make sure to follow the previously mentioned procedure to get the floor nice and flat, and employ a good quality leveling system for obtaining top results.
There's a strong recommendation to install tiles on a flat surface only, to avoid lippage. Also, make sure to lay each tile by hand and adjust it with the system's elements, ensuring each tile's flatness. If it is necessary, you can lift set tiles and add more adhesive to achieve the ideal level. If you need to push a tile down more, you can remove a part of the adhesive. Once the adjustments are made, utilize the leveling system to make the tiles properly flat.
Avoiding using a leveling system to manipulate tiles because this can affect the way the tiles adhere to the adhesive. Make sure the surface is leveled first, and only then use a leveling system to finish the job. If you respect these aspects, you will be able to avoid the occurrence of lippage. In the end, the main goal is to obtain a smooth and perfectly flat tiled surface.