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What Are Tile Spacers? How To Use Them?

tile spacer 05

Swapping out old, damaged, or broken tiles can freshen up a room’s look. But it takes much work, especially when you want to ensure each tile lines up nicely for the final result. Luckily, there’s something called “tile spacers” that can help with this. These small plastic pieces should be put between tiles while installing them to ensure that the spaces between the tiles are the same width.

Tile spacers are a low-cost and reusable way to quickly and effectively space out new tiles during a tile installation project, like when setting up a new shower, replacing floor tiles, or adding a new backsplash. These objects come in T-shaped or cross-shaped forms, making it easy to create even gaps between tiles. They are available in various sizes, allowing you to adjust the gap between tiles based on your preference.

Table of Contents

What Are Tile Spacers?

Tile spacers are small plastic items with a T or cross shape. They are used to be placed between tiles while you install them to ensure an even gap between each tile as you work. This helps to prevent the tiles from being unevenly placed during installation, which improves the overall appearance of your project.

Some tile spacers even have a self-leveling feature to make your tile installation look more professional.

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Why Are Tile Spacers Important?

Multiple Grout Widths

Tile rugs and complex mosaic designs can be challenging to space manually, especially if you intend to use different grout widths. Tile spacers allow you to create patterns with multiple grout sizes, enhancing durability and aesthetics.

Consistent Grout Spacing for Straight Tiles

Without tile spacers, there’s a risk of your tiles ending up crooked. Tile spacers snugly fit into the corners of each tile, ensuring a perfectly straight and even finish.

Easier Project Planning

Tile spacers simplify project planning. They help you determine the desired gap size between each tile, making it easier to measure, label, and cut tiles during the layout phase.

Professional and Beautiful Finish

Achieving a professional finish is only possible with tile spacers. With them, your project may appear attractive due to uneven gaps and misaligned tiles.

Paving Slab Spacers

Protecting the Integrity of Tile Floors

Tile spacers maintain floor levelness and ensure proper grouting for each tile. Incorrect spacing can lead to damage when tiles expand, potentially causing dislodgment or chipping. Spacers contribute to a safe and durable surface.

Faster Project Completion

Tile spacers take out guesswork, making your project faster and more efficient. You won’t need to measure each grout gap individually or worry about inconsistent results. Just use the spacers, lay down your tiles, and you can proceed confidently!

How to Use Tile Spacers?

Step 1: Choose Tile Spacers According to Size

Before starting the project, it’s important to determine the size of the gap you desire between the tiles. Tile spacers are available in sizes ranging from 1/8-inch to 3/8-inch. Typically:

  • Grout lines for tiled walls, backsplashes, or shower stalls should be thinner, between 1/8-inch and 1/4-inch.
  • For floor tiles and other horizontal surfaces, wider grout lines, about 1/4-inch to 3/8-inch, are more suitable.

In general, thin grout lines are easier to clean because they trap less dust and debris. However, if the room’s dimensions or surfaces have some irregularities, thicker grout lines can mask them for a more balanced appearance.

Visit your local home improvement store to pick the tile spacers that match the desired gap width between your tiles. Calculate the number of spacers you need by multiplying the number of tiles by 4 and then adding nearly 10 percent extra to account for any potential situations in your project.

Step 2: Placing the First Tile and Tile Spacers

With the right size and right number of tile spacers in hand, you’re ready to start your tiling project. Begin by lining up the first tile, which is key because all other tiles will follow its lead. You can use a chalk line or laser level to ensure the first tile is positioned correctly, or if you’re confident in the room or wall’s alignment, you can align it with the corner.

Once the first tile is in place, you can position the surrounding tiles. Apply enough adhesive to the floor or wall for the next tile, then place the tile nearly where it should go. Insert tile spacers between the first tile and the second one to make sure the gap width and alignment are spot on.

Remember that for an even gap, you should use at least two tile spacers along the edge of the tile.

Step 3: Adding More Tiles

Now, let’s keep the tiling process going. Here’s what to do:

  1. Apply adhesive to the floor or wall, then place a tile on top of the adhesive.
  1. Adjust the gap and alignment using tile spacers. Use at least two spacers between each tile to keep the gaps consistent.
  1. As you add each new tile, ensure it touches the spacers on the adjacent tile without squishing or changing the shape of the spacers.

The tile spacers need to stay in place until the adhesive has enough time to set correctly. This usually takes about 20 to 30 minutes. This waiting period prevents the tiles from shifting before adding the grout.

Step 4: Removing the Tile Spacers

Tile spacers are crucial in aligning tiles during installation and keeping them in place while the adhesive sets. They must stay in their correct positions for about 20 to 30 minutes. If you remove them too soon, the tiles may shift and not align properly. However, if you leave them in for a short time, they might get stuck to the adhesive, making them difficult to remove.

Here’s how to remove tile spacers:

  1. Slide a chisel, scraper, or flat-head screwdriver under the horizontal arm of the spacer.
  1. Apply gentle pressure to pop the tile spacer out of the gap.
  1. Most spacers should come out easily and can be reused for future projects.
  1. If a spacer gets stuck, don’t grout over it. This will lead to improper grout setting or, if it does set, it will crumble quickly.

    Instead, use a chisel, scraper, or flat-head screwdriver to try and separate the spacer from the adhesive. Needle-nose pliers can also help grip the spacer and pull it out of the gap.

removing with pliers

Step 5: Rinsing and Storing Tile Spacers

After removing tile spacers, rinse them to clean off any residue, let them dry, and store them in a zip-lock bag. These reusable spacers can be kept safely in a toolbox. If any spacers are damaged during installation, it’s best to discard them and replace them with new ones for future projects.

Step 6: Maintaining Tile Spacers for Future Use

While tile spacers are often seen as one-time-only due to their low cost and specific use, they can be reused if handled properly. Here’s how to keep them in good condition:

  1. After finishing your tiling project, remove the tile spacers promptly.
  1. Rinse them thoroughly to remove any remaining adhesive or grout residue.
  1. Allow the spacers to dry completely.

Now, you can store the tile spacers for future projects:

  • Keep them in a bag, toolbox, compartment, or drawer in your workshop.
  • For simplicity and organization, consider storing them alongside other tiling accessories.
  • Alternatively, you can select a specific compartment or drawer in your workbench for tile spacers to keep them easily accessible.
measuring with a pen
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