Updated: Sep 5
RV TILE GUIDE & TUTORIAL
Before we get started, these are some of our favorite tiles if you need some inspiration! Links are attached to the corresponding picture...
Knowing where to start for your design and decor decisions can be difficult. Having a color palette is a great start and you can begin by choosing your paint colors. For me, I find that deciding on certain “statement” decor first can be a better way to go and I can match the paint to those elements. Either way will work but, personally, I find it’s much easier to match paint to fabric, tile and/or wallpaper. Typically, there’s a much larger selection for fabrics and wallpaper than there is for tile. I like my tile to make a statement and I like it to be one of the WOW factors in my designs. So, let’s start with tile and how to make the best selection.
Choosing your tile is a great way to express your style and it needs to fit your overall aesthetic. Do you like a more sleek and modern look? Is your taste more eclectic? Do you want a pop of color or something muted/neutral? What shape fits best with the rest of your design? Do you want texture/dimension? These are all things to think about. I think tile can make a statement no matter what you choose and can allow the rest to fall into place.
Oftentimes, I get asked if putting “real” tile in an RV is irresponsible due to the added weight. To put it simply, my answer is, no. The spaces in which we install tile flooring (a bathroom or small slide-out–NOT throughout the entire camper) or backsplash are never large enough to be detrimental to the RV weight. Sure, peel and stick is a little cheaper and less weight but it’s not necessarily easier to install and the selection is much more limited.
Below are some of our installation “do’s and dont’s” and “tips and tricks” for installing “real” tile:
Recently, we started using a Plastic Tile Membrane instead of Schluter All-Set to install tile. This definitely cuts back on weight which is obviously beneficial, but not imperative. The membrane also cuts back on the mess created by all-set and the time it takes to install the tile. I highly recommend using this membrane over the all-set. Therefore, the instructions below are based on using the membrane.
Clean the wall before placing the tile membrane. Wipe it down with TSP heavy duty cleaner or warm water and dawn. Make sure you don’t leave any lint behind.
Lay the membrane in vertical strips similar to putting up wallpaper--the width of the roll. You can use a razor blade to cut directly along the edges of the countertop and upper cabinets if you’re going all the way up or choose your stopping point; be sure you don’t cut into anything behind the membrane. Another option is to measure vertically in the space that you’re tiling and use a straightedge to make the cuts for those measurements. Make sure to read the instructions for the membrane beforehand.
Next, it’s time to cut the tile to fit the area. (Typically, I use netted mosaic tile sheets but this method works for individual tiles as well). I take the tile to the RV where I’m installing it to collect measurements, marking the tile accordingly to fit around the countertops and cabinetry (or the stopping point). I start at the base of the countertop and work up towards the cabinetry. If you’re using a mosaic sheet, choose which way you want the pattern to go first. You will most likely need to cut the bottom and side straight to fit the countertop and border of the area.
I use a Wet Saw to cut the tile I’ve marked. There are many types of wet saws but a super fancy one isn’t necessary. When using the wet saw, make sure to read the instructions and fill it with water up to the fill line. I would recommend turning it on for a minute and standing out of the way to allow any excess overspray to work its way out. When cutting, take your time and watch those fingers! Please note, the faster you go, the more likely the tile is to crack and break.
Take the newly cut tile back to the RV and place it lightly (do NOT press!) on the membrane to make sure it’s straight along the bottom and the side making a right angle. You’re going to want to leave about ¼” gap between the counter and the tiled mosaic. Once you’re sure the cut is a fit, press hard into the membrane for approximately 10 seconds. This sets the tile, making any other adjustments impossible.
Next, move on to the tiled sheet above. You can work right to left or left to right but I work vertically first and then move sideways. If you’re using a mosaic sheet, there is only one way for the sheets of tile to fit together so make sure to match the edges before marking it for measurements. You will need to match the gap of the other mosaic between each sheet--typically 1/16”. Keep in mind, it doesn't have to be a perfect cut every time, but it does need to be close. I always add trim to the edge of my tiled space. You can use molding, tile edge, marble/ceramic pencil, etc.
Once you’ve made it from the countertop to the upper cabinets (or your stopping point), start with your next sheet on the bottom by the countertop and keep moving vertically first and then to the side after each “column” is complete.
When you finish tiling the area, it’s time to grout. I should mention that if you are not using the plastic tile membrane and opt for all-set, the all-set will need to set for 24 hours before applying the grout.
I tape off the countertop with Kraft Paper to protect it from any falling grout.
We use Mapei Grout. I do NOT recommend white. It will dull and dinge over time so pick a neutral color like gray or more of a cream over white. Whatever compliments the tile best.
You will need a grout float, sponge and bucket of warm water to start the grout. Grout float.
Scoop a heap of grout onto the side of the float and start wiping it over the tile. Make sure to push it down into all the cracks. There isn’t a “right” way to do this but the recommended way is to hold the float at a 45 degree angle and move diagonally to fill the joints. The grout will need to be close to flush with the tile so make sure to fill those cracks! I work up, down, sideways and in circles to make sure all the joints are filled. Make sure to do about 2 square feet at a time and wipe it down before moving on. The grout will dry quickly on the tile surface and will be harder to wipe off with the sponge and warm water if you wait too long. Make sure to dig the grout out along the countertop seam and sides. This is where (in the last step) you will install your choice of trim (molding, tile edge, marble/ceramic pencil, etc.) after the grout has dried and use caulk.
Wait about 2 hours and wipe the film/haze off the tile with Microfiber Towels.
Let the grout dry for the recommended amount of time on the sealer’s directions and then apply the sealer to keep any splashes from staining the tile and grout. The sealer will depend on what kind of tile you use– ceramic, marble, stone, etc. because they make sealers for all types of tile. Read the directions and apply the recommended amount of coats.
GOOD LUCK & HAPPY TILING!!
Your RV Tile Tutor,
Alice Zealy, Owner of rain2shine ventures | RV Renovations