Choosing the right size tile spacers is critical to making your bathroom look perfect
Laying new bathroom tile is either a perfectionist's dream or their absolute nightmare. Tile spacers may look simple, but they play a key role in avoiding uneven grouting for both professional and DIY tile installation jobs.
Here are the top things to consider when choosing the right tile spacers for your bathroom floor, wall, sink, or shower.
1. Understand the Role of the Tile Spacer
So, what are these little plastic x's and t's that can make or break your tiled bathroom? A tile spacer creates a consistent look on a floor, wall, or countertop when you're laying out your design or adhering it to a surface. Tile installers use them to ensure your tiles fit the space and offer the right aesthetic before setting them down for good.
It may be tempting to adhere your tiles without leaving room for grout. After all, it's easier to achieve a uniform look without large grout lines in between each tile.
But grout has more responsibility than what initially meets the eye. This filler material protects against dirt, water, and bacteria from getting trapped between the tiles and breaking them down over time. It also keeps the tiles from bumping up against one another and breaking, especially in busy rooms like the family bathroom.
2. Pick Your Tile Spacer Shape
If you're tackling this project on your own, you'll encounter five main types of tile spacers at the hardware store:
TAVY and x-shaped spacers provide a checkerboard look to a wall or floor. The spacers sit at the corners of where four tiles meet. TAVY tile spacers are very similar to their x-shaped sibling, but include a ring around the x, making them easier to remove from the adhesive. T-shaped spacers are also similar, but offer more flexibility for the edge of the room or for installing irregularly shaped tiles.
Wedge and u-shaped spacers are typically used for countertops and wall tiles. For example, wedge spacers—which look like small door stops—ensure the adhesive dries evenly when tiles stack on top of one another.
3. Select the Best Tile Spacer Size
The biggest question you'll encounter when picking a tile spacer is: How much space do you want between your tiles?
In some cases, the decision is made for you. Certain tiles include what are known as lugs—basically built-in spacers. You'll spot these on wall and backsplash tiles. Tiles on vertical surfaces have to stack very closely together for stability, so the tiles come with a small protrusion that sets the space itself.
Outside of lugs, you have some design freedom to play around with. Professionals consider the size of the tiles, the desired look, and the evenness of your floor or wall surface when determining what size to use. Here are the most common uses for each space tile size.
Small Floor Tiles
The pros prefer grout lines around one-eighth of an inch or larger for most small-to-medium floor tiles. The space is large enough to keep the tiles from rubbing together—which can cause them to chip—but still offers a clean and uniform look.
In some cases, a tile installer will use larger floor tile spacers to increase the traction of the bathroom floor for safety.
Large and Abnormal Floor Tiles
Abnormally shaped tiles work best with a larger grout line to avoid an inconsistent look. You can go as far as half-inch tile spacers for a mosaic design, for example. Handmade tiles are also a great example, as these tiles often include minor inconsistencies. A small grout line is a dangerous idea in case uneven tile edges end up touching.
On the other hand, some tile designers prefer a thin line between large tiles—think 18 by 18 inches—to give the appearance of one clean floor. However, always read the instructions from your manufacturer before choosing a thin spacer for larger tiles.
Bathroom Wall Tiles
As we noted above, your bathroom wall tiles already include small lugs that tell you how far apart you should space them. If not, stick to spacers between one-sixteenth and one-eighth of an inch.
4. Match Your Grout
As a general rule of thumb: the larger your grout lines, the more sand in your grout. Smaller grout lines can handle a low-sand concentration, but larger spaces need the extra support.
That being said, you'll likely end up using synthetic grout for your bathroom tiles since it's a high-traffic and high-humidity area. You should also avoid sand-heavy grout for delicate materials like marble that scratch easily.
Grout comes in a full range of colors and can even match your tiles exactly. However, be wary of white grout for a paler tile color. The grouting will stain and fade over time, especially on your bathroom floor where you're consistently hopping in and out of the shower.
5. Consider Style
Last but certainly not least, consider your finishing look before choosing the size and style of your tile spacer. How much grout do you want to see? If you opt for thicker lines—a popular choice on your bathroom floor—choosing contrasting grout and tile colors creates a signature look of its own.
Prefer to see as little grout as possible? Keep this in mind when shopping for bathroom tiles. Speak with the manufacturer or a tile designer about choosing a small and consistent tile shape that doesn't require as much support in the grout lines.
6. Put Your Spacers to Work
One of the best things about tile spacers is that they can help with the style process and installation. If you're handling the whole project on your own, always lay out your tile design before gluing anything to the floor.
Begin in the middle of the floor and work your way out toward the wall. Place your desired spacers between the tiles as you work. The process allows you to take a step back and confirm the desired look before setting anything—literally—in stone.
There are many things to consider when picking out bathroom tile—material, color, and whether the tile you chose is waterproof, for example—but the space between tiles is just as important. Tile spacers may seem insignificant, but when you're working with something as intricate as tiling, details make all the difference. Avoid having to regrout your bathroom floor by choosing the right spacers and grout the first time around.