Installing 12×24 tile can be a little tricky compared to smaller tiles, but with a little planning, and a few tricks up your sleeve, this can be a great DIY project even if you don’t have a ton of tiling experience.
12 x 24 tile is everywhere lately. When we installed it in our bathroom a few years ago, it seemed like kind of a fun, more modern choice, but now it seems to have pretty much become the standard for new tile floors everywhere. I’ve seen it used a lot in commercial applications as well as in a lot of homes and it doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere any time soon. I really love the look and durability of 12×24 tile flooring so I definitely think it’s a great choice. It is, however, a little trickier to install than the more traditional 12×12 tiles.
Since we just finished installing 12×24 tile in our mudroom, I thought now would be a great time to go over some tips that we’ve learned. Hopefully we can make your tiling experience a little easier and a little more successful!
Installing 12×24 Tile: Focus on Keeping Things Level
When you’re working with giant tiles like these, getting (and keeping) everything level is pretty much the biggest challenge. You need to make each individual tile level, but you also want to make sure that all of the tiles are sitting evenly and at the same height as one another on top of the mortar.
Before you get started, make sure you have a small 24 inch-ish level so that you can check how each individual tile is sitting. A larger 4-5 foot level is also super helpful for checking how level your floor overall is, and when comparing the tiles to each other. Have a rubber mallet handy to tap tiles for slight adjustments.
These tile lash systems are also super helpful because they automatically line the tiles up to each other as you go and make sure your floor is perfectly smooth. We didn’t end up use the lash system this time, but we used it last time we installed this type of tile and it really helped keep us in line.
We’ve also noticed that if you mix your mortar to be a little bit on the thicker side, it’s much easier to achieve and maintain levelness. If you’re getting a bit frustrated with how difficult it is to make things level, try making your next batch of mortar a little thicker.
Use The Right Mortar for 12×24 Tile
You often hear about using “thin set” to install tile, but in the case of installing 12×24 tile as flooring, you’ll want to use something called “medium bed” mortar. The medium bed holds its consistency better than the thin set, which will sag a bit in the middle of the tile. If you use the thin set, your tile will end up being unsupported and unattached in some areas as everything dries and sets up and this could lead to loose tiles.
Tools and Tips for The Actual Mortar Application Process for 12×24 Tile
As I mentioned before, mix your mortar to be a little bit on the thick side, and use a 1/2 inch notched trowel to apply it to the subfloor where you want your tile. You’ll also want to have another smaller, un-notched trowel (called a flat margin trowel) on hand for a few other purposes.
Firstly, you’ll use the flat margin trowel to scoop your mortar our of your bucket and place it in a pile on your subfloor before you notch it with the 1/2 inch notched trowel. You’ll also want to use this trowel to “back butter” your tile before you lay it down. You may be used to either back buttering or laying down a bed of mortar, but in this case, it’s best to do both. Applying the mortar in both places will allow the tile to be suctioned on to the subfloor and will create an incredibly strong bond.
Keep Your Work Clean
Although it seems like installing large tiles like these will be a super quick process, you actually do spend quite a bit of time making sure you set the tiles down just right and ensuring levelness. By the time you work your way across your entire room and come back to where you start your rows, any excess mortar that was hanging outside of the area where you put down your tile will probably have started to dry. This is true even when you’re working in a small room like our mudroom here, so it’s a good idea to take your flat margin trowel (use number three!) and remove any excess mortar around your tiles before moving on to the next one. Use a rubber margin grout float if you’re installing over a heated flooring system to prevent damage to the wire. (See all the tools listed at the end of this post for a clear view of the differences between the two.)
You’ll also thank yourself later if you keep a grout sponge and a bucket of water handy to wipe down the tops of each tile after you lay it down to pick up any excess mortar that may have found its way up there.
Cleaning as you go means you’re not pressured to try to get the job done quickly (so you can catch that pile of mortar before it dries or clean up any mistakes you made when you’re done) and allows you to take the time you need to set each tile perfectly.
Installing 12×24 Tile: Grouting
We used 1/4 inch spacers to achieve the perfect grout lines that you see here and I would definitely recommend using them, even if you think you’re pretty comfortable with tiling. They only cost a few dollars for a few hundred of them and they make such a difference. We used a sanded grout for this project, which is almost always recommended for flooring and for larger grout lines because it tends to be a bit stronger than un-sanded grout. Some people complain that they find that sanded grout can sometimes attract dirt more easily than un-sanded so it’s important to remember to seal your grout after it has fully dried. I also recommend using a darker grout color in high traffic areas like this mudroom. It will really make a big different as to how your tile floor looks after a few years!
Have you installed your own 12×24 tile in your home? Do you have any helpful tips that you would add for anyone looking to install their own tile?
See below for a detailed list of all the supplies that come in handy on a tiling job like this!
What You’ll Need
Start with a proper base:
Get the job done right using proper hand tools:
Keep everything straight and level:
Keep your workspace clean:
Wet tile saw:
For jobs with many or complex cuts – Wet tile saw
We also installed a really great heated flooring system under this tile (different from the last heated flooring system we did) and I’ll be sharing all the details about that next week, so keep an eye out for that post coming soon! *Update* You can find that post right here!
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Courtenay Hartford is the author of creeklinehouse.com, a blog based on her adventures renovating a 120-year-old farmhouse in rural Ontario, Canada. On her blog, Courtenay shares interior design tips based on her own farmhouse and her work as founder and stylist of the interior photography firm Art & Spaces. She also writes about her farmhouse garden, plant-based recipes, family travel, and homekeeping best practices. Courtenay is the author of the book The Cleaning Ninja and has been featured in numerous magazines including Country Sampler Farmhouse Style, Better Homes and Gardens, Parents Magazine, Real Simple, and Our Homes.