Can you tile around a window without trim? Answer: Yes! And it’ll look great if you follow these steps.
Trim is usually seen as an easy way to cover up rough edges and allows tilers to throw the tiles up quicker, but it introduces a plasticky distraction to the overall tile effect. We’ll show you how easy it is to tile a window without trim.
Tiling a window without trim is a process that has three main phases
Step 1- Design, measurement and tile selection
Before you buy or acquire any tiles, think through your finished look, and the appearance of the external edges around the window reveal. Look carefully at the window operation, considering the free space around the window frame, as you may find a thicker tile covers up a larger space or that a thinner tile is required, or no tile, to keep the window operable.
Thicker, natural stone such as travertine tiles, and lighter-coloured tiles look particularly smart without trim. In addition, beige grout helps to blend with lighter-coloured tiles and gives a slicker finish. Rectified tiles are becoming more popular, and are used to give a modern aesthetic with reduced width grouting. They are generally considered to be more challenging to install because the reduced grouting gives less aesthetic tolerance to home-cut edges.
The lower reveal of a window is an excellent opportunity to create a functional or visually pleasing feature, using a single piece of stone or wood to create a window shelf, which should be cut and installed AFTER tiling.
Think about the extent of your tiling, mark the wall with a pencil and if possible, have a shower and see how far the water splashes. It may sound silly now, but there’s nothing worse than discovering that your beautiful new tiling design doesn’t protect the walls from the showering habits of every family member. Decide on whether you will tile around the entire window reveal.
Measure the area to be tiled, and order an extra 10-20% to allow for wastage, particularly as tiling around a window typically has high wastage.
CHECKLIST: Gather and prepare your materials, including:
- Wooden offcuts to form a propping T to hold tiles in place at the top of your window reveal.
- Straight-edged wooden offcuts will serve as guides to give your tiles a uniform, straight edge.
- Tiles (provide your meterage plus 10-20% to your tile supplier).
- Tile adhesive (your tile supplier will supply an appropriate quantity).
- Grout (your tile supplier will supply an appropriate quantity).
- Primer mix.
- Tile spacers.
And your tools:
- Dustpan and brush, and sheets protect your working space and keep it clean.
- A brush for applying your primer.
- Drill and screws for fixing your wooden edge guides.
- Bucket and sponge.
- A 96 inch spirit level to check that the wall and window reveals don’t have lumps and bumps…. And then the tools and plaster to straighten out the walls if required.. Or a plasterer.
- A square notch (‘tiling’) trowel, with larger notches if using larger tiles, but ¼ inch is suitable for most applications.
- Wet tile saw, for cutting those clean edges, you can do it!, but go carefully, use gloves, goggles, ear defenders, and practice on tile offcuts to get your cuts better.
- Grouting bag
Step 2- Surface and workspace preparation
Using a long spirit level, check that you have a smooth plastered surface to fix your tiles. Hopefully, there’ll be no surprises. Use plaster or filler to remove any holes of low patches, and a sander (and mask) to remove any high patches. Any time spent at this stage will make the tile fixing easier and more enjoyable.
Once your spirit level convinces you that you have a REALLY even surface, fix your straight pieces of wood to the inside of your window reveal with a drill driver and screws, sticking out 1cm into the room beyond the reveal to give you a straight edge to tile up to.
If you want your tiles to butt joint, you could use some tile offcuts plus 3mm plastic spacers to bring your wooden guide off the reveal the same or 1 or 2mm less than the finished surface of the reveal once the tiles are in place. This will allow the tiles on the wall to stick out the correct amount into the window aperture.
Protect your floor with plastic sheeting and any skirting or installed pipework or ceramics. Have your bucket and sponge ready, and anything you need to keep your workspace well organised and clean.
You can cut your tiles at this stage, though some people prefer to cut them as they go. If you want to do it now, take your time and use a wet cutter to get the neatest cuts you possibly can. You can also sand some tiles, particularly natural stone tiles, to get smooth and pleasing edges, or even design detail.
Start by making the cuts that will be hidden in the internal corners of the window reveal, and as you develop your skills, progress to the cuts that will form the more visible external edges of the reveal.
Apply your primer to the walls with a brush, which will make the walls more resistant to moisture or any water that gets through the tiles over time, reducing the risk of plaster damage over time.
Step 3- Tiling time! Now you can tile around a window without trim.
Follow regular tiling methods, applying your adhesive to the back of the tile, and pushing it gently onto the wall, using spacers to separate it evenly from neighbouring tiles. Start at the bottom of the wall, working your way up course by course. As you come to the window, tile up to the wooden straight edge ensuring that your adhesive doesn’t go beyond the wall.
Clean up any spilt adhesive immediately as you go with the damp sponge because it will dry quickly on the exposed tile face, and in order to clean it later you will need to scrub and scrape, and risk dislodging freshly laid tiles.
Once you’ve tiled around the window, it’s time to tile inside the reveals. Once the adhesive on the walls has properly dried, carefully take off the wooden guide, which should not have any adhesive on it at all.
Start with the top reveal, using your wooden T to hold the tiles with their adhesive in place, and not forgetting your spacers, even if they drop out a few times in the process. The T should be cut to a length that allows you to progress with the vertical reveals with the T still in place supporting the tiles on the top reveal.
Remember to bring manufactured tile edges to the front, orientating your cut edges, however good they are, into the less visible internal corner where the reveal meets the window frame.
If your design is to tile the bottom reveal you will need to wait until the top reveal is fixed and dry BEYOND DOUBT. Again, don’t be tempted to do it without spacers. Use them.
With your tiles in place you now have the pleasure of cautiously half-loading your grouting bag, to carefully go back and forth, filling those regular gaps, as well as our external corner gaps, and the top edge of the tiled section if we haven’t tiled to the ceiling. It’s really important to carefully grout that top edge, otherwise, water will go down the back of the tiles.
Finally, tidy up as soon as you’re done, even if you’re knackered. By doing this you’ll spot any spilt adhesive and resolve grout haze whilst it’s all fresh and easily resolvable. With a tidied workspace, your trimless corners will hopefully continue to look great, but if they don’t then at least you have time still to weigh up whether it’s worth carefully replacing, stripping back, or if it’ll be sufficient to sand them once the grout is definitely dry as a bone.
Dealing with common errors and frustrations
Most errors and frustrations come from spontaneous tile purchases, or accepting some leftover tiles from a builder or a friend, and then just getting stuck in without preparation. Follow the steps laid out in this article and look before you leap. If you are likely to change the window in the near future, do so before you do your tiling- it seems so obvious but you’d be amazed…
Another common source of rookie and professional frustration alike is a messy workspace that reveals a dried stuck-on mess once when we attempt to tidy up afterwards, or scattered spacers and lost tools that lead us to try shortcuts that cause a spiral of frustration.
On a similar note, cleaning your trowels IMMEDIATELY after use, will ensure that they remain easy to use and that they spread the adhesive well on the tile. A dried build-up on the trowel will grow and grow, making it progressively harder to apply the adhesive effectively.
Beyond that, our trimless reveal technique requires a little patience to hone those tile-cutting skills and set the wooden edge guide properly.
One way to increase the manufactured tile edges at the exposed corner, is to tile from the reveal, using manufactured edges to form the external edge of the reveal. This ensures a perfect edge, even using the manufactured edge-end of your half tiles in a brick bond pattern. This needs to be considered carefully because it also determines the tile layout above and below the window.
Another top tip is to sand down the whole corner once all is dried, though this only really works with natural stone tiles.
How and when do you know you’ve nailed it
Throughout the process, take a moment to stand back now and then, to ensure that you’re lines are straight, that your tiling looks good, and that muck is cleaned off as soon as you notice it. Tile in sections, or courses, using just the right amount of adhesive and the right amount of pressure to fix it to the wall. This will allow you to do a course at a time, or sections at a time, giving you a chance to step back, take a break, and review progress.
To ensure that you’re happy with the result, don’t accept a cut if it looks rough to you. Don’t fix it to the wall. Leave it to one side in case it can be used elsewhere re-cut it as a smaller piece, and try the cut again. When you finish and show off your work, you’ll be glad you did, because there’s nothing worse than busting a gut and then realising that you’ve done a bad tiling job.
Trimless window tiling takes a little more patience, but it shows off the tiles at their best. Enjoy!