When installing 12×12 floor tiles, spread up to ¼-inch of thinset mortar under the tile. If the back of your tile is smooth and uniform, use a ¼ X ⅜” square-notched trowel. If you are installing tiles with a rough or irregular back, use a ½ X ½” square-notched trowel. Keep in mind that floor tiles experience more traffic, so you can use the larger ½ X ½” trowel on most floor installations of 12×12 tile. For wall installations, use the smaller ¼ X ⅜” trowel size.
What Size Trowel Should You Use for 12×12 Tile?
If you are installing smooth-backed porcelain or ceramic tile on a floor or wall, this ¼ X ⅜” square-notched trowel is the best choice. Keep the trowel at a 90-degree angle to the wall to spread your thinset evenly over the surface. On wall installations, it’s best to opt for a smaller amount of thinset. This ensures the tile adheres well to the wall.
¼ X ⅜ X ¼” Square Notched Trowel:
- Smooth-backed 12×12 floor tiles.
- 12×12 wall tile installations.
½ X ½” Square Notched Trowel:
- Rough-backed 12×12 tiles.
- Lug-backed tiles.
- 12×12 floor tile installations.
When installing tiles with a rough surface on the back, as well as lug-backed tiles, use this ½ X ½” square-notched trowel. This size is also great for floor installations, where a thicker layer of mortar can help the tile installation hold up over time. If the back of your tile is especially rough, you can even spread a little thinset on the back of the tile to increase adhesion.
How Thick Should Thinset Be Under Floor Tile vs. Wall Tile?
To properly bond your 12×12 inch tiles to the substrate, a thinner layer of thinset mortar is preferable. This is especially important for wall tile installations where you are fighting gravity. Not only does a thinner layer bond the tile to the wall better, but it also allows for a smoother, more even surface after installation. Although ⅛-inch of thinset is suitable for smaller wall tiles, this layer may be too thin for 12×12 tiles. This is why you should step up to a ¼ X ⅜-inch trowel for wall installations.
- Small wall tiles require about ⅛-inch of thinset to bond them to the substrate. This is accomplished with a ¼ X ¼-inch trowel.
- Because 12×12 tiles are large, use a ¼ X ⅜-inch trowel. This provides extra mortar to keep the large tiles in place.
- Most floor tiles can be adhered with the same thinset thickness as wall tiles.
- If your floor tiles are rough or are of the lug-backed variety, step up to a ½ X ½-inch trowel. This will provide ¼-inch of thinset beneath your tiles.
Floor installations often benefit from a slightly thicker layer of thinset. That doesn’t mean thicker is better though. Too much mortar will bond the tile poorly to the floor and result in an uneven tile floor. The largest size trowel we recommend for 12×12 floor tiles is a ½ X ½-inch trowel. This will spread a layer of thinset that is ¼-inch thick.
How Much Thinset Do You Need for 12×12 Tile?
The thinset layer beneath your 12×12 tiles should be thicker than ⅛ inch but should not exceed ¼ inch. For smooth-backed tiles and wall installations, use a ¼ X ⅜-inch square notched trowel. This will create a thinset layer just over ⅛-inch thick. For rough-backed tiles and most floors, use a ½ X ½-inch square notched trowel. This will spread a ¼-inch layer of thinset. These thicknesses will hold up to use, keep your tiles in place, and allow for an even tile installation.