Floor Tiles Skirting

Thin Porcelain tiles skirting, Gaza 2019

Floor tile skirting is a short wall tile to protect wall from water and to give the walls a nice finishing. The main function of floor tile skirt is to protect the wall from water during floor cleaning. Furniture against the walls will scratch and damage it, tile skirting keep a small distance between wall and furniture. Also tile skirting keep a nice appearance of the connection between tiles and walls. Floor tiles skirting can be made from different materials according to the space function.

skirt is protect the wall from furniture scratching, Gaza 2020
skirt is protect the wall from furniture scratching, Gaza 2020

Tile Skirting Height

Since tile skirting function is to protect the wall from water, several centimeters height are enough. The tiles skirting nice height is 7 cm, I have tried shorter and higher skirt but wasn’t nice as 7 cm in height. Keep in mind that for some special cases, like when the wall has marble cladding one or two centimeters are enough. Select skirting material with low water absorbing to protect marble from water. Select a black granite skirting it will look as a nice shadow line detail.

For tile cladding wall there is no need to install tile skirting. Another special case when there is a wall in less than 15 cm height, like what is used for handrail balcony or curtain wall detail. I prefer to avoid few cm painting wall over the skirting, therefore skirting could be higher or from the same material as sill to appear as a block of marble.

Balcony with low parapet height that need emperador sill full height
Balcony with low parapet height that need emperador sill full height. Gaza Alhelou petrol station 2018

Skirting Cutting Problem

Many companies produce tile skirting in a certain size, these skirts have a straight edges.  Other times, craftsmen cut tiles in certain heights to make the tile’s skirting. There are several methods to cut a porcelain or ceramic tiles either by manual tile cutter, grinder or a saw machine. Cutting tiles using manual tile cutter or grinder won’t have a straight edges. Craftsman will install bad cut edge at the bottom, to avoid it appear to the human eye. Then cement grout used to fill the bad cut edge connection. This cut method can be used if there is much tile pieces that have at least one straight edge. The best tile cut method is saw machine to have straight edges. Not all tiles contractors have in-site saw machine, therefore sometimes they send it to marble workshop to cut them.

skirting cutting problems, show that low edge has bad cut and filled with cement grout that has problems too. Gaza 2020
skirting cutting problems, show that low edge has bad cut and filled with cement grout that has problems too. Gaza 2020

Skirting Round Edges

At the British International School in Gaza project, it required a recognition from the UK. One of the main requirements to get the recognition was student safety, therefore they asked to round skirting edges. The marble flooring and skirting disassembled, then send them to marble factory to round the top edge. Full-body porcelain can round it edge, while full-color porcelain the round edge will have similar color to the edge and won’t look nice. However, can’t round ceramic or veneer tiles because the bisque layer is weak and have a different color.

Skirting round edge from Omani marble, Gaza 2016
Skirting round edge from Omani marble, Gaza 2016
Marble skirt in lathe profile for wall wood cladding
Marble skirt in lathe profile for wall wood cladding, Gaza 2011

Skirting Corners

It’s important to notice that skirting require a 45 degree cut as shown in the following photo. It can’t install over each other to avoid tiles bisque layer to appear. Half on half and other detailed connection doesn’t suite the skirting scale. Also 45 degree corner connection suite when the skirt has a top round edge.

Granite round edge skirting and 45 degree corners, Gaza 2020
Granite round edge skirting and 45 degree corners, Gaza 2020

Plaster Paint  and Tile Skirting Details

As tile skirting role to have a nice wall floor appearance, the wall-skirt detail is important. Most walls have plaster and painting finish and sometimes a wallpaper finish is used. 

For plaster craftsmen like to end their work 15 cm from the top of concrete. 10 cm is the finish floor level, then tile skirt require 7 cm. This means tiles craftsman have two choices either to lay skirting tiles over plaster works or to remove the plaster then lay the skirt. I prefer to remove the plaster then to lay tile skirt to have less thickness skirt. Another finish alternative, when plaster craftsman leave 20 cm from the top of concrete instead of 15 cm. This way they need to finish the 3 cm plaster after the tiles work finish and before tile joint grout begins. 

For painting works, the most important to make a sharp edge between painting and tile skirt, and it’s better to make a round edge to have a nice finish. Also for wallpaper it’s important to know where to end the wallpaper.

Thin Porcelain tiles skirting, Gaza 2019
Thin Porcelain tiles skirting, Gaza 2019
Thick Porcelain tiles skirting that have over lap bad connection filled with cement grout, Gaza 2019
Thick Porcelain tiles skirting that have over lap bad connection filled with cement grout, Gaza 2019

Tiles Expansion Joint

For high temperature countries like Arab Gulf, tiles expansion joint is important. In outdoor and large spaces expansion joint can be installed each 4 meters in both directions. Another expansion joint at room boundaries and in the connection between wall and floor. A centimeter that doesn’t have either tiles or a mortar, then it’s filled with rubber material like SikaFlex or other products. Then the tiles skirt will cover the expansion joint and won’t appear for the human eyes.

Tiles Skirting Connection with Doors

The connection between door and tiles skirting is a sensitive detail. Where door frame install after tiles works and sometimes after the painting works to keep it clean. So site engineering has to give the tiles craftsman where the tile skirting ends. So when the door frame installed they have a nice finish together. Sometimes interior designers make a door frame base to avoid bad connection with tile skirt.

Bad skirting connection with door. Gaza 2020
Bad skirting connection with door. Gaza 2020
How to make curved walls skirting ?

Well, tiles and natural stone materials can’t bend according to the wall curve. Therefore the best solution is to divide the skirt into smaller width size according to the wall curvature. Dividing the skirt width will give a not bad solution that will have a bad appearance.Curved wall skirt using small width species, Gaza 2016

Skirt mortar problem, notice that the tile that doesn’t fill with mortar have echo sound. Gaza 2020

Porcelain Tile Mortar

Tile mortar used to bond tiles to wall. There are two main options as mortar, cement mortar and tile adhesive mortar. Cement material is not glue, dissolving cement with water become fluid state. It poured in between other materials pores and when it dries it becomes rigid and bonding different materials. Porcelain doesn’t have pores, means cement will not bond with it. Unlike ceramic where cement mortar poured into ceramics, it bonding it to wall. As well as, the wall need to be rough to increase bonding mortar to wall. Tile Adhesive is white cement, with materials like glue and other admixture to increase setting time. Since tile adhesive has glue, it’s better than cement mortar for porcelain.

Cement mortar make either from white or Portland cement. Portland cement has dark gray color, it gives the porcelain tiles darker tone color. Therefore white cement is better especially for white and light colors tiles. Mixing cement mortar at site, where each 50KG cement bag need 12 Sand buckets and 0.5 bucket of lime.  Lime gives the mortar elasticity to enhance workability, in high humidity areas we prefer to use hydrated lime S. Sometimes, craftsmen add shampoo to cement mortar which I reject because it weakens the mixture. Notice that cement has initial setting time, and mortar has to used within half an hour. When installing porcelain with cement mortar make a mixture of water and cement only, and pour it between tile and cement mortar.

installing large size tile by cement mortar
installing large size tile by cement mortar, 2019

Mortar adhesive is available in different types, ISO13007 has classified the tile adhesive in codes. The following table will describe the main letter used to write the code, and what each means.

ISO13007 table

To convert the above table to function
C1E : Internal use for ceramic flooring, small tiles
C1TE : Internal use for ceramic walls, small tiles 
C2E : Internal use for porcelain or large scale tiles flooring
C2TE : Internal use for porcelain or large scale tiles walls
C2TES1: External use and swimming pools.
C2TES2 : External use building elevations.

What is Salted Water Effect on Tile Mortar ?

Using salted water is forbidden in construction. Salted water reduce mortar life, the appearance of efflorescence and then tile will loose and fall. Always use a drinking water to protect the beauty of tile work and to increase it life. Since porcelain and ceramic tiles’ laid on  tile adhesive or cement mortar . Both has cement that contain calcium hydroxide which is formed during the cement hydration. When rain water pass through tiles grout will dissolve calcium hydroxide then tile will lose from mortar. Avoiding this use salt water resistant sealer admixture to mortar for avoiding this problem even with drinking water.

This information in enough to understand tiles mortar. Notice that low quality tiles mortar will ruin the tiles, take the right decision and feel free to ask any questions.