What Size Trowel to Use for Laying Marble Tiles?

Marble tiles, like many other tiles, come in a variety of sizes and thicknesses.

Mosaics

Some cobble-edged marble tiles can be up to 1/2-inch thick and need a larger trowel to compensate.Some cobble-edged marble tiles can be up to 1/2-inch thick and need a larger trowel to compensate.
While these differences allow for customization in design and layout, it can make the installation process more challenging. The size of the tile you are installing is directly related to the size of the trowel you use to spread the mortar. Keeping this in mind will help ensure good mortar coverage and a better installation.

Marble tiles are available in sizes beginning at 3/8-inch on mesh-backed sheets. For all marble mosaic tiles measuring up to 2 inches, use a small V-notched trowel. Keep the size of the trowel 3/16-by-5/32-inches when laying the tiles loose. If the tiles are attached to a sheet of mesh, paper or plastic, the size of the trowel is less critical because the grooves will be flattened out by the flat edge of the trowel before placing the sheet in the mortar. In this case, use up to a 1/4-by-3/16-inch V-notch trowel.

4-inch and Subway Marble Tiles

The most frequently sold size of tumbled marble tiles is 4 inches square. Polished and honed marble can also be found in this size, as well as in the popular "subway" sizes of 3-by-6 inches and 2-by-4 inches. For these smaller-sized marble tiles use a V-notched trowel that measures 1/4-by-3/16-inches. Keep the thickness of the tiles in mind; most tiles this size will measure 3/8 inches in thickness. If the tiles are thicker, consider going to a 1/4-by-1/4-inch square notch trowel or a 1/4-by-3/8-inch rectangular notch trowel for better coverage.

6- to 8-Inch Tiles

While not common, it's possible to find marble tiles in 6-and 8-inch squares. More common is the new extended subway tile sizes of 4-by-8 and 4-by-12 inches.

For these mid-sized marble tiles use at least a square 1/4-by-1/4-inch notch trowel. For better coverage, especially with irregularly shaped tumbled marble tiles, use a rectangular notch trowel that measures 1/4-by-3/8 inches. You can also use a U-notch trowel measuring 1/4-by-3/8-inches.

Large Tiles

Twelve-inch polished marble tiles are one of the most common sizes and styles. To get the best mortar coverage with this size, use a square notched trowel 1/4-by-3/8-inches or 1/2-by-1/2 inches. For marble tiles thicker than 3/8-inches or larger than 12 inches square, use a minimum of a 1/2-by-1/2-inch square trowel or a 3/4-by-5/8-inch U-notched trowel. Remember that a thicker bed may be needed for irregularly shaped tiles, so use a larger trowel.

About the Author

Sarabeth Asaff has worked in and has written about the home improvement industry since 1995. She has written numerous articles on art, interior design and home improvements, specializing in kitchen and bathroom design. A member in good standing with the National Kitchen and Bath Association, Asaff has working knowledge of all areas of home design.