How to Round Exposed Tile Edges

by Pavel
Tile projects can be a great way to save money, invest in durable materials and get that sweet kitchen or bathroom finish you’ve always wanted. But all DIY projects come with questions about the best and most efficient way to perform them, and tiling is no different. While tiling is generally pretty straightforward, when it comes to the aesthetic you’re looking for, it pays to invest a little time and effort into learning how to get exactly what you want. For example, how do you make sure that the tiles at the edges of your workspace are rounded off correctly?
How to Prepare

It’s important to make sure that you have the right tools to do the job correctly. You will need a router to round the tile edges, with an appropriate bit: try a 3/16” radius brazed diamond router bit with a 1/2” shank. Then to smooth the edges you need an orbital sander, with 100 grit sandpaper. Finally, to polish the tiles and give them that professional looking sheen, consider a 6” variable speed dual action polisher with both 1500 and 3000 grit diamond paper for the finest possible control. Once you have the appropriate tools and materials, you’re ready to begin.

Then you must ensure, as with every tiling job, that your walls are prepared correctly. Install hardibacker on the areas exposed to water, and seal the joints using paper tape and thinset. Make sure you sand the joints so that the tiles are plumb and level with the rest of the wall. If your walls are made of bricks, remove the irregularities using a scraper and brush the surface to clean it of dust and other residue. Finally, decide on the type of tile layout that you want to use, which is extremely important; whether to use a full tile or to centre the pattern to obtain a symmetrical layout is crucial.
The Process

A quick note: it’s not always necessary to actually round off the tiles. The process takes a long time – on the order of 4–5 hours to round off 50 tiles – so in case that doesn’t appeal to you, there are a few other options. You can use a plastic corner trim for your outside corners, which gives the tiles a professional look without needing to spend too much time on them. Outside trims come in many shapes, sizes and colours. If you follow this path, cut the corner trim to fit and then spread tile adhesive on the corner, ensuring that the corner trim is perfectly plumb. Or you can just leave the edges as they are of course, but it won’t look professional and the tile edges will be visible even if you grout the gap between them.

Assuming that you want to press forward with tile rounding, here’s how to do it. First, use the router to round the exposed tile edges and/or corners. Note that edges that will be filed by grout do not need to be rounded. After this, the edges will be very rough and dull, so you will need to smooth and polish them. Sand the edge using the orbital sander and 100 grit sandpaper, and make sure you fully smooth all angles of the rounded edge. The last step is polishing the tile: use a squirt bottle to keep the tile wet, and then use the polisher to shine up the tile twice: once with the 1500 grit paper, then with the 3000.
Glass Tiles

What about if you have glass tiles? They’re a little different from traditional ceramic or porcelain tiles, and require different treatment. It’s more difficult to just cut and sand them down, so one method to consider is using a grouting technique to create a sleek edge finish. Lay down a 2” strip of blue painter’s tape about 1 grout space away along the exposed edge of the tile. Then apply grout to the top and edges of the tile, and wipe it along the edge so that it covers the space from the top of the tile to the edge of the tape. You should grout at a 45-degree angle from the tile face to the tape edge on the wall. Finally, wait for the grout to set to the point where you can buff the tile surface with a lint-free cloth. Then pull up the tape and voila: you have a nice straight edge.
Frequently asked questions
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  • Michelle Leslie Michelle Leslie on Mar 21, 2017

    Thank you so much for this Pavel. We're in the process of tiling and a lot of questions and concerns I had you addressed. Thank you