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Can You Lay Floor Tiles Without Spacers?

Updated: Oct 17, 2022


Tiles are the most versatile and sought-after option when it comes to flooring. High-moisture areas like bathrooms and kitchen do extremely well with wall tiles too. While they are the easiest to install among other flooring options, tile installation requires precision and rigorousness on the side of the installer to ensure the success of the project.

A term that has been floating around tile installation projects for quite a while is jointless tiles. While the term, ‘jointless’ may indicate that the tiles do not need to have joints between them, this does not hold entirely true.

A process known as rectification, which is carried out on tiles that can be referred to as rectified tiles, has trimmed edges that make it possible for them to be connected without joints. In the real world though, connecting tiles without joints are not recommended and it is better to use narrow, 1.5- to 2-millimeter joints. From this, we can concur that jointless laying refers to minimal joints, not necessarily the absence of the same.

The joints themselves play an important role in extending the longevity of the floor or wall. Tiles are made of natural compounds and are subject to thermal expansion, which means that they have minimal reactions to changes in temperature.

The tile adhesives and the material on which they are laid, like concrete, have different thermal expansion coefficients to those of the tiles themselves. When the temperature of the floor changes, stress lines can occur because all of these materials have different thermal coefficients and thus the need for expansion joints arise. The expansion joints have to be finished with grout. The joints prevent cracking of the tiles and their detaching from the base.

Before the invention of tile spacers in the 1950s, professional tile installers used to use nails, screws, ropes, and sticks to keep the tiles equidistant from each other. While these methods were effective to some degree, the tools used made the entire process challenging and difficult by being hard to work with. While using a substitute for tile spacers may seem like a safe approach, the tools used can make or break a project. By using a substitute, the time and effort spent on tiling go up quite drastically.

A tile spacer is a small piece of plastic that ensures that an installer can line tiles properly and maintain the correct distance between them. Tile spacers can either be made with plastic, wood, or ceramic, and they are available in different shapes and sizes to suit every possible installation demand.

Tile spacers can be used in both floor and wall tile installation projects. They can also be used while dry-laying the tiles to create an outline, so an owner may get a better idea of how the finished project will look like. Tile spacers remain the best and easiest way to ensure that tiles are set equidistant from each other and a professional-looking result is achieved.


What are the advantages of spacers?

To state the obvious, tile spacers fulfill their most basic purpose like nothing else can, in that they will keep the tiles at an equal distance from each other, enabling an installer to space them correctly and get a symmetrical result. While this is the number one advantage of using spacers, the advantages do not stop with just that. Let us look at some of the other things that spacers provide that using other installation tools might make difficult to do.


Even Grout Lines

How much ever effort and work have gone into measuring and prepping the surface before a tile install, uneven grout lines will make the final result look messy and unprofessional. This might be enhanced if a grout color that contrasts or stands out against the tiles is used. Spacers ensure that grout lines are well-proportioned and uniform.


Tile Uniformity

A successful tile installation project can be judged by the accuracy and the uniformity of the same. Post-installation, the appearance of the whole layout can be compromised by just one tile being off-center. Tile spacers ensure the installer can achieve a uniform and constant look by making the precise alignment of floor and wall tiles easier. Using tile spacers negates the risk of having the tiles at the edge of the floor set further apart than the ones at the center of the surface.


Design Enhancement

Tile spacers can be used while dry-laying the tiles so that a preview of the whole layout is available. One can decide what grout width will work best with the chosen pattern, and if need be, adjustments can be made to the design so as to enhance the appearance of the final result.


Durability

Experienced professional installers approach every tiling project as if it is their first, as every project is different and even a well-trained eye will find it difficult to observe all the subtleties of the surface. Placing the tiles too close together increases the risk of damaging the material when the tiles expand. Spacers enable an installer to determine the exact distance that should be left in between the tiles. This ensures that the surface that is created is better looking and more durable than one where the spacing between the tiles is done with guesswork.


Faster Turnaround Time

Tiling without the use of tile spacers can be time-consuming, other than the fact that difficulty levels are higher. This is due to the fact that the installer will have to stop constantly and adjust the tiles to achieve an even layout. Tile spacers ensure even spacing and accuracy, thus reducing the overall time taken to lay them.


Easy Replacement

Tiles are highly durable and resistant to damage. However, this does not mean that they are impervious to breakage. Dropping a heavy object on a tile may cause it to crack or break, and a replacement is due at this point. Installing tiles without spacers will lead to adjoining tiles breaking while trying to pry the broken one out. Tile spacers ensure that tiles can be replaced without disturbing the adjoining tiles.


Do spacers increase the occurrence of dust and leaks?

A common myth that is associated with the use of tile spacers is the occurrence of dust and leaks. This arises from the fact that people tend to think that spacers create unnaturally large gaps in between tiles, and this can lead to future problems. Quite contrary to this popular belief, tile spacers do the opposite when installed with the right grout material.

When tiles are installed touching one another without using spacers, there is usually a path for the dust to settle. When spacers and grout are used within that space between the tiles, the dust that settles on the grout can simply be cleaned away, and will not be able to permeate into the space between the tiles.

In the case of bathrooms, gaps between the tiles can lead to water leakage. Gaps that are formed during laying tiles next to one another are so small that even a trained eye cannot notice it, let alone rectify the same. By using spacers and ensuring adequate spacing, the space can be grouted properly, making them waterproof. In case of future problems of water leakage also, the portion that is leaking can be identified and the grout in that section can be removed and installed again. Waterproof grout is relatively easy to fill. The use of tile spacers in bathrooms can collectively lead to a reduction in water leakage problems in the future.


Will your tiles break if there are no spacers?

The short answer is yes, tiles are more susceptible to breakage and popping when installed without the use of spacers. This is due to the thermal properties of tiles and how they are subject to expansion and contraction because of the same. Installing the tiles with spacers and adequate amounts of grout in the spaces between, ensure that the tiles have enough space to expand or contract without placing any stress on the tiles adjacent to them or on the overall space. This goes a long way in durability and longevity.


How will laying tiles without spacers affect the aesthetics of your space?

Installing tiles with very narrow joints will enhance the visual effect and aesthetics of the space, creating a beautiful, decorative, uniform lining. This type of tile-laying is recommended for large tiles when a monolithic, undifferentiated surface of a wall or floor is to be achieved.

Very narrow joints can make larger tiles look way better. While it is believed that the use of spacers will make the floor lose its aesthetic appeal, the truth is that spacers make the flooring look much better and make them easier to maintain. When used with tiles that mimic wood floors, spacers, and grout lines can make the overall design look even more realistic.

Let’s look at all the advantages of tile spacers at a glance-

  • They are inexpensive tools that increase the aesthetic appeal, durability, and longevity of a tile installation.

  • They also reduce the costs and time taken in the actual installation process.

  • They save time during installation.

  • They help with the alignment of the tiles.

  • They prevent the breakage of tiles.

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