Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Installing Marble Tiles - 2 Main Challenges

Installing marble tile is much like installing any ceramic tile. But since marble is a natural stone, there are some challenges because of the natural variation in the stone. I spent quite a bit of time as a youngster visiting my aunt who lived north of Atlanta in the marble mining area of Georgia. Marble was everywhere. The county courthouse was all marble. Even my aunt's picnic table was a marble slab.

Part of the elegant look of a marble surface is the polished flat surface. Then there are the natural veins, cracks and streaks that just give every marble project character and unique looks.

Marble tile is actually a thin, flat piece of stone that varies in size from 2 inches square to 24 inches square and in thickness from 1/4 inch to 3/4 inch. The edges of marble tile are normally left sharp instead of being beveled. The flat, polished surface is produced by grinding on special machines.

It takes experience to install marble tile properly. The two most common problems with marble tile installations are cracking of tiles and lippage, variation of the height of adjoining tiles.


Cracking can occur at several points in the life of the tile, but it sometimes happens after installation. A common cause of cracking is an uneven or unstable base. Tiles that are not evenly supported over the whole bottom surface of the tile will likely crack. The natural veining of the stone is the place for cracking to start. Marble is naturally veined but should not be cracked all the way through before installation. You must inspect each tile for cracks before installation. A solid surface is important for installation of any tile but especially for marble.


Lippage is when surfaces of tiles are not even with each other. The industry standard is that lippage should not vary by more than 1/32 inch between individual tiles. It takes experience to set marble tile since over large surfaces variation in the tile surface distracts from the appearance. Tiles are manufactured to close tolerances, but heat produced during the grinding of the tile faces causes variation in the tile. To minimize the variation in the finished floor, the installer must carefully match adjoining tiles to allow for variation.

Once the base is prepared, marble tiles are installed using thinset adhesive with a joint width of 1/16 inch to 3/32 inch between tiles. The joint width can be maintained using special plastic spacers or can be adjusted just by looks.

Marble installation is challenging, but the finished surface has a look like no other.

Puzzled about tile installation? Need more information? Visit our site for tips for installing marble tile.

Al Bullington invites you to visit http://www.InstallingCeramicTile.net for free answers to your tile questions.

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