How to Pick the Right Tile Trowel. 25 things you should know

Are you ready to embark on a DIY tiling project but confused about selecting the perfect tool? My latest blog post, ‘Tile Trowel,’ is here to end your quest for mastery. I will meticulously guide you on the ins and outs of tile trowels, helping you understand their importance in achieving the flawless and professional finish you crave.

Tile trowel:

There are three types of trowels: square-notched, U-notched, and V-notched, each suitable for different tile sizes and materials. Choosing the right trowel depends on tile size, material, and adhesive type, while proper techniques like consistent angling and comb direction contribute to a polished finish. Regular cleaning and maintenance extend the trowel’s longevity and effectiveness.

Dive into the essentials of tile trowels as we discuss various types, sizes, and techniques to achieve perfect results. We’ll simplify choosing the right trowel for your project, optimizing adhesion, and mastering professional tile installation.


Ceramic Tile Installation Trowel

A tile trowel is essential for any tiling job, ensuring proper tile adhesion, leveling, and professional-looking results. This comprehensive guide will cover the different types of tile trowels, their uses, how to choose the right one for your project, and tips for proper trowel use.

Types of Tile Trowels

– Square-Notched Trowel

A square-notched trowel is one of the most common and versatile tile trowels. It features a flat blade with a regular pattern of uniform, square notches along its edges. The square notches create even rows of adhesive when applying thinset or other tile adhesives.

This type of trowel works well for many tile sizes and materials, including ceramic, porcelain, and natural stone tiles. The size of the notches can vary, with larger notches being more appropriate for larger tiles and thicker mortar beds.

– U-Notched Trowel

The U-notched trowel has a flat blade with a pattern of U-shaped notches along its edges. These notches create a smoother, more consistent bed of adhesive, making this trowel ideal for use with glass and mosaic tiles where the adhesive may be visible.

The size and spacing of the notches can vary, and choosing the right one for your project will depend on the specific tile and adhesive being used.

– V-Notched Trowel

V-notched trowels are similar to U-notched trowels but feature a V-shaped notch instead. This type of trowel is best for smaller tiles, such as glass and mosaic tiles, or for creating a thinner adhesive bed.

Choosing the Right Tile Trowel

– Tile Size and Material

The first consideration when choosing a tile trowel is the size and material of the tiles used. Larger, heavier tiles require a larger notch and a thicker adhesive bed to ensure proper support and adhesion.

Conversely, smaller tiles and those with irregular backs, such as mosaic tiles, often require smaller notches and a thinner adhesive bed.

– Adhesive Type and Thickness

The type of adhesive being used also plays a role in determining the best trowel for your project. Thicker mortars, such as thinset, typically require a trowel with larger notches to ensure even coverage and proper adhesion.

Thin-bodied adhesives, like mastic or premixed mortar, may work better with smaller notches or a V-notch trowel for a thinner and more consistent adhesive layer.

– Surface Preparation

Before starting any tiling project, preparing the surface where the tiles will be installed is essential. This may involve leveling the substrate, applying a waterproofing membrane, or installing a cement backer board in wet areas.

Proper surface preparation ensures a better bond between the tile and adhesive and a more professional-looking finished project.

Recommendations and Tips for Tile Trowel Use

– Proper Trowel Angling

When using a tile trowel, it’s essential to maintain a consistent angle between the trowel and substrate. Holding the trowel at roughly a 45-degree angle will provide the best results, as it will create a uniform bed of adhesive with enough depth to support the tile.

– Using the Flat Side First

Especially when using a thicker adhesive, like thinset, it’s crucial to apply a “skim coat” to the tile’s back using the flat side of the trowel. This step helps to create a stronger bond between the tile and the mortar.

– Comb Direction

When spreading adhesive with a tile trowel, keeping the comb lines straight and parallel is recommended. This allows for better air release and ensures an even distribution of the adhesive under the tile.

– Proper Cleaning and Maintenance

To keep your trowel working effectively and maintain its longevity, clean it after each tiling job. Remove any excess adhesive before it dries, and store your trowel in a dry location to prevent rusting.


Choosing the right tile trowel for your project involves carefully considering the tile size, material, and adhesive type. By selecting the appropriate trowel and using the proper techniques, you’ll achieve a professional-looking finish that you and your clients can be proud of.

In addition, maintaining your tile trowel will ensure it remains a reliable tool in your kit for future projects.

Identifying the Optimal Trowel for Efficient and Precise Tiling Work

Tiling is essential to home improvement and construction projects, and using the right trowel is vital for achieving professional results. I will explore the different trowel types and sizes, their various tiling applications, and my recommendations for the best trowels for different tile types and job sizes.

Understanding Trowel Types

Three primary types of trowels are used in tiling projects: the square-notch, the U-notch, and the V-notch. Each type of trowel has unique attributes that make it suitable for different tile sizes and adhesive types.

– Square-Notch Trowels

Arguably the industry’s most versatile and widely used trowel, square-notch trowels are designed with evenly spaced, square-shaped notches on their flat surface. The notches determine the adhesive applied to the substrate and help create a consistent mortar bed.

The size of the notches also plays a crucial role in selecting the appropriate trowel for specific tile sizes and adhesive types.

– U-Notch Trowels

U-notch trowels have rounded notches that provide a more even distribution of adhesive, which is especially helpful when working with tiles with irregular backsides or mesh backing.

This trowel type is commonly used for glass and mosaic tiles, as it reduces the risk of oozing through tile grout spaces.

– V-Notch Trowels

V-notch trowels have V-shaped notches ideal for smaller tiles or when applying a thin adhesive layer. They are predominantly used for small square, subway, and mosaic tiling applications.

The V-notch trowel produces less mortar bed than the square or U-notch trowels, which can be advantageous for specific tile types.

Selecting the Best Trowel for Your Tile Type and Size

Choosing the right trowel for your project can significantly impact the installation’s final appearance, and it is essential to consider both the tile size and type before purchasing a trowel.

Here are some general guidelines for selecting the best trowel based on tile dimensions and applications:

  • For small, mosaic tiles (1×1 to 4×4): Use a V-notch trowel with a 3/16 depth.
  • For medium-sized tiles (4×4 to 8×8): A square-notch or U-notch trowel with 1/4 depth is suitable.
  • For large format tiles (8×8 and above): An 1/2 square-notch trowel is appropriate for most cases, but larger notches may be necessary for some installations.

Remember that these are general guidelines, and it is crucial to consult the tile and adhesive manufacturers’ recommendations for the specific project requirements.

My Personal Trowel Recommendations

As a tiling professional, I have tried and tested numerous trowels. Here are my top recommendations for trowels based on specific use cases:

– Best All-Purpose Trowel

I recommend the Marshalltown QLT Series Square-Notch Trowel for those seeking a versatile, general-purpose trowel. The comfortable handle and durable stainless-steel blade make this trowel suitable for most tiling tasks.

– Best Trowel for Large Format Tile

The QEP Extra Large Format Trowel is my go-to choice for large tiles. Its oversized notches and blade provide excellent coverage on large tile surfaces, ensuring proper adhesive distribution.

– Best Trowel for Mosaic and Glass Tile

I recommend the SuperiorBilt Platinum Series U-Notch Trowel for more miniature mosaic and glass tile installations. The rounded, U-shaped notches help prevent the adhesive from squeezing through the grout lines, which is crucial for a clean finish with transparent glass tiles.

– Best Budget Trowel

If you are on a tight budget, the M-D Building Products Square-Notch Trowel provides excellent value for money. The notched blade performs well in most tiling applications, and its plastic handle is easy to clean.

Final Thoughts

Choosing the best trowel for your tiling project involves carefully considering the tile type, size, and adhesive requirements. Armed with the knowledge from this comprehensive guide, you should now be better equipped to decide on the right trowel for your tile installation project.

Remember, using a quality trowel and the correct technique will significantly impact the overall appearance of your tiled surfaces, so invest in the best tools and confidently start your project.

Type of Trowel
Best for
V-Notched Trowel
3/16″ x 5/32″
Small tiles, mosaics
Square-Notched Trowel
1/4″ x 1/4″ x 1/4″
Medium-sized tiles
U-Notched Trowel
1/4″ x 3/8″ x 1/4″
Large-sized tiles
Square-Notched Trowel
1/2″ x 1/2″ x 1/2″
Large-format tiles
European Trowel
Various types and sizes of tiles

Determining the Appropriate Trowel Size for Tile Installation

Selecting the appropriate trowel size for tile installation can significantly impact the quality and longevity of the final result. The right trowel size ensures proper adhesive coverage and secure bonding between the tile and the substrate.

I will guide you in choosing the correct trowel size for various tile types and sizes, helping you achieve a professional-looking installation.

The Importance of Proper Trowel Selection

Using the wrong trowel size can lead to a variety of issues with your tile installation, including:

  • Insufficient adhesive coverage: This can result in tiles not bonding correctly to the substrate, leading to loose or cracked tiles over time.
  • Excessive adhesive use: Using too much adhesive can cause it to squeeze out from between the tiles, making grout application difficult and creating an unattractive and unprofessional finish.
  • Uneven tile installation: If the adhesive isn’t applied evenly, tiles may not sit flush with one another, leading to an uneven and unprofessional appearance.

Selecting the appropriate trowel size will help you avoid these issues and achieve a professional-looking installation that will last years.

Understanding Trowel Types and Notch Sizes

Two primary types of trowels are used in tile installation: square-notched and U-notched. The notches in the trowel determine how much adhesive is applied and distributed on the substrate. The size of the trowel’s notches is usually measured in width and depth.

– Square-Notched Trowels

Square-notched trowels have square-shaped notches in a grid-like pattern. They are typically used for installations with larger and thicker tiles, as they provide greater adhesive coverage.

– U-Notched Trowels

U-notched trowels have U-shaped notches, providing a thinner adhesive layer than square ones. They are best suited for smaller and thinner tiles.

Selecting the Right Trowel Size

To choose the correct trowel size for your tile installation, consider the following factors:

  1. Tile size and thickness: Larger and thicker tiles require a larger trowel, while smaller and thinner tiles require a smaller trowel.
  2. Substrate condition: Uneven or rough substrates may require a larger trowel to ensure sufficient adhesive coverage.
  3. Type of adhesive: Some adhesives may have specific trowel size recommendations on their packaging. Always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines.

Here are some general trowel size recommendations based on tile size and type:

– Small Tiles (Up to 2 inches)

For small tiles, such as mosaic tiles or small square tiles, a U-notched trowel with 1/8-inch by 1/8-inch notches is typically recommended. This helps ensure adequate adhesive coverage without using excessive adhesive.

– Medium Tiles (2 to 8 inches)

Like subway tiles, a U-notched or square-notched trowel with 1/4-inch by 1/4-inch notches is generally recommended for medium-sized tiles.

The choice between U and square notches depends on your preference and experience level; if you’re unsure, it’s wise to test both to see which you find easiest to work with.

– Large Tiles (8 to 16 inches)

Large tiles, such as ceramic or porcelain floor tiles, require a square-notched trowel with 1/2-inch by 1/2-inch notches. This provides adequate adhesive coverage to support the weight and size of the tiles and helps ensure a secure bond.

– Extra-Large Tiles (Over 16 inches)

For extra-large or natural stone tiles, a square-notched trowel with 3/4-inch by 3/4-inch notches is recommended to ensure proper adhesive coverage and support.

Additional Tips for Successful Tile Installation

  • Check adhesive coverage: Periodically lift a tile during installation to check the adhesive coverage on the back. You should aim for at least 80-95% coverage for a strong bond.
  • Back-butter large tiles: For large tiles, it’s often helpful to “back-butter” the tile by spreading a thin layer of adhesive on the back before setting it on the substrate. This helps ensure full adhesive coverage.
  • Use a leveling system: For installations with large-format tiles, consider using a leveling system to help prevent lippage (uneven tile edges) and achieve a professional-looking finish.

By carefully selecting the appropriate trowel size and following these tips, you can ensure a successful tile installation that looks great and stands the test of time.

What is the appropriate trowel size for installing 2-inch floor tiles?

As a seasoned professional in the tiling industry, I understand that choosing the right equipment is crucial for a successful floor tiling project. Selecting the proper trowel size for your 2-inch floor tile is an important step in this process.

In this comprehensive guide, I will share my expertise on what size trowel you should use for 2-inch floor tile, the different types available, and some helpful tips to ensure a successful installation.

Understanding Trowel Sizes

Trowel sizes are crucial for achieving the best bond between your tiles and the substrate. The correct trowel size will ensure that you have the right amount of mortar or adhesive for each tile, which helps prevent issues like uneven surfaces and loose tiles.

Trowel sizes are typically identified by two dimensions: the width of the notches and the depth of the notches. Width and depth measurements are usually given in inches or millimeters.

For instance, a trowel labeled as 1/4″ x 1/4″ means that it has notches that are 1/4-inch wide and 1/4-inch deep.

Using a V-Notch Trowel for 2 Inch Floor Tiles

My recommendation for installing 2-inch floor tiles is to use a V-notch trowel. V-notch trowels are ideal for small tiles and mosaics because their V-shaped notches effectively spread mortar while minimizing the material used. This helps ensure an even and well-bonded installation.

For 2-inch floor tiles, a V-notch trowel size 3/16″ x 3/16″ is ideal. This size will provide the right amount of mortar or adhesive to secure your tiles without creating unnecessary waste and mess.

Remember that other factors, including the type of mortar or adhesive you’re using, can still affect which trowel size you should choose. Read the manufacturer’s recommendations when selecting a trowel size for your materials.

The Importance of the Trowel Technique

Choosing the right trowel size for your 2-inch floor tile is important, but using the proper technique when applying mortar or adhesive is equally essential. Following these steps will help ensure a successful and durable installation:

  1. Apply a consistent layer of mortar: Hold your V-notch trowel at a 45-degree angle and spread the mortar across the substrate. Maintaining consistent pressure and angle will help create a uniform layer of mortar.
  2. Comb the mortar: After spreading it out, comb it with your trowel to create even rows of ridges. This will help provide a strong bond between the tile and the substrate.
  3. Apply mortar to the backs of the tiles: For 2-inch tiles, it is often recommended to “back-butter” each tile by applying a thin layer of mortar to the backs before placing them onto the combed mortar. This helps achieve better adhesion and coverage.
  4. Position and press the tiles: Place each tile onto the combed mortar, gently twisting and pressing them into place. Ensure that they are properly aligned and avoid sliding the tiles into position, which can cause mortar to lose shape and compromise adhesion.

Additional Factors to Consider

While using a 3/16″ x 3/16″ V-notch trowel for 2-inch floor tiles is a general recommendation, there are other factors that might affect your trowel size choice:

  • Tile material: The thickness and weight of the tile material can impact the trowel size needed. Larger trowel notches may be required for heavier or denser tile materials.
  • Substrate condition: If the substrate is uneven or rough, you may need a larger trowel to create a thicker mortar layer for leveling.
  • Tile layout: Consider your tile layout, especially if it includes intricate patterns or unique shapes. Some patterns may require additional mortar, which would warrant a larger trowel size.

Considering these factors, you’ll be well-equipped to select the ideal trowel size for your 2-inch floor tile project.

Conclusion: Trowel Size Matters

In conclusion, using a 3/16″ x 3/16″ V-notch trowel for 2-inch floor tiles is generally the best choice for securing a strong bond and even surface. However, consider additional factors such as tile material, substrate condition, and layout.

Using the proper trowel size, technique, and high-quality materials will help ensure a successful and durable floor tile installation.

What is the appropriate trowel size for installing 12×12 tiles?

When installing 12×12 tiles, using the correct size trowel is crucial to ensure proper adhesion and a professional-looking installation. I will discuss the types of trowels available and recommend what size you should use for your 12×12 tile installation.

Understanding Trowel Sizes and Types

Trowels come in various shapes and sizes, but the two most common types for tile installation are square-notch and U-notch. The size of the notch directly affects the amount of thin-set mortar applied to the tile’s back, with larger notches for thicker tiles and smaller notches for thinner tiles.

The size of a trowel is typically expressed in two numbers, such as 1/4″x3/8″ or 1/2″x1/2″. The first number represents the width of the notch, while the second number indicates the depth. This size determines how much mortar is spread and plays a significant role in the bond between the tile and the substrate.

Factors that Affect Trowel Size Selection

Choosing the right size trowel for your 12×12 tile installation is influenced by several factors. Here are the key considerations that you should keep in mind:

– Tile Thickness

The thickness of your 12×12 tile is essential when choosing a trowel size. Thicker tiles require more mortar to adhere properly to the substrate, so you’ll need a trowel with larger notches. Conversely, thinner tiles require less mortar and a trowel with smaller notches.

– Tile Type

The type of tile you’re working with can also impact your choice of trowel size. For example, natural stone tiles often have irregular backs and may require a larger trowel to ensure proper adhesion.

On the other hand, porcelain and ceramic tiles generally have smoother backs, allowing for a smaller trowel size.

– Substrate Flatness

The flatness of the substrate you’re installing your 12×12 tiles on significantly impacts the size of the trowel you’ll need to use. A flat and even substrate will require less mortar to achieve proper adhesion than an irregular, uneven surface.

– Tile Installation Method

There are two main methods of tile installation: the thin-set method and the back-buttering method. For the thin-set method, apply the mortar directly to the substrate and press the tile onto it.

With the back-buttering method, you’ll apply mortar to both the substrate and the tile’s back, increasing the amount needed for proper adhesion.

Recommended Trowel Sizes for 12×12 Tile

Based on the factors mentioned earlier, the following are some general recommendations for trowel sizes when installing 12×12 tiles:

– Ceramic and Porcelain Tiles

For ceramic and porcelain tiles measuring 12×12 inches with a thickness of up to 1/4 inch, a 1/4″x1/4″ square-notch or 1/4″x3/8″ U-notch trowel is recommended. This size provides sufficient mortar coverage to ensure proper adhesion and minimize the risk of lippage (unevenness between adjacent tiles).

– Natural Stone Tiles

When installing 12×12 natural stone tiles with a thickness of 3/8 inch or more, a 1/2″x1/2″ square-notch or 1/2″x1/2″ U-notch trowel will provide the additional mortar needed for a secure bond. Depending on the tile’s specific characteristics, you may also need to back-butter the tiles.

– Large Format Tiles

For large format tiles, including 12×12 tiles with a thickness greater than 1/2 inch, a 1/2″x1/2″ square-notch or 1/2″x3/4″ U-notch trowel is often recommended. Additional techniques, such as back-buttering, may be required to ensure proper adhesion and an even installation.


Choosing the right trowel size for your 12×12 installation depends on tile thickness, type, substrate flatness, and installation method. By considering these factors and following the recommendations outlined in this guide, you can achieve a professional-looking installation with proper adhesion and minimal risk of lippage.

Don’t forget to consult the tile manufacturer’s guidelines and recommendations for specific trowel size and installation best practices.

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