30 MUST HAVE tools to set tile

This post is the ultimate list of 30 MUST HAVE tools you need to set tile. Every tool you need and nothing you don’t! I spent a lot of time running to the hardware store when I needed something so you don't have to.

30 Must have tools to set tile
30 Must have tools to set tile

If you’re getting ready to take on a tile project or just looking for some new tools to add to your arsenal to help make this job easier you’ve come to the right place. In this blog I’m going to highlight must have tools to help you set tile like a true professional.

Tile can be an all-encompassing job. I personally do not work for a builder or general contractor and work directly with the clients. That means I provide demo services, framing, prepping, waterproofing and installing tile. For the sake of not listing every single tool you can purchase at your local Home Depot or Lowes, I’m going to concentrate solely on the tile installation process and tools that I don’t leave home without.

We will start with some of the more obvious must have essentials and then venture into the tools that make your life easier but not necessary to complete your tile install. The tools in your first list are must haves if you are tiling a backsplash, floors, a shower or a feature wall. If you are missing any of these tools you are going to have a tough time completing the job to an acceptable standard. Let’s get to the list.

1. Mixing drill

a. It’s important to have a dedicated mixing drill like this one that you can purchase from amazon and have it shipped right to your front door.

We use the mixing drill to mix up thin set mortars (the adhesive we use to set the tile) self-leveling underlayment’s and sometimes even grout.

2. Mixing paddle

The mixing paddle attaches to your mixing drill which will allow you to mix your thin set, SLU (Self leveling underlayment), or grout. They come in a variety of sizes for different things but for tile you will mostly be using the large one (linked above) for mixing thin set.

3. 5-gallon buckets

These are a must have, you will need them to mix your thin set in, fill with water for cleaning your newly installed tile and so much more. I usually have three or four on site at a time. You can grab them at your local hardware store but I linked them here in case you would rather order online.

4. Sponges

a. These are essential for keeping you and your tile installation clean. I prefer to clean as I go so that way when I come back the next day the clean up of the dried thin set goes much more quickly. I usually have a few with me on site. Additionally, this is something that I always replace they tend to break down from the thin set and will need to constantly be refreshed. You can also buy these at your local hardware store but Amazon has a great deal on a large pack.

5. Tape Measure

This is kind of an obvious one, you will need a tape measure to figure out your layout, measure cuts for you tile etc. I like the tape measure with a good self lock because I am usually looking for measurements within 1/16th of an inch in tight spaces and need something that will stay out so I can pull an accurate measurement. There are so many to choose from on the market, I just linked the brand I like best.

6. Marking tool

Used for marking your cuts or planning your tile layout, you can get away with a pencil but sometimes if you are using a wet saw the mark will come right off. I suggest using a dedicated marking tool or this Milwaukee sharpie marker as it will resist being washed away by water. Marker cleans pretty easily off most tile. I like to buy a milti- pack because I easily lose one a day.

P.S. Be careful with natural stone and any tile that has a lot of texture. You can use Bar keepers friend to clean off any stubborn marks or scuffs from tile.

7. Levels

Your going to need more than just one, I recommend having a 12”, 24”, 36”, 48” and 60” level for various tile sizes and space sizes. One thing about tile installation is that it is required to be flat (you can’t always achieve plumb and level) and using these levels as you go will help you keep the tiles flat which will decrease your tile lippage. The levels will also help you to keep your grout joints level when tiling a vertical substrate such as a wall. This is very important as you don’t want your installation to be leaning one way or the other. This is a good kit to get you started.

8. Margin Trowel

The margin trowel is the notched trowels little brother, since it’s smaller you can use it to remove mortar from your bucket and apply to your substrate or to the back of the tile before you back butter. It is an all time must have in your tools for setting tile, I use it all the time.

9. Notched Trowel

This is the tool that you will be using a majority of the time while setting your tile. The notches on the trowel controls the amount of thin set mortar that goes down on your substrate. I recommend getting a set to get started as you will need multiple notched trowels deepening on the tile size.

10. Tile Spacers

Use tile spacers between your tiles to ensure you have the same size and consistent grout joints. The joint will later be filled with grout. I prefer horse shoe spacers like these, but make sure you are buying the correct thickness for your desired grout joint size. You will likely need to buy these often depending on the tile installation design. I linked 1/16th as that is the most common as of late)

11. Utility knife

A utility knife is a MUST HAVE tool for many jobs but comes especially handy in setting tile. From opening bags of thin set, to adjusting tile, even cleaning grout joints. There are so many ways to use a utility knife. I am a big fan of the Lennox brand and their blades. Feel free to use the one of your choice. I linked the knife and the blades for you. These are also sold at Lowes.

12. Gloves

A box of nitrile gloves will help save the skin on your hand from becoming dried out. You can grab some at Home Depot or Lowes in common sizes. If you have small hands and need small gloves, I linked the brand I buy. NOTE: These are Xsmall gloves. There are a wide variety of small, medium and large available but these are the only xsmall nitrile gloves I have found.

13. Wet Tile Saw

One of the many different ways to cut tile, you can’t go wrong using a wet saw. While it may not be the fastest or most convenient way it will allow you to cut all different types of porcelain, ceramic and natural stone tile. If this is a one-off project get yourself a 7” wet saw from home depot, Lowes or harbor freight they have some wet saws that will get the job done. If you are a professional, I highly recommend the Dewalt 3600 as a staple to your inventory.

*If you need guidance on how to cut tile, check out my blog post here & my full YouTube tutorial here.

14. Diamond blade

You will need a diamond blade for your wet saw. There are many different brands available but I recommend anything from Pearl Abrasive Company, Rubi and Montolit. Make sure you’re buying the right size for your wet saw.

15. Manual Tile Cutter

A manual tile cutter is a staple of any tile setter. The manual tile cutter will do cross cuts, rip cuts and diagonal cuts on porcelain or ceramic tile. The benefit of having a manual tile cutter allows you to cut inside your work space without having to travel outside to a wet saw that must be set up and broken down. The only downside is that you cannot make intricate cuts with the manual tile cutter and you will need a grinder with a diamond blade to supplement this tool. If this is a one-off project any manual tile cutter from Home Depot or Lowes will do the job. If you want a more professional cutter, I highly recommend checking out Battipav, Montilot, or Rubi for your higher end selection.

16. 4" Grinder

You can pretty much complete any tile installation with just this tool alone and is honestly my go to when I’m on the jobsite. The 4” grinder with a manual tile cutter will allow you to complete ninety five percent of tile jobs efficiently and professionally. The only down side to this combination is that the angle grinder takes some practice getting used and perfecting you cutting skills with. The angle grinder will also cause more dust and harmful contaminants to you and your client. I recommend cutting outside with the angle grinder whenever possible and wearing proper gear.

17. Diamond blade for the angle grinder

As with the wet saw make sure your purchasing the correct size blade for your grinder, I highly recommend any blades from Pearl Abrasive, Montilot or Rubi.

18. Grout Float

You will need this important tool at the end of your installation when you grout. The grout float is used to pack the tile joints with grout and using the sharp edge to pull away any excess grout left on the face of your tile which will eliminate a difficult cleanup when you go back to wipe.

19. Diamond Drill bits

Often times you will encounter a situation where you need to make a small hole in your tile in order to fit it around an obstacle protruding form your walls or floor. These often include water supply lines, shower valves, shower heads and toilet flanges. You can purchase a set of these to make sure you always have the right size that you need on hand.


20. Knee pads

When you’re tiling a floor, you have no choice to but be on your knees. Having a quality pair of kneepads will save you the pain of kneeling on a hard surface for an extended period of time. I like the ones on the right the most but Chris (my fiancé and tiling partner really likes the ones on the left.) Both a great and its a personal preference. I linked both in the photos above. The knee pads I wear are very think and therefor don't hyperextend my ankle when I am tiling the floor which is why I like them so much.

21. Diamond Hand Pads

These diamond hand pads act much like sanding sponges however it will help you to soften the edges of a cut tile so you can leave the edge looking clean and not chipped for a professional look. They can be used on site and create little to no dust.

Okay so I know what you’re thinking! That is a lot of tools to have to purchase if you are attempting to do a DIY tile project. Its something you need to consider when taking on a project like this yourself and you don’t already have the tools available to you. Without the tools above I wouldn’t even begin to attempt to start a tile project. You may be able to get through some of the tiling but there will come a point where you will need to stop and make a trip to the local supply store to buy one of the above-mentioned items. Save yourself the hassle and make sure that you have these essential tools in hand before you mix up a bag of thin set.

The next few items I am going to share with you are not essential to complete a tile installation project but rather nice to have as they can make your job more efficient and slightly less difficult. Lets get to it.

22. Tooth brush

A soft bristle brush while not completely necessary helps you to remove thin set that may ooze out of your grout joints that your sponge just can’t get. Any toothbrush will do.

23. Pick set

These are also help for removing thin set from your grout joints when when it is wet and also the next day after it has dried.

24. Microfiber rags

Great to have to clean your hands and the tile as you go to remove any haze from your thin set. I always have a few of these with me anytime I do a tile project for easy clean up. I like to use the blue/white rags the most as I feel they are less likely to bleed color then some of the others. This can stain your grout and really mess up your install.

25. Tile leveling System

These leveling clips or spinner are misleading as they don’t “level” your tile. They are great when you are working with large tiles that may have a slight warp to them and helps to reduce lippage. They are used for fine tuning your tile installation and for helping cut down install time.

26. Cordless Variable Speed Grinder

The variable speed grinder with diamond polishing pads (see below) will replace the need for the hand pads. I recommend the hand pads for beginners and DIYers as its more cost effective. If you are ready to go all in I highly recommend an additional cordless variable speed grinder for polishing your intricate cuts.

27. Dry Diamond Polishing pads

Diamond polishing pads used on a variable speed grinder give you a professional finish above anything else. You will be able to polish any cut to look like factory smooth. This is a pack of a few grits which also comes with the felt backer.

28. Laser level

The laser level will not replace you spirit levels but it will assist you in getting your layout figured out, keeping your tile installation level in a horizontal wall application and just assist you all around during your installation. There are many brands who manufacture laser levels but we use this one from amazon and it has worked wonderfully for us plus its very cost effective. It has great battery life and is bluetooth capable.

29. Milwaukee Pack out system

I am adding this in here because keeping tools organized is so important. I like the Milwaukee pack out system because I can keep all my specialty tools together in one place ready to roll to the next site. This system is fully customizable, I linked a few cool pieces below. SORRY IN ADVANCE FOR YOU SPENDING ALL YOUR MONEY.

Rolling box: https://amzn.to/3oJDihA

Large Tool Box:https://amzn.to/3zijK8I

Heavy Duty Tray: https://amzn.to/3PPp1eU

3 Drawers: https://amzn.to/3zLXxl6

30. Tiling Apron

Last but certainly not least is a apron to tile in. Tile is wet, dusty, and dirty. Once you start you will not be able to fight the urge to wipe your hands on your clothes. I recommend a tiling apron because most thin sets are not forgiving and will not wash out of your clothes.

Well you are now equipped to complete your tile project to a professional standard. One thing to keep in mind when you are hiring a tile contractor is that they themselves have had to acquire all of these tools. Tools that break and often need replacing so when you get their estimate in your hand and your surprised by the price, just remember how much it costs to get started and the price also doesn’t include the years of experience they have acquired perfecting their craft.

Thanks for taking the time to read this blog and if there are any tools YOU think I left out let me know in the comment section below! Happy Tiling!

**this post may contain affiliate links **

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