You received your much-anticipated order of Moroccan zellige! Congratulations. You might be tempted to start the installation right away, but please pause and read on. Here are a few steps to take before you dive in and make this tile a permanent fixture in your space.
First things first, keep your tessellated beauties safe. Wherever you’re storing your zellige tiles prior to installation, make sure to keep them far away from any construction zones. Zellige tiles are made by hand using natural materials, which means they can be fragile. You definitely don’t want to damage your tiles before you get the chance to lay them.
Because zellige tiles are handcrafted by artisans, each piece is unique. The imperfections and variations throughout each batch of tile are precisely why these clay beauties are so coveted! Zellige tiles are the opposite of a mass-manufactured, cookie-cutter product. You should expect your order to include chips and pits – zellige is called “old world” for a reason. Up to 15% of the tile may need to be weeded out, so please order a 20% overage if you desire a more uniform look. Remember, blemishes are beautiful! It will be instantly apparent that your tiles are handmade. That’s pretty special, if you ask us!
Wait! Don’t start laying your tile straight out of the box. It’s crucial to combine tile from multiple boxes to get the balanced, dynamic, eclectic look zellige tiles are praised for. Make sure to tell your installer not to start with one box, but to open every box and strategically mix and match.
Once you’ve opened all your boxes of tile and set aside the unwanted pieces, it’s time to make a plan. To ensure you get the look you desire, we recommend laying out your tiles before starting the installation process. You’ll get a full preview of your surface prior to permanently laying the tiles. It’s a win-win!
Now that you’ve gone through your tiles and prepared your layout, you’re ready to start the install process. Make sure you hire an installer who is experienced working specifically with zellige. These magic materials require special attention to detail.
Always have your surface leveled by a professional before laying any thinset. While zellige is already famous for its nonuniform look, an uneven surface is not suitable for these clay-based tiles.
Speaking of clay, it’s normal for your zellige tiles to arrive covered in dust. These organic materials are shipped all the way from Morocco, and some debris is natural. Soak your tiles in water for 1-2 minutes to remove dust and residue from the surface of your tiles. If you ordered unglazed zellige tile, skip this step!
It’s almost time to start laying your tiles, but not yet! First, spread a layer of thinset on your surface. Next, butter the back of each tile with thinset. But wait! Before you start laying tiles…
Get to know wedge spacers. These handy tools will help align your tiles, since zellige has so much textural variation. The traditional method of laying 4×4 zellige involved placing them edge-to-edge, then grouting the small crevices between the tiles. If you prefer to have more visible grout lines, go with 1/16th inch grout spacers.
Tackling edges and corners in your home? Zellige tiles can be easily cut with a traditional tile cutter and snapped apart. Easy-peasy! We recommend eliminating the need for trim by laying your tiles wall-to-wall or ceiling-to-floor. However, if you have an exposed edge, don’t fret. We recommend mitering the tile. The tile edges should be cut at a 45-degree angle to form a corner. This will mimic the look of a finished trim piece, so there’s no need for trim! Your installer should be familiar with this technique. If your install does require trim, we recommend Schluter strips from www.schluter.com.
After your thinset has cured for 24-48 hours , it’s finally time to grout! Unless you have unglazed zellige, in which case you should seal your tiles with 511 porous plus sealer and let them dry for an additional 24-48 hours. The beauty of grout is that it will instantly fill uneven edges and chips, for a more uniform look. Spread your grout with a rubber spatula and match your grout as close to the tile color as possible. Grout can work wonders when blending your perfectly imperfect tiles! We recommend matching grout color as closely as possible to the color of your zellige to properly blend the pits and chips.
After your grout has cured for another 24-48 hours, you can decide to seal (or not to seal) the area based on your unique project. If you’re installing your zellige in a pool, shower, fountain, spa, or another moisture-heavy area, we recommend using a thin coat of the 511 Porous Plus Sealer. For unglazed zellige in a shower, go with FILA Matte Wax instead.
Remember, your zellige installation is 100% unique – and that’s what we love about these Moroccan marvels! Don’t forget:
-Embrace the normal pits and chips that make zellige one-of-a-kind
-Order 15-20% extra tile so you can curate your tile
-Make a plan by laying out your tiles prior to installation
-Always mix tiles from different boxes
-Make sure your contractor completes each installation step