So, you've got the tiles up on the wall or down on the floor - good job! Nearly there now, but it's important to consider sealing and finishing the tiles if you want your finished job to look clean and professional.
Do I Need To Seal My Tiles?
Not all tiles need sealing, but porous ones do. This will include natural stone tiles, and unglazed ceramic tiles. If you're not sure whether your tiles are porous or not, apply a wet sponge to one and press down for a few seconds - if it leaves a dark mark, the tile is porous and will need sealing.
What Type of Tile Sealer Should I Use?
Petroleum based tile sealers are best for ceramic tiles. Water based sealants should only be used for natural stone tiles.
How to Seal Tiles
Porous tiles should be sealed before grouting, otherwise the grouting will leak into the tiles and spoil the finish, and it'll be next to impossible to clean up and remove.
Start by decanting a small amount of tile sealant into a smaller bottle. Using a squeegee, start in one corner and work one tile at a time, applying the sealant and quickly spreading it evenly across each tile.
Don't take too long over this, otherwise the sealant will start to dry as you're working, highlighting any imperfections as you go.
Leave the sealed tiled surface for 24 hours, and then grout. You may wish to apply another coat of sealant after grouting if you are looking for a higher level of finish.
How to Finish or Edge Tiles
All your hard work will have been in vain if your tiled surfaces look rough or unfinished at the edges, or sideways on. There are two main ways to finish a tiled area:
1. Caulk the Tile Edges
This is the fastest, easiest and cheapest option, but is best suited to tiles with edges which already look relatively finished. Simply apply a thick line of caulk and leave to set; this will give you an even, watertight seal.
2. Buy Round Edge Tile Trim
Tile trim comes in a huge variety of colours and materials, so you can choose a finish which matches your tiles, or which contrasts with them, as you prefer.
Round edge or bull nose trim is easy to fit under the final row of tiles, and gives a sleek and professional appearance to your tiling job.
If neither of the above options appeal to you, there is a third method, but this takes a lot of skill - you could custom make your own rounded edge tiles by grinding, sanding and polishing a sufficient number of them. If you've hired a professional tile installer, they may be able to do this for you; if you're a DIY-er, however, it's usually more trouble than it's worth. Caulked tiles or bought edging looks neat and smart, and is a terrific way to finish and show off your tiling.