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How To Tile Around Obstructions Like Pipes


Tiling can be fairly straightforward for DIY-ers but anyone would be forgiven for struggling when tiling around obstructions and unusual shapes on walls and floors.

In fact, anything that isn’t straight to tile around, such as pipes and light fittings on walls, can cause an issue at first and disrupt your tiling flow. However, it is doable with the right tools and skills and the results of tiling correctly around obstructions will be better than splicing or filling around the gap with grout.

Before you start your tiling project, perhaps in your kitchen or bathroom, read our guide and consider our helpful tips and advice.

If you’re still in the research stage of shopping for tiles, be sure to view our incredible range and when you’re ready, shop our tools and grouts for installation.

What you’ll need to tile around obstructions:

  • Steel rule
  • Chinagraph pencil or non-stain pen
  • Tile cutting machine
  • Score/snapper tool
  • Set square
  • Tile scorer
  • Hole saw

When you plan your tiling, make sure you take note of every single pipe in the room and their positions. Measure across the room, both horizontally and vertically, to see how many tiles you’ll be applying before you reach your pipe.

With any luck, you’ll find that your pipe sits roughly in the centre of a tile but what’s more likely is that it’ll be uncomfortably positioned off-centre.

pipes within white tiles

Before you begin: tile towards the pipe

Firstly, you’ll need to tile up until the point you reach your pipe.

Remove every fitting you can possibly remove to make tiling far easier. If you’re tiling from one side of a room to another, you’ll reach the pipe likely from either one side or from below the pipe.

As mentioned, with any luck, your pipe will fall in a convenient area of your tile somewhere close to its centre.

If your kitchen or bathroom has been setup according to conventional measurements, or if you’re re-tiling a professionally fitted bathroom then it’ll be much more likely that your pipe will fall in a convenient location.

Method 1: With a drill

If your pipe intersects a tile somewhere off-centre othen you’ll need to drill a hole straight through the tile.

To do this, it’s easiest to use a drill. Make sure to use a special tile drill-bit that won’t shatter or destroy your brand new tiles. Be sure to keep the tile wet and drill slowly to help prevent this occurring.

Step 1: Measure up your tile

To measure up your tile for cutting, you’ll need to overlay your tile onto a neighbouring tile, lining them up perfectly. From this position, you’ll be able to imagine your tile ‘sliding’ into the gap over the pipe.

Once your tile is lined up against the pipe, use a rule to create two marks either side of the pipe. Now, remove your tile and extend these lines so they cross the entire tile.

Rotate the tile to mark up the point at which the pipe will intersect from the other angle, or side. Repeat the process and you should have two sets of two lines on the tile, intersecting to form a square.

From this point, you’ll be able to visualise if your square is appropriately positioned to accommodate your pipe.

Within this square, you can cut a circular hole with your tile drill-bit with a diameter that either matches your pipe or is slightly larger. If the diameter of the drill bit matches, you’ll need to file it down to make some extra room as you’ll need to fill around the pipe or add special spacers.

TIP: If you are unable to ‘slide’ your holed tile into place over the tile fitting, you will have to cut it into two halves to then clasp and encircle the pipe. Use a score to dissect the tile along the middle of the tile.

Method 2: Without a drill

If you don’t own a drill or don’t need or want to use one – say if your pipe intersects your tile perfectly down its centre – then you can score your tile to fit it around the pipe.

Step 1: Mark up your tile

As in Method 1, you’ll need to project lines from either side of the pipe onto the tile you’re fitting. Place the tile up against the pipe and make a pair of lines either side of the pipe; repeat this on the other side and if you’ve done it properly, your two pairs of lines will intersect as indicated by a square.

In your mind’s eye, you’ll hopefully be able to visualise sliding this tile into place in such a way that the pipe emerges through your square.

Now, take an offcut pipe of the same diameter and draw a hole in the middle of the square. This is where the pipe will emerge.

Without a drill you’ll need to split the tile so we can cut semi-circles in either side using a hand-saw. Score and break the tile directly in two at a point which directly intersects the circle. Cut out each semi-circle carefully with your hand-operated tile saw.

If you’ve done it successfully, you can place each half around the pipe, sealing it in the middle.

Need more free information on how to tile walls and floors? Click here to learn how

How we can help

For DIY advice using any of our tile ranges for your home renovation, feel free to contact us at any time. We’re available on email, phone and of course you can pop into one of our local stores to browse our product ranges and speak to a tile specialist in person.


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