What Size Trowel To Use For Tile?

Tile trowels come in many shapes and sizes, generally starting out from a 3/16″ v-notch up to the 1/2″ square notch. Finding the right trowel for the job is quite simple when you know that, generally speaking, the trowel size should match up to the tile size – the smaller the tile, the smaller the trowel; the larger the tile, the larger the trowel.

The other main consideration is where the tiles will be set, on the floor or on the walls and ceilings. When setting tiles on the floor, the mortar bed needs to be a bit thicker to withstand the punishment of foot traffic. Another consideration is how flat your surface is. If you’re laying tile on a floor that slopes a bit, you would likely back-butter or spread out your mud-bed slightly thicker than the general guide that we’ve posted below.

3/16″ to 1/4″ V-notch = Mosaics tiles up to 4-1/2″ glazed wall tile
1/4″ x 1/4″ U or Square notch
= 4″ to 8″ tile
1/4″ x 3/8″ U or Square notch = 8″ to 16″ tiles
1/2″ x 1/2″ U or Square notch = 16″ and larger

What’s the difference between v, u, square, and slanted notches?

The major difference is the concentration level of thinset that’s applied. For example:

What size trowel should I use
When you take a closer look at the 1/4″ v-notch and the 1/4″ square-notch, you’ll quickly notice that the v-shape will spread less thinset than the same-sized square-notch. The U-notch spreads out more than the v-notch but less than the square-notch. Many tile installers like to use the U-notch who prefer to spread out their wall tile thinset out a little on the heavy-side, or for those that like to spread out their floor tile thinset a bit on the light-side.

The difference in the amount of thinset spread out between the square-notch and the slanted-notch is not significant. The major difference is how the thinset lies. The slanted-notch will leave rows of thinset that will “flop” over each other which tends to give better tile adhesion.