How to Choose the Best Tile Trowel for Easier Floor Tiles Installation

One of the essential tools for installing floor tiles is the tile trowel. Though it is a beneficial tool that makes tiling projects easier, better and faster, it is among the most underrated tiling tools.

The quality of the trowel you use when laying your floor tiles determines the overall outcome of your project. Whether you are undertaking a large tiling project or want to do some minor renovation works, you must choose the suitable tile trowel to make the best out of your installation efforts. Without a versatile, well-functioning tile trowel, you might have issues spreading your adhesive compounds in your tiling project. Tile trowel also allows you to easily apply mortar, thin-set, or grout at different phases of your installation process. 

If you are a professional tile installer, I already believe you have learned how to install your floor or bathroom tiles to bring out glamour and excellence. I also expect you to have mastered how to measure the size of a tile trowel, how much adhesive a trowel will leave under the floor tiles, and which shape of tile trowel to use. You should already have known the difference between using a u-notched or a square notched trowel and how best to use your tile trowel to achieve the best tiling result. 

The only thing remaining is to choose the correct tile trowel to help you lay your floor tiles perfectly without complications. In this article, I will explain to you which is the best size of the trowel to use, how can you calculate the warpage (cupping), in other words, how flat your tile is, do the proper visual inspection, and some valuable tips to get a successful tiling placement job!


Determining which trowel size is correct for your floor tiles placement depends on the tile itself and the substrate. More accurately, it depends on the flat floor tiles and substrate. The less flat the tile is, the more adhesive you need beneath it, which means a larger trowel size.

First, you must know how much adhesive you want beneath the floor tiles in the finished placement. A finished placement requires a minimum of 2mm beneath the finished placement; aiming for a 3mm minimum makes it easier to calculate the proper tile trowel size.

There are two basic ways to determine which trowel size to use: calculating the warpage (cupping) of the tile and substrate or visual inspection. Learn more how to choose a tile trowel.


Cupping of the floor tiles means the amount of variation from the plane. It would be the same to say the flatness of your floor tiles. Figure this out by placing the tile face-to-face and squeezing one corner. If the tile is cupped, the opposite corner will not be face-to-face; it will spread apart. Measure the amount of space between the faces of the floor tiles on the opposite corner, then divide that number in half. That is the amount of cupping in the tile.

If squeezing the tile in this manner produces a 6mm space between the tiles in the opposite corner, the tile is cupped by 3mm. You must add this amount to the minimum adhesive amount you want beneath the tile to get proper adhesive!

Suppose you want a minimum 3mm bed of adhesive beneath the floor tiles cupped by 3mm. In that case, you must use a trowel that will leave a 6mm bed of adhesive beneath the finished placement. A 12mm square-notched trowel will accomplish the proper coverage in that instance. If you want to know more in detail about cupping of the floor tiles visit:


Visual inspection is simply fully embedding the tile into the adhesive bed, then removing it and looking at both the substrate and the back of the tile to determine whether you have proper coverage.

These floor tiles were pushed down only about halfway into the adhesive bed. Notice the 12mm square notched bed on the left side has the most coverage, with the 8mm square notch in a close second. The u-notch center has an even range, but you need a larger gap to get the same coverage.

When you calculate the amount of cupping in the floor tile to determine the adequately sized trowel, you still need to visually inspect the coverage to ensure you use the proper size of trowel!


Above and beyond using the proper method to get adequate coverage for a successful placement, your personal preference will help determine which specific tile trowel you use for different types of placement.

As a rule, the larger the tile, the larger the trowel; it is always better to use a larger trowel than you might need for the placement. A little extra adhesive beneath a tile is entirely acceptable; not enough adhesive beneath the floor tiles is improper.

U-notched vs. square-notched is a personal preference. While obtaining complete coverage with a U-notched is easier, you must also use a larger trowel to achieve the same bed thickness beneath the placed tile. That is sometimes difficult with vertical placements. It is easier to keep a steep ridge on a wall with a smaller square-notched than with a larger U-notched.

U-notched trowels make it easier to keep adhesive from the grout lines as you embed the tile. There is more space between the half-moon ridges with a U-notched than square-notched ones. That makes it easier to have the tile drop into the bed with the edge over an open area between the ridges than over the top of a vertical ridge. Since the adhesive spreads out rather than folding over first, it is less likely that adhesive will fill the grout line as you embed the tile.

Final Words

Choosing the proper tile trowel is essential to have a smooth spread of your adhesive compound, mortar, thin-set, and grout, which determines the overall beauty of your flooring. Make sure you consider the above tips when purchasing your tile trowel.