Most important details: You must make sure your shelves and soap dishes tilt very slightly so they will drain. This can be best accomplished with what is called a torpedo level (6" to 12" level) placed on the shelf when it is set. Also, you must have at least 1/16" grout joint between the shelf and surrounding tiles for proper grout adhesion. Shelves should not be set with tile mastic as it could discolor marble. You should always use thin set mortar.
Check your shelf for its particular application. You either have a single layer shelf or a multi layer shelf
First, install tile up to the level you want to place your shelf (for multi layer unit stop one row of tile lower). Shelves are easiest installed at a horizontal grout joint. If you are using a larger tile (13", 18"), planning the approximate level of your shelf is a bit more important and should be worked out before you begin your lay-out.
Set your shelf in place on top of tile and touching the wall (substrate) on both sides of your corner. Now mark the tile below at the end of the unit.
See Step #4, picture #2 for better understanding this step.
Now you are ready to mark the upper tile to cut around your shelf. The quickest way to accomplish this is to dab thin set on the tiles to be marked and put them in place (one side at a time).
With your shelf in place, mark your tile (be sure when you make your mark, the opposite edge of shelf is resting on the tile and touching the actual surface you are adhering the tile to. This surface is called the substrate. If you are marking the tile on the right side, the shelf should be on top of the tile on the left side and touching the wall surface (substrate).
Now mark the opposite side the same way. Make your cuts, remembering to cut rounded edges at the shelf end.
Once your cuts are made you will install your shelf and set your cut pieces in place.
- Single layer shelf ~ This shelf is designed to rest on top of the tile at the desired location (within the horizontal grout joint) and cuts are placed above.
- Multi layer shelf ~ This shelf is best installed with the shelf's lower level placed about 1/16" to 1/8" below the tile above it. With this shelf you will be cutting both lower and upper tiles to fit it in place. Cut and finish the lower tiles first. This will give you a place to rest the shelf while you mark the upper tile.
Setting your shelf ~
Here you will apply thin set, more than you need on the shelf edge.
Push the shelf into place firmly allowing excess thin set to escape until shelf is in place.
Clean up excess thin set.
Place wedges between the tile and shelf (below the shelf) to create a grout joint and also to set your level so your shelf will drain. The shelf is flat and needs very little pitch to accomplish this.
Proceed to set your other cuts. You have done it! All that is left is to grout around it when you grout your project.
Normally with a soap dish you will only be cutting one to three tiles. This can be easily figured by laying out the tile on a table and placing the soap dish on the tile to mark around the unit as a template. Make your cuts, set your cut tile all around, test that your dish fits, and let your tile dry.
Once the tile is dry (at least 6 hours), put more thin set than you need on the back of the unit and press into place firmly, allowing excess thin set to escape. You will notice a cavity in the back of the soap dish. This cavity needs to be filled with thin set as well. Clean and dry area, take a few strips of masking tape and adhere above and below dish securing the dish to the surrounding tile. The soap dish can be set level or a very slight pitch to drain. Be sure not to set dish draining towards wall or extreme pitch either direction. Let it dry 24 hours, clean and grout.