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I am working on tiling a small bathroom with vinyl floor tiles. As I was measuring to ensure there are no unusual pieces in the corners and thresholds, I decided to check for an application to help with the layout. Surprisingly I couldn't find anything. It seems that I should be able to draw out the room dimensions and simply drag around a representation of the finished floor until I'm satisfied. Maybe I'm over complicating the floor layout but this would greatly reduce the trial-and-error of layout. Barring any sort of application, I've watched YouTube videos about snapping lines at the center of the room but, again, this relies on trial-and-error. Is there a method that doesn't rely on experimentation?

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    If you really want to plan to this level, just draw the room on graph paper. Draw a tile layout, one tile larger than the room, to scale, on tracing paper. Overlay the tile drawing on the room drawing and slide it around until you find a good starting point. It's not an app, of course, but sometimes the simple approach is all you need. – J... Apr 29 at 17:02
  • @J... And if the individual tiles are square (most are, but not all) then you can draw the room on plain paper using a scale matching a piece of graph paper. And then overlay with the graph paper - i.e., no need to draw "tile layout". – manassehkatz-Reinstate Monica Apr 30 at 18:24
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Software would be nice, but setting up your room diagram is probably more work than just trying your layout in reality. Plus, there's no substitute for actually seeing it in place.

I usually do this:

  1. Lay a row of tiles down the center of the long axis of the room. Don't forget to space them as you intend to do with the final floor.
  2. At key locations, run perpendicular rows of full tiles as far as they fit.
  3. Fill in any other areas as needed to evaluate the layout.
  4. If problems appear, shift the original row half a tile, so that the edge of the row aligns with the room's centerline instead. Also shift lengthwise as needed to reduce narrow tiles.
  5. Analyze the layout again, and shift further as needed.

Once you find a satisfactory layout, be sure to look at it from adjacent rooms. If all is good, mark the key axis locations on the subfloor, and take dimension notes as a backup.

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    you'll also find out things like if your walls are truly square, which might get missed by software – Joe Apr 29 at 16:27
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    To elaborate on Joe's comment, you'll find out that your walls are not square, because I'm convinced that no house in existence has truly square walls. :) – Martha Apr 29 at 18:22
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    And by how much your walls aren't straight. :D – Shauna Apr 29 at 21:16
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    If you find your walls are extremely not-square, consider rotating your layout 45 degrees. This makes it more difficult for people to see how out-of-square the room is, because a wall that's a degree or two out of whack results in that last row of tiles having obviously not-parallel sides, while it's far more difficult to tell that a 43 or 47 degree angle is used in the diagonal case. – Monty Harder Apr 29 at 21:18
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    Laying tile can be more an art than a science, so it's no surprise that technology can't help you much. What is mathematically sound is not necessarily aesthetically pleasing. There is no substitute for mocking up your layout and then standing back and looking at it to see if it works. – Mohair Apr 29 at 23:09
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I agree completely with isherwood, especially on a smaller job like a bathroom, but I wanted to add my recent experience with my recent, fairly complicated, tile layout. It required some pre-planning before we could even start to dry-fit the tiles. There were a few factors that caused the need to plan:

  • A very large area with lots of transitions and corners (front hallway, wrapping around to a bathroom, leading into a kitchen with an island)
  • A complicated pattern, using two different size tiles, that we needed to see how it would look in all of the spaces
  • Large format tiles - we wanted to avoid any areas where we would have slivers of tile in highly noticible spaces. Also being so heavy meant it wasn't too easy to handle them so dry fitting wasn't as easy as with smaller tiles.
  • We had gotten the tile on clearance, and we didn't have a lot of extra to work with, so we needed to be sure we wouldn't get to the end and be short on material that we would have to special-order.

I looked and looked for some sort of tile software, but found nothing that would work for me. I ended up using Microsoft Visio - mostly because I already had it. You could use any similar vector graphics drawing program such as Inkscape, Google Drawings, LibreOffice Draw, etc.

Layers

I created a few layers in the software to work with the layout:

  1. Boundaries: Walls, cabinets, transition to carpet, etc. I measured these as closely as I could to get a good outer shape for where I was going to be putting tile. The goal was to see how tile would need to be cut or fit when it hit an edge.
  2. Repeating Tile Layout: I took the size of the tile and added the grout width to each dimension and created my pattern. Then I copied and pasted the pattern a bunch of times until I knew it would be enough to cover the boundaries in the first layer.
  3. (optional) Alternative tile layouts: different patterns, grout size, etc.

Play with the Pattern

Then I just spent time playing with the layout to see where the grout lines ended up, where full size tiles were, what the edges look like, etc. You can slide the whole pattern around on top of the boundaries to see how they will look. I would show the layout to family and friends to see if they noticed anything that I may have missed. I would look at the layout a day later to see if I had missed anything. I could also count each of the sized tiles to know if I was going to have enough.

While tiling

Finally, I made printouts to use when I was doing the tiling, mostly because the irregular pattern was hard to keep track of without a guide (especially if I was tired!). I would mark them off as I laid them. I definitely ran into some spots where my measurements were a little off, or the walls not as square as I drew, but it was close enough to give me an idea that the layout would work.

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