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Tile Leveling Systems: Installing Large Format Tile

In recent years, people have been turning more and more to large format tile to modernize their kitchens and bathrooms. Large format tile (LFT) is any floor or wall tile where one side measures larger than 15″. While some people install tile with a natural stone look, others will go with ceramic tile made to imitate the look of wood planks. Regardless of your choice, large format tile can go a long way towards updating the look of your home. Installing LFT, however, can present its own set of challenges. Large format tile is more prone to “lippage” – some tiles being higher than others at a given point. Besides ensuring a smooth and level subfloor, one of the best ways to prevent this is using one of the many tile leveling systems on the market today. They’re inexpensive, partially reusable, and easy to use.

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Why does large format tile need leveling?

Well, the short answer is, it might not. If your subfloor is completely level and all of your tiles are perfectly flat, you might be good to go. The odds of those two things being true, however, are slim to none. The main reason LFT is prone to lippage is becuase tiles tend to not be uniform out of the box. While smaller tiles can overcome this and minor imperfections in the substrate, larger tiles will exaggerate such issues. This is also why it is recommended that the offset on large format tiles doesn’t exceed 1/3rd of the adjacent tile. Tile leveling systems can’t change the condition of the substrate or tiles, and they can’t force proper installation. They can, however, help reduce lippage by aligning the edges of your tiles.

Tile leveling systems use spacers beneath adjoining tiles with force applied on top of the tiles to adjoin the edges. Here are the two primary types of tile leveling systems.

Wedge-Based Systems


Via Lev-Tec Systems

Wedge-based tile leveling systems utilize a spacer, plate, and plastic wedge to align the edges of your tiles. One popular brand is Lev-Tec, though there are several brands that utilize the same type of system. These systems generally necessitate the use of a specialized pair of pliers to fully insert the wedge into the spacer. After the thinset has dried and the tile has set, the installer can either kick the brackets or use a rubber mallet to break them at the tile joint. These spacers remain in the thinset, and are grouted over to complete the tile job.

Spindle-Based Systems


Via Spin Doctor

Tile leveling systems like Spin-Doctor or Ridgid LevelMax are similar to wedge-based systems in that the installer places a spacer under adjoining tiles. These spacers, however, include a vertical screw or spindle that rises between the joint. A cap is then tightened down on the threaded screw, aligning the edges of the tile. Just like the wedge systems, these can be kicked loose after the tile sets and the thinset dries.

Tile Leveling Systems: Installing Large Format Tile

Tile leveling systems make wall and floor tiling an even easier DIY project than it was before. If tile installation seems a little too daunting, however, no worries. Just hail a ProMaster “Home Repair Hero” today! We would love to complete your tile project in a beautiful and professional way. You can schedule online, use the “Reach Out” form at the bottom of this page, or call 513-322-2914.

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