All you need to know about dry laying natural stone tiles


If you are laying tiles in natural stone and are tempted to skip the dry lay phase, we would strongly suggest you think again. It is fundamental to ensuring the quality of your installation as well as delivering a final aesthetic that meets expectations. 

Learn all you need to know about dry laying natural stone tiles and bost all your projects

What exactly is a dry lay?

As the name suggests, it means that you lay the tiles out before they are glued, so that you can optimise the positioning of certain tiles next to each other, or check the overall pattern. You could call it a dummy run or a rehearsal. It’s your last chance to spot any defects either in the quality of the tiles, the layout or your calculations and while it is a key step for any kind of tile, whether that be ceramic or stone, it is particularly important for the latter. 

The reason for this is that stone is a natural material and every quarry, block and slab contains unique characteristics, meaning that the tiles will also differ in terms of tonality and veining. The trick is to understand how to combine them to create a more gradual, cohesive effect and there is no better way to do this than via a dry lay. Master layers know how to select the right tile and find that winning combination that will deliver a harmonious result, whereas a random approach is not always pleasing on the eye. 

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The great advantage of a dry lay is its flexibility and the freedom it allows a tiler to identify any potential errors and correct them while there is no glue or grout involved. This is the perfect moment to experiment to find the most pleasing combination of tonality and veining to bring out the best in the material itself, whilst also ensuring that the laying pattern and any calculations regarding dimensions are correct.  

What you are looking to create is a harmonious, gradual overall look so if, for any reason, you are not able to carry out a dry lay, we recommend that for each small area you are tiling, you use tiles from different boxes as this will help avoid concentrated tonal “blocks which can have a jarring effect. 

Another alternative is to select the Salvatori dry lay service and one of our expert layers will number the tiles so that you essentially have a template of how to lay them to create the perfect aesthetic for your particular project. There’s another advantage to this service as it means you have a preview in photographic form of the final effect, and this can be extremely useful to show to a client in advance.