DIY & Advice
Working Safely With Tiles
Your safety is our number one concern, so let's take 5 to run through how to work safely with tiles.
General Safety With Tiles
Remember, if you’re demolishing tiles, we need to ensure your safety and also that of your family, you don’t want silica dust flying around the house.
For an at-home DIYer - let’s keep it simple; wear a silica safe mask at all times and add the safety tips for an event-free DIY.
Wear the appropriate Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE), it needs to comply with the standard AS/NZS 1716 – Respiratory protective devices. Check the product information to make sure RPE is AS/ NZS 1716 compliant.
When using any powered cutting or grinding equipment, always use appropriate hearing protection.
Whether you are cutting tiles with score and snap, wet saw, electric grinder or tile nippers, always wear appropriate safety glasses. Sharp pieces of tile and stone, even very small ones, are better kept away from your eyes.
When cutting tiles or working with adhesives, it is always advisable to wear protective gloves, steel-capped boots, protective workwear such as long pants and a long sleeve shirt.
Bending and Lifting
Remember that tile boxes can be heavy. Bend your knees and lift carefully. Get help if you need it, especially with large format tiles! Don't try to lift large format tiles by yourself - ever.
What Is Silica?
Many common building materials contain silica. Silica is a natural element that makes up 59% of the earth’s crust and is the main ingredient in the vast majority of natural stones such as granite, slate and sandstone as well as in sand and soil and clay.
Because they are made from natural materials, silica is found in natural stone, engineered stone, bricks, tiles, glass, mortar, cement, concrete slabs and blocks in varying amounts. There are different forms of silica but crystalline silica can cause serious health problems if the dust is inhaled or swallowed.
The amount of crystalline silica in products can vary. Indicative examples include:
- ceramic tiles: 5% to 45%
- engineered stone: 80% to 95%
- Sandstone: 70% to 90%
- Granite: 25% to 60%
- Slate: 20% to 40%
- autoclaved aerated concrete: 20% to 40%
- concrete: less than 30%
- brick: 5% to 15%
Crystalline silica dust can be harmful when it's inhaled over a long period of time at low to moderate levels, or for short periods at high levels. Silica is safe but if you create dust by cutting, drilling or grinding materials that contain silica (and also during the crushing or demolition and disposal of these products), breathing the dust can cause silicosis, a form of occupational lung disease caused by inhalation of crystalline silica dust causing inflammation and scarring in the lungs. Breathing amounts of silica dust above recommended levels can also cause emphysema and bronchitis and even lung cancer or kidney disease.
Silica dust particles are much smaller than normal dust (some so small they may not be seen). They can get deep into your lungs and stay there, permanently damaging the lung tissue and eventually leading to serious lung diseases in some people.
Our Hot Tip: For your health and safety, if you are working with tiles and cutting them in any way, you must wear a safety mask (grab one from your local hardware store). If you are removing an old tile floor, you must wear a silica safe mask.