You can’t run from a shadow but you can invite it to dance….

A round of applause for the shiny Notched Trowel that takes centre stage slanting the light rays, deserving a post of it’s own

Yep, I’d never heard of a Notched Trowel either until I started my patio laying journey – And then I was bombarded by all shapes and intricacies!

What’s a notched trowel?

To nurture your curiosity, a notched trowel (not ‘towel’, easy to typo and not nearly as soft or cosy) is a rectangular, metal hand trowel used for putting cement onto both tiles and the surface where the tiles will be placed, in order to lay e.g. a patio or bathroom tiles.

It has a series of square-shaped grooves cut out of 2 of the 4 rectangular sides….  The idea being that when you put adhesive on the back of a tile and then run the trowel over it, defined, square-shaped grooves are created.


Then you are supposed to push the tile onto the attaching  surface and massage it around to get a good stick whereby the grooves re-fill with adhesive mixed from both surfaces to form a continuous,  gap-free contact (whoops, bit of a long sentence!).

i.e. Maximum part of the tile and surface are in contact, with minimal air gaps that might subsequently create a weakness and lead to tile cracking or implosion.


Described almost ubiquitously as being the essential tiling tool…. I figured I’d be missing out if I didn’t invest!

Available in in different sizes with different-size square-shaped grooves (Confused? Yep I was!) – The thicker the tile, the thicker the adhesive required, the wider the groove required.  Got it?  Took me a few attempts to get used to this – Must have tried most of the Screwfix range!


For a bathroom with small tiles and a thick layer of adhesive on the surface, with a need for extra care waterproofing, I realise that a knotched trowel might be helpful….

Though in my opinion, I rapidly discovered that, aside from admiring its beauty, for laying a patio I’m not convinced it’s essential.  To be able to use the trowel ‘properly’ means you have to put a very thick layer of adhesive all over the ground and all over the back of the tile – So thick e.g. at least 10mm so that when you use score square-shaped knotched trowel grooves, at the lowest point a layer of adhesive still remains.


Now if you’re laying e.g. 100 sq m patio like I was, that’s a LOT of adhesive and it will take several weeks of your time.

Reverting to the same conundrum, would you rather spend time and income on patio adhesive or on a yacht and bubbles?


As it was my new sparkly purchase though, I used my knotched trowel not to make grooves but along with my other normal trowel to help scrape adhesive into manageable, small chunks.  I spread the chunks over the back of each tile and also over the ground though in a thinner thickness than the groove.  I then massaged each tile into the ground.

Who knows, in 10 years with a few cracked tiles, I might eat my words!



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