The wide array of tile shapes and sizes available in today’s market provides the consumer with almost endless design opportunities. One of the popular and possibly the oldest patterns is the herringbone with the name being derived from its resemblance to the bone structure of the herring fish. This pattern was used by the ancient Romans as the design of the stones used in their vast system of roadways which offered strength, durability and longevity.

The herringbone pattern of a ceramic tile installation, while attractive, is one of the harder and more challenging designs to install, especially when completed diagonally. The key question is where to begin the layout so that the cuts on either side of the installation are equal.

Installers need to decide where to begin the layout. Looking at the short end of the rectangular tile, is it the left side, the middle or the right side? All three will work, but to get it centered and balanced with equal cuts on either side, the starting point is the center of the end. For instance, if the tile measures 5-3/4”, the center would be 2-7/8”.

Once the 45-degree angle line is established on the centerline of the layout, the 2-7/8” mark (the center of the short side from the example) would be placed on the above-mentioned line. The installer has several options on how to keep the pattern straight. Some will rely solely on this line and start setting tile, but the safest and easiest way to keep it straight is to draw a line parallel to the centerline at the left and right edges of the tile. As seen in the attached image, a blue chalk line is snapped on each corner or points of the tile parallel to the red centerline.   

You will notice in our image, that the installer has placed the same series of blue, red and blue chalk lines on the opposite side of the pattern and will extend them to the adjacent patterns.

The challenging aspect of the diagonal herringbone and the need for chalk lines on each pattern edge line is that it may/will begin to move or creep away from the lines. Having them gives the installer the ability to realize the issue and correct it as he or she progresses.

Don’t be afraid of this pattern. Take a couple of plank tiles, establish the lines and play with it. You will quickly realize how it works and become comfortable. Additionally, you will learn how to chase the pattern run off, correct it and get a beautiful installation.