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How To Tile A Shower Wall?



|Last Updated: 26 Jul 2022

The three walls surrounding a shower and bathtub require more than a traditional wallboard surface because of the constant wet and damp conditions.

Ceramic wall tile is a great choice, it's tough, easy to clean and it can stand up to all the wetness a busy shower receives. Ceramic tile can be installed directly over wallboard, plaster, or existing tile but it must be attached to a surface that's structurally strong enough to support the weight. In this post, we'll be explaining how to do the process when installing a backer board which most tile manufacturers recommend.


Before you start...

  • Protect the inside of the tub with cardboard. Start by sealing the edges of the tub flange with asphalt roofing cement. This will seal the tub to the waterproof felt or polyethylene plastic we'll be attaching. Next, staple 15-pound felt to the studs, embed the bottom layer into the asphalt cement on the tub flange. Overlap the second layer of felt at least two inches over the top of the first layer. Use only enough staples to hold the felt in place. If you're covering an outside wall, use 4 mil polyethylene plastic instead of felting to prevent moisture problems.


  • Once all the felt or plastic is attached, place quarter-inch shims along the top of the tub. The gap will prevent water on the rim of the tub from wicking up behind the backer board. Fasten cement backer board sheets to the studs using backer board screws. Use fiberglass tape to reinforce the corners and joint, then use thin-set mortar to skim and level them. 


  • Finally, seal the gap where the backer board meets the tub with clear or white silicone. This will allow the tub to expand and contract slightly. Before you start working with the tile, determine its actual size. Place ten tiles side-by-side and measure the length of the rope, divide by ten, and use a resulting number as the tile dimension for your layout. Measure the height of the back wall from the top of the tub to the ceiling for wherever the top row of tiles will be.


  • Calculate and mark the horizontal midpoint of the wall, measure from the height of the back wall again and divide by the size of the tile you're using. If you end up with less than a full tile as your remainder, shift the mid-height line up by that amount. This will give you a row of full tiles along the top of the tub and a row of partial tiles at the top of the wall. Draw a new mid-height line and extend it to all three walls—make sure it's level. Now measure the width of the back wall and mark the mid-width point. Using a level, extend the line to the floor. Measure from the mid-width point to either corner and divide by the size of the tile. If the end tiles will be less than a half tile wide, shift the mid-point so the tiles on both ends will be of equal width and draw a new mid-width line, repeat this process for the other two walls. Using a chalk line, snap additional vertical and horizontal lines to create a grid of eight to twelve square-foot rectangles on the walls. Once this is done, you're ready to start tiling.



Step 1: Fasten wooden battens

Start by fastening a level one by two or one by three wooden batten just below the mid-height line—double-check to make sure it's level. The batten will keep your first row of tiles straight which will make the rest of the tiles on the wall straight as well. Make sure latex-modified thinset mortar as instructed in the technique section of 'Tiling 1,2,3'.


Step 2: Apply mortar

Using a square notched trowel, apply mortar to one of the marked grids along the top of the batten and comb it into straight vertical ridges. Press the first few full tiles in place above the batten. Use a slight twisting motion to be sure it makes good contact with the mortar. Do not slide the tiles after you've done three or four tiles. Lift one off and check the back, the mortar should cover the entire surface. Between rows, the trowel ridges on the wall aren't thick enough, scrape the motor off the wall and reapply it using a trowel with a larger notch. Work up and out in a stair-step pattern, take your time and work on the wall in manageable 8 to 12 square foot sections. Mark, cut, and set the tiles around the shower arm. Set any top or end tiles that must be cut last. If any mortar uses up between the tiles while you're working, clean it up before it dries. Continue up the wall finishing with the row of cap tiles.


Step 3: Cure the mortar

Once you're done, let the mortar cure for at least 12 hours then remove the batten. Working from the middle out and down, set the rest of the tiles. To keep the tiles from sliding down, support each with a piece of masking tape attached to the tile above it. Let the mortar dry completely, each type of mortar has a different curing time so be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions. After the mortar has dried, set any accessories in place and use masking tape to support it until the mortar has cured. Do not install a tray with a towel bar that might be mistaken for a handhold.


Step 4: Grouting

Grouting is the next step in the tiling process. Grout is the material that fills the space between the tiles and supports them almost like glue. Grouting is messy so be sure you properly cover any areas that you don't want to get dirty. Before you start, remove any excess mortar with a razor blade. Using a margin trowel, mix the powdered grout with liquid and apply it as recommended in the technique section. Skim the excess grout off with the edge of the float. To avoid digging into the joints, move the float diagonally across the tiles. The grout will set up in about 5 to 15 minutes and have a putty-like consistency. When a thumbnail pressed against it doesn't leave an impression, the grout is hard enough for the final cleanup. With a damp sponge, wipe the tiles diagonally to clean them. Rinse the sponge frequently in clean water. Remove any remaining haze, repeat this process until the tile is as reflective as glass.


Step 5: Cure the grout

Cure the grout as instructed in a technique section of 'Tiling 1, 2, 3' and let it set thoroughly before applying sealer. The curing process is very important, do not disturb it. Once the grout has cured, apply the sealer with a sponge. Sealing tile grout gives it a greater water and mildew resistance and helps keep it from getting dirty. Make sure to wipe off any excess within 10 minutes. Don't let it dry on the tile and if you're using an unglazed tile. Seal it as well. Finally, caulk the tub and tile joint with a bath and tub caulk. Use a color that matches either the tub or the tile. To smooth the bead. Use a wet finger or sponge and lightly draw it across the caulk.


Tiling a shower is a common DIY project but if you're still uncertain of how to do it, Eano Home Renovation can help and install it for you. Aside from the kitchen, flooring, and ADU packages, we also offer other home remodeling services such as tiling a shower wall, paint service, and lighting upgrade. Feel free to browse through our extensive list of remodeling projects and see more great content like this.


*All images are from the internet.

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