How to Tile a Shower Wall
The process for how to tile a shower is almost the same as it is for installing floor tiles.
Preparations for Tiling a Shower Wall:
- Start by gutting the shower all the way to the studs
- Apply a liner or other form of protective barrier
- Next use a cement wall or dry wall depending on the type of barrier you installed previously
- Take and mark appropriate measurements. Measure the area from one wall to the opposite parallel wall and mark the center. Next do the same for the other two walls. Starting at the central point, lay out a few tiles (dry run) until you've reached the wall. If the tiles are not flush against the wall, but rather a gap is left, measure the distance from the last tile to the wall. If this amount is greater than ½ of one tile, readjust your central points so that the final cut pieces are neither too small nor too large. Do the same thing for the other two walls. (You'll want to adjust the center point if necessary to avoid cutting very thin tiles at the top and bottom edges.) Measure the length of the wall (from left to right) and make a mark at the center of this length. Line up the horizontal center mark with the vertical center mark and draw a horizontal line across the wall. Adjust this line as per previous instructions to avoid tile slivers at the edges.
Applying Tiles to Your Shower Wall:
- Wet your cement board, and apply some mortar or mastic to a 2' or 3' surface area.
- Spread the mortar using a trowel. As with floor tiles, spread a smooth layer and then use the notched edge of the trowel to make ridges in the mortar.
- Set the first tile at the intersection of the two lines you've marked, and continue in both directions in a step formation (example: down and right). Make sure tiles are flush with both the marked lines and with each corresponding tile edge.
- Carefully apply the first row of tiles (push the tile into the mortar, gently but firmly twisting it into place).
- Protruding pipes and valves cause a slight obstruction to your tiling endeavors. If the obstruction falls within a single tile, use a diamond-grit hole saw to cut a hole that the pipe or valve can fit through. If it reaches multiple tiles, you will have to cut and fashion the tiles around the obstruction.
- Let your first row set for 24 hours before continuing on to the subsequent rows. When you've finished, let the entire project set for about 2 days. Spread grout across the surface using a float to smooth it into the crevices and joints. Wipe away the excess grout with a damp clothe after about 15-20 minutes. Finally, after the grout has again sat an additional 1-2 days, use a sealer to keep this beautiful project in tact.
- Remember to save room at the bottom of the cement board and the tub (and the bottom row of tiles and the tub), and fill this gap with caulk that matches the color of your tile grout. Squeeze out a line of caulk and use a wet (gloved) finger to smooth it out.
Shower tile tips:
To really get the job done right, prepare the wall with a backboard- put thinset between the seams and fiberglass mesh tape over that. Finally, use a layer of thinset across the whole wall to give the tiles a suitable surface to adhere to.
If there is no tub wall to rest the bottom row of tiles on, use a 2x4 as a stabilizer. Screw the piece of wood into the wall (this will have to be removed later on and replaced with the final tiles).