How to Install Shower Tiles Like a Pro
Tiling a shower is one of those home improvement projects that can help give your home that customized look and makes you feel pampered. Taking the project on by yourself can seem daunting at first but tiling a shower is fundamentally similar to tiling a floor.
Step 1: Preparation
Once you’ve selected the perfect tile for your project, you’ll first want to make sure that your shower wall is prepped properly.
Any old tile will need to be removed and a cement backer board will need to be placed as a foundation before you install your shower tiles.
Check to make sure that the cement backer board is sound after removing the old tile. If not, you’ll need to remove the old and install a new backer board.
Apply a waterproof membrane to the backer board to ensure that water can’t seep through and cause damage. You can use a roller or brush and apply just as you would a coat of paint. Consult the directions on the product you’ve selected for specific application instructions.
Step 2: Layout
With your walls prepped, you’re ready to start installing the new tile. Make sure you’ve measured properly and have enough tiles to cover your entire project. As with any tile project, you should always have 10% more material on hand to cover waste and any mistakes made along the way.
You should begin the second row up from the bottom of the shower. Why? Because it’s not uncommon for the floor of the shower or top of the tub to not be square; this could lead to a crooked installation.
You also want to ensure that the top row contains a full vertical tile. Measure a flat board to the height of your project then lay out the tiles on the floor before you place them on the wall. You’ll eliminate potential problems and be able to choose where you cut tiles to fit your design. Use spacers in your dry run to ensure the measurements are precise.
Once you’ve determined your vertical starting point, mark it by installing a level board to the cement backer that extends from the right bottom corner to the right top corner. This will provide a level base for your first row of tile and assist in holding it in place.
Like floor tile, you’ll want to also make sure you have a good horizontal starting point. First you need to find the center of the wall and mark it accordingly. Next, lay out the tile on the floor using a board that’s the same length as the wall where you’ll be installing. From the center point you will want to lay the tile along your base all the way to each end. You may need to cut the tiles when you get to the corners.
Step 3: Applying the Adhesive or Thin-Set Mortar
Select a thin-set mortar suitable for your tile, and then use your drill and a mixing paddle to prepare it. Make sure to follow the manufacturer directions on the package. Adjust the mix until the consistency is that of creamy peanut butter. Only mix enough thin-set for 30 minutes of work.
Using the flat side of the tile trowel spread a quarter inch coat of thin-set in the area where you will lay the tile. Now, with the notched edge of the trowel, use a combing motion to work the thin-set so that there are standing ridges throughout. Be sure not to spread more thin-set than can be used in a fifteen minute time span as it may begin to set and thereby reduce the effectiveness of the bond.
Step 4: Cutting Tile
Since you’ve already laid out your tile you should know where the cuts will need to be made. Using a grease pencil, mark the cut lines on the tiles that need trimming. Make the necessary cut using your tile cutter or wet saw.
Step 5: Setting Tile
Setting tile in a shower is very similar to setting floor tile with the exception that you’re working vertically versus a flat surface. Start setting the tile on your new project from the starting point you’ve identified. Begin at the center point or an adjusted starting point that you defined during the “layout” step and work outward from there.
Remember to begin on the board you installed in Step 2 to ensure level installation. It’s best to periodically use your level to ensure that each row is going in straight.
Use a slight twisting motion as you put each tile into place on the thin-set. Don’t forget to use appropriately sized spacers as recommended by the manufacturer of your tile as you install each one.
After you’ve worked your way to the top point of your shower project, it’s time to go back and set the tiles on the first row above the tub or shower tray.
First, remove the board you used for the base and then begin from your designated starting point. Note that it’s likely you’ll need to cut the tiles on this row to ensure a proper fit.
All the tiles are in place and the project is looking good—just two more steps. Before you can move on to grouting the tiles, you’ll need to let your project set for a while.
In most cases you should wait 24 hours before grouting your project. Always refer to the instructions on the thin-set to be sure.
Step 6: Grouting Joints
Now that you’ve made it through the tile installation process, you’re ready to grout your project and bring it to life. Before you begin, be sure that your tile has had the proper amount of time to set. This is important as grouting too soon may cause your tiles to shift. Also make sure that all spacers are removed prior to adding grout.
Follow the mixing instructions on the package of grout. Once you have mixed the grout to the required consistency, you’re ready to begin.
Apply enough grout to fill the grout joints of a small area of your project. Using a grout float and a sweeping motion, work the grout into the joints keeping the float at a 45 degree angle to help ensure they are completely filled.
Use the float in the same manner to remove any excess grout.
Move on to the next small area and repeat the steps until all grout joints have been filled.
When the grout begins to harden—it should just take a few minutes—use your sponge to wipe down the tiles but be careful not to remove any grout from the grout joints.
Break out the sponge again after the grout hardens completely to remove any haze that has appeared during the process.
Step 7: Seal Your Grout
A few days after applying grout to your project, you’ll want to finish up with a grout sealer. It usually takes 3-7 days before the grout is ready to be sealed but refer to the instructions on the sealer product for the best timing.
Adding grout sealer to your grout will help protect it from stains and moisture retention. Use an approved sealer for the grout you selected for the best results.