How To's - How to Install Bathroom Wall Tile

How to Install Bathroom Wall Tile

Bathroom wall tile is more than a practical finish for bathroom walls. It adds a sharp, clean look to the room whether you use it strictly in the shower or also on walls around the room. It’s a job any DIY-er or contractor can do easily enough, though it does take time and patience to produce a quality finished look.


Before you dive in, here are a couple of important notes on installing bathroom wall tile:


-        It’s imperative to have all (and enough!) tools and materials ready for use before you begin. Once you start applying tile, you can’t stop to find a tool or make a cut as the adhesive would dry. Then you would have much bigger challenges removing and cleaning before you can continue.


-        You will make all the cuts for a wall prior to starting installation.


-        Cut tiles should be set at the bottom and along corners of wall.


-        Any cut tile should be at least 2” in width. If not, adjust tiles and cut tiles on both ends.


-        Installation time is dependent on the size of the wall and number of tiles that need to be cut. At a minimum, the work will need to be completed over a three-day period: one day to install tile, one day to apply grout and the final day for applying sealer to grout.


Let’s get started!


Tools Needed to Install Bathroom Wall Tile

Here’s a list of tools and materials you should have ready to go:


  • Tile
  • Pencil
  • Tape measure
  • Level
  • Mastic or thin-set mortar
  • Square notched trowel
  • Spacers
  • Tile nippers, score-and-snap tile cutter, or wet tile saw (recommended for professional work)
  • Grout
  • Rubber float
  • Sponge
  • Razor blade
  • Spray bottle (for water)
  • Cloths
  • Grout and tile sealer

Complete Instructions on How to Install Bathroom Wall Tile

It’s time to transform the bathroom! Before you start putting up tile, you have a little prework and planning to do.


Planning the Layout


Before you get to installation, you first need to create and plan the layout. Measure the area on each wall you are going to tile. You’ll create a plan for each one.


Next, identify the spacing you want between the tiles. Do you want a thin grout line or a thicker one? What you choose depends entirely on how you want it to look.


Work from the top down when planning your layout. The top row should be a full tile. If you will be applying a border or edge, the tile below it should also be a full tile. Set your grid across the top row. Check the edges. If a corner tile will be less than 2”, adjust the tiles side to side so that each corner tile will have at least a width of 2”. All cut edges will face the corner.


Include the spacing as part of the row and work your way to the bottom. Identify how much you will need to cut from the bottom row of tile; it will meet at the bathtub/shower or floor. If you’re using bottom edger tile, those won’t be cut, so put them in the plan first.


It’s worth noting that some walls in some houses aren’t entirely square. Presumably the bathtub/shower will set level, but any unevenness in the ceiling or corners should be noted as part of the planning. Tile should be square and level when installed.


Solutions to such a problem? If it’s small, a little extra space (grout) isn’t the end of the world. If it’s larger, edge tile may be an option as you could potentially shave them, giving a square frame to the wall.


Once you’ve got the layout for each section of wall completed, it’s time to begin. Assemble the materials for the day one tile installation and get ready to go.


Step 1       


Use your pencil, level and tape measure to draw a grid on the wall. A laser level is a great tool as it leaves the line on the wall, even after you apply the mastic.


If possible, it may be worth drawing the same grid on a piece of plywood nearby and laying all the tile out as it will look on the wall, including spacers along one row and column to verify the tiles fit as needed.


Cut tiles as indicated by the grid drawn. Lay them out on the sample grid if using plywood.


Step 2


Prepare your mortar or mastic according to the directions on the package. Apply the mortar/mastic with the smooth edge of the trowel. (If it slides on the trowel it’s too watery and should be a little thicker.) Then use the notched side to create straight vertical ridges using an upward motion. Only cover enough space to do a few tiles at a time.


Step 3


Apply the tile, starting in the corner. Press into place, firm enough to stick, but not so hard that it slides or that you see excess oozing on the sides. If mortar/mastic does get on the front of the tile, wipe immediately with a damp cloth or towel.


Get the next tile and set in place, using a spacer to ensure proper spacing along the side.


 Do an entire row. Then start the next in the same manner, using spacers in between tiles on all four sides. Once all the tiles are set on one wall, you can move onto the next wall.


Step 4


The mortar/mastic needs to set. Follow the directions to ensure complete drying before moving on to the next step: grouting.


Step 5


Once the adhesive has dried, remove the spacers. Use a razor blade to carefully remove any excess adhesive.


Step 6


Mix grout according to the instructions. Hold the rubber float at a 45-degree angle and apply with gentle pressure diagonally across the tile. Work the grout into the spaces between the tiles.


Grout one section of wall at a time. Once the grout has been applied, use the float to remove any excess that remains on the tile. Let sit, usually about 10 minutes, and then with a damp sponge, wipe to gently remove grout from the face of the tile.


Step 7


Let the grout dry completely, about 24 hours. You can check if the grout is dry or not by sticking a nail in between the tiles. If it makes an indentation, it’s still wet. If not, it’s dry.


Once the grout fully dries, any residual grout on the tile can be cleaned off using a damp towel. Wipe in a horizontal motion, rinsing the sponge regularly. The tile will probably still appear hazy or dirty. Wipe with a damp towel for the second pass. Then, wipe with a dry towel to complete cleaning. You may find you need to repeat this a couple of times before the tile is completely clean. (It depends a lot on the tile used.)


Step 8


Apply a grout sealer. Follow the directions on the sealer to ensure you protect yourself and nearby surfaces.

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