Tiling a Bathroom – 9 Essential Steps to Get Great Results

February 25, 2021

Tiling a bathroom is something that many people don’t feel very confident about doing for themselves. However, learning how to tile a bathroom doesn’t have to be daunting! As long as you properly prepare and practice your tiling technique, learning how to tile a bathroom can be easy. You don’t need to have lots of experience, but our handy tips and tricks will keep you on the right track.

So, simply follow our step-by-step guide to tiling a bathroom and you’ll quickly become a tiling pro! If you don’t have enough time to dedicate to this project, you can always hire a local tiler to help speed up the process. Simply click the button below to get free bids.

Which Bathroom Tiles Are Right for Me?

First of all, when tiling a bathroom, you should bear in mind that the size of the room should influence a lot of your decisions. Small bathrooms won’t be suited to large bathroom tiles, as they can make the room look even smaller. Instead, medium or small tiles are a far better option for small bathrooms.

Most bathrooms tiles are either porcelain or ceramic. They tend to be affordable tiling options. There are benefits to both options. Porcelain tiles tend to be more hardwearing than ceramic tiles. However, this means that sometimes they can more expensive than ceramic tiles. If you are tiling a bathroom wall, you won’t need to choose tiles that can withstand a lot of wear. So, you can opt for whatever style of tile that you prefer.

Natural stone tiles are also increasingly popular in bathrooms. If you are looking to learn how to tile a bathroom for the first time, you may want to avoid these tiles. Tiles made of stone or limestone are far more porous and absorbent than their ceramic or porcelain counterparts.

Essentially, natural stone tiles will need sealing a lot more regularly. So if you’re a D.I.Y. novice, or short on time, you might want to steer clear of them as they require quite a lot of upkeep.

Always order sample tiles before you start tiling a bathroom. It can be tricky to picture the size of a tile when you’re looking online or in a bathroom store. However, taking the tiles and living with them will make your more confident that you’ve chosen the right colour and size.

If you need some bathroom tiling inspiration, why not check out our bathroom tiling ideas article?

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How Many Tiles Do I Need?

Getting the right amount of tiles is key to successfully tiling a bathroom. It’s really important that you measure the bathroom properly before you begin. It may seem obvious, but always double check what measurements the tiles come in. If you’re measuring your bathroom in centimetres or inches, make sure that the tiles you choose correspond with your own measurements.

There are several calculators online that can help you to work out exactly how many tiles you will need to cover your bathroom. Just always bear in mind that you need to make sure that your measurements are accurate.

Always buy at least 10% more tiles than you think you will need. Wastage and breakage will inevitably happen when you are tiling a bathroom. Having spare tiles on hand will be very useful as you won’t need to waste time and money on buying extra tiles when you’re in middle of your project.

Tiling and Preparation

Step 1. Cleaning and Preparation

Before you can start tiling a bathroom wall, you need to make sure that your surface is properly prepared. It’s vital that you are working with a smooth, freshly prepared wall. Otherwise, you won’t get professional looking results once you have finished. Fixing any mistakes after tiling a bathroom can also be very expensive. So, it’s better to invest some time in this part of the project.

If you are tiling a bathroom, you will need to make sure that your bathroom wall is waterproof, stable and smooth. Applying a tile backer board is an easy way to achieve this (we’ll go into more detail in the ‘Apply a tile backer board’ section). Before you can do this step, however, you need to prepare the wall underneath.

First of all, any old adhesive, paint, or wallpaper needs to be removed. We have two guides on removing paint and how to remove wallpaper that break down the process if you are unsure about where to start.

The walls will also need to be washed with a TSP solution to remove any dirt and grease from them. This will help you tile backer board and your tiles to stick to the wall properly.

Step 2. Use a Gauge Stick to Properly Lay Your Tiles

One of the easiest and cheapest ways to properly lay your tiles is to create your own gauge stick. A gauge stick is simply a length of wood where you have marked the size of your tiles along it. This stick can then be used to space out your tiles correctly.

Take a tile, and align it horizontally against your gauge stick. Mark the end of the tile on the stick. Do this all way along the stick until you run out of space. Don’t forget to include room for a tile spacer between each tile.

Once you have done this, turn the tile vertically, and repeat the process on a new stick. You should now have a gauge stick that measures the length and gauge stick that measures the width of your tiles.

Step 3. Apply a Tile Backer Board

Using a tile backer board is a great way to create a sturdy, dry surface that you can then tile onto. There are numerous benefits to using a tile backer board in your bathroom.

First of all, tile backer board is compatible with many different types of tile. No matter what material your tiles are made out of, they can be affixed to tile backer board. Perhaps most importantly, tile backer board provides a completely waterproof surface that works particularly well around showers and baths.

So, applying a tile backer board to your wall is a great option if you are looking for an easy way to prepare the surface before you start tiling. It can be purchased at most good D.I.Y. stores. When you are purchasing tile backer board, make sure that you have carefully measured the space so that you know how much to buy. Always apply the boards according to the instructions provided.

Step 4. Map out Your Guidelines

Use a spirit level across the width of the wall, and again vertically, to find the centre point. This line will be useful because it can be used as a guide point, and it will ensure that your tiles look right.

It’s now time to use that gauge stick that you created earlier. Place the stick on one end of the wall, along the width of the line that you have drawn. Draw the guidelines that are marked along the gauge stick directly onto the wall. This will act as a map when you come to apply the tiles to the wall.

Usually, at the edges and corners of the wall, you will need to trim a larger tile down to size. It is worth marking these smaller end tiles onto your wall, so you will know what size to cut your larger tiles down to.

Plan out your tiles with tile spacers

Step 5. Start Laying the Tiles on the Wall

The easiest way to start laying your tiles is to start at the bottom and work upwards. Place a tile against the wall, and add a tile spacer to the side of it. This will allow you to leave room for the adhesive that will secure your tiles to the wall.

You shouldn’t need to cut the tile unless it is an end tile that completes the row. It’s easy to cut a tile down to the right size using a tile cutter. Simply mark where you need to cut the tile in pencil. Draw on the back of the tile, not the front, to avoid discolouring it. Carefully align the pencil mark with the tile cutter and you should get great results.

Do this all the way along the width of the wall. You should tile in rows, so once you have laid out the tiles in the bottom row, start applying your adhesive onto them. Then you can begin laying the second row.

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Step 6. Mix and Apply Your Waterproof Tile Adhesive

One of the most important steps in learning how to tile a bathroom is mastering the adhesive. For a bathroom, it’s really important that you choose an adhesive that is waterproof. Otherwise, will definitely run into issues with mould later on.

Many modern tile adhesives will already come pre-mixed, so you won’t need to spend ages mixing it yourself. To apply the waterproof adhesive you’ll need to use a notched trowel. This will ensure that the adhesive is evenly spread across the whole area.

If you are tiling around a bath or a shower, apply your adhesive directly onto the tiles that will be used in that area. This will give you more control and it will allow you to cut the tiles as necessary. If you are dealing with wide spaces of the wall with no obstacles, you can apply the adhesive directly onto the wall.

Step 7. Add Wall Trim to External Corners

If you encounter an external corner when you’re tiling a bathroom, you’ll need to add wall trims. Thankfully, they are not too tricky to install. The key benefit to adding a wall trim is that it will give you a more high-quality, professional looking finish.

All you need to do is take a length of wall trim and cut it to the right size so that it will fit in your bathroom. You can attach it using the same adhesive that you used to apply the tiles to the wall.

Use a scraper to firmly embed the trim into the wet adhesive. Make sure that the entire length of the trim is fully secured. You can do this by pressing the trim into the adhesive using a scraper.

A well-secured wall trim, especially when it is used near baths and showers, can be very effective in preventing leaks.

Stirring Plaster

Step 8. Mix Your Grout

In a damp bathroom environment, getting your sealant and waterproofing right is very important. It’s a good idea to spend some time making sure that you mix and apply your grout properly.

You will need to wait for your tile adhesive to dry thoroughly before you begin to grout your tiles. Mixing grout is a very similar process to mixing plaster. Put your grout in a clean, dry bucket. Then add some water. Start mixing the grout, and add extra water if necessary.

Just like with plaster, once the mixture becomes thick and creamy, you will know that it is ready to use. Wait a few minutes before you start to apply it to the wall.

Step 9. Apply the Grout

To apply the grout, you will need to use a trowel and a sponge. Trowel the grout onto the sponge, and begin to work it into the wall, directly onto the tiles. Focus specifically on working the grout into the exposed gaps between each tile.

Work slowly, and do a specific, small section at a time. If you have applied too much grout in one area, use a clean sponge to wipe any the excess.

You need to wait for the grout to properly sink into the surface before you continue working. Usually, this will take about a quarter of an hour. After the wait, sponge down the surface again. You should then add more grout to the area that you worked on.  Once you have repeated the grouting, leave the area to totally dry.

Ready to start your bathroom tiling project? Easily compare costs for bathroom tilers and hire a top professional!

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Safety Considerations

Hidden pipes in floors and walls can cause major issues if you’re not careful. Accidentally hammering or drilling through a pipe can be a very dangerous and expensive mistake to fix. Luckily, you can use a pipe detector to easily find any hidden pipes. Simply mark these areas with a pencil to avoid damaging them.

Even once you have identified the pipes, it is a good idea to cut the power and water to the room if possible.

Cleaning Your Surface

Proper preparation is essential to ensure great final results. First of all, you need to remove the old wallpaper, paint, or tiles from your surface. If the surface was previously wallpapered, you can read our wallpaper removal guide before you begin for tips and techniques.

Tile adhesive tends to be very strong. You may need to invest in or hire a wallpaper steamer to help you. Once the adhesive has been softened, you can use a scraper to manually loosen and remove it. This process will be long and requires a lot of time and patience. However, it is worthwhile; the surface needs to be as flat as possible before you start tiling, otherwise, you won’t achieve a good finish.

Once you’re finished, wash the wall with TSP or an ammonia-based cleaner. This is step is necessary to remove any grease or oil left behind on the wall. This ensures the tile adhesive secures to the surface. When you are removing wallpaper or old tiles, your wall may sustain some damage. Usually, this can be done with a filler. However, you might need to skim the surface instead if the damage is significant enough. A full step-by-step guide to the process of skimming a wall can be found here.

Measuring Your Surface

You need to carefully measure the surface that you plan to tile. This will determine how many tiles you will need to purchase. To work out the area of your surface, measure the length and the width. Then multiply these numbers together. Take the area and divide it by the size of the tiles that you have chosen. This final figure will tell you how many tiles you need to buy.

You should also factor in breakage by buying more tiles than you plan to use. Investing in some extra tiles may also save you time and money if you need to replace some tiles later on. Map out your route and pattern before you begin.

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1. Safety First

First things first, when removing tiles you need to keep safety at the forefront of your mind. Sometimes in order to remove the tiles, you will have to break them with a hammer and chisel. This could cause shards of tile to fly out from any direction. Needless to say, to protect yourself from these shards you need to take a few key precautions.

The main safety related items you will need are a hardy pair of work gloves, a pair of safety goggles and a dust mask. While the gloves protect your hands from fly away shards, the safety goggles will protect your eyes. Then, the mask will help to filter out any tile dust that begins floating in the atmosphere as a result of the removal process.

If you don’t own any of these items, don’t stress. Safety goggles and work gloves are available at most hardware shops.

Keep in mind that if you have allergies to dust or you have asthma, you may want to avoid tackling this project on your own. Your health is a top consideration.

Protect Your Surroundings

2. Protect Your Surroundings

After you’ve looked after protecting yourself you should also protect your surroundings. Shards of tile can easily scuff or dent the other surfaces in the room.

Are you removing bathroom tiles? Then you should cover the tub, the sink and any other porcelain fixtures with a drop cloth. In the case of removing a tile wall, you should also cover up the floor. As you remove the tiles they may accidentally drop and shatter. This could scuff a hardwood, laminate or even tile floor.

However, if you take the time to cover up these surfaces in advance, you won’t need to worry about any stray shards causing damage.

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