Tiling is easy, right? Many people certainly think so, and the results of their efforts can be seen on bathroom walls and floors up and down the country. The tiling is uneven, poorly cut, has huge grout lines and just looks amateurish. Nothing looks worse than shiny new bathroom accessories fixed to an uneven tiled wall! We give you a perfect guide to tiling a bathroom.
The last thing you want to do is do an awful tiling job when you have invested in quality bathroom products such as a new bath, sink or toilet. We all know that installing a new bathroom can be a long term investment and that purchasing a bathroom suite which looks the part is important. But letting down your bathroom by doing a bad tiling job will mean that this investment will never allow you to see the returns you want.
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.
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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 bathroom 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 DIY 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 you more confident that you’ve chosen the right colour and size.
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 measure your bathroom in centimetres or inches, make sure that the tiles you choose correspond with your 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 the middle of your project.
How to Tile a Floor
Planning & preparation
- Here we will show you how to find your starting position, lay floor tiles, cut tiles, fit around obstacles, grout and apply finishing touches such as sealant
- Thorough preparation is key to achieving a long-lasting and high-quality finish. Before you start laying tiles you must ensure that the floor is solid, level, clean and dry
- Depending on the type of flooring in your bathroom, you may need to install a subfloor. For this project, we used exterior-grade plywood as our subfloor
- Bear in mind that plywood, and other types of porous surface, will need to be primed and allowed to dry before you can start tiling
- Some existing surfaces, such as a level concrete floor, don’t require a subfloor and you can lay tiles straight on top of it as long as any old adhesive has been removed
- The surface you are laying onto will determine the type of tile adhesive you need to use, so be sure to check the manufacturer’s instructions. Normally you’d pick a flexible adhesive if tiling onto plywood, or a strong, high bond adhesive for concrete floors
- To work out how many packs of tiles you need, calculate the size of the area in m² (length x width = number of metres squared) and then check the coverage of the pack. It’s best to add at least 10% to allow for wastage
- We’d recommend buying tiles from the same batch to achieve colour matching; the batch number will be on the packaging
- As most rooms are not perfectly square, it’s a good idea to plan the position of your tiles before laying them down
- If possible, try to avoid having to fill small gaps as they are fiddly and can look untidy
- Be sure to examine tiles prior to installation thoroughly
Do it right
- If you are using tile adhesive or grout that is leftover from another project, check the use-by date and replace it if necessary. Some adhesives and grouts can be very fast drying, so be mindful of this when deciding how much to mix up.
- Normally, natural stone tiles like limestone, marble and slate need sealing, but most ceramic and glazed porcelain tiles do not. Sealing is usually done after laying the tiles but before grouting. Always check the tile manufacturer’s instructions to see whether your tiles need sealing when you are advised to do this, and what sealant to use.
- In a new bathroom, it’s best to tile the floor before installing the toilet, sink pedestal and bath (if it’s a freestanding design), then fit them on top of the tiles.
- It is always a good idea to keep some spare tiles in case any need replacing in the future.
- Using an anti-mould grout is best for bathrooms. Bear in mind that grout is available in various shades, so pick the colour that looks best with your tiles.
- Take care not to apply pressure or walk on the tiles until the adhesive has completely dried.
- Use a pipe and cable detector to check the areas where you plan to drill for hidden pipes and cables
- Wear safety goggles and gloves when cutting tiles and be sure to clear up any tile fragments
- Wear a dust mask and safety glasses when mixing a powder adhesive
- Whilst not essential, we’d recommend wearing knee pads as a lot of kneeling is involved
- Using a grout protector spray will extend the life of your tiles and will make the grout easier to clean. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the product
- When cleaning tiles, only use products that are suitable for the material of the tile, as using the wrong product could cause permanent damage
How to Tile a Bathroom Wall
To help you determine where you need to set out your tiles:
- Start by making a gauging stick.
- Take a length of timber and lay it on the floor.
- Place a tile on it lengthways, flush with one end of the stick, and mark the timber where this tile finishes.
Measure up for lengths of tiles
Place another tile in sequence with the first (separated with tile spacers) and mark where this tile ends. Repeat the process until you fill up all the space available on the stick. Saw off any excess timber, then make up another stick for the width of the tiles
Find the centre point of the wall.
Measure the width of the first wall you’ll be tiling. Halve this to find the centre of the wall. Use a spirit level and pencil to mark a vertical line at this point from floor to ceiling, before finding and marking the horizontal centre line.
Use gauging stick
Determine where the tiles will start and end by offering your gauging stick up to the lines you’ve drawn on the wall. Mark out tile locations and cuts accordingly. Aim for even cuts at the extremes of the wall (top and bottom; left and right) for a good finish
Prop up the first tile
Starting at floor level, prop your first tile up with spacers to allow for a grouting gap. Hold the tile against the line on your wall and mark up for the first cut. Place the tile in your cutter, ensuring the blade lines up perfectly with the marked line.
How to use a tile cutter
To make the cut:
- Draw the blade along the front of the tile using a single stroke of the scoring wheel.
- Apply just enough pressure to score along the surface.
- Move the wheel to the centre of the tile and pull down the handle to snap along your scored line.
Spread tile adhesive
Spread adhesive on the back of the cut tile using a notched trowel. Set the tile into position on the wall and press gently but firmly. In this project, the wall includes cuts around a bath, so we’ve fixed a single column of tiles vertically with spacers between each one.
Mark tile locations on the wall
At the point where the top of the tiles is higher than the top of the bath, take your spirit level and draw a horizontal line above the tub. Any tiles laid below this line will need to be cut to size.
Mark for shaped tile cutting
Where the tiles meet the lip of the bath, you may need to make a shaped cut. Offer the tile up to the area in the market the position of the lip and the depth of the cut. Use a square to extend these guides and create the template of the cut.
Use a diamond wheel cutter.
Wearing safety goggles and gloves, use the tile saw to cut the tile down both sides of the lip you’ve marked out. Keep making cuts 10mm apart through the section, then nibble these ‘fingers’ off using tile cutters. File down any rough edges.
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Use tile spacers
Spread adhesive onto the back fo the cut tile and push it into position, using spacers along the top of the bath to make room for the sealant. cut the rest of the tiles to size and fix them to the wall along the top of the bath; again using spacers
Spread adhesive on the wall
With the complicated cuts done, you can now spread adhesive directly onto the wall. Tackle around one square metre at a time. Position the tiles carefully, using spacers both horizontally and vertically. Complete the wall, cutting in any tiles at the perimeters
Use a spirit level
On the adjacent wall, continue the line of the lowest cut using a spirit level. Set out as in steps 3 and 4, then cut and fix the first tile along the top of the bath, with its centre at the vertical line. Cut in the remaining tiles.
Bed in the wall trims
Wall trims are required at external corners, for safety and a good finish. Cut to length, spread a thin line of adhesive on the wall and embed the trim into it. Scrape off any excess adhesive and clean up the front of the trim with a damp sponge
Cut around the soil pipe.
To cut in tiles around pipes, mark the height and width of the cut on a square tile. Box out the shape with your square, then use an offcut of the pipe to draw a circle. Mark the centre, drill with the tile hole cutter and file off rough edges.
Once the walls are tiled, leave them to dry out before grouting. Put some water in a clean bucket, add the grout a little at a time and mix to a creamy consistency. Leave for five minutes before using.
Apply the grout
Using your trowel, scoop some grout onto a squeegee. Apply to the face of the tiles, working the ground into the joints well to avoid air bubbles. Cover a section of wall, then wipe off any excess and continue
Wipe off excess grout
Leave for 10-15 minutes, then wipe down with a damp sponge (hold it flat, so you don’t dig grout out of the joints). Rinse the sponge regularly. Complete the wall, leave for five minutes, then repeat. Leave for 30-60 minutes, then polish with a soft dry cloth.
- Always use flexible sanitary silicone rather than grout in the corners of a bathroom. In a wet environment, the point where walls meet can be subject to differential movement, which may cause grout to crack.
- When sealing around a bath, half fill the tub with water before you start. Apply the silicone and leave overnight to cure, then empty the bath the next morning. This will stop the silicone from splitting in the future.
Choosing Bathroom Tiles
Bathroom tiles are a simple way to create a character in a practical way.
Your choice of materials will vary depending on your desired aesthetic, budget and maintenance requirements.
Essential Steps to Get Great Results
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 breaks 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 your tile backer board and your tiles to stick to the wall properly.
Step 2. Use a Gauge Stick to Lay Your Tiles Properly
One of the easiest and cheapest ways to properly lay your tiles is to create your gauge stick. A gauge stick is simply a length of wood where you have marked the size of your tiles along with 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 with 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, the 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 DIY 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 with 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.
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 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.
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, it will 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 embed the trim into the wet adhesive firmly. 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.
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 for 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.
We have a wide range of Melbourne tiling renovations to help you choose in creating a new design for your house.
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 sink into the surface before you continue working properly. 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 dry.
But there’s much more that I won’t cover in this story — borders, diagonal arrangements, shower floors, countertops, marble and primitive tiles, just for starters. You may also run into problems from severely out-of-square rooms or hidden rot. If you need assistance, tile shops can be a great resource to help you.