Most homeowners desire a shower that not only works, but also has a sense of style, is up-to-date, and looks great. Realtors will tell you than in addition to the kitchen, the bathroom (and especially the shower) needs to be updated and new in order for the home to sell quickly. Updated showers also add value to your home, so your return-on-investment is almost guaranteed!
Tiling a shower yourself is really a do-it-yourself project. If there are steps that you are uncomfortable with, then you can hire a professional do complete those steps for you. However, for the most part, you can tile a shower with a little planning and patience.
Steps to Tiling a Shower
Step 1: Before you even begin this project, you will need several items including:
- A tile cutter
- A tile saw
- A trowel
- Thinset mixer (or a tool that can mix thinset)
- Large, clean bucket
- Clean sponge
- Wall tile
- Tile spacers
- Grout and Mortar (thinset)
- Rubber float to apply grout
You will need to purchase enough tile to tile your shower. Selecting tile is one of the fun parts of this project. There are numerous tile products, shapes, and styles to choose from. Traditional white tile, textured tile, and glass tile are just a few of the options that are available. Some people install a textured tile on the shower floor providing a non-slip surface.
In addition, you can decide to create an accent look by adding borders around the wall to be tiled as well as at a mid-point on the wall using a complementary type of tile.
Also consider the size of each tile. Tile size ranges from only a few inches to a foot or more in length and/or width. The size of the area that you are tiling may dictate if you need to use the same sized tile all around or if you can use different tile sizes.
Once you have selected your tile(s), you will need to select the color of grout and mortar that you want to use. You can select complementary colors, matching the color, or go with 100% traditional white. There is no right or wrong here. It is all up to your preference.
Another item to consider when purchasing tile, grout, and mortar is how easy is it to keep your shower clean. Some products are easier to keep cleaner than others, so it is a good idea to find out what cleaning products you will need to purchase, how to actually clean the tile as well as how often cleaning needs to take place.
Step 2: The next step in this project depend upon the base of your shower. You may have a fiberglass tub and you want to tile up the walls. You may have a fiberglass shower base where you will tile up the sides of the walls, too. Or, you may create the shower floor out of tile. Assuming that you have your shower base installed, you want to protect the base by covering it with plastic so that it does not get damaged while you complete tiling the walls.
Step 3: You will begin tiling the wall from the bottom up. It is suggested that you install a straight, level wood board to the wall one row up from the tub or shower base edge. Many times the first row of tiles needs to be hand cut because the edge of the shower base or tub is uneven.
Step 4: Professionals recommend that you dry fit the wall tile. Essentially, you layout the tile using tile spacers. This way you can visualize how the tile will look once installed and you will see where you need to hand cut tiles as well as how to line-up the tiles. Tiles should be centered on each wall so that the grout lines all look evenly spaced and you don’t end up with more, smaller grout lines on one end of the wall than the other.
Step 4: Next, you want to mix the thinset. Thinset is the product used to adhere the tiles to the shower wall. Read the directions carefully. When completely mixed, the thinset should look like a thick paste or like creamy peanut butter.
Step 5: Take some thinset, put it onto the trowel and apply it to a small section of the wall starting at the bottom. Use the notched side of the trowel to apply the thinset. Then, take one tile and press it into the thinset. Make sure the tile is even and plumb by using the tile spacers. Check for evenness every few tiles to make sure that the tiles are lining up.
Step 6: One you complete one row start the next one. You may need to cut tile if you come to the end or a corner. Simply measure the tile, cut it, and press into the thinset. To make cuts in the tile around faucets and/or fixtures, measure then use a tile saw to make the cut.
Step 7: If you are not going to tile completely up the wall, you can end the tiles short of the ceiling. Create a finished look by installing bull-nosed tile as the last row.
Step 8: Once you have completed tiling the wall and the tiles are adhering, remove the board you used as a straight edge. Dry fit the tile to that very first row. Then, add thinset and the tiles using the spacers.
Step 9: Read the thinset directions that will indicate how long the thinset needs to cure before you add the grout. Most thinset products require a 24-hour set time.
Step 10: Now you are ready to apply the grout. Read the directions for mixing the grout. Starting in a small area, apply grout to the rubber float, moving diagonally across the empty grout lines. The grout directions will indicate how long the grout needs to set before you wipe away any excess grout. Most grout products require about 10 minutes after application. To remove excess grout, take a clean wet sponge and moving diagonally again, wipe away the excess. Do not wipe away the grout that is sitting between the tiles.
Step 11: When you are finished grouting the tile you will need to leave it set. This may be a few days. Read the grout instructions.
Step 12: Once the grout is completely set, apply grout sealer along with a silicone sealant to any edges or places where the tile touches the floor, and corners. This will make everything waterproof. If you still see a haze on the tiles, take a product known as a haze remover and wipe away the haze.
Enjoy Your New Shower!
As you can see, tiling a shower is a multi-step, multi-day project. The best advice to heed when doing a tiling project is to:
- Prepare! Get all of the materials, tools, etc. in advance. Once you start tiling, you will need to continue. It is not recommended to start and stop tiling once you have started applying the thinset.
- Dry fit as many tiles as possible. This way you can see, in advance, where you need to adjust lining up tiles as well as what tiles you may need to cut.
- Make sure you schedule enough time to have the thinset and grout set. Rushing this process may result in tiles falling off.
And do not use the shower until it is 100% finished. The last thing you want to deal with is leaks.