How to Tile a Bathroom Wall
Whether you’re a tradesperson or fancy your DIY skills, tiling a wall can be a straightforward job to give your bathroom a refresh.
But how do you do it? How do you tile a bathroom wall? Well, Plumbworld is here to explain the entire process, from removing your old tiles to picking and fitting your new ones.
So, whether you’re tiling an entire bathroom, a shower cubicle or just one wall above a bath, our advice will help you achieve a great result. You can also find out how to tile a bathroom floor in our dedicated blog post, so you can do the whole room.
Read on to find out how to tile a bathroom wall and transform your wash room…
Why tile a bathroom wall?
Tiling is one of the most practical choices for your bathroom walls. Not only is it cost-effective at the application stage, but it's also cost-effective to maintain. Your bathroom wall tiles can stay up for years, even decades, and you don’t have to change anything. If it’s a split wall with paint, you simply refresh the paint every now and then.
Read more: How to Decorate a Bathroom
On top of that, ceramic and porcelain tiles are excellent barriers against water damage while offering a smart and stylish finish for your bathroom. Tiles are relatively straightforward for anyone with reasonable DIY skills to do themselves, rather than having to hire a professional. This is especially beneficial if you want to save money for another project.
How to remove bathroom wall tiles
When it comes to removing old wall tiles, much like the job of installing them later, you need to take precautions - this is to keep you safe and your bathroom fittings from being damaged.
Wear safety goggles, a long-sleeved top, pants, and safety gloves to protect yourself from sharp tile fragments. Clear the bathroom and lay down cloth or tarp to protect fragile surfaces, such as basins. It will also make cleaning up easier. You can protect bathtubs etc from falling tiles by covering them with cardboard.
First, you need to remove the grout that sits in between your tiles. You can cut or scrape it away and it can help to warm it slightly with a hairdryer. You may also need to remove spacers at the same time. These are small crosses that help space your tiles out.
Then, try tapping the edge of each tile with a chisel for any signs of looseness - this will make removing it much easier. The first tile is always much harder to remove than the rest. If it comes away easily, you can start removing the tiles with a chisel and hammer.
You may need to break a tile if necessary, especially if it is set directly in place. This will mean cracking it into pieces. Start by using a hammer and chisel to make a hole in the centre of the tile, then chisel the cracked tile pieces away. You could even use a drill with a ceramic drill bit to cut into the tile instead.
Important: Always wear protective gear and clothing when removing tiles! Tile shards can be very sharp and you could create dust when removing them.
Finally, you will need to remove the old adhesive by scraping out as much of it as possible with a stripping knife. Again, using heat here will help to remove the adhesive from the wall.
Tip: Always remove tiles as gently as possible to avoid damaging the wall and surrounding area.
How to tile a bathroom wall
We’ll break this down into stages, from equipment and preparation to the different sections you may need to tile.
Materials and equipment you will need
- Wall tiles
- Filler - if you have any holes in the wall that need filling
- Tile adhesive that is ready-mixed
- Tile spacers
- Grout that is ready-mixed
- Multi-purpose cloths
- Tile trimmer
- Tape measure
- Notched trowel
- Tile cutter
- Tile file
- Grout spreader
- Grout finisher
- Claw hammer
- Spirit level
- Cartridge gun
- Sealant smoother
Work out how many tiles you will need by measuring the area which needs tiling in square metres and then work out how many tiles are required to cover each square metre. Most tiles come in boxes with this information already printed on it.
To calculate the number of tiles you will need, you should first check the product details which should state the coverage in square metres. We recommend adding an extra 10% for cracks or breakages. The below calculation will help:
(Length of floor/wall ÷ length of individual tile) x (width of floor/wall ÷ width of individual tile)
Tip: When planning and measuring the wall dimensions, allow for grout gaps. These are usually 2-3mm.
Before you start tiling, you need to ensure the surface is sanded, cleaned and sealed. If you’re tiling new or bare plaster, timber or any other absorbent surface, use a PVA primer to prevent the moisture in the tile adhesive being absorbed too quickly by the wall.
Plan carefully. Set out your tiles, thinking about where the eye is drawn, where the centre line should be and how many cuts you will need to make. Taking plenty of time to do this now, will save you time later and will give better visual results.
Tiling a wall
- Scoop up some tile adhesive with the trowel and press it onto the wall, starting in the corner formed by timber battens. Then spread it with the notched trowel, working away from the corner with horizontal strokes.
- Try not to work on more than one square metre at a time, as the adhesive could start hardening before you’ve put your tiles in place.
- If your tiles are large, apply adhesive to the wall and the back of the tiles.
- Place your first tile into the corner, pressing its edges against the corners and the whole tile firmly against the wall.
- Use a spirit level to regularly check that the tiles are flat and level.
- Then, add a tile above it and one next to the original, pushing them firmly into the adhesive using a twisting action.
- Always wipe off any adhesive from the tiles with a damp sponge as you go.
- Put tile spacers into the corners between the tiles and adjust the tile positions. Push them in firmly and position them against the wall so you can grout over them later.
- Add a tile above the last one you applied, and another beside it.
- Continue applying tiles like this until you’ve tiled the area covered with adhesive and laid your whole tiles.
- Once all the tiles are in place, leave them to dry before grouting.
Tiling a corner
Cutting a tile
Mark where they will have to be cut and use a tile cutter to do so. Choose a cutter which suits the tile you have chosen. Alternatively, you could use a tiling scribe for wall tiles, which are thinner than floor tiles.
Read more: How to Tile a Bathroom Floor
Tile scribe or scorer
Measure your tile and use a steel rule and chinagraph pencil, or a felt-tip pen, to mark a cutting line across. Make sure that your rule doesn't slip while you mark the tile.
Hold the rule firmly and score along the line with the tile scribe in one stroke. Use enough pressure to cut right through the glaze. Then, put a pencil beneath the scored line and press down on each side. The tile should cleanly snap in two.
Tip: Always place the cut side of your tile towards the wall or floor. The best way to measure where to cut is to place the tile against the wall or floor and mark where the full tile meets with the already laid tile.
Mark up the tile like above and insert it into the machine so that the mark is in line with the guide. Lower the handle to bring the scorer into contact with the tile and either push or pull - this will depend on the cutter - to score once along the line.
Then, lower the handle fully so that the snapper touches the tile and apply pressure to snap it in two.
Combined scorer and snapper
Scrape along the mark you’ve made using the tile scorer and a metal ruler to prevent it from breaking in the wrong place. Insert the tile into the jaws of the combined tool, lining the scored mark to the centre of the tool. Then, squeeze the handles and the tile will snap in two.
You can then use a tile file to smooth the edges.
Tiling a corner - process
For this example, we’ll use an internal corner - where two of your bathroom walls meet.
Once you’ve cut the tile, you need to check to see that it fits. If you need to make adjustments, use a tile file.
Use the narrow end of a notched spreader to put adhesive on the back of the tile. Then press it into place so it’s level with the adjacent tile on the wall. Use spacers where needed.
If you’re tiling more than one wall, move on to the next one. If not, you’re ready to start grouting and finishing the job.
How to grout wall tiles
- Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when allowing the adhesive to dry.
- Remove the tile spacers that are sticking out at the edges of the wall and at corners.
- Take a small amount of grout and apply to the tile with a grout spreader from the bottom left corner. Move it around and into the joints.
- If you’re grouting a large area, split it into sections and do it a bit at a time.
- Use upward and diagonal strokes to work the grout into the joints and work reasonably quickly so the grout doesn’t harden too soon.
- Remember to remove any excess grout with a damp sponge as you go.
- For a neat finish, pull a shaping tool over the joints in a continuous movement.
- Now, leave it to dry. If you notice a powdery film appearing on the tiles, wipe this off with a soft, clean cloth.
- You can even apply some grout protector to extend the life of the grouting.
Seal your tiles
Finally, apply some sealant between the tiles and any appliances, such as basins and baths.
The sealant will prevent any water from getting underneath the tiles. Work from one end of the bathroom to the other with a consistent bead of sealant. For a steady pressure and speed, use a sealant or caulking gun. Then, leave it to dry for 24 hours.
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