How to Tile a Shower

Although tiling your own shower is time-consuming, it can save a lot of money and give your bathroom a custom look. This article covers the basics of tiling, but not the demolition or installation of the shower pan or plumbing fixtures.

Materials for this project include:

  • cement board
  • saw for cutting cement board
  • level
  • marker
  • drill
  • screws
  • plastic or dropcloth
  • tile
  • thinset
  • plumber’s silicone caulk
  • notched trowel
  • tile cutter
  • tile spacers
  • sponges
  • hole saw, spade bit, or paddle bit

After the area has been stripped down to the stud walls and the shower pan and drain have been installed, measure the shower area for cement board. Cement board is a barrier that prevents mold and mildew from growing in the walls around your shower.

This product is really easy to install: simply cut to fit and screw it in. Make sure the bottom of your cement board butts up against the top of the shower pan. To seal the seams between the cement board panels and at the top of the shower pan, use plumber’s silicone caulk, following the directions on the packaging.

Don’t forget to cut holes for the showerhead and handles! This can be done with a hole saw or using your drill with a spade or paddle bit.

Before laying any tile, take a level and mark an even line just below the lip of the shower pan. This will help you line up the tiles evenly. The line is on the shower pan because overlapping the tile onto the shower pan helps prevent future leaking in this area.

Some spaces will require homeowners to cut tiles to fit. This is not nearly as scary as it sounds. Tile cutters or tile saws can be rented, and make the do-it-yourselfer’s job a whole lot easier. Some saws wet the tile while it is cutting. This gives the tile a nice clean edge by cutting down on the amount of friction.

Be sure to make a few test cuts with cheap or broken tiles before cutting your nice tile!

Next, dampen your cement board with a sponge before applying thinset. Cement board is absorbs a lot of moisture. If it is not wet down, it can make the thinset dry too quickly and it can crack or chip.

To avoid dripping thinset or grout on the shower pan, cover it up with a painter’s dropcloth, plastic, or cardboard.

Spread the thinset with a notched trowel in a small area and apply your tile across the bottom of the shower. Don’t forget to use spacers!

To ensure strength, give the bottom row time to set. Some people recommend leaving heavy tile to set for up to 24 hours! Repeat for the next few rows and don’t forget to cut tiles to allow for the shower fixtures!

Allow the tiles to set about 48 hours before applying grout. This will allow the thinset to dry completely and avoid crumbling thinset later on.

Pull out your spacers before applying grout and check the grout packaging for mixing instructions. Apply grout into the joints. Apply in a small area at a time then wipe off excess grout with a clean sponge. Do not grout corner joints, as this will be sealed using caulking later.

Be careful! Once grout has fully dried, you cannot wash it off the tile. Make sure your sponge is cleaned frequently and that you use a circular motion to wipe off excess.

Let the grout dry for 24 to 48 hours. Then you can seal the corner joints using silicone caulk.


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