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How to tile your bathroom wall

Blue bathroom tiles in a shower

Tiles can make an excellent wall and floor covering for bathrooms. They’re waterproof, hard-wearing and also look really good.

Although many people think that you must employ the services of a professional to tile a bathroom, in actual fact, it’s something you can do yourself.

However, you must be well-organised and be prepared to take your time. A skilled tiler can do it quickly through experience, but if you are doing it for the first time, you must not rush the job. Otherwise you might end up with wonky tiles that give you sleepless nights for years!

This article will assume that your wall is fully prepared – free from previous tiles or wallpaper and has been sanded, cleaned and sealed.

How many tiles do you need?

Before starting, it’s a good idea to work out how many tiles you need before you start.

A good way of doing this is to place 10 tiles side by side and measure the length of the row. Divide by 10 and use the resulting number as the tile dimension for your layout.

Drawing your lines of preparation

Using a level, draw a top line all the way around the room.If you’re tiling only part way up the wall, this line should be where the tiles will stop. If you’re adding a row of cap tiles, draw a horizontal line for those as well.

Now measure from the floor to the top line and mark in a mid-height line halfway in between. Then measure from the floor to the top line again and divide by the size of the tile.

If you end up with less than a full tile as your remainder, move the mid-height line down by that amount, so you’ll have a row of full tiles at the top and a row of partial tiles at the bottom.

Draw a new mid-height line around the room, making sure it’s level.

Measure the length of each wall and mark the mid-point on the top line. Using a level, extend this line to the floor. Now measure from this line to one end of the wall and divide by the size of the tile.

If the last row of tiles will be less than a half-tile wide, move the mid-point so the last row of tiles on both ends of the wall will be of equal width and draw a new line.

Using a chalk line, draw additional vertical and horizontal lines to create a grid of square rectangles on the wall. When this is done, you’re ready to start tiling.

Make sure that first row is straight

Start by fastening a level 1 x 2 or 1 x 3 wooden batten just below the mid-height line and double check to make sure it’s level. The batten will keep the first row of tiles straight, making it easier to keep the rest of the tiles straight as well.

Mix your latex mortar as instructed on the packaging.

Using a square-notch trowel, apply mortar to one of the marked grids along the top of the batten and comb it into straight, vertical ridges.

Press the first few full tiles in place above the batten. Use a slight twisting motion to ensure it makes good contact with the mortar. Do not slide the tiles.

After doing 3 or 4 tiles, lift one off and check the back. The mortar should cover the entire surface. When applying the mortar, work up and out in a stair step pattern. Take your time and work on the wall in manageable 8 – 12 ft sections.

Continue until all the rows of tiles are in place and clean off any excess mortar quickly before it dries.

If adding a row of cap tiles, finish by adding this row. When done, allow the mortar to dry for at least 12 hours and remove the batten.

Underneath the batten

Working from the middle out and down, set the rest of the tiles.

Support each tile with a piece of masking tape attached to the tile above it.

Let the mortar dry completely. Check your packaging on your mortar to see what the drying time is as many brands are different.

Adding grout to your tiling

Grout is the material that fills the space between the tiles and supports them, like a sort of glue. Grouting can be messy, so please be sure to cover any areas that you want to keep clean.

Before starting to add the grout, remove any excess mortar from the tiles using a razor black or a stanley knife.

Using a margin trowel, mix the powdered grout with liquid and apply it. Skim any excess grout off with the edge of the trowel. Work your way diagonally across the tiles.

The grout will set in about 5 to 15 minutes and will have a putty-like consistency. When a thumbnail pressed against it doesn’t leave an impression, the grout is hard enough for the final clean up.

Final cleaning of the tiles

With a damp sponge, wipe the tiles diagonally to clean them. Make sure to remember to rinse the sponge frequently in clean water.

After sponging, you might see a haze across the surface of the tiles. To remove it, wipe the surface with a damp rag and then again with a clean, dry rag. Repeat this process until the tile is as reflective as glass.

The curing process for the grout is important, so allow this process to proceed, allowing at least 12 hours before spraying sealer.

Apply the sealer with a sponge and you will be helping the tiles have a greater water and mildew resistance. It also helps to stop the tiles from getting dirty. Wipe off any drips before the sealer dries so that you have a nice smooth finish.


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