Re-Tile a Tub or Shower Part Three

Welcome to Yeah, We Do That’s tip of the week. This is part 3 in the continuing series giving you DIYers Weekly Tipspointers on re-tiling your tub or shower. Part 2 covered the installation of the cement board and this week we are going to cover installing the tile and grout.



You should have your backer board up by now and be ready to install your tile. For tile installation on the walls I like to use a quality mastic. Mastic is a premixed adhesive glue and you may purchase this in the tile departments of your big-box home improvement stores. I prefer mastic over thin set for walls as it gives a stronger initial hold and does not allow the tiles to slide as much giving you time to insert spacers. For a standard tub or shower your most economical choice is generally to get the 3 ½ gallon pail. There are different types of mastic so read the product use instructions to make sure the one you are picking will work for the type and size of tile you are installing. Look on the pail for the size of tile which may be safely secured to walls (some will say up to 8 x 8, 12 x 12 etc.), some will say they are designed for natural stone and some will say they are designed for porcelain tiles.

You will also need to pick the correct trowel to spread the glue. Look at the pail of mastic you have picked for help in selecting the proper trowel or ask an associate in the tile department. While there you should also pick up, if you do not already have them, at least one grouting sponge,  a couple of empty 3 ½ or 5 gallon buckets, a grouting float, a marginal trowel, tile spacers for the size grout joint you want and rubber gloves. You may also want to rent a tile cutter and/or wet saw from a tool rental company.



Before installing tile you need to check to see if your tub is level and your walls are plum. Place your level on the lip of the tub or shower and check for level. If your tub is not level, and don’t be surprised if it’s not, make note of the lowest point. Repeat for all three sides of the tub/shower. Now check the walls to see if they are plum and make note if they are leaning in towards the tub or away. For reference I like to make a mark on the wall pointing to the lowest point so I know where to start running my tiles, this can be seen by the red box in the picture. We will now take this information and determine where we need to start placing the tile. Since you will be running your tile level and plum you want to make sure that any discrepancies or imperfections in your walls and tub do not cause gaps to open up. What this means is if your tub is not level and you start running tile level at the high point a grout joint will start opening up on the bottom between the tiles and the tub and get progressively bigger. You will have a much more professional looking job if you start at the low point and trim the tiles to fit rather than having a gap open up. You want the same thing for the walls too, you do not want a wall pulling away from your tile opening a gap in the corners.

Tile Layout

Now find the center of the tub or shower and make a mark on the wall. With your level make a plum vertical line going up your cement board to mark the center of the wall all the way up. This is shown in the picture by the green arrow. If your walls were not plum you will want to take two tiles and a spacer and starting at the lowest point in the tub stack the tiles while holding them on the wall until you reach the low point in the wall. Make a mark on the wall at the top of the tile when it is closest to the low point. You may need assistance with this as doing it with just 2 hands is very difficult. Using your level draw a level line from this mark around the 3 walls of the tub or shower. This line is shown in the picture by the yellow arrow. Where the two lines intersect is where your first tile will go.

If you are planning on any type of decorative stripe, liner bar or deco tiles continue the process mentioned above walking the tiles up in marking your wall where these items will go. The line on the wall designated by the blue arrow is where a decorative row of tile will be placed.



Tile - Section

Tile UngroutedThe key to a successful tile installation is not to spread more glue on the wall than you can cover by tiles in about 15 minutes. Much longer than that the glue will start to skin over and you will not get proper adhesion. Spread your glue on the walls using the appropriate notched trowel for your tile and glue. Where the glue covers your guide lines drag your trowel at a 45° angle over the line and you should be able to see it through the glue. Place your first tile in the corner where your lines meet then place your next tile up against the first tile lining it up with your horizontal line and press it into place. While continuing to press, slowly slide the tile away from the tile it is up against along the horizontal line until a spacer will fit between the gaps. You want to pull your tiles away from each other rather than pushing them towards the other tile so you do not push glue up into your grout joints. Repeat the process filling in the glued area until you have all the tiles in place that do not need to be cut.

Mark your tiles that need to be cut and make your cuts with a tile cutter or wet saw. Repeat the process above to install your cut tiles. It will be normal to get some glue on the tiles, in the grout joints or the on tub, have a bucket of warm water with your sponge in it at hand, the glue is water-soluble while wet and easily cleaned. You can see what the tile looks like after the first section was completed.

Repeat the process filling in a section at a time until you have tiled all your walls. You may need tile nippers or a tile hole saw to cut out for the tub spout, shower head and around the diverter.



Tile - GroutedThere are a wide selection of grout colors available but you must make sure you get the right type of grout for your application. Standard grout comes in 2 types, sanded and un-sanded. The un-sanded grout is for use on grout joints 1/8 of an inch or smaller and the sanded grout is for use on grout joints of 1/8 of an inch or larger. It is very important to use the correct type of grout if you want your grout to stay in place, not crack and look good.

If you have a large bag (25#) of grout pour half of it into one of your empty buckets and then start adding water while mixing with your marginal trowel until you reach a consistency like biscuit dough with no lumps. You do not want your grout to runny as it will run out of your grout joints and tend to crack when set. You will also want to continue to mix your grout to keep it from setting in your bucket. Using your marginal trowel place grout on your float and then holding the float at a 45° angle to the grout joints start pushing the grout into the joints. If you do not hold the float at an angle you will scoop the grout out of the joints as you go over them. I recommend using a gum rubber float as it will act like a squeegee and remove a lot of the excess grout which will aid when it comes to cleanup. Like we did with the glue, apply your grout in sections so your grout does not dry on the tiles Tile - Completed.becoming very difficult to clean. After each section is grouted take your bucket of water and your sponge and without washing the grout out of the grout joints smooth your grout joints and clean your tiles. This is most effective by dragging your grout sponge lightly in a straight line repeatedly over the tiles until clean. If you do not get all the grout film off of your tiles a haze will dry on the tiles that you must clean later.

You can see in the picture of the grouted tub what it looks like when finished. These tiles were cleaned well enough that there was no haze left on the tiles. The homeowner purchased towel bars and soap dishes that did not require holes cut in the tiles during installation and they were installed at this point by drilling holes for anchoring screws in the tile and gluing them to the wall with pure silicone.

I hope that you have found this article helpful and feel free to share it with your friends by clicking one or more of the social media buttons below.  You may also ask a question or leave a comment by clicking the comment button.

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