What Do I Need To Know Before Tiling A Shower?

Tiling a shower is more than just a home improvement project; it's an opportunity to transform your bathroom into a personal oasis.

Whether you're renovating an outdated bathroom or building a new one from scratch using a shower remodel expert, understanding the tiling process is crucial for achieving a durable and visually appealing outcome. So what insights do you need to know before tiling a shower?

Before tiling a shower, know the project requires accurate space measurements, selecting suitable tiles and materials, preparing the surface properly, waterproofing thoroughly, planning the layout strategically, and having the right tools. Proper planning ensures a durable and visually appealing finish.

This guide will walk you through the essential steps and considerations, from planning your project to the finishing touches.

Planning Your Tiling Project

When embarking on a tiling project for your shower, meticulous planning is essential. This phase is your roadmap, guiding every decision from the size of your tiles to the project's overall cost. 

Let's break down the critical steps: measuring your space, choosing the right tiles, and considering your budget.

Measuring Your Space

Accurate measurements are the cornerstone of your tiling project. Start by measuring the height and width of each wall you plan to tile. Multiply these figures to get the square footage for each wall, then add them together for the total area. 

Remember, purchasing an additional 10% of materials is advisable to account for cuts, breaks, and future repairs. This extra step ensures you won't find yourself short on tiles if they're discontinued or if you need to replace a few down the line.

Choosing the Right Tiles

Selecting tiles for your shower isn't just about aesthetics; it's about finding the balance between form and function. Consider these factors:

  • Material: Porcelain and ceramic tiles are popular for their durability and water resistance, making them ideal for wet areas like showers. Natural stone offers a unique beauty but requires more maintenance and sealing to protect against moisture.

  • Size and Shape: Large-format tiles can make a small shower feel more spacious, while mosaic tiles are perfect for adding intricate designs or a non-slip surface.

  • Finish: Glossy tiles add a bright and clean look but can be slippery when wet, so they're best used on walls. Matte or textured tiles provide better traction for shower floors.

  • Color and Pattern: Lighter colors can make a small shower feel larger, while dark or vibrant tiles create a bold statement. Consider the overall theme of your bathroom to ensure your tiles complement the design.

Budget Considerations

Tiling can be a cost-effective DIY project, but budgeting for all necessary materials and tools is important. 

Don't forget to include a contingency fund for unexpected expenses.

What Do I Need To Know Before Tiling A Shower1

Essential Tools and Materials

Tiling a shower is a detailed process that requires specific tools and materials to ensure a successful outcome. 

From the initial preparation to the final touches, having the right equipment and selecting suitable materials are crucial steps. 

Here’s a comprehensive guide to what you’ll need.

List of Required Tools

You must have the right tools for the job to achieve professional results. Here is a list of essential tiling tools:

  • Tile Cutter: For precise cuts on ceramic or porcelain tiles. Consider a wet saw for natural stone tiles or complex cuts.

  • Notched Trowel: Used to apply adhesive in ridges, ensuring an even layer and strong bond.

  • Grout Float: A rubber tool used to press grout into the spaces between tiles and smooth the surface.

  • Level: Essential for ensuring your tiles are aligned and level, preventing uneven surfaces.

  • Tile Spacers: These small plastic pieces maintain consistent spacing between tiles for a uniform grout line.

  • Mixing Paddle and Bucket: For mixing adhesive and grout to the right consistency.

  • Sponge and Bucket of Clean Water: For cleaning excess grout from the tile surface.

  • Safety Equipment: Gloves, goggles, and a dust mask should be worn to protect against sharp edges, dust, and chemicals.

What Do I Need To Know Before Tiling A Shower2

Selecting Your Materials

Choosing the right materials is just as important as having the right tools. Materials for tiling a shower include:

  • Tiles: As previously discussed, the choice of tiles can vary based on material, size, finish, and color.
  • Backer Board: A water-resistant and durable substrate that supports the tiles and protects against moisture.
  • Waterproofing Membrane: A crucial layer that prevents water from seeping behind the tiles and causing damage.

Adhesives and Grouts

Selecting the right adhesive and grout is pivotal for a durable and waterproof finish.

Adhesive: Various types of tile adhesives are available, including thin-set mortar, which is suitable for most tiling projects. The choice of adhesive depends on the type of tile and the surface you’re working on. Using a waterproof or mold-resistant adhesive is critical for showers to withstand the humid environment.

Grout: Grout fills the spaces between tiles and adds to the finished look of your tiling project. There are two main types of grout:

  • Sanded Grout: Contains sand to provide extra strength and is ideal for larger grout lines.
  • Unsanded Grout: Best for thinner grout lines, as it has a smoother finish.  

What Do I Need To Know Before Tiling A Shower3

Preparing the Shower Area

Preparing the shower area for tiling is a critical step that can significantly influence the longevity and appearance of your finished project. 

Proper preparation involves ensuring the surface is ready to be tiled, implementing waterproofing measures to prevent water damage, and planning the layout to achieve a professional look. 

Here's how to approach each of these essential steps.

Surface Preparation

The foundation of a successful tiling project is a clean, smooth, and stable surface. Follow these guidelines for surface preparation:

  • Clean the Area: Remove any dust, debris, or residues from the walls and floor of the shower area. The surface should be free of oils, soaps, or any substances that could impair the adhesive's ability to bond.

  • Check for Level and Plumb: Use a level to ensure all surfaces are flat and even. Uneven surfaces can lead to tile misalignment and improper water drainage. Make any necessary adjustments or repairs to the underlying structure before proceeding.

  • Install a Backer Board: For walls, a cement backer board provides a durable, water-resistant surface ideal for tiling. Secure the backer board according to the manufacturer's instructions, ensuring all seams are properly sealed.

Waterproofing Essentials

Waterproofing is crucial in any wet area to prevent water from penetrating behind the tiles and damaging the structure of your home. 

Here's how to effectively waterproof the shower area:

  • Apply a Waterproofing Membrane: After installing the backer board, apply a liquid or sheet waterproofing membrane over the entire surface that will be tiled. Pay special attention to seams, corners, and areas where water could penetrate.

  • Seal Around Fixtures: Use a sealant to waterproof areas around shower fixtures, drains, and other penetrations. This helps prevent water from leaking through these vulnerable points.

  • Allow Proper Drying Time: Before proceeding with tiling, ensure the waterproofing membrane and sealants are completely dry according to the manufacturer's recommendations.

Layout Planning

A well-thought-out layout is key to achieving a visually appealing finish. Consider these layout planning tips:

  • Determine Your Starting Point: Decide where you will start tiling, typically from the center of a wall or the most visible corner. This ensures that cut tiles are placed in less noticeable areas.

  • Dry Lay Tiles: Before applying adhesive, lay out your tiles on the floor or against the wall to plan the layout. This step helps you visualize how the tiles will fit together, where cuts will be needed, and how to align patterns or grains.

  • Consider Tile Orientation: The direction in which you lay the tiles can impact the visual appearance of the space. Vertical tiles can make a space taller, while horizontal tiles can make it wider.

  • Plan for Tile Cuts: Adjust the layout to minimize the number of cuts. However, some cuts are inevitable, especially around fixtures and edges. If possible, plan for these cuts to be in less visible areas.

What Do I Need To Know Before Tiling A Shower4

FAQs Need To Know Before Tiling A Shower

What is the best type of tile for a shower?

The best tiles for showers are porcelain or ceramic due to their durability, water resistance, and wide range of designs. Glass tiles are also popular for accent areas due to their aesthetic appeal.

Do I need to waterproof my shower before tiling?

Yes, waterproofing is crucial in preventing water damage. Apply a waterproof membrane over the surface before tiling, especially around the shower pan and any areas prone to moisture.

How do I choose the right adhesive for shower tiles?

For most tiling projects, select a waterproof, mold-resistant thin-set mortar. The choice may vary based on tile material and weight, so refer to the manufacturer's recommendations.

Can I tile over existing tiles in a shower?

Tiling over existing tiles can be done if the old tiles are well adhered to, without cracks or mold, and the surface is prepared correctly. However, removing old tiles for a clean, durable installation is often better.

How much extra tile should I buy?

Purchase an additional 10% more tiles than your measurements require to account for cuts, breaks, and future repairs. This extra precaution ensures you have matching tiles on hand when needed.

Considerations Before Tiling A Shower

Tiling a shower requires careful planning, precision, and patience. By following the guidelines outlined in this guide, you can achieve a professional-quality finish that enhances the beauty and functionality of your bathroom. 

Remember, the key to a successful tiling project lies in thorough preparation and attention to detail.

Video of this post:

PDF version:

You may also be interested in these topics about Shower Tile...

Do you live in Ahwatukee, Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa, Tempe,  Sun Lakes, Laveen, or South Phoenix?

Ready to talk about your remodeling needs?

Take the next step...

About the author

Hi my name is Jeremy Maher. My wife, 2 kids and I went through Contractor Nightmares for 3 years straight.

Ben, Mark, and I teamed up to start Phoenix Home Remodeling to help homeowners remodel without the common contractor nightmares.

Learn more about Jeremy's expertise and topics he likes to write about on his author page.