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How to Tile a Shower Wall…AND Cut Holes in Tile

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How to Tile a Shower Wall

Do you want an amazing tiled shower?

You’re in the right place.

Today we’re going to show you how to tile a shower wall.

Specifically the trickiest shower wall: the one with all the plumbing.

You’ll learn so many tips your friends will think you’re a professional.

What do you think? Does that sound cool…

What’s most important when tiling a shower wall?

Starting with your layout.

No duh captain obvious, but what’s that involve?

The first thing you should do on the plumbing wall is continue the layout design you have on the main wall.

Main Wall

By the way, always start your shower tiling project on the main 5 foot wall (if tiling a tub).

Plan your tile layout so that it doesn’t leave you with less than 2 inches of tile on the bottom or top.

This shower tile is 12 x 24 inches and we decided to have 6 inch pieces on the bottom and top.

Bottom Tile

What supplies do you need to be successful?

Here you go,

Okay, let’s dive in

 

Getting Started with the First Row

How do you get started?

The tub in today’s tutorial is in alcove.

There was a limitation since the alcove had a bump out on the non-plumbing side.

Tile Each Side Evenly

Thus…the width of the non-plumbing wall dictates the width of the tile on the plumbing wall.

If you use Schluter edging like we did, measure the width of the edge.

Make a pencil mark on the wall, and run a vertical line up the wall.

Steve shows you exactly how to do this in our video.

Schluter Edging

How should you start the first row of tile?

Lay a 1/16″ horseshoe shim on the tub.

Measure to the first grout line on the main wall tile and that’s the height of your first tile.

Measuring Height of First Tile

How should you cut holes for the tub spout?

The gist is to transfer the tub spout location to the tile and use a diamond hole saw.

If you have 1/2″ copper pipe we’d recommend using a 1″ hole saw to give yourself wiggle room.

Hole Saw

Dry fit your tile to make sure it fits.

Dry Fit Tile

Which thinset is the BEST for hanging vertical tile?

Without a doubt it’s Ardex X 77.

Ardex X77

You won’t find X 77 in home stores.

But you won’t find a better thinset that holds heavy tiles to walls or ceilings.

If you are going to install a mosaic between large tiles…Ardex X77 is the way to go.

It prevents the large tiles from sliding down the wall and messing up the appearance of the mosaic.

Apply thinset to the wall such that all the ridges run the same direction.

Thinset application

Here’s a BIG tip:

Back butter your tile.

Apply thinset to the back of the tile.

Backbutter Tile

Position your tile on the wall.

Make sure the 1/16″ horseshoe shims are between the tub and tile.

And level the tile with your laser or pencil line.

Using a laser level makes this process so much easier.

Laser Level

How much space should be between the corner tile and adjacent tile?

Steve recommends about 1/16″.

You should always use 100% silicone at this joint or a high quality urethane grout (we like Bostik’s QuartzLock)

Corner Tile

For the next several rows Steve recommends making the cut edge be next to the Schluter edging.

That way the manufactured edge gives you a nice looking grout joint.

Cut Edge

Throughout the video you’ll see blue clips holding the tiles in place.

These are called Tuscan SeamClips.

They’re awesome for two reasons

  1. They provide consistent grout joint spacing
  2. They hold tiles together and help eliminate unevenness or lippage

Tuscan SeamClips

Just make sure to get the right size SeamClip.

You need to measure the thickness of your tile and buy the SeamClip that fits the tile profile.

We did another video explaining why the SeamClips are a great option.

For most homeowners the next big challenge is cutting holes in tile for the mixing valve.

You’re in luck…Steve shares his secret technique…you won’t see this in books.

 

How to Tackle Cutting Holes in Tile for the Mixing Valve 

What’s the scariest part of tiling?

Getting stuck and not having an answer…well, that’s my biggest fear!!

This tends to happen when homeowners need to cut a large hole in tile.

You can buy a 3″ or 4″ carbide hole saw…but they are super expensive.

Or you can use a 4 1/2″ angle grinder with a tile blade.

AND: I guarantee you’ll use the angle grinder for some other project or you can sell it.

Angle Grinder

At about the 13:50 mark in the video Steve shares EXACTLY how to cut large holes in tile.

I do recommend two things…

…you use a wheel guard and all other necessary protection.

Don’t commit a crime against your bathroom tile,

watch our video and avoid some of the most common mistakes when tiling a shower

 

What’s Next

Tiling a shower wall takes skill and patience. And the tips in this tutorial help immensely.

Grab our free guide if you’re doing a DIY bathroom remodel – it shares how to remodel a bathroom in 10 days or less

Send Me The Guide

 

Thanks as always for reading, watching, and being part of our awesome community.

Ask your questions below and we’d be happy to help.

Cheers,

Jeff Patterson

 

 

 

 

P.S. Our online store has a ton of supplies for homeowners doing a bathroom remodel. You’ll find wedi shower systems, KBRS shower pans, tiling tools, and more.

15 Comments
  1. Danielle says:

    Where can I get the x77 thinset you used?

    1. Typically X77 is sold at tile distributors, you’ll have to check your local areas for mom and pop places that sell tile.

  2. Angela says:

    Very helpful info. I am attempting to do my shower this weekend and had many questions. Thanks again Angela

    1. Jeff says:

      Happy it helped

  3. Vanessa says:

    On the main wall, you chose to leave a 6in tile at the top and 6 inch tile at the bottom while using a 12 by 24 inch tile. Why would you not have a wall that used whole tiles top to bottom?

    1. Jeff says:

      The concern with doing that is possibly being left with a sliver at the top. Also, we wanted the tile to spilt the niche evenly.

  4. John says:

    Thanks for the instructive video. Are there any specific tricks or tips to keep in mind when tiling a shower niche? I did not see any other videos that specifically addressed the tiling of shower niches .

    1. Jeff says:

      Thanks for asking. We made two videos that could help with tiling a Shower Niche
      This first video gives general tiling tips for a single shower niche.

      https://youtu.be/az6bOPIcl4U

      This second video shows how to tile two shower niches on the same wall

      https://youtu.be/8WI8vOoAkUw

  5. Tom says:

    I noticed you start your tile on the wet wall; at the outermost edge. Why did you not start at the inside corner and work outwards?

    1. Jeff says:

      Good question. We start on the main Wall because the corner joints are not as noticeable. For example, if the Tile was set on the Plumbing Wall first then the main wall, that corner joint would be what your eye is drawn to.

      I’m addition, we wanted to address the shower niche and how to tile around that before anything else. So tiling the main Wall first helped us accomplish these design elements.

  6. Mary says:

    Could I hire Steve? I live in Brooklyn, NY.

  7. Dan says:

    Hi guys, do you or would you recommend tiling over existing tile? Time is a factor for me and to not have to demo and install new rock, etc. would save a lot of time.

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