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How to Tile a Shower with Subway Tile

Curbed Shower with 4x12 Tile

As Seen On
How to Tile a Shower with Subway Tile

Learning how to tile a subway shower is simple…

…once you learn the basics.

But here’s the deal,

It’s also super easy to mess up this project.

Our tips in today’s tutorial share how to tile a curbed shower by starting on the main wall.

As you’ll see, planning is very important if you want the final look to be impeccable.

How to Tile a Shower with Subway Tile…Start at the End

First, it’s easier to start this tutorial by showing you a picture of the final look.

Today’s tutorial describes how we approached the main shower wall.

In a future tutorial we’ll discuss the other two walls.

And if you missed how we waterproofed this shower, then read this tutorial.

Here’s a picture of the shower.

Subway Tile Shower

If you focus on the glass there’s a guy taking the picture…that’s me, lol.

Our layout had to factor in the shower bench and custom shower niche on the plumbing wall.

Also, the client wanted a glass mosaic accent that wrapped around all three walls.

This is the most important part of subway tile showers:

Plan the layout to avoid slivers of tile.

What the heck is a sliver?

It’s a piece of tile that’s less than 1-2″.

Avoid slivers at the ceiling, corners, and any transition (e.g. shower wall to shower floor).

In this shower we used 4″x12″ subway tiles but the basic principles are the same for smaller tiles.

For example, our friend Sarah over at Ugly Duckling House used handcrafted subway tiles and did a great job on her shower.


How We Started the Main Shower Wall

Symmetry is subway tile’s best friend.

Think Han and Chewy…Laurel and Hardy…Laverne and Shirley.

Without symmetry, subway tile looks shi$%y at best.

Sorry for the minor profanity, but it’s the truth.

We started the first row by centering the tile on the shower drain.

Center Subway Tile

And factored how the tile would look at the walls and bench.

We also left a 1/8″ (minimum) gap between the first row and shower floor.

This expansion and contraction joint is necessary to prevent tiles from cracking.

Our prior tutorial shared how to tile the shower floor and make it look awesome.

Furthermore, it’s imperative to leave a 1/8″ gap between tiles and adjacent backer boards.

Keep this in mind,

All shower pans should be sloped by 1/4″ per foot – which is normally the case with a KBRS, Schluter or Wedi preformed system.

That slope necessitates a contoured cut on the bottom of the first row of tile.

What’s the best tool for that custom cut?

Our preference is to use an angle grinder and diamond blade.

And lately our favorite diamond blade is Montolit’s CGX115 (it fits all 4.5″ angle grinders).


Putting it All Together

Once the layout is done, setting subway tile is straight forward.

However, there are many tiny tips that make these tile jobs look phenomenal. For example, using SeamClips to between tiles.

And we discuss them in our short video


What’s Next 

Subway tiled showers are timeless, so install them right the first time.

If you’re doing a bathroom remodel and want to simplify the process enroll into the Bathroom Repair Tutor Video Library

We show how to build showers (Schluter, Wedi, Curbless, etc.), install tile, upgrade basement bathrooms, and more.

The extra guidance is invaluable

Enroll Today



Jeff Patterson





  1. Patrick says:

    I think your Wedi mixing valve flexi collar is on backwards in this video. Let me know if I’m wrong. Thank You!

    1. Hey Patrick, thanks for asking. It was installed correctly because that rubber gasket faces outward and can be trimmed if it protrudes past the tile.

  2. Squafdonoboles says:

    You guys make these projects look so easy!

    1. Steve makes it always look easy, but knowing the layout makes the process a lot simpler. And the right tools helps tremendously. That said, nothing replaces skill.

  3. Tom says:

    1) When tiling the shower floor, is there a 1/8 gap around the perimeter for joint movement-where tiles butt against the wall?
    2) If so does this 1/8 gap get fill with silicone or grout or can it be left alone?

    3) If a bathroom walls has vapor barriers all around along with cement board installed, does a bathtub still needs to be caulk where the tiles meet the tub surface?
    Would it cause sandwich mold?

    1. Thanks Tom for asking.

      1. Yes, the perimeter needs a gap for expansion and contraction – 1/8″ is a good size
      2. Silicone is the best product for that gap as it will seal the change of plane
      3. Always use silicone between the tile and tub surface for expansion and contraction, it shouldn’t create a mold sandwich if the cement board is installed correctly and the tile is set using directional troweling.

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