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How to Tile a Bathroom

Tiling a large bathroom can cost as much as £1,000, but if you’re experienced at DIY, why not follow this step-by-step guide on how to tile a bathroom and save £££s? 

To tile a bathroom wall you will need…

• Tape measure
• Spirit level
• Claw hammer
• Tile cutter
• Tile adhesive trowel
• Pipe detector
• Tile edge nipper
• Jigsaw
• Tile file
• Sealant gun
• Grout spreader
• Tile spacer

Step 1 – Work out how many tiles you’ll need

You will need to measure the length of the space that needs to be tiled, then divide this figure by the length of the tile you will be using. Next, measure the width of the space, and divide by the width of the tile.

Round up the number of tiles for the length and width, then multiply the two figures to work out the number of tiles you’ll require. Repeat this process for other areas that need tiling, and take into account the spaces that are taken up by doors and windows. It’s a good idea to add an extra 5% of wall tiles and 10% for floor tiles, just in case there’s any breakages.

Step 2 – Plan the layout

It’s essential to plan the layout of your tiles to prevent uneven spacing and poorly aligned rows of tiles. Use a tile spacer to ensure the space between the tiles is even. Tiling the floor will raise its level, so make sure to remove the door (if it opens inwards) before starting.

Plan the floor area

Using a pencil, draw a line perpendicular to the main entrance. Place some of your tiles along this line to the other side of the bathroom. When you get to the other side, you will be left with a space smaller than a whole tile.

Take a 1” thick piece of wood and screw it into the floor perpendicular to the tiles making sure it stretches across the room. You will use this as a guide to lay the other tiles against. To ensure that you finish with an equal border of tiles, lay a line of tiles along this timber guide.

Plan the wall area

Creating a base line that runs around the walls will ensure the horizontal lines match up. Don’t forget to take into account the level of the window ledge, worktops and the bath.

If you are tilling around the door or window ledge, you will need to think about how different starting points will have an effect on these areas. It’s a good idea to have evenly sized tiles either side of the door or window.

Mark out the wall

To mark out the wall, measure the height of the wall or area that you will be tiling, and divide by two. Mark this height on the wall, and with the gauge, lightly mark tile joins from this line down to the bottom. If it works out that the last tile is less than half a tile, you will need to move the starting point up or down by half a tile and repeat the process.

Use a spirit level and draw a horizontal line across the wall. Mark out what will be the bottom of the lowest row of whole tiles. Secure a batten to the wall along this horizontal line – this will mark the point to start tiling from.

Step 3 – Marking and cutting the tiles

If you will be cutting floor or thick tiles, you will need to use an electric tile cutter, or use purpose-made blades for an electric jigsaw.

A quick way to measure the floor and wall tiles for cutting is to place a full tile upside down on top of the last full tile so that it overhangs and touches the wall. Mark this tile at the point where it overlaps the one underneath, and take into account the width of the spacer for the grouting. This shows you the size that the tile will need to be cut to.

To cut the wall tiles hold a straight edge on the cut line, and run a tile cutter along it to score the surface. Place a wooden batten on the floor and hold the tile over it, ensuring the scored line lies directly in line with the batten. Apply pressure on each side of the tile to snap it along the line.

Step 4 – Prepare the surface

Before laying the tiles, make sure the area is clean and dry. Ceramic tiles can be laid on concrete and wood flooring. Before laying them on floorboards, screw down a layer of exterior grade plywood to the floor.

If you have an uneven concrete floor, apply a self-levelling compound and leave to dry overnight. Ridges can be smoothed off with a medium-grade sandpaper block.

Step 5 – Choosing the right adhesive

You will need to choose a waterproof adhesive if you’re tiling around the shower or bath. A flexible and waterproof adhesive is required for plywood paneling around a bath. For surfaces that may move a little, opt for a flexible adhesive.

Start along the wooden batten guides you’ve already fixed in position, and spread the adhesive over a manageable area using a small ridged trowel or a notched spreader to create raised ridges. When fixing border tiles in place, it’s a good idea to apply the adhesive on the back of the tiles.

Step 6 – Laying the tiles

To lay the floor tiles

Place the ceramic tiles on the adhesive covered area and check they’re evenly spaced using a tile spacer. Use a spirit level to ensure they’re level. You may find that some tiles are higher than others, if this is the case, simply put a piece of wood over it and tap with a rubber hammer. If you find the tile is too low, remove and reapply the adhesive.

Remove the piece of wood you’ve been using as a guide with a claw hammer, and fill the space with the cut border tiles. When you’ve finished, leave the tile adhesive to set.

To lay the wall tiles

Place the first tile against the horizontal batten that runs along the bottom of the area to be tiled. Next, line up the side of the tile with the vertical mark you made earlier as your starting point. It may help to fix a second vertical batten into place for the first column of tiles.

Press the tile into the adhesive ensuring it’s flat and firmly fixed. Then, fix the second tile alongside the first one (remember to leave a gap for the grout). Once you’ve completed the first row, fix the second row above, taking care to space the tiles evenly. Continue to tile around the walls.

Leave the batten in place until the adhesive is fully set. Once set, you can remove the batten and fill any remaining space with the cut border tiles.

Tiling above the window and other fixtures

When it comes to tiling above the window and other fixtures such as the basin, it’s a good idea to fix a temporary batten in place to help support the first row of tiles, and progress upwards from there. When the adhesive has set you can measure any tiles you have to cut to size.

Above the window, the tiles won’t have anything underneath to prevent them from slipping, so attach them to the fixed tiles above with masking tape to hold them in position until the adhesive has set.

Step 7 – Apply grout

Finally, follow our step-by-step guide on how to grout your tiles.

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Categories: Help & Advice
Liz: Liz has a passion for home decor, interior design and renovation projects.