August 13, 2020

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How to tile a bathroom

Nothing is more satisfying for fans of interior design than a make-over for a room in the home. And one of the most popular rooms which can be transformed radically on a limited budget is the bathroom.

That’s because generally it’s a small space and because of the transformative power of tiling walls and flooring. Even for the amateur tiling the bathroom is manageable size job to undertake. However there are certain considerations that are quite specific to tiling the bathroom. With a little guidance and a step-by-step explanation we’ll provide all the information you need to tile the bathroom floor and the bathroom walls. The most important thing when it comes to how to tile a bathroom is the damp. Walls and floors must be able to deal with running water, humidity and splashes.



Learn how to tile your bathroom walls and floor, step by step

Everything you need to tile a bathroom

The following list although not exhaustive provides a rough guide to what is required for floor tiling both materials and tools:


  • The floor & wall tiles you are going to use
  • Sufficient adhesive, waterproof is obligatory for bathroom walls and floor
  • Sufficient grout, non-bacterial variety
  • Tile spacers to achieve a regular and even spacing
  • Sponges and a soft cloth
  • Gloves for protecting the hands


  • A retractable measuring tape
  • Spirit level: to ensure substrate and floor tiles are perfectly level
  • A tile cutter to achieve a professional and clean cut finish
  • Tiling gauges: two lengths of timber battens approx 1m in length to help mark tiling layout
  • A soft lead pencil for marking tiles and walls
  • Length of string for establishing an even datum level
  • Tile nippers: for cutting tiles around the WC and wash hand basin
  • Notched trowel for applying an even spread and ribbed layer of adhesive
  • A grouting squeegee or trowel to fill the gaps between tiles
  • Clean sponge for removing excess adhesive and grout
  • Tile spacers for ensuring even gaps between floor and wall tiles
  • Rubber mallet and hammer to help bed floor tiles correctly
  • Wooden dowel or finishing tool


How to tile the bathroom floor: Step-by-step guide

Just like how to tile a floor in any other room of the home, the bathroom is similar, but because moisture is such a key consideration, the substrate or backing for wall and floor tiling is a crucial consideration.

The bathroom is a damp environment and all efforts must be made to keep it watertight. The choice of bathroom tiles will also need careful consideration, for shower trays or wet areas non-slip tiles are recommended.

These can be traditional type tiles with a textured surface treatment or tiles featuring new materials like vinyl which have superior anti-slip properties. Other suitable options for bathroom flooring include natural stone, terracotta, ceramic, mosaics and porcelain tiles.



Planning tile layout

Planning the floor tiling layout is advisable to avoid awkward cuts to tiles. A handy and simple way to do that is to lay the floor tiles loosely in position. Start from the centre and using a chalk line and measuring tape mark a boundary along which to loosely lay the selected tiles.

With the help of the tile gauge (a timber batten with the length of the tiles incrementally marked on it including 3mm spacing), the optimum layout can be established.




The right adhesive for bathroom floor tiles

As mentioned earlier the bathroom has specific challenges that require specific measures. The adhesive and grout used for tiling the bathroom floor should be water proof.

Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding mixing the adhesive which should neither be too wet nor too dry. Apply the adhesive along the chalk line using the notched trowel.

Then apply an even layer to the back of the tile with the straight edge of the notched trowel, then with the notched side remove the excess adhesive, leaving you with a slightly ribbed layer.




Placing the first tile in position on the bathroom floor

Place the first tile on the floor using a side-to-side movement till the tile is positioned correctly. Not forgetting to use the tile spacers to the side of the next tile repeat the same procedure till the first row is complete.

Great care should be taken to ensure that the first tile is level, use the spirit level, because this tile is a reference for all the subsequent tiles in the row. Remove excess adhesive from between the tiles with a screwdriver or a tile spacer as you progress.




The junction with the bathroom wall and tile cutting

If a cut tile is required better to keep it at the perimeter wall which will normally have a skirting tile provided subsequently. A tile cutter or wet saw is essential to achieve a clean and sharp cut tile. When tiling remember to work in areas roughly measuring one square metre at a time.




Cutting tiles around bathroom artefacts

Finish the bathroom floor till all complete tiles are laid in place. For cutting around the WC or wash hand basin pedestal first lay all the whole tiles then take the measurements between the straight edge of the nearest tile and the artefact.

Wait till the adhesive has set. Then either make a paper template with the measurements or mark directly onto a tile and use the tile nippers to shape the required fit.




Grouting the bathroom floor tiles

 A period of between 24 and 48 hours is required for the floor tiling adhesive to set, depending on the size of tiles and type of adhesive. Always follow manufacturer’s instructions to the letter regarding mixing. After having removed the tile spacers and any excess adhesive use a grouting squeegee to force the grouting between the tiles and clean off with the excess a damp cloth.




How to tile the bathroom walls: Step-by-step guide

As with the bathroom floor tiling preparation is everything. First and foremost the backing material must be waterproof, dry, capable of supporting the weight of the tiles and free of any dust.

Plasterboard is capable of supporting a weight of 32 kg/m² while plaster can safely support up to 20 kg/m² – if in any doubt ask the tile manufacturer. Follow this link for more advice regarding how to tile a wall.

Planning the tile layout on the bathroom wall

It’s recommended to tackle one wall at a time. Mark the width of the tiles to be used incrementally along the length of one of the timber battens, not forgetting to include the spaces between the tiles.

Then do the same for the height of the tiles with the other timber batten (including the tile spaces). Then carefully mark with a pencil a perfectly horizontal line with the aid of the spirit level matching the height of the first row of tiles.

Midway along the wall to be tiled establish a vertical line with the help of the spirit level. With the aid of the two tiling gauges you can now map out the pattern of the wall tiles over the entire wall. This is helpful when it comes to cutting tiles for the corner edges.




Placing the first row of wall tiles

Remember that laying the first row of tiles will be critical to successfully completing the remainder of the wall tiles. Mix the adhesive according to the manufacturer’s instructions and apply an even layer using the straight side of the notched trowel to the wall to be tiled.

Concentrate on completing one row of tiles at a time. With the notched side of the trowel make a row of vertical ridges and place the first tile against the wall making sure to allow for a tile spacer both below and to the side of the tile.

Continue to the corner placing all the complete tiles. Having previously marked the dimensions of the edge tiles now you can cut them with the tile cutter and place in position. Once the bottom row is complete make a start on the next row.




Grouting the bathroom wall tiles

After a period of no less than 24 hours you can now complete the job by the grouting the perfectly even spaces between the tiles after having removed the tile spacers. As before follow manufacturer’s instructions regarding the grouting mix, the ideal consistency is one that resembles toothpaste.

Remember that an anti-bacterial waterproof grout will ensure a much better end result. Using the grout spreader (or trowel) force the grout in between the tiles wiping off any excess with a damp cloth as you go.

Concentrate on a small area of tiling at a time. After 15 minutes sponge that area of wall down. Remember that grouting dries much more quickly than adhesive so time is of the essence.




The finishing touches

To add the finishing touch score the grout with the timber dowel or finishing tool in order to get a perfectly clean, even and concave joint. The use of tile trim for window corners or exposed tile borders will also help ensure a professional job.




FAQs regarding tiling a floor

The decorating budget will greatly depend on the choice of tile. Generally in the UK bathroom tiling on average will cost between £500 and £800 which includes adhesive, grout and labour. Remember to calculate the overall area to be tiled adding 10% for breakages and replacement tiles. This figure will help pin down the final budget before commencing a job because tiles are sold by the square metre. Follow this link for more accurate pricing and floor tile options.

The short answer is yes. Larger format tiles are normally porcelain which is harder to cut than ceramic tile. The weight of the tiles is also a consideration as they will be heavier and the wall should be capable of supporting the larger format tiles. And finally the handling is more cumbersome and requires more than one person to lay the tiles because of the additional weight. Special handling tools are also required.

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