If your bathroom tile is outdated, cracking or otherwise unappealing, there’s no need to pay someone to replace it. It’s something any DIY-er can do with the right tools and know-how. Keep reading to learn how to lay bathroom tile on your bathroom floor or shower wall.
Step 1: Remove Old Tile
Before removing even one tile, you need to remove fixtures or cabinetry that covers any tile, such as the toilet, sink, etc. Remember to turn off the water supplies to said fixtures before removal. This gives you room to both remove the old tile correctly and install the new tile.
Choose a tile in the center of the floor or wall and use a grout removal tool to scrape out the grout around it. To make the work easier, first use a grout saw to make an initial cut in the grout lines. Drag the grout removal tool along the grout line on each side of the tile to break up the grout. You can use a hammer and chisel to chip away at the grout to remove it as well.
Wear safety glasses to protect your eyes from flying debris and dust, and wear heavy gloves to protect your hands.
When working on floor tiles, you may be on your hands and knees frequently. Wear knee pads to protect your knees and to remain comfortable during the job.
Cover the tub and any other surfaces with canvas drop cloths to protect it from grout and tile debris and accidental damage.
Once the grout has been removed, use your chisel, metal putty knife or similar tool to slide under the edge of the tile and pry it up from the surface below. Continue to remove grout and pry up the tiles in this fashion.
If removing tile from a large floor space, use a pole-mounted scraper or a long pry bar to pry up the old tile quicker and easier.
Place the broken tile pieces in a bucket for disposal. When all tile and grout has been removed, sweep up all debris and discard of it. Use a shop vacuum to ensure you’ve removed all dust and debris.
Step 2: Assess, Measure and Prepare
Inspect the surface on which you will be installing the new tile, often referred to as the substrate. It must be level, even, clean and sturdy. If the substrate is too flexible it can lead to cracks in the tile and grout failure. Bathroom tile should be installed on water-resistant backer board, plywood or concrete to ensure the tile’s longevity.
Measure the length and width of the area you'll be tiling with a tape measure to determine how much tile you need to purchase. Calculate the square footage by multiplying the length times the width. Keep in mind the size of the tile you want to use—tiles are available in a variety of styles and sizes and can affect your calculations. Buy 10 to 15 percent more than you will need to allow for special cuts, mistakes or replacements.
Check the tile lot number to ensure you use the same exact color for all tiles.
For walls, establish a top line and center line, using a tape measure and level. The level will ensure that the top line is even. Snap a chalk line to mark each of these locations. If tiling a floor, find the exact center of the space first, and then measure inward from the sides. Snap chalk lines along these measurements to divide the area into equal quadrants.
Lay out the tiles to see how they will appear and to determine where cuts may need to be made to particular tiles when the layout meets edges of walls or other obstacles where full tiles cannot be used. Remember to use spacers between the tiles so you can get an accurate read, if your tiles are attached to mesh backing.
To cut a tile, use a tape measure to determine where to make the cut, and then use a pencil or felt-tip marker and a straight edge to mark the cut line. Use a handheld tile cutter to score the tile along the line and then snap the tile apart at the score line. If you have trouble cutting your tile with a handheld tile cutter or have a lot of tiles to cut, invest in or rent a tile wet saw to make your cuts.
Be sure you know how to properly use the tile saw before you start. Read manufacturer's instructions carefully.
Always wear safety glasses when operating a tile saw and other power tools.
Step 3: Apply Adhesive
Apply premixed thin-set mortar on the substrate with a trowel. Hold the trowel at a 45-degree angle and spread a thin, even layer. Be sure to work in small areas, such as 2' x 2', to prevent the adhesive from drying out before you can place the tiles.
Step 4: Place Tiles
Position the first tile using a twisting motion, and use a level to ensure the tile is square. Place a tile spacer on each corner of the first tile. Working outward, continue to lay each tile, flush with the spacers. Continue in this manner until all tiles have been placed. Apply more adhesive as needed.
Step 5: Apply Grout
When you're finished laying the tiles, allow them to set completely before grouting—check the adhesive manufacturer’s instructions for exact drying times. Remove the tile spacers before grouting. Using a rubber float, spread pre-mixed grout diagonally at a 45-degree angle across the tiles, packing the grout firmly between each tile. Wipe off excess grout from the tiles’ surfaces by holding the trowel at a 90-degree angle and moving across the tile. Then remove the rest of the grout with a damp sponge before it dries and hardens. Shape grout joints using a damp grout sponge in a circular motion and clean the tiles again. After the grout dries a haze will form. Wipe off the tiles and buff to a shine with a clean, dry cloth.
Since grout may irritate eyes and skin, wear protective safety glasses and rubber gloves.
Step 6: Seal the Grout and Finish Up
Apply a grout sealer to finish the job. Follow all manufacturer instructions on how to apply the sealer. Once the sealer has set for the recommended amount of time, reinstall fixtures and cabinetry you removed.
Now it’s time to get to work! You have the right know-how to lay bathroom tile yourself, so get started and make your bathroom an enticing oasis.
Project Shopping List
Here’s what you’ll need to complete this project successfully.
- Grout removal tool
- Grout saw
- Safety glasses
- Heavy gloves
- Knee pads
- Canvas drop cloths
- Metal putty knife
- Pole-mounted scraper
- Long pry bar
- Shop vacuum
- Tape measure
- Chalk line
- Tile spacers
- Pencil or felt-tip marker
- Straight edge
- Handheld tile cutter
- Wet tile saw
- Waterproof tile adhesive or premixed thin-set mortar
- Rubber float
- Pre-mixed grout
- Rounded grouting tool
- Rubber gloves
- Grout sealer